Markable: a book review

There is a sub-genre of business and leadership books which I call ‘business fiction.’ Books like¬†Who Moved My Cheese?,¬†The One-Minute Manager,¬†The Five Disfunctions of a Team¬†each use a thinly-veiled narrative as a parable to impart managerial advice. The goal is to present the books contents in an engaging, storied manner. Some of these books are better than others, but because their purpose is solely didactic, they all tend to break the first law of good fiction: show don’t tell. The result may be sound business advice, but it will never win a Pulitzer.

¬†9780801018831Remarkable: Maximizing Results Through Value Creation¬†by Randy Ross and David Salyers is a business fiction. It tells much more than it shows. The central character, Dusty Harts, is not happy at work. He is an executive at a call center company which despite doing well on all the metrics, has a disengaged workforce. He takes his 1968 Ford Thunderbird into a Classic Car Care repair shop owned by Fred Walters. Dusty discovers that Fred is a Harvard MBA and a successful business man himself and begins to pick his brain about the ‘clutch’ situation at work–a moment which will determine how much people will engage. The rest of the the ‘narrative’ is mostly Fred and Dusty sitting in coffee shops and writing equations and diagrams on napkins about how to move a work force for egocentric value extraction to a we-centered value creation. This helps Dusty lead his company to become more engaged (and therefore more profitable), improves Dusty’s family life and makes him feel more fulfilled. Everyone lives happily ever after and in the closing chapter, [spoiler] Dusty is now the sage imparting wisdom to a young executive at his own Classic Car Care location.

This is thin fiction. The characters do not live and breath, they are mere mouthpieces for the principles ¬†which Ross and Saylers desire to impart. But hey, that is my standing critique of the whole genre. What of the principles themselves? For the most part I think the advice imparted is sound. There are four maxims of value creation: (1) We are designed to create value in life, (2) Authentic positivity is the byproduct of creating true value, (3) to continuously create value, leverage your passion and strengths to solve problems and (4) ownership empowers people to take responsibility for creating value (181). Ross and Saylers approach also advocates bringing value to every endeavor by making relational deposits in people rather than seeking simply to ‘extract value’ and getting what we can out of people. They make a good case for reflective and thoughtful leadership (thinking about the whys and making the ‘superior decision’) instead of reactive leadership and business as usual. There are lots of concepts and ideas ¬†worth underlining.

So I can suggest this book to leaders of companies and organizations. Not because it is riveting fiction, but because it may spark your thinking about the character of your leadership, and because the book is markable. You can mark it up. Maybe more than once. It is re-markable.  I give this book three stars

Note: I received this book from Baker Books in exchange for my honest review.

Create! a ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ book review

If I were to copy anyone, I’d copy Ken Wytsma. He is lead pastor of Antioch in Bend, Oregon, president of Kilns College (where he teaches philosophy and justice), creative advisor for non-profits and founder of¬†the Justice Conference. Additionally, he is the author of three great books. His latest,¬†Create vs. Copy, digs deep into the theology and practice of creativity. So yeah, I’m overawed and would love to copy Wytsma. Only I couldn’t (and shouldn’t).

9780802413499Create vs. Copy¬†doesn’t have much to say ¬†about copying, outside its¬†introduction and first chapter (SPOILER ALERT: don’t do it!). Wytsma’s focus is on creating. Creativity leads us to blazes trails, innovate, and try new things(14). Copying does not (although there is space for creative borrowing).

