Jack Kim has different dreams than the rest of us. I first met Jack at Colorado Community Church when we started talking after a service. Soon after, he started sharing a vision: “You know what I’d do with $20 million? Build an institute for men — to have fellowship, to grow, to live in the Kingdom.”
As a commercial real estate investor, I later realized his vision for men’s ministry was only matched by his vision for generosity. I interviewed him about his work at KORE Investments. We talked about his business model, philosophy of giving, and why we should tithe even if it means ordering off the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s.
Jeff Haanen: Let me ask you a few questions about the KORE Investments business model. Would you share your philosophy of how you do your business differently?
Jack Kim: When I first moved to Denver from Chicago, I saw the "TOD" sites: transit-oriented development. I kept hearing "transit-oriented development" stuff, and then I thought, well, I'm Kingdom-oriented, so I should call this “Kingdom-Oriented Real Estate” (KORE).
What I've been really struggling with lately is the “stewardship” versus “ownership” distinction. It's a critical distinction to make in my daily walk because we're wired to think we own everything. I think the accurate way to think is that we own nothing — none of it is ours — we're just supposed to manage it. And that includes God wanting me to manage my children who I used to think were mine. God wants me to manage my business and I used to think that was mine.
However hard I work at it, whatever I create, that's mine, I thought, and I should give from there. But even here the word “giving” is a little deceiving, because giving connotes ownership. But it’s not mine; I don't own anything. I'm just supposed to manage whatever I'm given. That's the daily struggle I have with business, and I think oftentimes we categorize things — “This is my business,” or, “This is my family”— and so on. Then I have to figure what to give to God and how to incorporate this somehow with my faith. But its gets a lot easier when you realize I'm just a steward. Stewardship is not ownership, and that's what really changes the way I see things.
JH: How does that view influence the way you make transactions in commercial real estate?
JK: I've been talking with like-minded friends for a while. We should really be at least tithing— whatever that is, 10 percent, 50 percent, 90 percent — we should be tithing from the business or from the company and not just from personal income. This way, way I don't see my business as a separate part of my life.
It seems pretty straightforward, but I don't think most of us are doing that. I can take home $50,000 a year and tithe from that, but what about any profits that come into my entity or business, if I'm the principal of a law firm that I created, or whatever business that is. Why aren’t we tithing from the corporate entity?
So that led to an investment in Charlotte. It was the first time all of my partners and investors were not just believers but also like-minded in this stewardship mentality. The model is to go beyond philanthropic giving. Take, for example, this building in Charlotte. In five years, we're projected to have a $3 million profit and we plan to tithe on that profit on the corporate level first. Whatever is left is then split between investors and partners, and we will all be tithing individually on those amounts also. That’s a lot of ministry being funded from just one investment. What if people who have law firms and businesses were all doing that? There’s a whole new revenue stream to fund ministry rather than relying solely on our annual fundraisers, philanthropists, and donors.
JH: What would this look like for companies, community organizations and even ministries?
JK: I think God put enough resources on this earth in terms of water, food, people, and money; there shouldn't be a shortage if we're all being good stewards of what we’ve been put in charge of. Since there is a shortage, that means we're not following the model. That's the only explanation. I'm not doing this perfectly; I'm just struggling with it myself and trying to figure things out.
There are always things that you need, even when you feel like it’s basic. I learned this when I was in college. I remember I had to tithe off of the tips I made waiting on tables, and I thought, “Well, I actually don't have enough for my next meal.” But then I thought, “Yeah, but I could go and get a dollar meal at McDonalds.” I felt like the Spirit was just saying, “The fish and the loaves — that's all you're looking at. You're not looking at Jesus.” So I decided I was supposed to just tithe anyway and if I have to eat off the dollar menu today, so be it. I feel like there are levels at which we just have to let go.
JH: What part of your Christian faith influenced this vision of stewardship?
JK: I got it from King David. This is what he says in a prayer to God about raising money to fund the construction of the Temple: “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 'But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.'" (1 Chronicles 29:12-14, NIV)
Jeff Haanen is a writer and entrepreneur. He founded Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a community of conveners, teachers and learners offering experiences and educational resources on the gospel, work, and community renewal. He is the author of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life and an upcoming two-book series on spiritual formation, vocation, and the working class for Intervarsity Press. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver and attends Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado.