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January 1982 · Vol. 11 No. 1 · pp. 57–59 

Book Review

The Christian Entrepreneur

Carl J. Kreider. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1980. 211 pages.

Reviewed by John E. Toews

The central thesis of Kreider’s book is that the Christian entrepreneur as a person is a gift of God’s grace in and for the church. He/she uses God’s resources (wealth) to produce utility to satisfy human want. The creation of utility necessitates profit to accumulate capital to make a business productive to provide jobs, etc. The Christian entrepreneur, as a gift of God engaged in the vocation of creating utility with God’s resources, uses the ethical insights of the Christian faith and church to be a more faithful disciple as an entrepreneur. In that process the Christian entrepreneur faces three critical problems: 1) how much to re-invest in the business to make the business larger and more productive, 2) how much to spend on self and family, and 3) how much to give to the church?

I could respond to many issues in Kreider’s book, including its use and interpretation of Scripture. But let me try to push Kreider’s thesis a step forward. If Kreider is correct that the Christian entrepreneur is a gift of God in and for the church, and I think he is right, then he/she is one of the gifts in the church just like all the other members of the local church. Gifts in the New Testament are people. And the context for giftedness is always the church. That means the Christian entrepreneur is first and foremost a member of the body of Christ and a local church, and he/she is to be treated like all other members in the church. We are all brothers and sisters in the church accountable to God and to each other, irrespective of vocation. Openness, mutuality, and accountability characterize the quality of our life together in the church and before God.

What kind of gifts do the Christian entrepreneurs bring to the church? First of all, they bring the same gifts that all other believers bring, namely, our persons as children of God. Each believer is gifted by God for ministry in the church. Therefore, every believer who is an entrepreneur has a gift or many gifts that are graces of God which may or may not have anything to do with entrepreneurship. These gifts must be discerned and exercised in the church. Secondly, by virtue of training {58} and experience the Christian entrepreneur does bring some unique gifts to the church. I suggest three: a) The entrepreneur has the gift of expansive vision. The Christian entrepreneur is a person who has broken open the boundaries of the 160 acre farm and has a vision for whole countries, whole cities, even for the world. b) The Christian entrepreneur brings to the church the gift of good management and administration. The entrepreneur is concerned with efficiency of operation and space utilization and with order in relationships and decision-making. c) The entrepreneur has the gift of money, the gift of liberality in giving to support the work of the Kingdom of God as expressed first in the local church, then in the denomination, and finally in the many causes of Christ in the world. These are rich gifts the Christian entrepreneur brings to the church. God knows the church needs all these gifts, and more, if it is to be his body and witness in the world.

It must be remembered, however, that the context for the exercise of gifts is always the church and is under the control of the church as led by the Spirit of God and the leaders discerned by the church. Christian entrepreneurs bring many and significant gifts to the church, but their gifts must be discerned and exercised on the same terms as all other persons gifted in the church. Big business egos and fat bank accounts make no more difference than big intellectual egos and academic pedigrees. The Christian entrepreneur is just as responsible as I am to participate regularly and faithfully in the life of the church, to be discerned by others for ministries in the church, to give the church the right and the time to discern the will of God rather than impose his/her independent mind on the church, to let the church function as the church rather than insist that it operate like a business corporation, to wrestle together with the meaning of Jesus’ words about money and affluence, to live simply and frugally, and to give and receive counsel and admonition. If the Christian entrepreneur is a gift of grace in the church then he/she is as subject to discernment as I am. If the church has the right to test my teaching, and it does, it has the obligation to test the counsel, the actions, and the giving of the entrepreneur.

The other side of accountability is mutuality and love. If the Christian entrepreneur is a gift of God, he/she is part of the body and no longer stands alone. He/she is a genuine brother/sister in the church. We bless and receive him/her just like everyone else. Therefore, the Christian entrepreneur does not have to sit alone and contemplate how much to reinvest in the business, how much to spend on self and family, and how much to give to the church. Those questions now become the questions of the church as a body, just as the questions of my teaching and life-style, or the pastor’s ministry, are the subjects of concern, prayer, counsel, and support in the church.

If the Christian entrepreneur is a gift of God to the church, a new {59} context for life and work exists. The context calls for accountability of all of life in the church and offers acceptance and love. As a teacher I am such a gift in the church, and that is what I experience. The Christian entrepreneur is such a gift that is what he/she now experiences or will experience if Kreider’s thesis is taken seriously for Mennonite Churches.

Christian entrepreneurs no longer need stand at the edge of the church’s life, as some of my friends in business feel they now do. As a gift of God they move center stage, and the church moves center stage for them. To be sure, it is tough to be on center stage, but it also feels like home. It means to be loved and to be called to exercise one’s gifts of ministry in and for the church.

Kreider is to be thanked for his contribution to fresh thinking about the Christian entrepreneur. I hope we can take his thesis seriously; it will represent the dawning of a new day in the church.

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