by Cris Zimmermann

This blog is a whitepaper originally published at the CEF, a platform that provides a relational learning environment where leaders and experts from around the world gather to discuss and address some of the world’s greatest challenges and most pressing needs.

We need a new kind of job profile for anyone venturing out to start, build, and grow a great company: ecclesiopreneurship.

Ecclesiopreneurship is a created word—a combination of ekklesia (the Greek word commonly translated as “church”) and entrepreneurship (a technical term to describe the designing, launching, and running of a new business). Ecclesiopreneurship combines the theological role of the church with the drive and passion of entrepreneurs who create new businesses.

Three ideas should serve as guideposts for the launch of great companies:

1. See yourself as a co-creator of this world as you venture out to start your business.

For too long have we separated the role of the church and the role of businesses. We have seen them not just as two different entities, but as two different callings: One deals with the soul and spirituality; and the other deals with the material and mundane. Not only is this theologically flawed, but also it prevents us from living out our human calling to be co-creators of this world.

In Genesis 1 we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” One could describe the heavens as the invisible and earth as the visible realm that make our planet as God intended it to be. God’s original intention was to bring both together: the visible and the invisible; the material and the spiritual. The aftermath of Genesis chapter 3, the fall of man, can be viewed as the separation of these two realms.

As we look into the New Testament, Jesus provocatively reconnected the two. He healed people’s physical bodies, fed the hungry, and at last He was physically resurrected, all while lecturing about the spiritual dimension of what it means to be human. In the Lord’s prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, He asked His followers to pray and work for the reconnection of the spiritual and the material world for the glory of God.

An ecclesiopreneur should have this grand narrative in mind as he/she goes about creating a business. The business is not just a way to make money and then pass it on to church or charity. It is a means of bringing about the original design of God into this world.

2. Develop a business idea that solves a problem within your city.

The Greek word ekklesia consists of two roots: ecc (meaning “out”) and kaleo (meaning “call”). Thus ekklesia can be literarily translated as the gathering of the “called out.” We find this term frequently used in the New Testament to describe the gathering of newly established Jesus followers who would meet in a village or a city on a regular basis. Though it is important to note that the term ekklesia was not an invention of Jesus or the Apostle Paul. Even before New Testament times ekklesia was a common word describing the gathering of the called-out elderly in a Greek community who would meet to discuss the matters of the city. If the writers of the New Testament intended merely to describe any kind of gathering, they could have used the Greek words agora, sunagoge, or synago. But their intention was to build on the common conception of the * ekklesia that was known throughout the Roman/Greek world. Each town or city had an ekklesia, which consisted of wise, elderly men who by their virtue and life experience would meet on a regular basis to discuss and counsel about the matters of the city. If, for instance, the city faced a natural catastrophe like an earthquake, the ekklesia would meet to discuss the reconstruction of the city. Or if there was a dispute between one village and another, the ekklesia would meet to settle the dispute and work towards peace. Also, neighborhood disputes over property issues or ownership of cattle could be brought before the ekklesia. The role of the ekklesia therefore was to give wise counsel for the people of the city. So if a city had a good ekklesia, it would be well off. If on the other hand, the city had a bad ekklesia, it would be in trouble.

As the ecclesiopreneur develops the business idea, he/she needs to think of the problems and challenges of the city. How can you better the city through your business? How can you give wise counsel to your city through your business? How can you deliver services to your fellow citizens that bring about justice, peace and freedom?

3. Take risks not just to make money but to bring about spiritual/social transformation.

Entrepreneurship in its original meaning can be traced back to the French economist Richard Cantillon. He described the entrepreneur as a risk taker who deliberately allocates resources to exploit opportunities in order to maximize the financial return.

Entrepreneurs are often termed “modern day adventurers” or risk takers, as they work through the challenges of funding a new business idea, hustling to get customers, and developing systems to manage time, people, processes, and products.

In the same way, an ecclesiopreneur is willing to step out and take risks in launching the business. He/she understands that a solid business demands strong finances. Yet the goal lies beyond financial reward—it lies in spiritual and social change within society. How can your business change the spiritual climate within your city? How can you strategically allocate your resources, products and people to further the Kingdom of God? Which bold steps need to be taken within your city to pay eternal dividends?

Special thanks to Allef Vinicius on Unsplash for the cover photo