It’s hard to jump into a new television series in season 3. You have no context for the characters, why they act the way they do, how they’re connected to one another, or where they’re going. Perhaps you can piece together enough to get your bearings, but you miss so much depth in the storyline by beginning in the middle.
Thanks to Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming services, starting a TV series mid-stream is now a thing of the past. Unfortunately, when understanding our everyday work from a Christian standpoint, most of us have jumped in at “season 3.” We’re only viewing a small portion of the Grand Storyline.
We’ve “started in the middle,” and so we lack context and struggle to find meaning. We don’t know where the story began or where it’s heading, and perhaps worst of all, we haven’t even identified the main character yet.
Within faith-driven entrepreneurship, if we want to have good “work theology” and discover how our faith and day jobs collide, we must go back to the beginning. We have to re-discover the origins. We have to place our current reality inside a much bigger plot.
When most of us think of faith-driven entrepreneurship and work, we primarily think about applying “biblical principles” to our everyday work experience. We pick out moral teachings on greed and honesty, leadership examples like Nehemiah “rebuilding the walls,” or practical wisdom from Proverbs. We try to implement them like a how-to manual of tips, suggestions, or inspiration. And that’s a noble pursuit.
Ultimately, these efforts are more about trying to write God into our stories rather than understanding we have been so graciously written into His. We are living in the unfolding storyline of God’s grand narrative! But our self-absorption zeroes in on our individual chapters of faith-driven entrepreneurship. We’re never able to grasp the full meaning and depth of what’s really happening or the roles we’ve been designed to play.
Before we can talk about the practical, everyday reality of faith and work, we must zoom out. Way out. We have to see the whole arc of God’s storyline clearly. If you want more meaning in your work, more purpose in your 9-5, less dread when the alarm goes off on Monday morning, you first have to place your story inside of God’s story.
Creation – Fall – Redemption – Consummation
Why did God create us in the first place? What in the world went wrong? What did God do to fix it? Where is all this heading?
These aren’t new questions or discoveries; they’re recapturing the historical roots of Christianity from which everything beautiful grows. The faith-driven entrepreneurship and work journey start here.
Faith Driven Entrepreneurship: How a Poor Pastor’s Kid Embraced His Ministry
My dad, Dave Cooper, grew up in a poor pastor’s home. My grandfather pastored small Assemblies of God churches all up and down the east coast of the United States. Sometimes the church had actual money for his salary, and sometimes they would have to pay him in chickens. Live chickens.
My dad has vivid memories of my grandpa “preparing” their dinner on an old tree stump out back and literally watching as a “chicken with its head cut off” ran around the backyard.
My dad didn’t want us growing up that way. Poor.
So he set out on a different vocational “faith-driven entrepreneurship” journey. He had a natural intuition for business and entrepreneurship. From the time he was a young business student at Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri, his goal was to one day have a million dollars in the bank. That’s a considerable number today, but it was even bigger in the mid-60s. And he was well on his way as co-owner of 9 nursing homes back in the 1980s. He eventually sold that portfolio and spent some time in the restaurant business and with other entrepreneurial investments.
He just had a knack for recognizing opportunity and the willingness to undertake the risk and go after it (that second part is where most aspiring entrepreneur fall down). My dad was experiencing the personal success he always wanted, and he was having fun doing it.
But in the early ’90s, his passion for faith-driven entrepreneurship ministry began to percolate in a unique way. He started having creative discussions with a real estate developer-friend and the pastor of our church. Together, they conceived a business model designed to underwrite global missions initiatives.
My dad stepped up to lead the day-to-day development of Community Reinvestment Foundation. CRF is a housing nonprofit that provides high-quality, affordable housing to people who need it, while committing half its cash to global missions projects worldwide. He wasn’t a pastor like his father before him, but he was beginning to see his business acumen as faith-driven entrepreneurship and a sacred calling. My dad was a kingdom entrepreneur and was leveraging the way God designed him for God’s glory.
By our best estimates today, CRF Affordable Housing provides quality, affordable housing and assisted living for between 5000-6000 people and has given over $7.5 million to the work of the Kingdom around the world.
My dad is my hero. He made that million dollars he dreamed about multiple times over; it just isn’t in his bank account. But my dad is, hands down, the richest man I know.
He doesn’t worship his business, so his business has become his worship.
Last year, we interviewed my dad, where we talked about his personal journey and the genesis of the Business as Mission organizations impacting the Kingdom for over a quarter-century.
ST: What advice would you give to someone just starting their career? How would you tell them to integrate their faith with their work?
DAVE: I believe that integrity is most important. Integrity is something that you earn by showing others who you are and what you stand for. It cannot be taken away from you, but you sure can lose it easily by not adhering to the principles you live by.
Choose your personal relationships and professional relationships carefully. Almost every day, we hear of a company or person who has cheated in their business life or personal life, and the consequences are life-changing.
Live your faith at work by striving to be the best at what you do. Your employer has put trust in you and your abilities. If you are competent in your chosen career and ethical in what you say and do, you will have the opportunity to share your faith with them.
ST: What is the biggest thing God has taught you on your 50-year journey of faith-driven entrepreneurship?
DAVE: God has never promised us that our life would be a bed of roses. Testing, through tough times, will always come. Having your faith and the support of others with similar beliefs gives you the strength to persevere. If we surround ourselves with like-minded people, we gain wisdom to face difficult situations. Choose wisely who you partner with.
ST: What legacy do you hope to leave your grandchildren?
DAVE: I hope they will remember that our businesses were not built by one man but a team of hard-working, faith-believing people of integrity. I hope they will be faithful, consistent, and excellent in every task no matter how menial it is because that is what brings lifelong success and also brings glory to God.
Your work doesn’t have to look like my dads to glorify God. You don’t have to start a nonprofit or pursue faith-driven entrepreneurship, but you must confront your idols.
We don’t worship our work; we worship God. And when He is in His rightful place, our work becomes worship.
Marketplace work is not a “less than” or fallback Christian life; it too is a sacred calling. I would love to see more faith-driven entrepreneurship like my father, where a kingdom entrepreneur rises up and leads 1,000 more missional businesses to the glory of God!
Is He speaking to you?