Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Care and Feeding of Entrepreneurs

“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.”


Matt Norman said...

Hey Ircel,

Thank you for this wonderful challenge to embrace the “mission entrepreneurs” of our time. Indeed this exciting trend in missions is occurring among Baptists. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowships development of the AsYouGo Affiliate Program is an acknowledgement of this entrepreneurial spirit and one method among our many efforts to help Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.

We have appointed 48 field personnel since 2005 (including this year’s appointees at the General Assembly in Houston) under this AsYouGo Affiliate service model. Our process of discernment gives the opportunity for personal and communal discernment and reflection of calling. We hope to build a foundation of spiritual formation upon which Christians and churches can risk in faith.

The AsYouGo program also enables the development of partners and networks. These networks take the form of field personnel teams that operate as peer support, missiological accountability, and learning support, as well as networks of churches both local and global offering prayer, ministry, and financial support. There are multiple opportunities for connection from both individuals and churches. It is through these networks of collaboration that we are able to celebrate the movement of the Spirit and learn from our mistakes. This collaboration invites us into community as the people of God.

The Fellowships core values call us to biblically based global missions, trustworthiness, being a resource model, justice and reconciliation, and effectiveness. Through the AsYouGo Affiliate service system we are actively walking alongside believers and churches as they dream those unique “out of the box” ministry visions to share the Gospel in their communities and throughout the world. This is a resource model for cooperating and collaborating rather than establishing, owning, and controlling. We recognize the call of Christ in every area and relationship in life. We celebrate God’s gift of diversity among individuals and churches. We encourage effectiveness by expanding mission ministry in innovative ways among the most neglected.

Two of my favorite quotes are appropriate here as we consider the role of organizations and congregations in the practice of missions in this new century.

“Leadership is not the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. It is a process ordinary people use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others. Leadership is your capacity to guide others to places they (and you) have never been before.” –James Kouzes, Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge, 2002

“Leadership is about connecting, not controlling. It is about bringing people together for the purpose of creative synergy.” --Eddie Gibbs, Leadership Next, 2005

To God be the glory.

Ircel said...

Matt, I have published your comments in total, but I have two questions: "Is this going to be the primary way that CBF sends missionaries in the future? If so, is this being clearly communicated to constituents?"

I think you can see from my blog that I support an enterpreneurial approach to missions, but I think you might find more young adults interested in working with CBF if it was clearly stated that this is the way that we are going to do missions and if the affiliate program had a different name. "Affiliate" seems to communicate a second-class status (even if not intended).

I like the Eddie Gibbs quote and would be interested in knowing more about how you, as a missiologist working with CBF, are attempting to do this.

Matt Norman said...

Hey, Thanks for posting my long comment and asking these questions.

The answer to your first question is that the AsYouGo Affiliate program is one of the many ways we are helping individuals fulfill their missional calling. We really believe that this is not a one-size fits all world so we are trying to build an organizational structure that allows for diverse methods of service. Of our two formal long-term service options, the AsYouGo Affiliate program is increasingly becoming a major option. The other option is our career option of which 100% of the budget is funded through the Offering for Global Mission (OGM). We do not fund compensation for Affiliates out of the OGM, but funding for computers, team travel, on-field coaching, and training do come from the OGM.

We have been trying to communicate this AsYouGo service option to our constituents for the past 4 years. We would like to do better and continually are working on ways to get this message out there. As you can imagine, it is a very different message from what the majority of Baptists in our area of the world are used to hearing and so communicating this program is slow going. Blogs like yours are a welcome read.

I agree with you regarding the name of the program. Over the past 4 years, we have really been intentional about communicating that those commissioned through CBF are field personnel regardless of their funding or employment. I think this is a move toward a better understanding of our missional calling as believers.

Regarding your second question… I could spend many hours talking with you about how we are trying to move toward this reality. There are so many books, blogs, conversations, and dialogues that we are having and I love this topic.

I alluded before to there being “multiple” ways to serve with CBF. A better way to put that might be “there are multiple ways to collaborate and serve as apart of the Fellowship movement”. Our mission at CBF is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. In Global Missions, one service task given us by the people that make up the Fellowship is to focus our mission efforts. The result is that we focus on the most neglected peoples of the world and our mission practice is founded upon biblically guided core values that have been discerned in community. I am reminded of a quote, “The more structured the task, the more spontaneous and creative will be the response”(Jane Vella, 2008:9). A question that we are asking is, “How can we structure focused mission engagement that leads to connection and creative synergy?” The point is not really control but empowerment.

I am happy to talk with you in more detail regarding how we are attempting to answer this and other questions. This is an exciting time in the church and mission engagement.