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Missional Entrepreneurship

26 July, 2004 11:50 AM

One of the things that I've started in the last month is an internship in 'Missional Entrepreneurship'.

'Huh?!?' you say....that's what I said too when I first heard the term.

Let me explain a little with a story.

When I was 9 or 10 I started my first business. I noticed back then that the boys in my class started doing some 'weird' stuff. They started talking about girls. Actually at first it wasn't really 'girls' - they started with women, women they'd never met. To be more specific the woman they all seemed to be interested in was Brooke Shields. They talked about her incessantly. Not only did she invade our conversation but she also started to invade their school books. They would stick her picture all over their books, on their pencil cases - anywhere they found space.

I was at home one day and I noticed one of my mum's magazines lying on a the table. I'd seen them around the house before, but had never taken any notice until now - Brooke Shields was on the cover. Not only that there was around 10 pictures of her inside. A light went on in my mind. The boys at school wanted pictures of Brooke Shields - I had 10 of them.

I hadn't heard of 'Supply and Demand' or any other economic terms, but I knew an opportunity when I saw one and the next day at school I set up my 'Brooke Shields Shop. I 'mentioned' my stash of pictures to the biggest loud mouth in the class and soon I had more customers that I could supply - I also had $4!

Mum's old magazine collection kept me going for a while - plenty of Brooke in them. Once I ran out of Brooke pictures I started talking up other models, pop singers and movie stars. I even sold a few pictures of male movie stars to the girls in my class.

Once mum's old magazine ran out I started buying women's magazines myself (I got a few weird looks from the newsagent). I could make $4-$5 per magazine profit. I was rolling in money (or so I thought) but my windfall was short lived as my teacher soon caught wind of my venture and told me it wasn't appropriate for me to fund my candy habit by taking advantage of the hormones beginning to appear in my class mates. My first business promptly died.

My second business was similar - it took place in my second year of high school - my mum had a big stash of rulers, pens, pads and pencils left over from a school fete. Once again I saw an opportunity and opened up a mini stationary shop selling them out of the empty locker next to mine to my classmates who had lost their pen or forgotten to bring their pencil case to school. Once again the business didn't last long because I soon sold out of my supply of pens and rulers.

Growing up through high school I was always drawn to 'business' type subjects. I did Economics, Accounting, Legal Studies, Politics and English in my final year of high school and studied Marketing at University. I always wanted to expand on these skills and saw myself as a business man.

As I've shared before on this blog - this all came to an end when I had a 're-conversion' experience as a 21 year old. I decided that I wanted to give my life over to God in the best way that I knew how - 'Ministry'. The advice I received from some influential people was to quit my Marketing degree and go to bible college. Seemed like good advice at the time - I mean how could someone truly be a Christian in Marketing right - isn't that just about greed, manipulating people and accumulating money?

Surely truly dedicated Christians showed their commitment to God by giving up such things and going into mission or ministry?

So for the last decade I've suppressed any inkling of business or enterprise that may have existed within me. I saw such a focus as not being compatible with what God would want for my life. In fact at times I secretly I quite arrogantly looked at some of those around me who had chosen to work in the 'secular' workplace as being second rate Christians.

The past few years have seen a turn around in my thinking on this topic (one of the many changes in my life lately). I'm still thinking and praying it through, but I alongside my changed thinking on 'what a church is' I'm feeling challenged to rethink what it means to be a 'disciple' also.

If a disciple is someone who loves God, loves the world they live in and loves their fellow believers (inner, outer, together journeys/calls of Jesus) then I can't see why someone exclusively focusing upon doing church based 'ministry' is responding in a more dedicated way than anyone else.

In fact I'm starting to realize that especially when it comes to 'mission' (or loving the world) - it can be more advantageous to actually be in business than locked away in 'church ministry'.

Before I go on I'm not wanting to put down the idea that God calls some to full time, Church based ministry. No way - I know many people who I genuinely feel that God has gifted for and called to work with Christians in Churches. What I'm wanting to describe is a rebalancing in my own mind and life. I guess I'm discovering a place of balance in my own life after the pendulum has swung to an extreme over the last decade.

Basic mission principle 1 - if you want to be effective as a missionary you have to have proximity to them. Where do most adults spend most of their waking hours each week? The Work Place. So on a very micro level I think we need to start seeing the work place, business, enterprises etc as a place where we need to encourage Christians to be in, not just to put food on the table and to help fund 'real ministry' but as a primary place of ministry/mission/faith itself.

