Rick and Paul’s Entreprenuerial Extravaganza: a book review

Richard J. Goossen is a new author for me.  As director of Transforming  Business  at the University of Cambridge, Goosen has authored five books on business and entrepreneurship. I haven’t read any of them yet. But I have been positively impacted by his co-author, R. Paul Stevens. I’ve read a few of Stevens’s books and  have heard him lecture  under the green roof at Regent College where he is an emeritus faculty-member (in the halls of Regent, I’ve referred to “R. Paul Stevens” as “Our Paul Stevens”). Regent College is a place indelibly marked by Stevens’s energy and vision and his emphasis on ‘marketplace ministry.’  In  Entrepreneurial Leadership: Finding Your Calling, Making A Difference  Goosen and Stevens collaborate to explore the identity and distinctives of Christian entrepreneurial leadership ( incidentally they are team teaching a course at Regent this summer on this very subject).

Entrepreneurial Leadership: Finding Your Calling, Making a Difference by Richard J. Goossen and R. Paul Stevens

Goosen interviewed approximately 250 Christian entreprepreneurs on the intersection of their faith and life’s work.  His findings form the research basis of this book.  He and Stevens are apt at making biblical and theological connections as they explore the theme of entrepreneurship. They begin their book by defining the essence of entrepreneurship and leadership  (chapter one and two). Chapter three contrasts (secular) humanist models of entrepreneurship with the Christian model. While the secular model offers a  personal narrative,  a mechanistic view of the universe and a focus on personal fulfillment  the Christian approach to entrepreneurship  has a ‘God-narrative,’ a transcendent, supernatural view of the universe and a focus on serving God through God-given spiritual gifts.

Chapters four through seven explicate their particular Christian approach to entrepreneurship. In Chapter four, Goossen and Stevens discuss the nature  of ‘soul and spirituality.’  They present the soul as a whole ( both physical and spiritual). This means that the spiritual life cannot be compartmentalized from our work life. In chapter five they discuss the meaning of work and the satisfaction work brings (and does not bring!). Chapter six explores the Christian approach to risks and rewards while  chapter seven explores the nature of calling in relationship to entrepreneurship.

The final three chapters focus on how compelling Christian, entrepreneurial leadership is lived out.  Goossen and Stevens explore principles and practices that will nourish and sustain Christian entrepreneurs and the ways churches can support the entrepreneurs in their midst.

One of the gifts  of this book is that Goossen and Stevens baptize business as a Christian vocation and provide encouraging words for entrepreneurs of faith. They offer wisdom for  entrepreneurs about how to live faithfully to their calling and how to live  faithfully through their calling. This makes this a great book for business people and leaders. I would say it is one of the most thoughtful books of its kind.

The part of this book I found most helpful was Goossen and Stevens discussion of how the Christian understanding of entrepreneurship stands in opposition to a humanist understanding of it.  Too many Christian leaders approach business literature uncritically and apply ‘principles’ to the church without properly considering the telos of  a market-driven approach (where the bottom line is the bottom line).   By critiquing the humanist approach to entrepreneurship, Goossen and Stevens are able to replace it with something more theologically sound.  Sure, Christian entrepreneurs also want to be successful, but their vision for business is more robust than amassing personal wealth and security.  Christian entrepreneurial leaders are Christians who seek to be faithful to their calling in business (or the church and non-profit sector).  Business and entrepreneurship is not working for filthy lucre but an opportunity to participate in what the triune God is doing in the market and to live and act faithfully for him there.

For the most part I found their insights theologically and biblically rich. Occasionally their interpretation of the Bible is more evocative than exact (i.e. I thought their interpretation of  how Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness relates to Christian entrepreneurship was overreaching a tad). This is a small criticism. Most of the time I found their reading of passages legitimate;  there is only couple of places where my inner-exegete was bothered.

I recommend this book highly for business minded Christians who are looking for a theological understanding of business and what it means to be faithful to God in the marketplace. I give this book ★★★★.

Thank you to InterVarsity Press and Adrianna Wright for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

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