Last Thursday we began a six-week blog series called “Social Entrepreneurship and the Mission of God.” In the broadest sense, social entrepreneurs are innovators who seek new ways of offering solutions to societal challenges. They use entrepreneurial and innovation principles to promote social change. Social entrepreneurs build organizations, create products and provide services that intend to bring positive social change, somewhat irrespective of the bottom line. The goal of the social entrepreneur is to make the world a better place, which may or may not produce a profitable income stream.
Today’s post has to do with God’s concern for social entrepreneurship. Does God care about this?
If we are going to address this question, we need to recognize that social entrepreneurship as a practice in the world is not new to the Church, even though it has a modern title. Finding new ways to solve social problems as a way to promote social justice is as old as the Church herself.
This passage from the Roman Emperor Julian (4th century AD) reflects the power of social innovation in spreading the gospel:
“[Christianity] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal … that the … Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”
Christians sacrificed their comforts for the poor because they believed it was part of their identity as the baptized community. They believed it was what Jesus commanded them to do. Why? Because they know that God deeply cares about the wellbeing of every human being (and living creature) on the earth, and has a plan for their flourishing (Jeremiah 29).
The baseline reason why God cares about social entrepreneurship can be found in the first chapter of the Bible:
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.Genesis 1:26-27
At creation, God infused the world with his presence, and the divine life exists in every human being. God’s plan for the world was perfect, beautiful, a paradise kind of life. But the fracture in the cosmos, which we read about in the next two chapters of the Bible, set in motion the expanding trajectory of this fracture, to where now we live in a world that is both infused with God’s goodness, life, and love, but also fractured in every way by evil, death, destruction, violence, and injustice.
The rest of the Bible, then, is God’s recovery plan, which comes to its completion in the Book of Revelation when the Risen Christ shall return, and all creation will be repaired and made new. The primary role of the Christian, therefore, is to look back on God’s original creation as the vision for what will come when Christ returns and to operate in the world according to that vision. It’s a vision of wholeness (the Hebrew term is Shalom), justice, fairness, equity, life, love, and human flourishing. The flourishing of creation is God’s vision, and Christians are called to live and work toward that end. The Hebrew phrase for this work (for both Jews and Christians) is Tikkun Olam, and it means ‘to repair the world.’
Social entrepreneurship is part of today’s Tikkun Olam. The possibilities of what this looks like for Christians is endless. It means that “ministry” in the Christian sense is not limited to church work or even non-profit work for that matter. God’s aim is not the conversion of creation to western Christianity, but the flourishing of all creation in God’s Name. Social entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to carry out this work because God is about “making all things new,” and the “new” is definitive for social entrepreneurship.
week we’ll look at the influence of capitalism and the for-profit, non-profit,
and hybrid-profit dynamics. In the meantime, give some thought to where and how
you see and participate in the work of social entrepreneurship in the Name of