The book unfolds in¬†two parts.¬†Part¬†one¬†presents a theology of creativity. Part two explores the practices which¬†bring creativity to life. Of course it isn’t quite that neat. Wytsma’s thoughtfulness about the ‘why’ behind the creative process underpins his practical suggestion; practice bleeds out of his theology.¬† The whole book is an invitation toward creative action. ¬†Here is a closer look at what to expect:

Part 1

In chapter one, Wytsma quotes Genesis 1:27, observing¬†the one aspect of God’s nature described in the verse is this: God creates (24). So Wytsma identifies creativity as part of what it means for us to bear God’s image. This means all of us:

Yes, artists, but also everyone else. While artistic ability is a talent few possess (and/or cultivate with time and hard work), creative capacity is something all of us are born with. Put another way, artists are skilled with unique talents, but creativity is part of what makes us human. (27)

Chapter two, “Continuous Creativity,” begins with Wytsma’s¬†¬†reflections on the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Increased Entropy) which states “All closed systems tend to move toward a state of greater disorder and dissipated energy” (37). Wytsma connects this with¬†our experience:

This dissipation is familiar in nearly every area of life.  If not renewed, donor bases will erode over time. Congregations will shrink. Family dynamics will tense up. Relationships will fade. Leadership strategies become stale and ineffective. Even our bodies and minds lose their vigor (38).

But entropy characterizes closed systems and creativity is our means to crack them open to allow life back in (39). Wytsma links the work of ongoing, continuous creativity to our image bearing and Gods redemptive plan: God created the world, is in the process of creating, and will create a new heaven and a new earth (42-43); we were created as creative, are creating and are reaching forward with our creative potential. Wytsma closes this chapter with practices for incorporating creativity at home and work (48-52).

Chapter three gives shape to how creativity brings life to our decaying systems. A closed system leads to narrowing horizons, creativity is aimed at making space for life to flourish (51-53). The process is organic: a narrowing horizon is a fear-inducing-context or problem requiring a solution; by responding with intentional creativity (a pattern of life emerging from a nourished imagination) innovation occurs (67).  Chapter four describes the outworking of this theology of creativity and innovation in our globalizing world.

Part 2

In chapter five, Wytsma explores the ways imagination helps us see what is and what should be. As we age, our capacity to imagine possibilities is constrained by our culture and peer group (110).  Our creative impulse atrophies, but Wytsma contends, through its exercise, we can reignite our creativity (114).

Chapter six probes the role¬†of imagination in creative process. The comprehensive imagination names our ability to understand the relevant data¬†for seeing ¬†current problems (120-121). Our artistic imagination helps us envision what could be (122). Our practical imagination helps envision and enact¬†solutions which will¬†work, leading to innovation (122-123). Wytsma also identifies challenges to our imagination (i.e. knowing what ideas to ‘prune’ and convincing people that imagination isn’t the purview of the few).

Chapter seven identifies the process of intentional creativity as both¬†movement and alignment (136). Movement means doing something. “Our natural response to change is to buck against it, to dig in our heels, to wish things would stay the way they are or go back to the way they used to be” (136-137). But inaction leads to the dissipation of entropy, and our best ideas will come in the midst of our work. Drawing¬†on Robert Epstein, Wytsma suggests we sharpen our creative skills by taking notes of new ideas, seeking out challenging tasks, broadening our knowledge, and surrounding ourselves with interesting things and people (138-140). Yet undirected creativity without healthy constraints won’t get you where you want to go (142). Our creativity is aligned when we¬† understanding our role in “God’s creative, redemptive work” (143). Wytsma observes, “When our values guide our whole creative process‚ÄĒimagination, intentional creativity, and innovation‚ÄĒsomething beautiful happens” (147).

The final chapter discusses ‘generous creativity’: the ¬†ways in which creativity is collaborative, ‘in-processs’ and is aimed at relationship more than results. One example of creative-collaboration is how¬†each chapter¬†is¬†punctuated with¬†Paul Crouse’s stunning illustrations, making this book ¬†practical AND beautiful. A brief conclusion summons us to creative action (don’t just be a copier or a critic).


