by John Elliot
Two months ago, I woke up as lead pastor of Christ Community—a church I helped plant in 2011 with two of my closest friends. This morning I woke up as COO of FarmAfield—an ag tech company that is using software to create new connections between farmers and investors. At first glance, these may seem like two very different ventures and, in many ways, they are. At Christ Community, I spent my days preparing sermons, counseling congregants, and officiating weddings. In my new role at FarmAfield, I spend my time pitching investors, interviewing customers, and helping to develop software. The differences are so stark that even I wondered how much I’d be able to draw from the former as I engaged in the latter.
But it wasn’t long into my time with FarmAfield that some old, very familiar doubts came rushing back:
“Did God really call me to this? “Why is it so hard?” “Was I foolish to leave a situation that was safe and secure? “Wouldn’t someone else be more competent in my role?" “Does anybody want what we’re creating? "What if we fail?"
If you have ever tried creating something new (and I know most of you have), you can probably relate to these fears and add a few of your own. As Andy Crouch points out in his excellent book Culture Making, entrepreneurship is nothing less than “moving the horizons of possibility”. This is a noble and exciting calling, but one that often comes with its fair share of fears, insecurities, and doubts.
So how is a faith-driven entrepreneur to respond when caught in the midst of one of these psychological storms? I certainly don’t have the final answer to this question, but I will share with you three exhortations I preach to myself every morning that serve to anchor my soul. May God use them to bring you a sense of peace as you press forward in your entrepreneurial journey.
1. Be thankful for the opportunity.
No matter how difficult or discouraging the present circumstances, there are always evidences of God’s grace. I just have to stop to look for them. I regularly thank him for the lessons I’m learning, the relationships I’m forging, and the many ways he’s using this experience to shape me into Christ’s likeness. If you stop and observe, I’ll bet you too can list a number of ways God is being gracious to you in the midst of present trials. As faith-driven entrepreneurs, we get to move forward with the conviction that regardless of whether or not our venture ultimately “succeeds", there is never waste in God’s economy. Remembering this truth regularly unleashes a tangible sense of gratitude in my spirit.
2. Be confident in your calling.
Tim Keller once shared a definition of calling I found to be refreshingly simple. “How do you know if you’re truly called to do something?” he asked. “If you’re doing it.” That answer may sound trite, but it is filled with wisdom.
As Christians, we worship a sovereign God who works out everything for his good purposes. That means there is nothing accidental about your current venture, team, or role. So go forward in confidence, trusting that—at least for today—you’re where God wants you to be doing what God wants you to do.
3. Be faithful with the day in front of you.
If you’ve been around sports at all in your life, you’ve probably heard the adage, “One game at a time.” The sentiment is so ubiquitous that the typical sports fan will roll his or her eyes upon hearing it. But in my experience with entrepreneurship, there is a lot of truth in it. Thinking about what needs to happen next month or next week or even the next day can be overwhelming, especially early on in a start-up when so much is coming at you. But something feels very different about asking the question “What does faithfulness look like today?”. Not only does this question focus my attention on the actionable steps in front of me. But it also reminds me that my job is stewarding opportunities, not manufacturing outcomes.
As a final “benediction” of sorts, I’d like to share an excerpt from Douglas Kaine McKelvey’s Every Moment Holy. This particular passage comes from a liturgy about fearing failure and reads:
“If your greatest good is to bear in fuller measure the image of your Lord, then might not his greatest and most holy good to you come cloaked in guise of defeat and dismay? And if that is your Lord’s sacred intention, then who is to say how great a success even your failures might be, when read aright at last in the chronicles of eternity? So relinquish now all vain attempt to parse the mysteries of God’s intent. You can not think his thoughts. You can not reckon his deep purposes. It is enough to know that all he does is done in love for you."