Who is an entrepreneur?
We seem to be in an age when anyone who has a bright business idea and attempts to take it to market is called an entrepreneur. There are an increasing number of individuals who want to develop their ideas, USPs or patents. At the time of writing, it has been reported that the latest Companies House (in the UK) data, as analysed by the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE), shows that business formations recovered from a drop in 2017 to reach a record 663,272 in 2018. This follows previous record highs in 2015 and 2016. This is an encouraging trend! In the European Union in 2015, enterprises employing fewer than 250 persons represented 99% of all enterprises. An important question then is what is an entrepreneur, and, in the context of this blog, what makes a person a Kingdom entrepreneur?
Getting to the heart of the matter
Fundamentally an entrepreneur is prepared to take risk and to put his physical assets on the line to obtain the benefits. Look at the following definitions of entrepreneur:
Oxford English dictionary:
“A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”.
“One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise” .
I have seen entrepreneurship expressed as:
“Innovation + risk + initiative = entrepreneurship”
A pastor friend of mine, with whom I have had the privilege of working alongside in a leadership team in a pioneering church culture, often quoted “faith is spelt r-i-s-k”! I believe that John Wimber was the one who first coined this term. I have found this to be true. The truth is that life involves risk. The key is taking reasonable risk, or faith-filled risk, and not stupid risk. Walking on water may be viewed as stupid risk, but Peter didn’t wake up one morning and think I’m going to walk on water today to bless Jesus. He was responding to the invitation of Jesus to walk with Him on the water. You bet that he learned some lessons that day when he began to sink, but Jesus grabbed him to get him back in the boat! Peter was prepared to take risk in the knowledge that Jesus was there for him anyway. The risk was getting very wet, taking in some water and looking an idiot in front of the other disciples – some of which probably happened. But he trusted Jesus to rescue him. I reckon Peter was an entrepreneur of faith. Sure, he messed up a good few times and needed to be restored, but he was, and Jesus gave to him the keys of the Kingdom. Now that is some benefit!
To me there is a significant and tangible difference between someone who is driven by, or wants to gain benefit from a venture, and a Kingdom-minded person who wants to gain benefit. The big difference is how they go about gaining the benefit, and what is the benefit. The next blog post will look briefly at the Kingdom of God, but for now I want to say that in my opinion all followers of Jesus are people of the Kingdom of God (or Kingdom of heaven if you prefer). They are people who acknowledge the kingship of Jesus Christ in their lives, their dreams, purposes, actions and priorities. They are those who’s focus is firmly fixed on heaven (God’s place to quote Tom Wright) while living their lives … for the moment anyway… on earth.
For me a key distinctive in the mindset of the Kingdom entrepreneur is what benefit are we expecting, working and praying for in our business, charity, church etc?
I guess you will have heard of people who are ruthless in their quest for profit, fame/celebrity or power because their motivation is to advance themselves. Maybe you’ve had dealing with someone like this. I have, and I have to say that I have struggled to relate to them. For the Kingdom-minded person the way that they go about gaining benefit must be rooted firmly in the way that Jesus modelled for us to live. As Jesus made clear, for example to the rich, young ruler, placing our faith, trust or comfort in money or other benefit where the recipient keeps the benefit exclusively to themselves, or gains an over-inflated view of themselves thus affecting their beliefs and behaviours, is not a kingdom motivation. As Luke demonstrates in his description of the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus, it is about a response to the grace of a lavishly generous God!
What is the benefit?
There could be many ways of thinking about the benefit from entrepreneurship – profit, money, payback on risk, benefit, power, and purpose are likely to be some of those.
For the Kingdom entrepreneur, their vision, motivation and drive are, I contend, ‘higher’ than these quite narrow worldly-focussed intentions. It is concerned with the extending of the Kingdom on earth as it is heaven. It is focussed clearly on the renewal of creation which God originally declared to be ‘very good’, and which will be so again when Jesus returns to earth to judge sin finally and to establish his rule de facto. Ever since the Fall, God’s plan has been to re-institute his rule on earth through the work of Christ, and through the church universal, as those who “collaborate with His vision of a world of wise order, glorious beauty and transparent justice”. Perhaps this can be well summed up in the phrase ‘prosperity for all’.
Prosperity in the Kingdom?
