The Entrepreneurial Evangelical

When I was a zealous, recently-converted evangelical Christian, I threw myself into the conventional process of trying to discern God’s will for my life. Call it what you will: vocation, calling, career—what should I do with my life that honours God? A tumultuous process (which I will spare you the details of) led me to the surprising conclusion that I had a pastoral calling on my life.

This did not mean that “pastor” was going to be a job title for me. Even then I believed that the pastor-as-career model was bizarre and confusing, and that the “tentmaker” bi-vocational approach of St. Paul was the path to be on. This type of ecclesiological experimentation is certainly welcome within the Vineyard family of churches that I find my home in. Indeed, stories of bold individuals who set out to do something different and wound up with a church around them are not only abundant in the Vineyard, they are foundational. I always assumed that I would follow a similar trajectory.

That assumption led to a lot of unrecognized frustration and guilt, because it just wasn’t happening. Not only could I not discern the first step, the thought of trying to discern the first step was unpalatable. I didn’t want a plan, and I definitely didn’t want to go around casting a vision and trying to get people caught up in it. It all felt so patently alien to me, but I had no language to name it.

But recently I had an epiphany that helped make sense of this part of my journey. I was feeling the old familiar pangs of guilt and inadequacy as I looked at leaders I respected who were so much further along in their ministry (whatever that means) by the time they reached my age. I saw that, in the context of much evangelical Christianity, the move into pastoral ministry is analogous to an entrepreneur: a do-it-yourself, self-motivated, trailblazing individual who has charisma, clarity of vision, and the ability to gather followers.

This realization was immediately and incredibly freeing, because I know that not only am I not a charismatic entrepreneurial-type, this meant that the implicit “career path” of my ecclesiology was broken because it was based on personality traits. This doesn’t mean that I’m recommending the “normal” path of seminary either—that model is just as broken, but for different reasons.

Instead, I have come to realize that what our churches desperately need is an apprenticeship-based training within the context of the life and work of local churches to help shape and form leaders. I believe that we are robbing our churches of some of our best leaders by failing to do so: leaders who are unwilling or unable to go to seminary or who are simply gifted in ways other than personal charisma.

I have a hope for a church that doesn’t model its leadership after that of the business world, in either the mode of the CEO or entrepreneur. I have hope for a church where leadership is shared, rather than held tightly by a “man at the top.” I have a hope for a church that doesn’t fall prey to the accreditation trap of disembodied, non-contextual learning that our non-relational world holds as normal. I have hope for a church where leadership is looked at differently, where it is nurtured and grown in ways that are different, beautiful and unexpected.

5 responses to “The Entrepreneurial Evangelical”

  1. I share similar feelings. When I dream of a church I am a leader in it is a team of bi-vocational pastors.

  2. @Thom Cheers. I hope that we see our dreams realized!

    @William It is possible, yes, but I do not think that it is wise or advisable, since it will be difficult if not impossible for that pastor not to function as the “man at the top,” whatever good intentions there might be otherwise.

  3. Maybe you and I view the church differently, but I think Christ’s intention when He established the church was to have a shepherd for each congregation. Not that all the decisions are made by that one person, but it is that person’s responsibility to ensure the functions and goals of the church are in line with biblical principles. That person is held accountable by both a group of elders and the congregation itself.

    I don’t think the church necessarily models it’s leadership structure after the business world, rather, I think the “man at the top” model is quite biblical and is not a worldly model at all.

    However, my view of that model is likely somewhat different than yours. I believe that although there is one person ultimately responsible for the well-being of the church, it is the entire body’s responsibility to ensure the church carries out the call of God to love Him and love others and live holy lives.

    You will probably guess I have this opinion because I feel strongly that our church does an excellent job of balancing shared responsibility with the fact that we have a hired full time pastor. I see no problem with how our church leadership is structured, and I don’t see that we are robbing anyone of a chance to step up if he or she feels called to do so.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your view on the apprenticeship method, and I think it is a mistake for a church to think they must only look to those who are considered “qualified” for leadership. I have been preaching in my church for several years and receive excellent instruction from our pastor and elders throughout the sermon preparation process. This has been some of the best education I could ask for.

  4. @William Yes, it’s safe to say that we view the church differently. I would also have to say that it’s questionable to speak of “Christ’s intent” for the church, given that we have a sum total of zero biblical or extra-biblical data to go on. We could talk about how the early church, judging by Acts and Paul’s epistles, appeared to have a plurality of leaders, but even there we could easily fall into the trap of Primitive Perfection that I talked about on here a while ago.

    But when you say that the “man at the top” model is biblical, I’m at a complete loss. The notion that there has to be a man (definitely not a woman) in charge is certainly as old—and as corrupt—as history itself. Patriarchalism might be common in the history of the church, but I think that Christ’s life, death and resurrection speaks a powerful word against patriarchalism. In the kingdom of God, the last are first and the first are last. In Jesus’ death, we see that the one person who had a right to “be in charge” forsook his ability to do so, and in doing so gave up his very life. The way of the cross speaks a powerful word against power and control.

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