Sharing our vision of Kingdom impact

Every company has an elevator pitch. With so many moving parts, you might say that Mergon needs a particularly tall building to do its pitch justice. We often hear the question asked, ‘what exactly do you do at Mergon?’ –  an understandable question, considering that Mergon is not your ‘typical fit’ in business nor ministry. We are an investment company – but not purely one; a foundation – but not only that. We partner with the business community to lead in social investment and shape the marketplace – but not solely for the sake of social development.

Mergon is rather a combination of all these elements, with a unique fit that has been shaped, we believe, over four decades by the leading of God. The path has been anything but straight and foreseeable, as God has widened our vision and taken us in often counter-intuitive directions.

In the early days Mergon saw its mission of Kingdom expansion as primarily being a funding conduit to a handful of selected ministries. This perspective has broadened, especially over the past decade, to reflect a more holistic understanding of our calling. Today we see ourselves as resource partners on the journey toward Kingdom impact. As Mergon CEO Pieter Faure puts it, ‘Everything about us – our activities, behaviours and approach to relational partnerships – pivots on this central purpose.’

So what does it mean to be a resource partner?

It means that we regard money as a critical resource, but not the only one. There are a host of complementary attributes we can bring to the relationship beyond finances, which include our networks, skills, knowledge and experience. Often these different types of ‘social capital’ cost little but have a disproportionate value for the leaders and organisations they serve.

In the investment team, we have brought mentors alongside business leaders to support them on their entrepreneurial journey. Through Ziwani, we provide practical hands-on resources as well as opportunities for Christian business leaders to connect and encourage one another to live out their marketplace calling in Africa. On the Foundation side, we create tools and opportunities for ministry leaders to grow in their leadership and organisational health and offer programmes like the ‘Healthy Leaders Journey’ for new partners to invest in their personal development.

Says Neil Hart, Mergon Foundation head: ‘Each of these leaders have their own unique story, hopes, and dreams. We want to know about them – as well as grow in our understanding of their culture, the context they operate in and the unique challenges they face. The more we can understand these realities, and sometimes relate to them, the better we will be in effectively serving our partners and strengthening their impact.’

What does it mean to be partners on a journey?

At Mergon we often refer to ourselves as ‘redemptive stewards of God’s entrusted resources’. Whether it be through our work at Ziwani, supporting and equipping the business community to shape Africa’s marketplace, or walking alongside entrepreneurs to build strong, scalable businesses – our purpose is to show something of God’s redemptive heart through partnership

We have seen how partnerships can unlock immense possibilities when people are willing to join forces and lay down their own interests in pursuit of a common goal. We’ve also seen how it requires of us humility, intentionality and perseverance. In a world where funding models and business relationships are often flawed, we have the chance to model something different – showing up in ways that reflect God’s heart.

True partnership, we believe, is not in giving a hand-out, or a hand-up — but rather in taking hands as we each bring something of value in order to bring about real change. ‘This requires us to extend respect, dignity and authenticity and to invite our partners to bring all of who they are to the relationship – their successes, their failures and their vulnerabilities,’ says Pieter. ‘This is a big ask, to expect of them to be real and to also step out on that bridge of relationship. And conversely, for us, to be trustworthy with their realness. Yet, as we better relate to their challenges, we can truly serve them.’

The reality is, none of us have all the answers to society’s problems. But the more that we can work together, and lock arms across industries and societal sectors, the more effectively we can carry the load and be amazed at the change we can bring. We can start to unlock our calling, which is to become catalytic in our partnership for Kingdom impact.

What does it mean to be catalysts for Kingdom impact?

A catalyst is a small dose of substance that, when released into the right environment, has the potential for a disproportionate effect. A small seed can sow a great harvest. Written into its design is the blueprint for an extraordinary acceleration of transformation and impact, fruitfulness and abundance.

‘In the same way, we aim to sow our ‘small seeds’ in order to be a catalytic partner that contributes to the multiplication and increase of the impactful work of our partner organisations across Africa and the Middle East,’ says Neil, ‘whether that be that in discipleship, education, skills development, training or caring for the poor, marginalised and vulnerable.’

Catalytic momentum is possible when we work together, acknowledging that each of our parts is small but essential in the bigger story God is writing.

Partnerships that level the playing field

When we as stewards of capital invest directly into businesses, impact ventures or non-profit initiatives we are no longer merely stewards of capital – we are also stewards of a relationship with the leaders of those organisations into whose hands we’ve entrusted that capital. 