I'm also thinking on a macro level also. Business/Commerce/Enterprise is perhaps the most powerful influence on our society in the West today. The Church used to play a pretty influential role in society but has been pushed aside (some would say its forfeited the right to such influence by its own behavior). More and more I'm noticing that businesses are taking on the role of providing avenues for social concern/welfare that previously would have fallen back upon the Church and Government. I suspect this will happen increasingly in future.

The power that Business wields on our society is often labeled an 'Evil' - often rightly so. But rather than protesting from the fringes could another way forward be for Christians to influence from within? Maybe a twin approach is a way forward for us.

Perhaps I'm being naive, but most business people that I've met don't want to be manipulative, they actually do care for the society they live in, they do want to make a difference - they often just need to be encouraged to do so and see ways of ethical, life giving business to be modeled for them.

My realization of late - Mission and Enterprise are not necessarily mutually exclusive - ok its not profound - but I'm a little slow off the mark.

So recently I've decided to stop just thinking about these things and actually explore ways to test and actually implement some of them.

A few months back I looked around at the skills and experiences that I've had in life and decided that one of my passions is 'communication'. I love to communicate with people, especially on a mass communication level via speaking and writing. Communication energizes and inspires me and I take virtually every opportunity to speak or write that I can

Up until the last year or so I've exercised this passion almost exclusively through preaching and writing a few 'Christian' articles.

My experience in blogging over the past 18 months has also given me a few skills in developing websites, (not designing them but rather in search engine optimization, content generation etc). For me there is a natural meeting between this passion and the skills I've developed and so a small (micro) business has emerged.

Those who read this blog regularly will have sensed this as my blogging on this site has changed, been a little lighter and I keep mentioning other blogs that I've started. Some of you have expressed some concern to me over this change in my approach - I hope this post sheds some light on some of my thinking.

I'm not moving away from 'church ministry' - working intentionally for LivingRoom is still important to me and I foresee that I'll continue to do so in the years ahead in some paid part time capacity. However at this time I'm also wanting to explore re-igniting the entrepreneur within me and will explore how the skills and experiences that I've accumulated in my 32 years of life can be transferred into other arenas.

I'm not sure if I've expressed myself very well here - I'm sure there will be more posting on this topic over the next weeks as I continue to mull it over. If anyone is still reading this (sorry its been rather long and muddled) I'm interested in your thoughts as I always learn so much from what you all have to say.



Darren I think you've hit a nail that not many people in ministry would understand or accept. If you have spent time in prayer and find this is what God is calling you to in this stage of life, go for it!!!

Tim Heerebout » 26 July, 2004 2:15 PM

good stuff... i agree - we need more of this kind of thinking and action....

jonny » 26 July, 2004 11:38 PM

Darren, here are echoes of my own thinking on a much prettier blog than my own:) I too was 're-converted at 21' after setting up a DJ/club promotion agency in the UK and had to forget it all to enter the pious halls of the cathedral. Now, as I consider Eph 4:11-12 etc., I'm glad that I've got the promotional and car sales abilities/experiences to equip the business minded in my community to go and be what they should be where they need to be. It'll be good to track your thoughts on this one.

Si Johnston » 27 July, 2004 12:35 AM

Good stuff Darren. It reminds me of our MSN conversation. I mentioned it to Kathryn. She's looking forward to dinner with you and V sometime in the not to distant future...some questions she wants to ask you two as well...I'll just drink my wine and eat my meal...listening, listening....

Paul Fromont » 27 July, 2004 6:59 AM

Darren - I've been reading your blog for a year now and I have noticed the change, so I am not surprised to read what you have written here. Personally, I wouldn't even agonise about it. Just do it.

And now I will make a general observation which is not directed at you (I have never met you). I don't have a problem with paid clergy or even paid full time clergy. I happily give money to support clergy in my denomination. But over the years I have noticed something - maybe others can correct me from their experience and knowledge - namely, that there are very, very few who are truly called and gifted for full time ministry. Especially when it comes to pastoral care, spiritual guidance etc.

