"A Case for De-Coupling Church Planting and Entrepreneurship" – Send Institute

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A Case for De-Coupling Church Planting and Entrepreneurship

by John Davidson

Over the last decade, I’ve noticed an interesting trend in how we talk about church planters. In an effort to define what planting is, how it works and who does it, we’ve conflated the terms church planter and entrepreneur. These are two different words from two different realms, and I’ll say right up front that finding universal definitions for these terms is virtually impossible.

The word “church planter” comes from our modern practical ministry vernacular. Nobody used the term thirty-plus years ago. Back then, people who started churches were called pioneers. If you go even further back in church history, you’ll find that those who started new churches were often referred to simply as “evangelists.”

On the other hand, “entrepreneur” comes to us from the vocabulary of business and industry. It refers to someone who starts something, often at great personal risk. As entrepreneurialism has become more discussed, researched and pursued in the last thirty years, it has become popular to refer to those who start churches as entrepreneurial.

There’s nothing wrong with these terms. They both express a certain aspect of people who start churches. But here’s the problem – sometimes leaning too heavily on a term can alienate people from the actual calling to start new churches.

Take as an example the conflation of church planting and entrepreneurship. The two seem like a match made in heaven. And I, for one, have often stood in front of rooms full of 18-20-somethings explaining church planting in terms of entrepreneurship. Why? Because entrepreneurship is currently a notion that is highly valued and stirs the imagination.

Everyone wants to be like Mark Zuckerberg. This millennial generation doesn’t want to work for someone else; they want to work for themselves. They’re the entrepreneurial generation, so say some experts – (Forbes and the Washington Examiner to name a few). So, everywhere I went, I told young people they should turn their desire to advance God’s kingdom and use their natural entrepreneurial leanings toward what I believe is the best way to reach new people for Christ, starting churches. And it worked.

Lots of young, charismatic, self-starters stepped out in faith and started churches. But over the last couple of years, I’ve started to wonder where all the church planters have gone. It doesn’t seem that as many young people I interact with lately are interested. A recent article in The Atlantic sheds light on one of the reasons why…