We become partners on a journey and the way we engage on this journey, from the initial stages where trust is built and expectations are set, through the partnership period and right up to the point of exit – will determine whether the relationship will become one of beauty or brokenness.   

Unfortunately, the lived experience of many investors and organisational leaders points to the latter, where capital partnerships are mostly shaped by broken motives and models, to result in zero-sum, win-lose outcomes.   

The challenge for us as Christ-followers is to chart a different course, to build redemptive capital partnerships, where we accomplish great things together, whilst bringing glory to God through a beautiful relational journey.

In Philippians 2 v 3 – 4, Paul points us to a biblical foundation on which to build redemptive capital partnerships when he writes the following:

‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.’

I want to highlight three perspectives from this scripture that have shaped our Mergon journey as we’ve partnered with leaders of organisations over many years:

Firstly, it’s not about us.

This is a saying we have at Mergon to remind us that it really isn’t about us, it’s about serving the King and advancing his Kingdom. From this perspective, we can submit ourselves and our ambition to God, the true owner, our abundant source. We can bring our gifts, talents and resources to serve Him as faithful stewards.

We carry this same approach into our partner relationships as we look to serve them, and together build flourishing organisations that make positive and lasting contributions towards society whilst delivering a healthy financial return for its stakeholders.    

We build with a multi-generational rather than a short-term mindset, so that even if we only partner with a business or a ministry for a season, they might look back on that season as a definitive one that set them up for success and significance long after our partnership had run its course.

Given this backdrop, you can imagine how deeply humbling it was when, during the COVID-19 season, we faced the prospect of not being able to meet our funding commitments to our ministry partners. We communicated this to them, with a commitment that we would continue to walk by faith and would distribute whatever funds came in, on a month-to-month basis. It was so hard for us to share this because it felt like we had in some way failed our partners. 

Yet we were blown away by their response – they encouraged us, they prayed for us and some partners even offered to forego their funding grants in favour of other partners who might have greater need. Similarly, our investment and financing partners rallied around us and pulled out all the stops in order to support our cashflows to ensure we were able to meet our distribution commitments without suffering any permanent value destruction.

It was such a testimony to us of God’s provision and an encouragement to continue to be open-handed rather than driven by fear and selfish ambition in our partnership approach.

Secondly, we surrender power to reframe partnership.

Whether or not we care to admit it, capital comes with power. This power is especially accentuated in contexts like Africa where capital is scarce, where different worldviews collide and where historical patterns of injustice continue to abound.

So, when we as investors enter into a new context or relationship with capital behind us, it inevitably results in a power gap where our views and opinions carry disproportional weight, not because of their merit, but simply because it holds the key to capital.     

It quickly seduces us into believing we have all the answers, into taking more than we should in negotiations and into loading unrealistic burdens on the organisations we invest in.   

Paul gives us the perfect antidote to this when he instructs us to instead ‘in humility value others above ourselves’. It essentially requires us to let go of our pride and to take a positive, counter-cultural, step in the opposite spirit and to love our neighbour. 

So how do we, as investors with capital, knowledge and power engage in humility to value others above ourselves?

At Mergon we start by taking the time to really get to know the leaders we engage with as individuals with their own unique stories, hopes, and dreams. We also seek to grow in our understanding of their culture, the context they operate in and the unique challenges they face.   

We design our investment and funding approaches to build alignment, to extend trust and to truly serve the organisational needs and purposes.     

Lastly, we resist using power as leverage to get our way or to exploit a situation. Rather, we use whatever power or influence we have to open doors and create opportunities for growth.

As we surrender power, we re-frame the partnership playing field. We extend respect and dignity; we restore broken mindsets and we unlock a different kind of redemptive power that has the inherent potential to reshape nations. 

Lastly, we’re in it together.

At Mergon we’re relationally all-in when it comes to partnerships. We love to roll up our sleeves and come alongside our partners to support them on their journey. 

That doesn’t mean we shy away from robust conversations. We know that, over the course of this journey, there will be some moments when the stakes are high and our interests may be somewhat misaligned. Our challenge is to navigate even these potentially difficult moments in a way that continues to look out for the interests of one another.

Let me share a story in closing to illustrate how we’ve approached one such moment.  

A few years ago we sat down with the CEO of one of our investee businesses to explain that, in our view, the business would perform better in the long term in the hands of another investor. It was a painful moment for both of us since it marked the end of a long and challenging business journey that we had embarked on together. 

