Powerful disruptions to the status quo, such as a pandemic, job loss or death of a loved one, can also create opportunities to think and act differently.
In our own “cultural moment,” I have found myself contemplating how the Holy Spirit is at work among the “entrepreneurial” in our culture, among various industries, professions, and social roles and responsibilities in our communities.The Holy Spirit is as brilliant as he is good, just as Dallas Willard would say of our “Maestro,” Jesus.
For example, what might the Holy Spirit be unlocking with regard to creative seeing, knowing, and responding to COVID-19?
The Holy Spirit loves to guide the whosoever-are-willing into what is true. In a so-called “post-truth” society, with all its competing noisy claims, we need the Holy Spirit’s illuminating work more than ever. Theological questions (like the above example) do not often fit into paradigms that one typically inherits from economic or political discourse. Yet our culture often looks expectantly for the reasoning of those domains to offer messianic deliverables, to solve our collective problems, or at least prevent further crisis from happening.
I believe theological thinking can further open our imagination to the nature of entrepreneurial work and its significance for a world that God so loves. There are multiple starting points and pathways toward a theology of entrepreneurship.
Christian thinkers often start from a theology of creation, the providence of God, and the wisdom of common grace. Creational and providential framings of the entrepreneurial tend to emphasize an entrepreneur’s calling for creative responsiveness to need and opportunity, and capacity to steward resources in an innovative way.
Valuable as this is, creational and providential framings of the entrepreneurial are not the only ways to think theologically about entrepreneurship. Other ways to conceptualize entrepreneurship include thinking with interrelated concepts from pneumatology, eschatology and our theology of the kingdom of God.
For example, to think pneumatologically about the entrepreneurial, one might consider questions such as the following:
- In what sense is an “entrepreneurial spirit” animated by the immaterial, yet highly consequential power of the Holy Spirit to disrupt the status quo, to compel new things to spring forth, and to envision a desirable future stepped into by faith?
- How might we freshly understand the Holy Spirit as creative agency, who exercises an alertness to opportunity, in order to bring about the telos of goods designed for people’s flourishing?
- How might habits and disciplines of Spirit-dependent life shape habits and disciplines of entrepreneurs in their formation?
Thinking pneumatologically about the entrepreneurial can help illuminate both the role of risk and the disruption-oriented powers of entrepreneurship, including dissatisfaction with conventional wisdom or usual thinking on how resources are seen and realized.
I am reminded of what my pastor, Alan Scott, likes to say: “The entrepreneurial [in whatever industry or profession] are founders of a future.” And, why not, especially if the Holy Spirit offers foretastes of “first things” yet to come!
Indeed, thinking pneumatologically about the entrepreneurial often invites us to think eschatologically about how the kingdom of God advances a new order and freedom in the world. The implications for entrepreneurship would seem profound.
For example, imagine:
- How might the ethos and atmosphere of the kingdom of God be intelligently designed for fostering an ecology for entrepreneurial activity?
- How is the Holy Spirit an eschatological catalyst for a reforming and renewing change in various industries and professions? Could it be that the Holy Spirit likes to stir-up a receptive and responsive longing for the “still more” that has yet to be realized in an industry or profession?
- In what sense might dynamics of the entrepreneurial tap into tensions of the “already here, yet not fully realized” dynamism of the kingdom of God?
Thinking eschatologically about entrepreneurship within the kingdom of God can cultivate an atmosphere of longing and expectation for creative “first things” in our midst; not just among a congregation, but throughout the kingdom of God’s work across industries and professions.
If we do not learn to think theologically about entrepreneurship, other frameworks and scripts will surely seek to define that reality. Such frameworks and scripts are often on loan to us from other sectors in society, rather than enriched by the deep resources of theological thinking.
If God reigns over the entrepreneurial, then shouldn’t our thinking at least attempt to “catch up” to what is already in his heart and mind? Hence, theology’s work of faith seeking understanding.
The traditional “theological virtues” – faith, hope, and love – can also provide a framework for describing some of the character of entrepreneurial work. For example, by faith, that which is entrepreneurial has a willingness to risk on what is unperceived yet hoped-for as a desired future, even if not initially seen by others. In hope, the entrepreneurial is oriented toward the yet to be, a carrier of the “still more.” It often has a dissatisfaction with status-quo thinking about what is possible, doable or needed. In love, the entrepreneurial sees and acts from a posture of willingness to bring about goods for others as a way of contributing value. Indeed, what if the ultimate destiny of the entrepreneurial is for more than achieving competitive advantage, even as entrepreneurs work within environments that are competitive?
Theological imagination is relevant for thinking about entrepreneurship and seeking to understand its reality in light of other disciplines of knowledge and wisdom. Pastors and theological educators are indispensable stakeholders within these discussions. May they inspire a “new sound” in the earth about entrepreneurship, a psalm before God, a story that even rewrites the destiny of entrepreneurs among the nations!