“The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.’” (Genesis 12:1, NIV)
Abraham may have been the first ministry entrepreneur. He stepped out and followed God without knowing exactly where he was going or what he could expect there. The only thing he knew for sure was that God had called him. The following years were not easy. He had some grudging support from his wife and extended family (servants, etc.), but his primary support came from God.
As we think about ministry entrepreneurs of today, do they find themselves as lonely as Abraham? How can we help them? I am not saying that dependence upon God is not sufficient, but I am asking if our church and denominational structures are ready to accept the person who stands up and says, “I have heard voice of God and I must follow.”
Most churches would prefer that these folks would just go somewhere else and pursue their vision. The usual response may be, “That is all well and good, but we don’t do that kind of thing here.” The denominational structures (even those of the moderate variety) are more likely to respond, “That really doesn’t fit in with our long range planning. If you want to be part of what we are doing, you had better fall in line with organizational objectives.”
How can we help those who have unique and “out of the box” ideas to pursue their callings?
First, we can give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps God has spoken to them about a need that must be met and of which we are unaware. God blesses whom God chooses. It is not up to us to make that call.
Second, we can pray that they will have discernment and wisdom as they pursue their calling. You can be a risk-taker without being reckless!
Third, we can seek to understand if we should to align ourselves with them in their ministry. Perhaps we are headed in the same direction in our work as they are, and we can support and strengthen each other along the way.
Fourth, we can share resources. When we talk about “resources,” the first thing that usually comes to mind is financial resources. In reality, the greatest resources we can share with the entrepreneur are our time and our relationships. We can spend time in encouraging our entrepreneurial friends, and we can also help them network with others who might be interested in what they are doing.
Fifth, we can celebrate their successes and can learn from them. The promise to Abraham was not only that his descendants would become a great nation but that they would bless others as well. We may have different responsibilities, but we are all part of the mission of God.
Sixth, we can pick them up when they fall. Entrepreneurship has its risks, but we fail only when we don’t learn from the experience. We can help our risk-taking friends to debrief about their experiences and discern their future efforts.
Through my experiences in ministry, I have come to appreciate the words attributed to President Reagan: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Perhaps as Christians, we can paraphrase the statement in this way: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give God the credit.”