You have in your hands more than just another leadership or self-help book. You have the beat of our hearts. We are followers of Jesus who have never been interested in maintaining the status quo. We are pastors who are passionate about serving God and answering the questions our hurting communities are asking. We have learned that maintaining the status quo serves neither God nor the people that He loves.
That explains why we are sold out to the vision and practice of entrepreneurial faith. We never want to be limited by what already exists. We aspire instead to pursue what should be. We desire to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God in the places where we live and serve. We want to be catalysts of radical, Kingdom-on-earth changes that enrich the lives of the walking wounded who live all around us.
We have been pastors for a combined sixty years, and we know from hard experience that “church as usual” is guaranteed to fail. Status-quo ministry will never meet the diverse and growing needs of hurting people. The role of the church has been so narrowly defined and lived out that too many churches have lost touch with the communities they are supposed to minister to. Most of us continue to devote our resources and our best thinking to organizational maintenance and to meeting the needs of the people we already have.
We might collect money for foreign missions, but when it comes to local needs, most churches are blind to what is happening outside the church walls. There is a curious vision problem, a short-sightedness that limits most ministry to the internal faith community. There is nothing wrong with believers ministering to one another, unless ministry stops there and goes no further. We are convinced that God wants to rip off our blinders and turn us loose in our world.
If you attend a church regularly, or even periodically, you are likely aware that your church can do more to address needs in your community. If you catch God’s entrepreneurial vision, you can become an agent for change within your church and community, as you help connect your church’s mission with the needs of people outside the church walls.
Perhaps you are part of the business community, and your daily work makes you aware of opportunities to touch people’s lives with the grace of God. In your line of work, you are constantly formulating strategies that match services to areas of need. As you work in the community, you probably notice areas of spiritual and physical need where a church could make a significant difference if only it had bold vision. If that describes you and others you know in the business world, you could become a partner in entrepreneurial faith, assisting your church in launching bold initiatives to meet spiritual and physical needs.
Or maybe you are a pastor with big dreams for your church to touch the lives of hurting people. But you might be leading a “status-quo” church that is uncomfortable with change and unaccustomed to ministry that moves beyond the walls of the sanctuary. You might feel that you can’t share your visions and dreams, let alone pursue them. If that describes you, then listen to the urgent cry of our hearts: Give yourself permission to dream new dreams! Then boldly follow your dreams. When obstacles loom, ask yourself, What does God want my church to be and to do? And what does God want me to be and do that I haven’t yet seen?
These are two core questions of entrepreneurial faith. The life of spiritual entrepreneurship sees what others are blind to. A spiritual entrepreneur dreams of new realities that others find threatening. He or she identifies needs and opportunities and seeks new ways to meet those needs, with little regard for what has already been tried or has never been attempted in the past. So ask yourself: What would I be doing right now if I knew God was with me and I could not fail? Ask that question now, and stop to think about the answer. When the answer comes into view, ask just one more question: Who or what is keeping me from doing that very thing? In some cases, the answer might be yourself. Perhaps you have grown too comfortable, and you’re reluctant to step out on faith. Or perhaps you’re dying to get started, but you’re hampered by a negative pastor or church board or other lay leaders who prefer the known to the unknown—to the detriment of the vision. Whatever your answer, think about stepping out on faith and what that means before reading on.
The world is changing too rapidly for us to continue doing things just as we have done them in the past. If you think your city is immune to the radical changes and monumental shifts in our culture, think again. The United States is no longer a Christian nation, if it ever was one. Past assumptions about spiritual needs and beliefs, religious attitudes and allegiances, no longer hold sway. All this means that the past ways of doing ministry no longer speak to the needs of most people. If we’re doing what we’ve always done, we might be missing the opportunity to minister to those who need it the most.
Consider some facts about Americans and their changing beliefs. Two of the fastest-growing religions in the United States are Buddhism and Hinduism.
The number of adherents in these religious communities increased by nearly 200 percent in just ten years—from 1990 to 2000. In contrast, the number of Americans who call themselves Christians increased a mere 5 percent during that same decade. In the same period, the number of Americans who no longer consider themselves religious in any way increased by 110 percent.1
Want more facts?
According to surveys conducted by various organizations such as the Barna Research Group and the work of Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, Christian church attendance remains about the same as it has for the past four decades. Approximately 42 percent of Americans attend church at least a few times a year, not counting Christmas and Easter. That number has declined slightly from a high of 46 percent in 1960.2
So while the entrenched mentality of maintaining the status quo in the church resulted in a flat growth of semiregular attendance, other religions and the number of religious dropouts have grown among Americans at astounding rates. And that’s the “good” news.
Here’s the bad news. A 2003 Barna Research Group survey showed that nearly eight million Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine have dropped out of church, have stopped giving money to churches, and are no longer reading their Bibles.3 While the number alone is staggering, the implications for the future of Christian ministry are frightening. A major segment of the next generation of leaders in this country is immune to typical church ministry and deaf to the conventional methods of presenting the gospel.
