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.

The Christian Romance: a book review

I almost didn’t want to read this book. There are a lot of books about grace. Many of them are underwhelming. They pit law against grace and New Testament against Old. Some books are fluffy and lack substance.   Some books mistake grace for poor quality control (the results are almost always bad).   I decided to go ahead and review The Romance of Grace anyway because the author lives in my hometown and is a teaching pastor at a church I drive by often. Then a strange thing happened: I liked it.

The Romance of Grace by Jim McNeely III

Jim McNeely III explores the operations of Grace in a winsome and engaging manner. In his opening chapter he explores  two of Jesus’ parables. The  first is  of the man who for the joy of it, sells all he has to buy a field with a hidden treasure. The second parable likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a merchant who sells all has to buy a pearl of great price. These parables tell us something about how grace works. When we get grace, joy motivates us to give our life a way to enjoy the treasure God has for us.

McNeely explores the implications of grace for the Christian life and how God saved us because of his great love.  McNeely interprets the Fall as the moment when humankind divorced God’s moral goodness from  the aesthetic Good(Eve saw that the fruit which God said not to eat was good for eating).  The implication of this is that our desires are disordered and we end up calling good, things which are not good (or lesser goods). God’s extravagant love brings  both senses of good together again.

In each of the chapters of this book, McNeely explores a facet of grace. Does grace mean that we can do whatever we want because we have a get-out-of-hell free card? Not anymore than the fact that your spouse loves you means you can cheat on them (BTW don’t even think it!). But it isn’t that grace demands or coerce.s  It compels. Like the man who buys the field for ‘the joy of it,’ we act graciously and faithfully because we know the love of God in our depths and it wells up within us.  McNeely  also explores how grace relates to predestination, spiritual gifts and the church, worship and wonder. God woos us with his love and his grace touches every part of our lives.

McNeely is a good communicator and I loved his illustrations (many drawn from movies and pop-culture, a few from his family life and personal experience). So many books about grace are fluffy but I found McNeely substantive and insightful.  This is a good picture of grace and the love of God. I happily give this book 4 stars and think that you will find its description of the romance of grace compelling.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

“Job” for the Jobless

Thank you to anyone who read the title of this post and clicked on the link because you thought it meant I found a job. No such luck for me, but I hope I’m doing more in this post than just making bad puns. I did not mean ‘a job’ in the sense of gainful employment, but Job (proper name) as in the Old Testament righteous dude that suffered lots and had lousy friends (no offense).

It might be presumptuous to compare my suffering to Job. I have food in my belly and roof over my head. I have had to defer student loans and haven’t been able to replace broken computers, ipods, or buy new clothes and copious amounts of books (never fear, I’ve got my hands on a few), but this sort of suffering amounts to ‘first world pains.’ What Job had to suffer was the loss of wealth, health, the death of family members, and festering sores. All in all, I think I’ve gotten the better deal.

But the comparison was given to me about a week ago when I attended my wife’s graduation from Regent College (the same seminary I graduated from). While there I saw many old friends happy to see me and eager to hear what I’m up to. Invariably I would flash them a sheepish grin and say, “Actually I’m still looking for work.” Which of course makes people feel bad so they’d tilt their head to the right and say “Don’t worry, I’m sure something will come up.” After a few moments I would saunter off to go and be awkward with someone else. It was really fun.

While at the graduation, my wife and I sought out one of our professors, Phil Long, for a photo and to express our appreciation for his teaching. Predictably, when he saw me, he asked what I was doing now. I tried to hide my shame when I said I was still looking for work. He gave me a thoughtful look, and said that he doesn’t know why some people he’s known have struggled to find work when there seems to be no reason for it and encouraged me to continue to trust God through this season.

I nodded my appreciation and confessed the ways I have failed to trust God, and rehearsed several flaws which I think have made me unemployable. Phil said these words to me, “I wouldn’t look for a reason in yourself. Take a page out of Job and trust that this too will reveal God’s glory.”

And so I have spent the past week thinking through and reading Job and trying to explore what wisdom and understanding he has to offer me. I have also delved into one of my favorite short commentaries, Gustavo Gutierrez’s On Job. Several little insights have revealed themselves to me and I’ve been chewing on them. In no particular order, here are some things I’m thinking about(this isn’t a formal study, just my little notes):

  • The Satan thinks that Job only serves God because of what God gives him; Job’s friends think God is punishing Job for something he did. They are both wrong.
  • When you go through hard times, you are tempted to either doubt God or doubt yourself (which is an indirect way of doubting God’s goodness/grace). Job is relentless in his trust of God and is never self defeatist. He feels abandoned and alone, and is miserably comforted but he still presses into God and longs to make his case to him.
  • God doesn’t answer any of Job’s questions but confounds Job with the big picture of who he is.
  • Job’s suffering increases his identification with the poor and he’s sees with greater clarity the ways that the wicked prosper and fail to ‘get what’s coming with him.’ Job was good and righteous from the beginning but his suffering also increased his capacity for compassion.
  • Job learns to trust God and his ways, though he cannot fathom him. His comfort comes not in restoration but in meeting God in the whirlwind.
  • Job got a whirlwind because he needed it! Elijah doesn’t meet God in the whirlwind but in quietness. I might not know how God will show up, but he knows the best way to make an impression.

