At Karam Forum 2020, we conveneda panel of leading theological educators from across the country to discuss the relationship between entrepreneurship, theological education and pastoral ministry. In this brand new video release from Karam Forum, three speakers cast a collective vision for how theological education can equip current and future ministry leaders to bring God’s creative love, innovative evangelism and discipleship far beyond their church walls and into the marketplace.
We’ve got big plans to continue the conversation at Karam Forum 2021, so mark your calendars to join Mark Labberton, John Nunes, Darrell Bock, Jack Miranda, Paul Williams and many more in Los Angeles on Jan. 4-5! Stay tuned for announcements about this event as we keep abreast of continuing developments.
Lawrence Ward of Abundant Life Church hosted the session, starting off with a description of his work in church-supported entrepreneurship, including a program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Then, in the main presentation, Charisse Jones from Asbury Theological Seminary discussed the vital role of theological education in equipping both pastors and congregants to pioneer excellence in entrepreneurship as a reflection of the creativity and work of God. Grounding this Christian entrepreneurial ethic within the Genesis 1 creation narrative, Jones proposed that “today’s void and formless places are fertile ground for the entrepreneurial spirit of the church.” Jones presented the church, academy and marketplace as necessary partners in fulfilling the missio Dei, creative co-laborers in stewarding shared resources and gifts for the flourishing of our neighbors and the glory of God.
By practicing faithful entrepreneurship, Christians answer the creative call of our creator God. By embracing the creativity and daring the risk that entrepreneurship demands, Christians ought to be motivated not by a self-seeking desire for material gain but rather a selfless love for our neighbors and commitment to seeing them flourish. Jones highlighted that this should give us eyes to see the opportunity and untapped potential even in unlikely people or disadvantaged places. People who are “hustlers,” as Jones pointed out, model exemplary inspiration and entrepreneurial drive, yet have historically lacked financial, educational and social resources, vital support that the church is uniquely positioned to offer them.
Joe Gorra of the Veritas Life Center pointed to the availability of other theological narratives for understanding the interconnection of theology and entrepreneurship. While many Christian leaders, like Jones, ground their understanding of entrepreneurship in the creation narrative or doctrine of God’s providence, Gorra pointed to the importance of other seminal Christian doctrines in fully illuminating a theology of entrepreneurship. As examples, he pointed to the Holy Spirit’s role as the source, guide and sustainer of all Christian entrepreneurial endeavors, bringing new life into being; and the eschatological frame for expressing God’s glory in unprecedented and even disruptive ways. Whether we look to creation, divine providence, pneumatology or the kingdom of God to build a theological framework for entrepreneurship, what is indisputable is the necessity of distinctly Christian and theological voices in discussions of entrepreneurship. If Christians shrink back from such conversations, believing they should be directed exclusively by those within the marketplace, Gorra argued that they will be ceding control of entrepreneurship to materialistic and secular narratives.
Dean Blevins of Nazarene Theological Seminary complemented Jones’ vision casting and Gorra’s historical and theological lens with curriculum and pedagogy. He recounted his institutional experiences of advancing “entrepreneurship with ministry in mind,” as well as insights he has gained regarding seminary students’ posture toward entrepreneurship. He has found that while seminarians might be gifted exegetes or historians, they need additional support to develop a willingness to take the risks that entrepreneurship calls for as well as the discipline to create and execute a successful business plan. Thus, he and his institutional partners have sought to offer students an alternative vision of entrepreneurship for seminary students, one that is more attainable for them. Then, he has come alongside these faith-based entrepreneurs with the ecological support they need to maintain and further develop their ventures, seeing these entrepreneurial efforts as ever-more-integrated with their core ministry.
In the audience question and answer time and the concluding thoughts that followed, the panelists emphasized that the church is uniquely situated to be at the forefront of entrepreneurship. As theological educators seek to train the next generation of ministry leaders, they can learn from pioneers equipping these leaders for discipleship and fruitful labor in the marketplace.
If you enjoyed this session, don’t forget to mark your calendars for Karam Forum 2021. Next January, we will continue this conversation in Los Angeles with speakers including Mark Labberton, John Nunes and many more!