 

I was predisposed to like this book. I am artistic and have read Wytsma’s previous books appreciatively. I also love the interactive aspects like the¬†additional reading suggestions from Ken’s blog and reflection questions appended to each chapter. But this book ¬†was also very helpful for me. Despite my love of creativity, my last leadership role was in an entropic system where I failed to lead a process toward vitality. ¬†I didn’t know how to lead innovation. Wytsma gives shape to how the creativity makes space for life to flourish.¬†As a rookie pastor this would have saved me a lot of grief (in a way ¬†vision-casting exercises didn’t).

According to Wytsma, all of us¬†have the capacity and ability for creativity; however he favors leadership¬†in¬†his examples. He states, “Those who create blaze trails, take risks, and try new ways. . . . They lead. . . .Copiers by definition, will always¬†follow” (14). Creativity is defined as¬†leading; copying means following. Maybe so, but not everyone leads (processes or people). ¬†More ought to be said about creative following. For leaders and artists, creativity is explicit. It is what they need to do in order to thrive in business, art and life. In other vocations¬†creativity is implicit. How does creativity play out in the lives of accountants (creative accounting isn’t good, right?), nurses, housekeepers, or whatever? ¬†Creativity is essential to all our image-bearing,¬†¬†so I wish there were more examples from ordinary lives.

None of this detracts from my enjoyment. This was a fun,fruitful read which pushed me to think and act with more creativity in ministry and life. ¬†I give this five stars and recommend it for leaders, artists, innovators, and yes, copycats, followers and ordinary folk. It calls us to embody the spacious and life giving. ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ

Note: I received a copy of¬†Create vs. Copy¬†as part of the launch team for the book. I was asked for my honest review. The book is slated for release on March 1, 2016 and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon¬†and can be ordered directly from the publisher’s website.

 

Innovation’s Dirty little Secret: a book review

When we consider the life and impact of innovators (such as the late Steve Jobs), we are amazed by their vision and the ideas they had. But Larry Osborne says that innovators have a secret: most innovations fail. Well, actually that isn’t much of a secret. You knew that already, right? What serial innovators are able to do is fail forward without letting their failures derail them. Osborne tells the tale of why serial innovators succeed where others crash and burn and¬†describes how to foster a culture of innovation.

Osborne is a pastor of North Coast church in San Diego County, California (the book jacket identifies this as ‘one of the most innovative churches in America’). ¬†Osborne draws on his own experience as a leader and the insights from business leadership literature. ¬†Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret: Why Serial Innovators Succeed Where Others Fail¬†¬†is meant to be applicable to either a business or ecclesial context. ¬†Osborne does not offer a business plan or detailed instructions on how to implement this in your church. What he does do is identify some of the crucial elements of success through innovation.

The book unfolds in seven parts. Part 1 is about exit strategies. Serial innovators do not succeed through backing high-risk innovations. They do not put all their resources into an idea that could fail. They experiment before implementing significant changes. They hedge their bets. ¬†Part two talks about how successful innovation is not about being ¬†‘avant-garde’ and endlessly creative. It is about finding the right solutions to the problems you face in your organization. Part three describes the importance of knowing your mission (i.e. through a mission statement) and having a bias for action . Osborne also ¬†advises finding a champion to make a straight path for you (a John the Baptist figure, preparing them for your innovation) and the importance of planning in pencil (holding plans loosely).

Part four discusses the problems which undermine innovation. ¬†Osborne mentions four problems: the price of failure, ¬†group-think, surveys, and past successes. ¬†Failures are fatal to our success when we fail publicly, overhype our innovations, and fail repeatedly in the spotlight. ¬†Osborne advises humility and tact in implementing innovations–creating an experimental culture without over promising results on every innovation. On the other hand, he does not trust group-think or surveys because they tends towards the status quo. Innovation ¬†tends to be the product of one mind and lead people somewhere they’ve never been (or thought of).

