We are doing a summer blog series aimed at those who are either starting a missional enterprise or thinking about starting one. During this series, we will look at theological and practical concerns of missional entrepreneurs.
The second post in this series is written by Antonin Ficatier. Antonin studied in three different continents and holds two Master Degrees in Business and Education. Antonin works in an international church in Hong Kong, and as Business Development Strategist for Ministry Incubators.
Why Embrace Missional Entrepreneurship
My friend Sarah realized one day that she could combine her love for Christ with her hairdressing skills by being a hairdresser chaplain! What if all of us were to combine specific skills (cooking, baking, design, drawing, farming..) with sharing the Gospel? This is what missional entrepreneurship is about. I define it as a self-funded missionary enterprise that aims to reach out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ in areas that are not usually touched. Since missional entrepreneurship is quite new within Christian circles and many are dubious about it, I would like to show you in three points why it is worth considering.
My first point is theological: we are called to be imaginative.
An argument that I often hear when talking about missional entrepreneurship is that Christians who have a heart to change the work place are not equipped, underprepared, naïve, and would be terrible businessmen. It sounds harsh at first, but if you scratch the surface of the argument, it is actually really true and relevant.
In missional entrepreneurship, Christians are not called to be the best businessmen but they are called to reinvent what business is about.
Mark Sampson, from the Church Mission Society in Oxford, England, describes it this way: “social enterprise is not simply the addition of social objectives to current business practice but an attempt to re-imagine the practice of business.” To claim a re-imagination of the way our world is run is theologically sound, because it relies on an understanding of God as the One who helps us to be imaginative.
God is often depicted in the Old Testament as the One offering new solutions to His people. In Exodus 14, the Israelites – who have successfully crossed the Red Sea – suddenly realize that being in the desert is not going to be an easy ride and that their comfort level will drop from what they were used to in Egypt. They feel stuck and decide to confront God with this dilemma: why follow you when if we stay in the desert we die, and if we go back to Egypt we die too? As you all know, God ended up providing the Israelites with what I like to call a “third-option,” – Manna – a solution that the Israelites were not able to envision. This biblical passage is a vivid example of how difficult it is for all us to re-imagine our situation and our environment.
I believe that missional entrepreneurship is worth considering because it helps Christian leaders to change the way business is done and the usual dichotomy between non-profit and for-profit. The underlying theological point is that of a God who helps us to re-imagine our world.
My second point is biological: Missional entrepreneurship is in the DNA of the church.
To embrace and use the world’s resources is to fully understand Jesus’ teaching about our relationship with the world: that we are in it but not of it (John 15:19) For the sake of the Gospel, Paul was very keen to use the Internet of the time: the impressive new Roman road system which stretched from Scotland to Egypt. And despite the establishment in Jerusalem frowning at him and threatening to cut his missionary budget, Paul stuck to his conviction to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ by planting churches in areas that had never been reached before.
Another compelling example is Martin Luther, who Kenda Dean described as “a hot-headed millennial [who] decided to post some of his gripes on his social media wall,” a humorous reference to the ninety-five theses that Martin Luther posted on the door of many churches in Wittenberg. Luther made intense use of the new technology of the 16th century – the printing press – to spread ideas for the purpose of his ministry. Where some religious leaders saw new technologies as a threat, both Paul and Luther saw opportunities.
I believe that missional entrepreneurship is worth considering because God gave us resources to be used in this world and that we are called to use them in order to spread the Gospel. By looking at our own resources in a fresh way, missional entrepreneurship does what the church has been doing since its early days.
And my last point is spiritual: as we are being made new in Christ, we can create new enterprises.
Addressing the church of Corinth, Paul wrote “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17). If we are called as Christians to become new creatures in Christ – the spiritual transformation Paul talks about – it is no surprise that we should also try to develop new ways of doing ministry.
A spiritual transformation of our being means a transformation of our ministries, not to cling to the past in fear of change.
At Ministry Incubators we host training sessions with folks from around the country who crave the chance to express their missional creativity in order to share the Gospel in places where it is not shared at the moment (think of Sarah’s salon). It seems that the institutional church has developed a culture of saying “no” to all new ideas presented by it congregants, and that this culture prevents entrepreneurs from flourishing. By saying “yes,” my colleagues and I allow people to create new projects, with the understanding that it is okay to try new models of ministry because it reflects the movement of our spiritual transformation in Christ.
I believe that missional entrepreneurship is worth considering because it is one of the many signs of the spiritual transformation that we are developing in Christ, through Christ and for Christ.
Although the term missional entrepreneurship is new for the church, the concept is not. Christians have always developed practices of sharing the Gospel in non-conventional ways, which reflects our calling to be imaginative, our ability to use resources that surround us, and one of the many signs of our spiritual transformation as new creatures in Christ.
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