David Kinnaman, vice president of the Barna Research Group and director of the survey, said Christianity is not going to dry up and blow away—after all, there are still more than ten million twentysomething Americans who regularly attend church. The real issue, according to Kinnaman, “is how churches will respond to the faithquakes that are reverberating through our nation’s young adults. The notion that these people will return to the church when they get older or once they become parents is only true in a minority of cases. More important, that reasoning ignores the real issue: Millions of twentysomethings are crystallizing their views of life without the input of church leaders, the Bible, or other mature Christians. If we simply wait for them to come back to church later in adulthood, not only will most of those people never return, but also we would miss the chance to alter their life trajectory during a critical phase.”4
If we can’t reach this generation by remaining within the walls of the church, and all the signs indicate that we can’t, then it’s time for entrepreneurial faith initiatives. We must take the church to the community. And it’s not just the twentysomething generation that is being missed. Look around your community and start making a list. There’s the immigrant population, the teen population, those who have grown up with no Christian influence and thus no familiarity with religion, and many, many others. Very few of these people will ever be affected by what goes on during a church service, no matter how dynamic, upbeat, and relevant the service is. Those who are following Buddhism or Hinduism, those who claim no religion, those who have been wounded in life (sometimes, even by the church), the lost men, women, boys, and girls in your community will not typically venture into your church. They have no reason to think they’ll find any answers there. They still have a tremendous need to experience the awesome reality of God’s love, but they won’t come begging.
Status-quo ministry says “open the doors and they’ll come.” That might have worked in the past, but it long ago lost its effectiveness. We can no longer just schedule church services and programs and wait for those who need God to show up. We must find creative ways to engage the nonchurchgoers in our communities. We must take the gospel out of the church and to the people. We must become entrepreneurs as we practice our faith. If we refuse to take this step, we run the very real risk of losing literally millions around us who desperately need and want to experience the love of God and who live right in our neighborhoods.
Whether you are a pastor, an involved layperson, or a businessperson concerned about the needs in your community, it’s time to start dreaming about how God can use you in new ways. Ways that may be scary at times, but adventures that will be exciting as well.
God is working in the world, and He invites us to join Him. But He doesn’t limit Himself to tried-and-true methods, and He never shies away from disruptive innovation. In fact, if you study Jesus’s method of ministry, you could easily argue that God prefers bold, people-focused initiatives that fly in the face of convention. Jesus’s entrepreneurship opened people’s eyes to spiritual truth in startling, unsettling, but welcome ways.
When we act on our vision, change takes place. Risk taking is a big part of the package. Thus, we can move forward with courageous faith, entrepreneurial faith. Creativity and dreaming can become the norm and not the rare exception. God calls us all to follow Him in the risky, exciting journey of entrepreneurial ministry. We can’t live as true imitators of Jesus without practicing this type of faith.
This book tells the story of two communities. Both are important centers of commerce and opportunity. Both have many wounded people living within their borders. In each of these communities, there are many churches. Large and small. Rich and poor. Black, white, brown, yellow, multicultural. In spite of the number of churches, however, there are still many people who are spiritually lost, hungry, and dying. Too often status-quo ministry ignores these people. The hunger and lostness continue, and we devote little thought, planning, or action toward providing genuine solutions.
This book also tells the story of a revolution that is changing the face of America. The revolution was not launched by outside forces, but from within the hearts of men and women who will no longer settle for what has always been. This is a story of the entrepreneurial revolution, a sweeping force that is changing the landscape of business, individual lifestyles, family relationships, and—yes—even the church.
Any individual, any group, and any church or organization can do something big for God as we get involved in what God is doing. Entrepreneurial faith connects the individual’s Monday-through-Friday life with practical outreach that meets human needs with the grace of God. It taps into the passion and expertise of the businessperson and the professional, the layperson and the pastor, and even the behind-the-scenes people who quietly want to utilize their skills, knowledge, and abilities to help expand God’s Kingdom.
Anyone can make the shift from static, status-quo faith to bold, outwardfocused, entrepreneurial faith. You will find your own passions ignited, and you will find that you can stir the spiritual passion of others, as you help form innovative partnerships to launch new ventures for God.
In the chapters that follow, you will encounter a practical but powerful blueprint to help people of faith move out of the sanctuary and into the neighborhood. This approach is described in Scripture, and it works with effectiveness in any locale. It works with equal force in organizations of any size and when launching any type of new ministry.
Our story is not geared solely for those in large churches, nor is it limited to those who make their living in ministry. The entrepreneurial explosion starts in the soul of an individual who lives in a city, suburb, or small town. That soul might have access to millions of dollars in capital or be so poor that the widow’s last two coins look like a fortune. This book is for those who look at the darkness in their communities and long to light them up.
For those who see wounds and long to bring healing. For those who see spiritual death and want to replace it with eternal life. It is for laypersons, pastors, executives, working people, mothers, fathers, concerned teenagers. In other words, the life of entrepreneurial faith is for you.