Part five discusses other organizational and personal challenges to innovation. Leaders cannot grow an organization beyond their competency.  in order for new innovations to happen, structural changes, adjusted expectations, and new advisers will all play a part in helping your church or organization become what they

Part six discusses the necessity of vision for the success of your organization. Osborne contrasts ‘vision’ with ‘mission’ by describing vision as your detailed business plan (mission is a pithy statement which describes what you are about). ¬†The final section, part seven, talks about creating a legacy of innovation that goes beyond ‘just us.’

Osborne offers practical advice for vision casting and implementing new programs and opportunities into the life of your church (or business). I am glad I read this book because I gained some insights and some language to describe innovation in ministry. ¬†I didn’t necessarily think it was the most eye-opening business book. Most of the information in said in other business-leadership books (i.e. Jason Jennings, Jim Collins, Steve Covey, John Maxwell, etc). What Osborne does is relate leadership concepts and innovation to his role as pastor. This gives this book a broad appeal; however I felt that it was missing the hard data of some of the best business books and the theological reflection of the greatest church leadership books.

However ¬†the take away for me is the emphasis on ‘small risks’ and ‘hedged bets.’ This seems to me to be good practical advice for success in leadership, ministry and life. ¬†Culture is always changing and there is no one-size-fits-all ministry plan (or business plan). Change is inevitable and that means an effective witness means trying new things to reach a community. The lab-learning small risks allows for the opportunity to discover which innovations will be impactful. This will be a good book to read and discuss as a church leadership team. ¬†I give it 3.5 stars.

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

Monks, Moguls & Managers: a book review

There was a time when the church mined the business shelf for wisdom on managing ministries, leadership and growing your church. In some circles, this is still the rage. August Turak appears to be attempting to do the reverse. Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks¬†recounts Turak’s experience of working alongside the monks at the Mepkin monastery. For seventeen years, what he has learned from the brothers’ example, and ¬†that has ¬†helped him be a better, more successful CEO. ¬†Of course, the monks are not Turak’s only source of spiritual insight. He studied Zen Buddhism with some guy in West Virginia and apparently has watched the Devil wears Prada a lot. ¬†His association with Mepkin came through a connection he made ¬†the Self Knowledge Symposium (a group of college students he leads, where he shares ¬†his spiritual insights). ¬†He went for a weekend retreat after a student of his had been spending his time volunteering there. That began his long relationship with the monks.

So what is it exactly that Turak has learned from the monks? The content of this book is not significantly different from any other business self-help book. Turak attributes the monk’s success to: their commitment to quality, their commitment to community, their selfless service, loyalty, the opportunity their life together makes for personal transformation, integrity and their commitment to a higher purpose. ¬†Because Turak is writing for the widest possible audience, his appropriation of the monk’s insights are applied far beyond their particular Christian, monastic commitment. ¬†He wants to help business people¬†translate monastic style commitment to their organizations.

What makes this book a fun read is Turak’s blend of monastery stories with stories of his own business success and challenges. His spiritual commitments (and personal commitments to running the SKS) has often meant that he has had to forgo ¬†opportunities. However these commitments served to pave the way to the particular shape of his success. ¬†Hearing his story is part of the fun and of course he makes you wish you knew a bunch of Trappist monks. ¬†The Trappist’s Benedictine heritage ensures their commitment to the sacredness of work, as one component of the spiritual life. ¬†So it seems natural that Turak can appropriate their insights and experience to the workplace.

I enjoyed this book but I am not sure what I will take from it. ¬†Secularizing the insights from the monastery means reducing the spiritual insights and religious commitments of the monks into something useful for everyone. There is something good about this, but it is also part of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ lowest-common-denominator impulse. The monks have a vocation. So do business people. They can learn from each other, but their distinctive call is their greatest gift to the world. ¬†I think Turak gets this, but when he talks about getting business’s to commit to their organization’s purpose, this will always be a different order of commitment to me than a Trappists commitment to God, community and prayer. The former may be worthwhile, but is temporal. the Godward life connects us to the Transcendent. ¬†I would have difficulty committing to my current organization (in the business world) with the same tenacity that monks devote themselves to God. I don’t think I should, even while I agree that commitment to a common purpose will lead to greater corporate success (in general).