As we started exploring what an exit might look like, we committed to working together as relational partners on this journey. Together we identified the attributes that would make for a suitable investor. We agreed not to sell the business to a corporate, which would simply absorb it into a bigger group, instead opting to search for an investor who would keep the business, its people and the special culture it had built intact. 

When we eventually identified a suitable potential investor, we created space for the CEO and the investor to build a relationship, and only when we were comfortable that the relationship could work did we proceed to negotiate the exit. During the negotiation process, we took great care to consider the interests of the leadership team, the new investor and that of Mergon. It necessitated a level of sacrifice from all parties in order to reach a place of unity and agreement.

When all was said and done, the exit had delivered an acceptable return on investment. Could we have earned a better return if we had taken a harder line? Perhaps. But we walked away with so much more – our relationship with the CEO remained intact; we had built a valuable new relationship with the incoming investor; and the business was truly liberated to flourish. 

For us this was effectively a multiplication moment, enabling us to redeploy the returned capital in support of the next venture with whom we could journey as partners for redemptive impact.   

Building redemptive capital partnerships is a journey rather than a destination. It requires humility, intentionality, sacrifice and service. We will no doubt fail along the way, but then we learn and grow through it.

The journey holds its own reward. As we mould each other into greater Christ-likeness, we build relationships that could last into eternity and we model a different way of doing business, that brings glory to God and has the power to change hearts and minds.

This article is an overview of Pieter Faure’s (Mergon CEO) talk at the FDI 2022 Conference. Watch the video here.

Our mission explained: Calling at the centre


By Pieter Faure

At Mergon we live with a deep awareness that our work wasn’t established through the generosity of a man, but through the grace and provision of God. The golden thread that has woven through our +40-year story is one of surrender – the more we have learned to lean into His leading through prayer, the more crystallised our calling has become as an organisation over the years.

In the early days of Mergon the narrative was slightly more straightforward – our impact was measured primarily by the reality of people coming to the knowledge of Christ and to salvation. Over the past decade, however, this perspective has broadened to reflect a more holistic understanding of what it means for God’s Kingdom to intersect our lives. Today we see ourselves as catalysts for Kingdom impact. Everything about us – our activities, behaviours and approach to relational partnerships – pivots on this purpose.

But perhaps the questions beg asking, ‘What exactly do we mean by Kingdom impact – and how do you begin to qualify something as vast and illimitable as the ‘Kingdom of God’? Over the years we have wrestled with these questions. Scripture, in particular Colossians 1, has helped provide some clues.

Verses 16-20 read:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

There is a certain far-reaching, all-comprehending ‘fullness’ that God desires for every sphere of living when heaven invades our lives. A flourishing takes place as our lives align to the original intent of God’s design – not just inwardly, but practically: economies thrive, science innovates, arts flourish, medicine advances, the poor are uplifted and just law prevails. As John Dunn puts it, through the single act of reconciliation in the cross, God ‘resolves the disharmonies of nature and the inhumanities of humankind’ and reinstates us, and his creation as a whole, to the way things ought to be.

The ‘all things’ to which Paul refers in Col 1:16 and 1:20 implies that all broken relationships will be reconciled and restored to Him – beginning with our relationship with him, overflowing to our relationships with others and ultimately extending to the elements of culture and society at large. As Paul reminds us in Romans 14:17, when our broken humanity is restored to perfect harmony in Christ, ‘righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ break out in unexpected places, bringing light and freedom to architect a new Kingdom atmosphere.

Our mission: a 3-pillar strategy 

Now we know this mission is vast and wide, and we need to prayerfully discern the role we are meant to play within it. That’s why we have identified three areas on which we believe God has called us to focus:

1. To see the good news of Christ shared and people being discipled and assimilated into communities of faith. (Restoring relationship with Him)

2. To see the poor and marginalised filled with hope in Christ and experience their dignity restored. (Restoring relationships between people)

3. To see culture transformed by inspiring redemptive stewardship of God-entrusted resources (Restoring relationship with creation back to God’s original intent)

In the same way, we believe these three priorities encapsulate this nature of God’s restorative work in our lives – a work that begins with personal transformation and then extends outwardly in ever-expanding circles to see relationships, culture and creation realigned to the original blueprint for human flourishing.

The priority of partnership

With these areas top of mind, we strategically invest and deploy our resources to see God’s Kingdom expand. How we do this is mainly by partnering with like-minded people and organisations. Whether it be by helping entrepreneurs to build strong, scalable businesses, supporting impactful ministries across Africa and the Middle East, or co-creating resources with our Ziwani and Nation Builder communities – we strive to do it together.

