Embracing Weakness in Christian Entrepreneurship

Article originally hosted and shared with permission by The Christian Economic Forum, a global network of leaders who join together to collaborate and introduce strategic ideas for the spread of God’s economic principles and the goodness of Jesus Christ. This article was from a collection of whitepapers compiled for attendees of the CEF’s 2018 Global Event.

by Kenneth Ewell

The foundation of Christian entrepreneurship is, paradoxically, weakness. This is not weakness of product, service, or business, but of the entrepreneur himself as a Christian. This is true because Christ said His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). If the goal of the Christian entrepreneur is to advance the Kingdom of God by the power of God, in some sense, weakness must be the way. In a culture that continually tries to conform us to its patterns, idolizing strength and worldly power, Christian entrepreneurs must go into the world aware of, or even embracing, their own weakness. In this way, they advance the Kingdom of God, relying on His power rather than their own.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul began one of his famous boasts, this time not directly in the cross, but in his own weakness. It is important for the Christian entrepreneur to note that Paul was not referring to any weakness in his work ethic, or the impact his work would have on the people he served. Rather, he was referring to his own personal weakness. It is also of note that Paul was not merely aware of his own weakness; rather, he boasted in it. This boasting enabled Christ’s power to rest on him (v. 9). In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul urged the church to imitate him (1 Corinthians 11:1). If the Christian entrepreneur wishes to have Christ’s power rest on him, he too, should imitate Paul—in all ways, but especially in his boasting in weakness.

What does it mean for the Christian entrepreneur to boast in his weakness? While these apply generally to all Christians in business, I have the entrepreneur in mind. First, it means to be honest with ourselves about our shortcomings and character flaws. Pride and vanity, often nurtured by a social media culture that requires us to present the best version of ourselves at all times, can lead to the deception of others and self about who we really are. This does not mean we should go around advertising our failures or speaking poorly of ourselves. Rather, we should first be honest with God and ourselves about our weaknesses, and therefore act in humility towards others (colleagues, customers, suppliers, investors, and competitors). For example, if a young Christian CEO struggles with fear of man, he should take stock of how this distorts his relationship with God and affects the people who work with and for him. Then he should repent and reflect on his tendency to make decisions based on the opinions of others rather than a holy fear of God.

Second, this honesty should extend to a circle of trusted advisors. Ideally, these would be Christians who are members of the entrepreneurial community. This circle of advisors can respectfully inquire about our day-to-day awareness of these weaknesses, help us to see “blind spots,” and encourage us to continue taking stock of our character, bringing our weaknesses to God, and praising God when His power clearly does work in and through us at work.

Finally, boasting in weakness means recognizing that God’s power works in and through Christian entrepreneurs not despite their weaknesses, but often because of them. The occasion for Paul’s boasting was a “thorn” in his flesh, which God gave him to keep him from becoming conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7). When Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn, the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9). As a result, Paul decided to “boast in his weakness” so that Christ’s power might rest on him. For Paul, God’s power was able to work through him precisely because of his weakness. This is also true for the Christian entrepreneur, whose goal is to advance the Kingdom of God through his ventures. When the entrepreneur responds appropriately to his own weaknesses, paradoxically this enables God to accomplish the goal through him.

In closing, let me offer four thoughts I hope will help Christian entrepreneurs to boast in their weakness.

  1. Begin each day by reminding yourself of the big story of your salvation by God’s sheer grace, which highlights both your weakness and Christ’s power.

  2. Reflect on your own weaknesses and shortcomings, not morbidly, but so you may see this truth more clearly: every day you must rely on God rather than yourself.

  3. In moments of success, boast in your weaknesses, knowing that success despite those weaknesses is due to God’s grace and power.

  4. In moments of failure, continue to boast in your weaknesses, remembering that God has chosen to use entrepreneurship, above all, to conform you to the image of Jesus, not for your material gain or glory.

I am still exploring these ideas. I welcome any discussion, feedback, and suggestions on how to develop them further.

Special thanks for the cover photo to Ian Chen on Unsplash