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The Art of Theological Entrepreneurship

When it comes to a central characteristic that is typically sought in potential church planters, having an entrepreneurial spirit rests high on the list. Based on context and circumstances, pastors and/or community leaders often find themselves operating as social entrepreneurs, standing in the gap for communities in ways that local, state, or national agencies may be unable (or unwilling) to do.

idea-entreprenuerRegarding new church development, church planters need to be willing to take big risks, which from a business/financial position is traditionally classified as being entrepreneurial, and often perceived as counterintuitive to the pastoral office. The challenge is that most pastors-turned-church-planters do not have a business background and lack the beneficial foundation from which to lean into this valued characteristic. Because of this, it is necessary to think about how to engage one’s entrepreneurial spirit from a theological position. I am calling this approach “theological entrepreneurship.

In his book Christian Social Innovation: Renewing Wesleyan Witness, Greg Jones, who serves as the senior strategist for leadership education at Duke Divinity School, speaks of “social innovation” — our desire to discover and develop responsive strategies that lead the church in to renewal. This also highlights our efforts to align the work of new church development with that of strategic deployment on the Annual Conference level. Consequently, the Greater Northwest Area Cabinet bolsters what we are referring to as “disruptive innovation,” which encourages pastors and lay leadership to question the status quo and respond from an entrepreneurial position and a prayerful posture.

Engaging the dominate American consumer culture requires tools, experience, and learning that have not previously existed in the toolboxes of most church leaders. In our 21st century post-Christian context, the art of theological entrepreneurship can present new gateways, windows, and doorways that lead us to a different expression of being church. In this challenging work, I see two distinct roles that are central to being a church planter. A church planter is both a pastor and a pioneer (see expanded descriptions in Appendix essay).

NOTE: For an expanded essay on “The Art of Theological Entrepreneurship” (by William Gibson), which includes additional information, please see the Appendix.