Three Lessons from the Foster Brothers, United Kingdom

Each month, we introduce you to a Christian who is on the generosity path, and we ask them what God’s taught them about giving.

This month, meet the Alex and Edward Foster from the United Kingdom.

1. Launching Businesses Beats I-banking. 

Since coming to Christ, Alex had a passion for spreading the Gospel. He wanted to earn more so he could give more. “I went into investment banking and M&A because it was the highest paid. But then it made sense to launch companies,” says Alex. “It was higher-risk bets. There’s no guaranteed income, but if you get it right, the returns can be really big.” Entrepreneurs shape company culture: “In investment banking, it’s hard to really influence people around you, but in entrepreneurship, people are much more open to relationships.” Alex has already given the proceeds from his first liquidity event to missions. He says, “The whole goal of doing the company was to make money and give it away.”

I’m committed to increasing my standard of giving and keeping myself to my current income.

2. Set an Appropriate Lifestyle.

Edward is a new physician. “My friends are going wild now that we’ve graduated from medical school and residency and have higher salaries. I don’t want to increase my living as I earn more. I’m committed to increasing my standard of giving and keeping myself to my current income.” Alex, the former investment banker says, “I try to live as simply as I can. I cap my budget at 15,000 pounds. That’s really hard, but really good.” Edward notes that, at first, he went too far in his radical giving. “I was too extreme. I refused to spend on anything. My clothes were falling apart. Friends said, ‘You look like an undead zombie.’ My mom is a posh Cambridge lady and was just distraught. I’ve realized that, if a man’s jumping in quick sand, you can only pull them out if you have a solid base. But it’s your choice if that base is gold, silver, or concrete.” Edward and Alex now choose to build on “concrete” financial bases. “I went too far,” says Edward, “but my heart was in the right place.”

3. Radical Generosity Can Offend Peers.

As radical givers, both brothers experience awkward conversations. I know people who earn a lot, but give 10 percent or 20 percent,” says Alex. “That’s great, but it’s not quite the same. When we talk about it, it’s awkward. Giving is a huge component of my life.” Edward adds, “But it’s a good challenge to them, and brings good conversations.” Since he’s already been an i-banker and exited a company, Alex says, “People expect me to have more than I do. They ask me to go to France for a weekend. I have to ask awkward questions about how much it’s going to cost.” Edward adds, “What’s alienating isn’t just that you have slightly different logic. It’s that the logic is upsetting to people.” But, Alex says, behind the occasional difficult conversation is great joy: “Being free of materialism makes you incredibly happy. There’s so much more joy in my life than when I was owned by the things I wanted.”

Alex and Edward love to give to:

Das, an Indian pastor, is planting hundreds of churches. In India, there are 600,000 villages, but 500,000 still have no church. Hence the name “500k Churches.” Edward says, “I looked at Das’s ministry numbers. He was planting churches for 50 pounds a month. That’s crazy. I visited India. Some had a handful of believers in a house church; others had a few hundred coming.”

With 500k Churches, Indian church planters find villages where there are no Christians and start praying for people. Those prayers quickly become churches. 500k Churches finds donors in the West to send Indian church-planters to the country’s unreached villages. Edward says, “Every month 500k Churches recruits 25 new church planters. Each one needs someone to send them for about 50 pounds a month.”

Edward explains that, as a doctor, “All my patients are still going to die. You can say I’m saving their lives but I’m actually just postponing death. But the Gospel does save lives and it promotes life in all its fullness.” When it comes to 500k Churches, Edward says, “If this is where God is moving, I need to be involved.”

Alex adds, “When Ed told me about it, I thought, ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in my life and it’s not happening because they need 50 pounds a month?’ At that point, my life changed forever. As someone that does startups, it’s so cost effective. It’s sad that charities are graded on how much they fundraise. They should be graded on how far they take each dollar. Imagine if someone tried to sell you a house that was the same for ten times more. That’s crazy.”

Edward explains, “So Das has a training center and 500k Churches is training missionaries. God really spoke to us and we love being involved. Everyone should have the chance to hear the Gospel.”

One thought on “Three Lessons from the Foster Brothers, United Kingdom

  1. Hakan Sandberg says:

    Hi Alex,
    I cannot get away from the thought after seeing the video with you and Ed about India and the giving. I have been really impacted by your hearts response to Gods calling over your lives. It is beautiful and contagious! I am on my way to India next week to train pastors and other leaders in and around Siliguri in the north about business. The call on my life is to take people out of poverty through wealth creation through business from inside out. In other words, to help them help themselves. The direction India goes in right now, we do not know how long we can continue to support them financially due to that it get’s harder and harder to bring in money. But more than that, what if they could by good thinking and continuous development work themselves out of the situation and REALLY become unstoppable!? Church growth in so many places is limited by what you found, lack of income. Most of the believers where I will go now work on the tea plantages and that is minimal income and literally a slave contract. What if we could help them come up with ideas to meet a need or solve a problem around them that brings in sustainable income, so that they also can experience the joy of giving and pull the stoppers for church growth by their own work. Wouldn’t that be beautiful and in the long haul even more effective besides that it is also protecting them from vulnerability when persecution is growing and Christians in place after place are kicked from their jobs because of faith. If more of them run their own business they could also employ others in hard times.

    The line when you in the video said “It turns out that my skills as an entrepreneur are very useful for advancing the kingdom” was when I thought, I have to ask you.. Do you think you could multiply that gift you have got from the Lord without first convert it to money? Could you multiply your entrepreneurial gift and start engines of wealth creation right there in India?

    I have spent the past 6 years developing a concept to take the best entrepreneurship tools, thinking, processes in a simple way to young people in the developing world, to help them startup, run and grow business. The organization is called Itzinya Networks (itzinya.org). The idea is to spread this as much as possible through local people training locals. It’s almost like a franchise. We have only in Abuja, Nigeria started 70+ businesses in the past 3 years so we feel we have proven that it can work. Now I go to India and know I will have to lower the level of complexity quite a bit for the group I will meet so it will be a real learning experience. But I believe principles can be scaled up and down without loosing value.

    I believe in giving, and we will need to grow and excel in that going forward. What I am thinking is to put a multiplicator on that money by investing it in new started businesses that in turn can support the church growth from inside out. Our slogan is You can do it ’cause itzinya!

    I would be happy if I got your feedback on those thoughts, and if not, keep on doing what you are doing. It is beautiful!
    /Hakan

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