I give this book four stars and think that if you like quasi-spiritual business books, you likely will love this one. I liked it. ūüėČ

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

 

 

 

From Generation to Generation at Work: a book review

For the first time in history, there are four generations in the workplace at the same time: Traditionalists (those born before 1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen Xers (1965-1980) and Millennials (1981-2001). ¬† Each of these generations grew up with ¬†experiences that shaped their ideology,practice and assumptions. Traditionalists (or Builders) came back from World War II and built ¬†many of the major companies and still lead many of these organizations. Boomers entered the work force and climbed the corporate ladder by putting in long hours. Gen Xers were smaller, and so did not move up the food chain as fast as Boomers did (because Boomers keep not dying). Millennials have now entered the workforce, but are not as inclined to follow the rules as much as the older generations (Gen Xers weren’t either but because of their small numbers, did not effect much change).

Haydn Shaw has written Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Ploces They Come Apart to help businesses leverage the strengths of each generation. Each of the generations has something to offer. Traditionalists built many of the organizations, industries, and companies.  They and Boomers still occupy places of significant leadership, but have not always passed on important information. Gen Xers have navigated the business world (as defined by previous generations) and have risen to meet various challenges. Millennials are poised to creatively contribute to the market but find that they are judged by other generations for their work ethic, lack of experience, and disrespect for authority.  Stereotypes about each generation abound, and often the other generations are dismissed for where they are found wanting. Shaw helps us appreciate the gifts of each generation that is rooted in their history.

Shaw examines each of these generations, providing an overview of their characteristics and history before discussing the 12 ‘sticking points’ which create generational tension in the work place. These are:

  • Communication
  • Decisions Making
  • Dress Code
  • Feedback
  • Fun at Work
  • Knowledge Transfer
  • Loyalty
  • Meetings
  • Policies
  • Respect
  • Training
  • Work Ethic

In each of these areas, Shaw helps us acknowledge the tensions, appreciate why the tension is there, identify where organizations can ‘flex‘ to accomodate different approaches, leverage the strengths of each generation and resolve how to handle these areas.

I appreciate many of Shaw’s insights and I think this will be a helpful book for people working together from different generations. Because my own vocational goals are ministry, I immediately translate Shaw’s insights to that context. I think he names some of the tensions of intergenerational ministry but his focus is specifically on the work environment (i.e. company policies, work ethic, etc). Some of this is translatable to a church setting (though not all of it).

One of the insights of this book that I appreciated was Shaw’s explanation about Gen X as a ‘squished generation.’ When Gen Xers entered the workforce, they did not climb the corporate ladder the way their parents did, nor were they able to effect organizational change because they did not have the numbers Boomers have. ¬†As a result, they have learned to navigate working with the older generations, playing by their rules (but breaking rules and asking for forgiveness later). Many of the features of Millennial generation are held in common with Gen Xers but because of their numbers, they will effect greater change in business and industry. However, for the moment Gen Xers are working in dynamic tension between Boomer leaders and Millennial’s entering the business world. They have to navigate both worlds.

Books about generations are by necessity generalizations. Shaw admits that his characterizations describe generations but may not describe individual members of each generations. When generational characteristics are used as a hammer, they do not do justice to the personhood of the people they attempt to describe. Thankfully Shaw has put the hammer away and has written a book which helps us appreciate the different assumptions we carry to the workforce and how their can be a greater level of cooperation across generational lines. I give this book 4 stars.

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

 

How the church invented ‘customer service’ and why we need more

While I’m called to vocational ministry, my livelihood for the moment is tied to the marketplace. I work in a retail store and my Sunday morning liturgy this week was sitting through a customer service training. ¬†Sitting through my training, my mind wandered to how applicable it was to a church context. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an advocate of the un-examined appropriation of business practices for the church. In business the bottom line is the bottom line. The telos of the¬†church is to be a faithful witness to the coming kingdom (see the difference?). Customer service is especially suspect. When Christians appropriate a customer service model of church we end up ministering to felt needs of congregants instead of dealing with the objective problem (sin). We also fail to remain theocentric in our approach.

