Is Entrepreneurship a Gift?

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sunsetSuppose that you are planting or pastoring a church, and you recognize that someone in the congregation has the gift of teaching. Wouldn’t it seem like “spiritual malpractice” to neglect this gift and abstain from using it to build up the body of Christ? Similarly, suppose someone has talent in administration or hospitality, wouldn’t it be equally disastrous to not encourage, nurture, and utilize these talents for the kingdom of God?

Gift of Entrepreneurship

In a similar vein, suppose that someone has a talent for entrepreneurship. They know how to start a new business that creates jobs and wealth. Could it be that the church could be liable for “spiritual malpractice” if this talent is not encouraged, nurtured, and used to reveal the kingdom of God? Bob Lupton suggests that God has gifted some people with the ability to create wealth but most churches do not recognize or encourage this talent. Instead of discipling and training this person to use their entrepreneurial gift in ethical fruitfulness for the kingdom, the church is often silent and relegates this to the ‘secular realm.’ I wonder what Jesus would say to us about people in the church with a talent for entrepreneurship?

Faithful Servants

servantsIn Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable about three people who are given talents. While entrepreneurship is not specifically mentioned, Jesus describes two workers who use their resources to create more wealth. I am struck by a few observations. Instead of condemning them as harsh capitalists who are greedy for more gain, the master showers praise on these entrepreneurs, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (vv. 21, 23). It seems that God is pleased with the use of their resources to create more.I can’t remember a time in my church experience where this type of recognition was given to a talented entrepreneur in the church.

I am also struck by the fact that some of the workers are given more talents than others. There is no apology for this uneven gifting of talents – it is simply assumed that some are given more capacity than others. There is also no expectation that all have to achieve the same level; rather, the worker with two talents received the same accolades as the worker with five talents.

I wonder what would have happened if the worker with five talents was then given the encouragement to train and disciple the other two workers. While this is simply conjecture, I can’t help but think that about the possibilities. Suppose he warned the worker with one talent to “put my money on deposit with the bankers” (v. 26). This admonishment may have awoken him from his slumber and prompted him to use more wisdom with his talents. Perhaps, he would have changed his ways, like Scrooge, and avoided the harsh condemnation of being a “wicked, lazy servant!” (v. 26).

Proceeding Forward

Moving beyond conjecture, consider what it would actually be like today to identify and empower people in your church that have the talent of entrepreneurship. What could happen if their talent was affirmed instead of ignored in the church? How could this affect the rest of the church… the community… the world? With this in mind, I conclude with suggestions for pastors, church planters, missionaries, church elders/deacons, and really anyone with a leadership role in the church:

  1. Ask God to help you identify the people in your church that have the talent of entrepreneurship. Pray for them. Affirm their talent from God and encourage them to use this talent with God’s power and ethical faithfulness. Encourage them to learn from books/DVDs that discuss the integration of faith with their work, such as “God at Work” by Veith, or the DVD “For the Life of the World” by Acton (video clips available at www.letterstotheexiles.com ).
  2. Ask the entrepreneurs that you have identified to mentor others in the church. They may be on the lookout for other entrepreneurs with two talents OR they may seek to help the ones with one talent who are lacking financial wisdom.
  3. Consider the kingdom significance of this talent. E.g., consider how this entrepreneurial talent can be used to create social change that reveals the kingdom of God. This is called social entrepreneurship, like Tom’s Shoes. For examples of Christians engaging in social entrepreneurship, go to Business Plan Presentation Winners at www.asburyproject.org.
  4. Join others who are faithfully discussing, using, and honing their God given talent of entrepreneurship. A good place to meet present and rising Christian entrepreneurs is the Asbury Project in the fall of each year, for details see www.asburyproject.org. In addition, you can join lunch meetings at Asbury Seminary in the spring for guest speakers and discussions on this topic. Email ofwe@asburyseminary.edu to be notified of future opportunities.

If you are an entrepreneur or you know someone who is, the time may be right to use your talents to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”  The servants with five and two talents used their entrepreneurship talent and were glad they did – so will you!

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Dr. Jay Moon has taught a wide range of classes including intercultural studies, evangelism, church planting, discipleship, community development and practical intercultural ministry courses. From 1992-2001, Jay and his family were involved in church planting in Ghana, where he served as Project Manager for a hand-dug well project and taught a variety of church planting courses at Chiana Bible Training Centre in Ghana. Jay received his Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2005 and has published numerous articles along with books, including African Proverbs Reveal Christianity in Culture (2009). He has been a keynote speaker for a wide variety of seminars and conferences focusing on missions, church planting and other related issues. Jay has been involved in numerous innovative missional enterprises, including ministries to First Nation people, urban “at risk” neighborhoods, and a church-plant with Embrace UMC.

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