What I have observed instead, is that many who have spent many years in full time ministry - at least down here - have limited, if not, little idea on how to care and guide and teach a bunch of people who face the daily grind of work and leisure in a non-sanitized Christian environment, where most human interaction is not with largely sympathetic fellow Christians (like the Baptist Union!) but with people who are more often than not hostile to us. What's more, many of these pastors do not even have the listening skills, heart, much less the desire to learn or understand and then seek God on how to lead, guide, teach, discipline, love and disciple those in their flock, much less reach out to those who don't know Christ. Most are just simply overwhelmed or burnt out by it. Or else retreat to tried and true formulas of happy-clappy church and lots of programs!

However, this is also the fault of many of us lay people who often have unrealistic expectations of our pastors; we often expect them to be demi-gods who have all the answers, superhumans who should be doing everything (hec we are paying them to be our pastors!), and this even though half of us never listen to their counsel while the rest of us end up developing this really unhealthy co-dependancy.

Even so there *are* good men and women who are truly God's gift to us as full time paid clergy - but I sometimes think those are fewer than the ones we call full time by name. I can't tell you how many of my friends I have seen who have thought they had a 'call' to full time ministry, when everything and everyone has indicated that they don't and have ended up so supremely broken and hurt as a result, sometimes years down the track.

More often than not, I find those with true pastoral gifts are ordinary lay people who just get on with life, and do what needs doing, when and as the need arises, and often don't see themselves as pastors or teachers or whatever. Or those who are part time clergy who have a foot in both "camps".

More often than not it is those whose knowledge and love of God and God-fearing wisdom is honed by the dirty messiness of life, outside the cacoon of full time "Christian" environment who really are true pastors. Those who spend most of their time having to deal with hard-core God-haters and messed-up seekers who are their bosses, their colleagues, their employees or even their husbands and wives. Who have to find a way to support their families and use their gifts and raise their children and be witnesses of His majesty in a world that is as alien to them as we are to it.

Whose knees are calloused from prayer and whose bibles are falling apart, and whose hearts are broken with grief, not because they wear a collar, and not because they want to wear a collar but simply because.

And some encouragement. I fellowship at an Anglican church which shares two ministers amongst four parishes. This was partly a move to get more accountability given the scandals that have rocked the Anglican church but also a necessity for financial and other reasons. The change this has brought about even in my own small and predominantly elderly congregation over the last 18 months to two years is amazing. To be sure everyone was not too happy about it first and felt a 'neglected', angry, lost and all. But lately I have noticed that there is now a new found confidence and enthusiasm for God himself. People are looking out for each other in a way that has not happened before - without being asked or told. They embrace and welcome newcomers and seekers without having to have official welcomers designated in each week's pew sheet. They go trotting off to community events, go visit their neighbours, help out the local Sudanese refugee community (the joy of worshipping with a group of people who all live near each other....a true 'local' church...and a true first for me which I am loving) just because. They, we, are beginning, just a smidge, a tiny, tiny smidge, to understand - even if we are not fully aware of it or are able to articulate it in words - that church is not about ministers 'developing their ministry', church is not about ministers ministering to my needs, church is not about 'sustainable development'.

And church doesn't depend on whether you are full-time, paid and wearing a collar, or grey-haired, on a pension and broke.

So yes, don't apologize. Just go for it.

saint » 28 July, 2004 1:37 AM

My Bible reading for today was "the liberal soul shall grow fat; he who waters shall be himself watered" Proverbs 11.25. I think there is a clear need for a Christian witness in business. The Bible is full of encouragement to conduct oneself in an industrious manner...provided that one is generous with the harvest.

But as one who worked in a specifically Christian business for a number of years, I am cautious about a "taint" that business has on the faith. Decisions and compromises were consistently made to protect the bottom line--followed by disclaimers that the bottom line was "really about spreading the love of Jesus."

It seems to me that the leaven of Christianity gives life to the bread of capitalism. But the leaven of business corrupts the loaf of faith.

Go figure.

Phil » 31 July, 2004 7:31 AM

with ypu all the way buddy
it would be what i would have written if i had thought of it first!
we run our businesses for the same reasons - to be christian is our life not a sunday vocation - so our businesses are christian in their orientation, directions, focus, giving, etc

tim » 11 August, 2004 9:35 PM

can you explain to me the term "Blog"
i'm new to this site and i've never heard the word before!

emily McCann » 8 September, 2004 1:37 PM

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