Friday, December 08, 2006

Entrepreneurial Spirit

As Americans, one of our typical cultural characteristics, in comparison with those of other backgrounds is our entrepreneurial spirit. This can be a very good thing. I lifted the following off of the Wikipedia article on Entrepreneur...
John G. Burch [Business Horizons, September 1986] lists traits typical of entrepreneurs:

* A desire to achieve: The push to conquer problems, and give birth to a successful venture.
* Hard work: It is often suggested that many entrepreneurs are workaholics.
* Desire to work for themselves: Entrepreneurs like to work for themselves rather than working for an organization or any other individual. They may work for someone to gain the knowledge of product or service that they may want to produce.
* Nurturing quality: Willing to take charge of, and watch over a venture until it can stand alone.
* Acceptance of responsibility: Are morally, legally, and mentally accountable for their ventures. Some entrepreneurs may be driven more by altruism than by self-interest.
* Reward orientation: Desire to achieve, work hard, and take responsibility, but also with a commensurate desire to be rewarded handsomely for their efforts; rewards can be in forms other than money, such as recognition and respect.
* Optimism: Live by the philosophy that this is the best of times, and that anything is possible.
* Orientation to excellence: Often desire to achieve something outstanding that they can be proud of.
* Organization: Are good at bringing together the components (including people) of a venture.
* Profit orientation: Want to make a profit; but the profit serves primarily as a meter to gauge their success and achievement.
As international missionaries, one of the things we most frequently "bring to the table" as Americans, is our "entrepreneurial spirit." The truth is, however, when we are guests in someone else's country, and working under someone else's cultural norms, our "entrepreneurial spirit" is not always greatly appreciated. Many nationals in other countries, including some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and ministry partners, have seen more than their share of American missionary "entrepreneurial spirit."
I am more and more convinced that, after 16 years of full-time missionary service in Spain, our "entrepreneurial spirit" as American missionaries needs to be tempered by an at least as healthy dose of "servant spirit" and "cooperative spirit." We must come as learners, both from the national believers and churches, as well as those foreign workers who have come before us. We must earn our right for our opinions to be heard and taken into account. This, especially for us as Americans, is not easy to do. I have learned this the hard way on more than one occasion. And I'm sure I will have occasion to learn this again in the future as well.


  1. David,

    I too have often pondered the characteristics many times associated with missionary service. It would be an interesting study to see if these characteristics cross cultural lines or if these characteristics are steeped in their own culture. Would missionaries from Spain serving in Africa exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit?

    The one characteristic that diminishes our effectiveness as America missionaries is the third one on your list. It states,

    * Desire to work for themselves: Entrepreneurs like to work for themselves rather than working for an organization or any other individual.

    When we are not willing to work with and for others I wonder if we have lost one of the key elements of being missionary. It is essential that we understand what it means to be in a constant learning mode, including the ability to learn from those who we were sent to serve. Your are right on target when you say we must exhibit a servant spirit if we desired to be heard by others.

    Although I agree with your overall message in this post, there is one point you make that I am personally struggling with and would enjoy reading your thoughts.

    You make the statement that, "We must earn our right for our opinions to be heard and taken into account." What does this really mean? When did Jesus earn the right to express contrary views to the religious establishment of His day? How did He earn the right to say to the woman at the well and to the rich young ruler the things that He communicated with them.

    I'm not saying that we ignore this point or blow off the idea of developing relationships. I do struggle though that if we have to wait until we are best friends with folks before we can express ideas or challenge their thinking, I fear that we will fall into the trap of the opposite extreme of never sharing with folks and find ourselves always developing a relationship.

    I look forward to your response. And as always, thank you for taking the time to write and post as you do. I believe I am learning much from this process.

  2. Dear David and Ken,

    Well spoken, David, as usual. Your words remind me after all these years about an article by Don Larson in the old “Perspectives” textbook/reader in Missiology class. It’s about the various roles missionaries play as they encounter people in cultures that are new and strange to them – and how they are perceived by the people they are trying to reach. Here’s a paraphrase that's about as brief as I can make it. Then, Ken, I’d like to address your question.

    Historically, particularly during colonial times, missionaries were often perceived as “teachers, sellers, and judges” as they tried to evangelize and start churches, schools, hospitals, etc. It’s not that they were literally taking on these roles. But in many situations, nationals (both Christians and non-Christians) would typically view the missionaries as having attitudes of superiority and felt as if they were being treated like children, buyers, and morally inferior people. Today, even though missionaries are better trained in anthropology and cross-cultural communication, still this ethnocentric mindset often crops up in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. (Call it sin, pride, insensitivity, whatever …)

    Larson argued that missionaries should consciously take on a more humble attitude and roles like “learner, trader, and story teller” -- for the sake of developing relationships and communicating the gospel effectively. When they enter their new place of service, missionaries should focus on language- and culture-learning first and foremost. Then as they gain proficiency, they may begin to give and receive insights into how other people live and think. Finally, they are ready to tell the stories of Scripture and the Good News about Jesus. Learner, trader, story teller -- rather than teacher, seller, judge.