And yet. . . . As I sat through my training session this morning a thought dawned on me: Some ‘business best practices,’ are inspired by historic Christian witness. Not in a self conscious way, mind you. I doubt that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies read the Desert ¬†Fathers (or even the New Testament) to help them form their business plans. However as I sat through a video presentation offering advice on how to exceed customer expectations, ¬†I heard dimly the saints of old. ¬†This was especially true as the advice I was given for business was taken directly from the hospitality industry.

Hospitality is a Christian practice (though not exclusively). ¬†The early church took its cue from the Ancient Near East’s value on care for ‘strangers'(cf. Gen. 18 where Abraham offers hospitality to three ‘strangers’) and ¬†injunctions in the Torah to care for the vulnerable (Deut. 24:20). So during the early centuries of Christianity, hospitality was not simply entertaining guests in your home for an evening, but a much more robust set of practices aimed at care for those in real need [for a good background on this practice see Christine Pohl’s Making Room: Recovering the Christian Practice of Hospitality (Eerdmans 1999)]. ¬†Early Christians rescued infant girls left to die of exposure and cared for the sick in their communities. Travelers in the ancient world were particularly vulnerable, and Christians offered a safe haven. ¬† As the church’s resources grew (as well as the need), the Christian practice of hospitality became formalized in the establishment of hospitals as well ¬†monasteries and inns which cared for ¬†travelers. This was ¬†the precursor to the modern hospitality industry. ¬† When businesses seek to cultivate longstanding relationships with clients and offer service that goes above an beyond their expectations, they often look toward the hospitality industry(i.e. the Four Seasons Hotel, Walt Disney Resorts, etc.).

When market driven capitalists (such as those who run retail stores) seek to learn from the hospitality industry, they are appropriating a secularized version of the Christian practice of hospitality.  When the church seeks the wisdom of market place leaders (who are  gleaning  what they can from the hospitality industry), they are appropriating a dehistoricized version of their  practice. This can be diagrammed as follows:
HospitalityTheft

 

And perhaps the cycle continues. But there are problems with this scheme. The historic practice of  Christian hospitality was meatier and more robust than its modern capitalist equivalent. When hospitality got institutionalized (into hospitals and hotels), it allowed for care of greater numbers of people, but something of the quality and attention of the earlier practice was lost.  So when churches attempt to learn from business on how to minister to the felt needs of their congregants, they are appropriating a watered down version of their own practice. The personalized care of the early church is lost. So is the depths of their biblical and theological reflection.

Does this mean that the church can’t learn from exceptional customer service representatives. Nope, all truth is God’s truth and some of God’s truth is wrapped up in contemporary business practices. I would be wary of how ‘customer service’ models would turn congregants into consumers, but to the extent that ‘customer service’ is a recovery of the practice of hospitality, we certainly can learn from the best practices of businesses.

In the retail business, caring for the customer and exceeding their expectations ensures their loyalty and strengthens your business relationship with them. In the church, hospitality makes visible the love of God before a watching world and brings needed care to the vulnerable members of society.  When we learn hospitality solely from business leaders our vision of hospitality is too small.  Recovering a Christian practice involves learning from notable examples in church history (i.e. the early church, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, St. Benedict, Basil the Great, Francis of Assisi, the Pietists, The Catholic Worker Movement, etc.).  It also means reading the Bible evocatively, allowing it to shape our imagination of how we in the church can best express the the hospitality of God. And it involves learning from exceptional practitioners (Christian or otherwise) about how to care for the vulnerable among us.

What is the greatest customer service experience you have ever had? Does the church offer something different from that?

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 ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ.

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