I find it interesting that many Christians and churches, certainly in the UK, have historically shied away from the concept of prosperity, even becoming uncomfortable because in their thinking there remains the association imputed to them that prosperity is somewhat sinful and must be resisted. It took me some time to shake off this mind-set, and I should say that I’m not sure where I learned this false concept. I think that it is based on a premise, false in my opinion, that there is a direct relationship between spirituality and lack. In his most helpful thesis, Douglas Harrison-Mills asserts (p84) that:
“… this view demonstrates a superficial understanding concerning both the timing and purpose of the different phases of the spiritual-economic cycle, since both lack and prosperity should be construed as merely the means to an end, and not an end in itself. Put simply, according to the OT (Old Testament) salvation-restoration oracles, the economic and psychological pressure of scarcity/lack is intended to force the people of Yahweh to their knees – in repentance. As a reward for this repentance, Yahweh promises to reinstate His covenantal blessing, which kick-starts the outpouring of “grain, oil and new wine, i.e. economic recovery, leading on to prosperity.”
I see that Biblical prosperity is closely allied with the Old Testament ‘word’ shalom, meaning well-being in its wide sense, and is embodied in Jesus statement concerning abundant life “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”, or “to the full” – meaning super-abundantly. It is a full sense of flourishing and “lack of scarcity6”. The truth is that as kingdom-minded people we should flourish and prosper over the long-term. It is what we do with our flourishing which is more important to me.
I find this explanation of prosperity to be helpful:
“Prosperity is more than just the accumulation of material wealth, it is also the joy of everyday life and the prospect of an even better life in the future. This is true for individuals as well as nations.”
In their video introduction to the 2016 Prosperity Index is this (copied from the video):
“Prosperity is…a home to grow, to raise my family; a community where I belong; people who care; compassion, generosity, health, and education; truth and integrity in politics, in business, everywhere; peace and safety; opportunity to work, to earn, to save, to get ahead; to innovate, to take risks, to succeed (or fail); freedom from hunger, from disease, from slavery, from poverty, from conflict; freedom to vote, to speak my mind, to protest, to follow my beliefs; hope; space to breathe and time to recharge, to recreate; becoming the best I can be, and helping others to be the best they can be; is for everyone.”
These words are full of Kingdom realities. Prosperity is about the opportunity and the environment for everyone to discover and fulfil and then to share their potential. It involves both wealth and well-being and destroys the basis for social isolation. What I particularly like is that this focusses not only on the ‘me’, but on those around me in my community of friends and colleagues, and in my country as a while. This reflects the impact and expansion of His kingdom. Old Testament prophecies (Deuteronomy 28v1-14; Ezekiel 36v26-30; Jeremiah 31v12, 31-34; Joel 2v18-32) clearly relate to prosperity to the people (community or nation) and not simply to individuals.
As Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead in the UK Parliament states:
“We in society prosper when we are helped to break free of the life we wouldn’t otherwise have chosen. Whether we’re helped to break free from a life of slavery, poverty, or hunger, our ability to improve our life chances is what allows us, ultimately, to prosper.”
I believe that Kingdom entrepreneurs are well placed, if not uniquely placed, to be the main agents for driving community prosperity. The gathering of wealth in its fullest meaning has as its aim and purpose not principally the aggrandisement of an individual but the prosperity and flourishing of the community.
Kingdom entrepreneurs are therefore Kingdom people whom God has gifted with the ability to create and innovative enterprise, culture, products and services in a way that demonstrate human redemption. They are being prophetic to their world around them, pointing clearly to Jesus the Redeemer of humankind. I see Kingdom entrepreneurs as those who are prepared to embrace risk for the return of the advancement of the Kingdom. Maybe we can envisage Kingdom entrepreneurs as “true disruptors”– to use the language of those who were pioneered the use of technology and services to disrupt the establishment markets – except that these true disruptors are disrupting the influences over a largely Godless society of the ‘powers at this present age’.
As a Kingdom entrepreneur you will in a distinctive way the modelling the Kingdom of God to those around you – employees, suppliers, clients, business associates, lenders, and others. It may be in the way that you deliver services, the products that you supply, the culture that you have generated and are ‘exporting,’ the way that you interact with others, in your generosity and grace – and likely in many of these – that are the fingerprints of your entrepreneurship. Redemption will be the thread that marks out your enterprise from others, signalling that in the words of Jesus ‘the kingdom of God has come to you’. So, when you interact with others, you’re shining the glory of God and demonstrating that his Kingdom has come.