There are Christian books on many themes, but how many of us have read about today’s Christian entrepreneurs?
Richard Higginson is a theological educator at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and Kina Robertshaw is a Zambian entrepreneur who came to Ridley Hall to study theology. She wanted to research Christian entrepreneurs and collaborated with Richard Higginson to produce the book, interviewing 50 entrepreneurs in the process. The book is aimed at entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs, but is a fascinating read for all.
The authors define an entrepreneur as someone who ‘pursues opportunities to commercialise (i.e. make a profit from) innovation … providing goods and services in a new and different way’ (p.66).
This comes alive as they give examples. For example, ‘Natasha’ met women in India who were the victims of sex-trafficking. She founded Beulah, a company which employs these women to make luxury fashion items for a western market.
‘Andrew’ brings solar-powered products to the people of East Africa, explaining that ‘there are 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa with no access to electricity’ (p.82). Andrew’s products enable children to have an online education in their own language.
Closer to home is ‘Brian’, a landscape designer who was inspired to work on the transformation of a 182-acre former coal waste tip in Sunderland into a recreation park that attracts two million visitors a year.
The qualities of a successful entrepreneur emerge as the book proceeds: creativity, courage, integrity, industriousness and perseverance.
There is a chapter on prayer, including fasting in some cases where big decisions need to be taken. Another chapter focuses on paying taxes, taking a stand against dubious practices, refusing bribes, resting on the Lord’s day and having no truck with gambling or pornography. A chapter on business problems includes being cheated, the recession and bankruptcy.
These Christian entrepreneurs see their work as using the gifts God has given them to promote God’s kingdom, by embodying Christian values in their work and being salt and light in the world. They also witness by word in the business world and by giving generously to Christian causes.
The entrepreneurs mentioned are church members, but some have encountered negative responses, perceiving them merely as successful businessmen/women who don’t spend enough time in church activities (though they prove useful in boosting church funds!).
Evangelical Times readers may be put off by the broad church embraced here (one of the entrepreneurs interviewed prays using a rosary), but this is a valuable, scholarly and readable work.