Church planters must think like entrepreneurs if they want to plant churches well.
I love entrepreneurial leaders. They think a little differently than everyone else. And I believe they have a special place in ministry leadership.
I’m sure that some of you who are reading this are already questioning my main point and wish to point me to a great book like John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. I get it. I recommend Piper’s book, and I agree to a point. So let me make three simple statements that I believe get my point across.
1. Some things should never change. Truth. The gospel. The content. The message. The role, generally speaking, of the pastor, which is to shepherd the flock of God. These things don’t change. We need pastors who are grounded in a solid, biblical theology, who understand their God-assigned role, and who lead and feed the flock faithfully.
2. Some things are always changing. Culture. Language. Technology. Politics. Felt needs. These things change with every new generation, with every major cultural moment and with every new location where we take the gospel. So we’re always having to take a timeless message and continually adapt it to new mission fields, to new cultures and to new languages.
3. Entrepreneurial pastors navigate change well. Entrepreneurs see a new opportunity and plunge into it, taking big risks, walking with big faith and often seeing fresh fruit. In my opinion, every missionary who has ever entered a new mission field, started a new church or starting meeting an unmet need in an unreached people group had to think like an entrepreneur, even if they had a seminary degree.
So value entrepreneurially-minded pastors who think ahead and get beyond the known Christian universe and who, hopefully, take timeless truth with them.
With that out of the way, here are seven ways pastors should think like an entrepreneur.
1. Entrepreneurs question the status quo.
If all of the great products had been invented and if we had already perfected all of the ways of offering a service to people, entrepreneurs would be bored. Instead, even in a culture saturated with gadgets and good ideas, entrepreneurs keep finding a way to question the status quo and make new things happen. Pastors, you can coast along to retirement by preaching pretty good sermons and visiting the sick. Or, you can question whether that’s all you’re up to and go for more.
Brandon Quillen saw that tons of people were into DIY projects by observing how many people used Pinterest to collect ideas. But he also knew most people never actually act on their project ideas. So he created Pallet University to offer people an easy way to jump in and maybe even become entrepreneurs themselves in the DIY project space.
2. Entrepreneurs ignore the naysayers.
Most of the entrepreneurs I know have received all kinds of advice, most of it negative. They’ve been told over and over, by friends, family and potential investors, that their ideas just won’t work. And somehow, they forge ahead and make them work. Obviously pastors need advisors and accountability, but we also need to be able to reject and ignore discouraging advice from those who don’t necessarily know what God has put on our hearts.
3. Entrepreneurs fix broken things no one else has fixed yet.
We humans keep dealing with all the same issues, often in the same ways, with pretty much the same results. Entrepreneurs fix broken stuff. Seth Godin fixed a broken self-publishing industry. James Dyson fixed the problem of vacuums losing suction. And we need pastors who will lovingly and confidently determine to fix, or better, to heal, broken churches.
4. Entrepreneurs take big risks in faith.
Watch a few episodes of Shark Tank and you’ll notice just how many passionate entrepreneurs have been self-funding their business dreams by working other jobs, cashing in retirement, selling one of their kidneys on the black market… Okay, not really that last one so much. But the point is, entrepreneurs are passionate people who take big risks in faith.
Let me pause here. Obviously, the Bible is filled with all kinds of wisdom about debt and about get-rich-quick schemes. So I’m not advocating doing dumb things. I’m just saying that in church leadership, our faith in God grows when we follow his lead, take a risk, and watch him show up and go to work!
5. Entrepreneurs adapt quickly to unforeseen challenges.
Flexibility is absolutely key in any entrepreneurial venture. Like a well-planned vacation, nothing ever goes exactly the way we’d pictured it. Things go wrong. And how we react when things go wrong makes all the difference. Entrepreneurs adjust and bounce back. They make course corrections, learn from mistakes and fail forward.
Pastors often wind up leading congregations through staff changes, economic downturns, changing neighborhood demographics and shifting cultural norms. Entrepreneurial pastors turn these kinds of challenges into opportunities to grow both deeper and broader.
6. Entrepreneurs work hard. Really hard!
When you think of the term entrepreneur, you may picture the guy who started a business in a day, turned it into an auto-pilot cash machine, worked a four-hour work week, then bought his own island and retired to it. I’m sure that happens, but I don’t know anyone who has done it. The fact is, it takes thousands and thousands of hours of doing something to become truly proficient at it. Entrepreneurs might work for themselves, but that often means they work for a workaholic boss and should probably calm down and rest more.
Pastoral ministry is hard work! It ought to be hard work. To “rightly divide the word of truth” takes time pouring over its pages. To lead a healthy staff and leadership team takes lots of time spent one-on-one with leaders. When the leader works hard at growing personally, the church benefits.
7. Entrepreneurs change the game.
In fact, they change the world! Consider how Twitter and Facebook have shaped our conversations about things. Or how a personal computer constructed in Bill Gates’ garage shaped modern business. Entrepreneurs leave the world different than they found it. And pastors…you are the world’s most over-looked change agents! You think we can count on politicians to take down the world’s giant problems? No, pastors who preach and re-preach the gospel faithfully and who find new ways of communicating it to each new generation truly change the world like no other leader could.
Here’s my challenge to you.
First, read the Bible with fresh eyes and see how Abraham, King David, the Apostle Paul and so many others were pioneers in this world, entrepreneurs of a spiritual sort.
Second, read a book by an entrepreneur who has done something amazing. I always recommend that church planters read Guy Kawasaki’s book, The Art of the Start. He worked for Apple and has started his own growing companies. While he’s not super vocal about it all the time, he’s a believer, and he’s wise.
Third, start something. Change something. Fix something. Start a blog and see how well you can build it. Get all crafty and start a DIY business! Tap into your inner pioneer. Challenge the status quo. Make some waves!
And then…look at the church and see it as a thing of timeless beauty with the best news ever given about a King Jesus who is alive and well. See the church as a hospital for the broken and decide how you can get the message out in new, creative, gospel-honoring ways!