If Christian business owners capped their spending and lived to give, rather than receive, there is no doubt this world would be changed for the better.
How do you start and grow a real estate business from one small rental home to over 2,000 living units across multiple states? Ask Ethan Fernhaber. Ethan started Renewing Management (whereumatter.com) in 2003 and has seen it grow to over 80 employees at 26 properties, specializing in value-add multi-family apartments. That’s a fancy way of saying Ethan and Renewing Management find foreclosed or undervalued apartment complexes, invest significant finances into renovating them, and then lease and maintain those properties.
If you’ve started a business, you’re aware of the hard work and stress involved in creating something from nothing. Imagine doing this with 80 employees and millions of dollars at stake. It would be easy to become self-focused. Yet, you won’t find a person more concerned about the welfare of others than Ethan. I’ve seen him set aside time to help those in need. I’ve helped him as he prepared to do the funeral of a co-worker’s son who overdosed on opioids. He was even willing to give up a kidney for a friend who almost needed one. Generosity is part of Ethan’s DNA and his employees see his passion for others. An employee actually told me, he believed so strongly in the integrity of his boss that if he were ever let go he’d probably keep cleaning the toilets at the apartment complexes for free! That’s loyalty that money can’t buy. It’s one of the many fruits of generosity–generosity Ethan learned from exemplifying the life of Jesus.
Ethan wasn’t always this way. He grew up in a broken family with issues of alcohol. His first entrepreneurial business as a kid was actually smuggling 40’s of beer into his junior high school. Ethan jokes the return on investment was phenomenal. Like many others, he never found true fulfillment and purpose in his life until he discovered a relationship with Christ. This relationship led him to see and experience the sacrificial way in which Jesus impacted the world. He realized this was the true life of a Christian, including a Christian business leader.
Ethan is a genuine, broken follower of Jesus. He faces the stress of leading a growing business with prayer and fasting. He lives for more than just business success. His business exists to make money, yes, but those resources are used to impact the world. In other words, his family does not live to acquire, but to give back. He challenges other wealthy business owners to consider doing the same.
He puts it this way, “I have a degree in economics and finance. In our community, the benefits of wealth actually top off around $80,000 for an individual. After you start making more than that it complicates your life and causes a division between you and other people groups. We have found that living a simpler lifestyle has allowed us a better quality of life. Our investments in Kingdom work have caused me to experience so much joy that I have been brought to tears time and time again. “
Ethan is most unique in how he utilizes his business savvy to multiply God’s Kingdom. Renewing Management supports non-profits which help those in need, like Charity:Water and Compassion International. This in and of itself is commendable, but Ethan does so much more. He’s also the President of Multiply Indiana a non-profit focused on resourcing church planters in Indiana.
He supports missionaries around the world and local ministries he encounters. He’s a spiritual entrepreneur unencumbered by the apathy of so many Christians today. He genuinely believes anything is possible if God is in it, and his life’s work is not solely defined by the success of Renewing Management (even in all its success).
Ethan is making a bigger impact for God’s Kingdom than most pastors could ever hope to make! What would happen if more business owners ran their companies with this intention? What if we truly lived out the generosity challenge Jesus gave us, when He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6:19-21
If Christian business owners capped their spending and lived to give, rather than receive, there is no doubt this world would be changed for the better. Ethan would add that business owners would also find more purpose and joy in life. I think you’d agree the world could use more “Ethans.” Maybe you’re one. It could start today. Make your business your ministry and change the world!