Christ walked in relationship – and as his ambassadors we have to approach each opportunity in a similar way. By assuming a posture of humility, through the same gritty, on-the-ground commitment to see a work beyond ourselves succeed, we position ourselves as relational partners on the journey, rather than those who leverage their influence to optimise investment returns.

Prayer at the centre 

Above all else, cultivating a culture of prayer in Mergon has been the single-most important strategy to help quicken and catalyse our Kingdom impact. Prayer has anchored and safeguarded us in the reality that all we have comes from God. Though we’re called to faithfully steward these gifts, talents and time throughout our lifetime, at the end of the day these resources are only on heavenly loan and will ultimately be given back into his hands.

Galatians 5:25 encourages us to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’, as well as Philippians 4:6 which reminds us to ‘not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’. As we continually learn how to enquire of Him and wait on Him, trusting that He will direct our steps, we are able to strengthen our dependence on Christ to navigate our way forward.

Prayer has opened countless doors for us, but it has thankfully closed many too. On more than one occasion we have had to face tough decisions. In spite of what at times seemed to be the perfect investment opportunity, the team has occasionally had to decline the offer because they just didn’t have the peace of mind to enter into the relationship.

More than anything else over the years, prayer has enabled us to stay steady and true to the vision God has placed within our hearts. When peace has paved the way, we have been able to take risks and act on brave ideas, knowing that God is ultimately the One who guides our steps and carries the load. Prayer has enabled us to act, but also take the long term view, remembering that it’s all a work in progress – ourselves included.

The mission to catalyse Kingdom impact spans sectors and generations, and draws upon the creative capacities of God’s diverse people to accomplish. As individuals and as Mergon, we may only contribute to one chapter, but our combined contributions will some day complete the story of God’s redemptive work in our lives. The beauty of it all is that, as we experience change through what we do at Mergon we ourselves are changed.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018 Mergon Group.

Catalysts for Kingdom expansion: learnings along the way


By Neil Hart

The underlying mission of everything we do at the Mergon Foundation is to be catalysts for the expansion of God’s Kingdom. It’s a mandate we all received from Jesus when He left the growth of the new testament church in the hands of His disciples, including you and me. He told us to ‘seek first’ His Kingdom. He said that His Kingdom was advancing, and it is happening here, now.

A catalyst is described as a ‘small dose that is added to cause a disproportionate effect’. We are not done learning, but have seen over time that to be a catalyst, one must have a few things in place:

Partnerships and networks

Kingdom partnerships are incredibly important to us and we’ve learnt a lot about what constitutes an effective partnership over the last 40 years. We value mutually beneficial partnerships with the purpose of building God’s Kingdom.

We intentionally take time to build relationships with a broad range of ministries across the world, primarily working in Africa and the Middle East. Our aim is to walk a good journey with these partners, to support them and see them grow. Each region is so unique and each partnership brings with it obstacles, victories and learnings.

We’ve also seen the benefit of connecting people who may have two different pieces of the same puzzle: people who have regional knowledge with those who have global insight; evangelist ministries with disciple-making ministries; or technology enablers with on-the-ground implementers. Each of these is essential in creating a greater impact out of what we have been given to steward.

Perspective and strategy

One of the unique benefits we have as a Foundation is our wide network, spanning across Africa and the Middle East. With a wider network, we gain better perspective, and perspective is essential for great strategy. In fact, catalytic Kingdom partnerships is the essence of our strategy.

It’s not uncommon to find a discrepancy between an organisation’s strategy and its reality. That’s why it’s imperative to remember that strategy takes time. Einstein once said that if he had 60 minutes to save the world, he’d spend 59 minutes on problem definition.

We need to be clear on what we are putting our effort into when we speak about Kingdom expansion. I believe God expects us to carry a tenderness to hear his voice (prophetic heart) with a strategic, apostolic mind.


In God’s economy, unity is a supernatural, catalytic ingredient. Ephesians 4 speaks about working towards the unity of the body of Christ so that ‘when each part is working properly, it makes the body grow…’

I’m certain that we will not see the effective expansion of God’s Kingdom without an intentional working towards unity. It is something that only God can activate but relies on us to move our hearts together towards one purpose with one mind.

Our aim is to work with and through the body of Christ. At times following and at times leading, but always serving. We hope to thereby fulfil our mandate to be catalysts for the expansion of God’s Kingdom.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018 Mergon Group.