So these are my random thoughts on Job. Admittedly even though the reason for Job’s suffering is never given (Satan’s wager is the occasion but doesn’t give the reason), I tend to read of Job’s righteousness and still think I suffer because I’m not that good. And I didn’t suffer as much as he did. Crazy self-defeatist attitude!

I speak without understanding
marvels that are beyond my grasp!

I once knew you by hearsay
now my eyes have seen you;
therefore I repudiate and repent
of dust and ashes.

Summer of Prayer#2

So so far the prayer has not really materialized. I read Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. I didn’t much like it. Well there are parts I want to come back to, and I feel guilty criticizing a book on prayer by someone who has far-and-away-better-prayer-life than me, but it really didn’t resonate with me. Here is why:

It is divided into three sections which (upward, inward, outward) and Foster relates each section to one of the Trinity. Each section has seven type of prayers which help you achieve one of these dimensions of prayer. It is encyclopedic, and I honestly think I will look back on particular chapters and try the different prayer methods, or suggest particular ways of praying to others I mentor. But despite its usefulness, I found Foster’s whole project wrongheaded. I am not sure if what I need is a taxonomy of prayer, as helpful as it is.

I acknowledge that some of my aversion may come from my own experience in regard to prayer. Once upon a time I was at a Charismatic church because I sensed that God wanted me to be open to the Holy Spirit. That church was a great practitioner of healing prayer and taught about it a great deal. I learned some of that there, and was generally open minded. However, one of the pastor’s would always suggest that if one ‘type of prayer’ didn’t work, simply try another type of prayer. He would say that each type of prayer ‘are tools in our tool box.’ At first, I ate up what he was saying because God was obviously doing something through the prayers of the people there, but something about the toolbox comment made me bristle. Finally I figured out what it was.

Treating each type of prayer as a different tool in your prayer tool box, suggested that if you just prayed the right way, God was obligated to answer you the way you wanted him to. Now, nobody said this, and they would nuance this by saying that sometimes God doesn’t heal, or answer our prayers. But the use of the tools in the toolbox image was technological and it promoted a sort of formulaic idea of prayer. I found it difficult to jump from the idea of prayer as a tool to prayer as a conversation or communion with God.

Now I know this is a lot of baggage to dump on Foster. But I remain skeptical of lists of ways to pray, in order to achieve this or that objective. I understand that some understanding of the multiple dynamics of true prayer means that you end up talking about it in different ways, but I struggle with this approach.


The Micah 6:8 community group just had a cool speaker come. Laurel Borsie was a missionary to Burkina Faso with MCC and she shared some of her experiences and challenges in providing relief there. What i thought was particularly interesting was her discussion of power sharing. MCC is committed to the ideal of power sharing, where they don’t just come into a place with their own agenda and thrust it on people, but let the people of that place take part in the process and decide how best to serve, allocate resources, etc.

This is all very good, but Borsie went on to suggest that MCC talks a better power sharing game then they implement. At many of their placements, MCC missionaries come in and lead the projects while qualified indigenous leaders are relegated to administrative assistant positions. In Burkina Faso she shared leadership with to African leaders, but this is still a rarity. I thought what she had to share was insightful, particularly because I think MCC does better work than just about anyone and it is nice to hear an honest, insightful, friendly critique that there are still areas they need to work on and improve. It was refreshing that a missionary from MCC coming to speak on MCC, didn’t just give the party line but actually gave somewhat balanced ideas.

I also meant John from MCC Abbotsford who Heidi and Glenn have been trying to hook me up with for a little while. Cool.

Previous to Laurel Borsie’s presentation, we had a chapel service where Don Lewis spoke about the connection all of us in the Body of Christ have together, all over the world. He talked extensively about a missionary biography (he didn’t name) he’s reading about medical missionaries to Angola. Sounds like a good read. But it sparked my thinking a bit. I have been thinking about how and what it means to live a life that is connected to other world Christians in a meaningful way that transcends national identities. Haven’t worked it out though. Still my thinking is being stimulated in some interesting directions.