    Still pretty sound advice, don’t ya think? Whether we’re in rural or urban, developed or less-developed settings.

    Ken, regarding your question about Jesus and how He earned the right to say what He did to people … I believe His love for people and the divine authority in which He operated were self-evident to those who were open to Him. “He speaks as one who has real authority, not like the other rabbis.” And He proved His love by serving His disciples and laying down His life for His friends. He said what He heard the Father saying and did what He saw the Father doing. And He had the Holy Spirit’s anointing without measure. Therefore, He spoke and acted with full confidence. Perhaps the closer we walk with the Lord in the power of His Spirit, the more loving, wise, and confident we will be when we relate to people who need Him, and when we work together with others in extending His kingdom. Easy to say, difficult to do.

    Blessings on you both.

    Still pursuing grace and wisdom in Jesus, our model,

  3. It would seem we are called to be filled with the Holy Spirit above all else.

  4. Todd,

    Let me try to restate what I was attempting to communicate. If I want national partners to hear and seriously consider my thoughts and ideas, then yes, relationships are extremely important. However, I struggle with the position that says that you can effectively witness to someone unless you have established a personal relationship with that person.

    I agree with you what you are saying I just wanted to make a distinction between these two points.

    Thanks for the dialogue.

  5. David,

    May God use you, my brother. I have prayed for you this week.

  6. Lk 16:13. "No servant can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will hold to one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
    14. And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things and they scoffed at Him.
    15. And He said unto them, "Ye are they that justify yourselves in the sight of men but God knoweth your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
    16. The Law and the Prophets were until John. From that time the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is preached and every man entereth violently into it.
    17. But it is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the Law to fall."

    Jn 18:36. Jesus answered, "My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews but now is my Kingdom not from hence."
    37. Pilate, therefore, said unto Him, "Art thou a king then?" Jesus answered, "Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end have I been born and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the Truth. Everyone that is of the Truth heareth my Voice."

    Jas 4:4. Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God!

    1Jn 2:15. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
    16. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.
    17. And the world passeth away, and the lust therof but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
    18. Little children, it is the last hour and as ye heard that anti-Christ cometh, even now have there arisen many anti-Christs, whereby we know that it is the last hour.
    19. They went out from us but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would have continued with us but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us.

    God, through John in 1Jn 1-5 and 2Jn, exposed all heretics of all time when he described the "many anti-Christs." How do we simply identify all false Christians of all time? If you do not know, how do you know that you aren't a false Christian?

    What is the lie of 2Th 2 that "the lawless one" uses in "all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish because they received not the Love of the Truth, that they might be saved?" If you do not know what that lie is, how do you know that you aren't following that lie?

    canawedding at aol dot com
    (ASV Scriptures - public domain)

  7. David, Good post and good discussion here. I love the Word of God. I read it everyday and I never get tired of it. If that is so, why when people quote long streams of scripture in the blogworld do they always sound angry and manipulative?

  8. Ken,

    I think we're in basic agreement, and I can sense your concern for missionaries who are always developing the relationship, but seldom delivering the message.

    Bryan said it much more concisely than I did: the key is being filled with the Holy Spirit. It sounds simplistic, but the truth is, walking in the Spirit will result in both love for people and discernment about when and how to share the gospel.

    One of the tensions we all live with in ministry involves finding the balance between patiently serving others and eagerly desiring measurable (reportable) results -- fruit to present to the Lord and to our supervisors or donors.

    I'm sure you must struggle with this issue as an IMB RL, and you probably get pressure from both ends of the spectrum as well as internal stress trying to find the balance as a leader. I know I do.

    If I'm forced to choose, I'd say that being with Jesus takes priority over doing for Jesus (even evangelism). But my practice too often betrays my words.

    I sense that your frustration, though, is more about missionaries developing relationships with a few people and not sharing the gospel anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Am I close?


  9. Bro. David

    Last night I recounted the Lottie Moon story. It seems she was the perfect example to your conclusions. Thank you for all you do.

    God Bless

    Bro. Robin

  10. David,

    I'm not sure I understand the point that "canawedding" is trying to make. Any ideas?

  11. Ken, Strider, & CanaWedding,

    From what I can tell, "CanaWedding" (who identifies herself as Anne Robare in another post) seems to be implying that I am perhaps either deceived or a false teacher. She has also posted comments on my posts on "Being American and a Missionary at the Same Time" and "Private Prayer Language." Beyond that, it is hard for me to discern what her real point is.

    Anne (if you are still checking in), whenever someone uses Scripture to admonish me, I want to be careful to give due consideration to what is being said. Like Ken, however, I find it hard to follow exactly what you are trying to say to me. If you have some specific points in which you see I fail to honor the Lord or be true to His Word in what I have written, I will be open to dialoguing with you about that.

    In Christ,