Don’t write off entrepreneurs in the church. I know some great churchy entrepreneurs such as Todd Wilken (Issues, Etc.), my partner in ministry here at Bethany, Jonathan Fisk (Worldview Everlasting), Bryan Wolfmueller (radio, publishing, comedy, etc.), and even Matt Harrison who before he headed up Lutheran World Relief put together an ambitious urban renewal project sponsored by his parish (Zion, Fort Wayne), the LCMS and the city of Fort Wayne.
Furthermore I take personal offense to those who cast stones at entrepreneurs “cuz I is one.” I started a publishing company that was a bust (although there are still a few Blue Pomegranate books out there), one of the most read Lutheran blogs (you’re soaking in it now) and a successful church consulting firm for capital campaigns and parish goal-setting (Wittenberg Church Consultants).
From what I am reading of the 5/2 network, Bill Woolsey is a successful entrepreneur, albeit he is about ten years behind the culture and is doing a lot of mimicking. None the less he is bright, creative, a self-starter and can think out of the box. I applaud him for that. The problem is that he blew the doors off the Scriptural and Confessional box. That’s a no-no. The problem is not entrepreneurship. It is a faulty understanding of the marks and duties of the church and even worse, making entrepreneurship the mark and the duty of the church.
There are all sorts of pastors and some of them are entrepreneurs. That’s OK. There are also quiet, plodding pastors, out-going flashy pastors, type A goal-setting pastors, soft-spoken hand-holding pastors, and there are even duck hunting pastors like Big Poppe (Clint Poppe, Lincoln, NE).
All of these types of pastors can serve effectively. In our parish goal-setting consulting work we teach the six duties of the church by C. F. W. Walther: 1) let the Word of God dwell richly in your midst, 2) practice church discipline, 3) care for those members of the parish who are in need, 4) do things in good order, 5) seek out fellowship with other orthodox congregations, and 6) advance the kingdom.
Walther shows from Scripture how these duties are mandatory. How you carry them out is optional. You can fulfill them with an entrepreneurial flair, with plodding, laser-like “anality,” and maybe even with the patience of a duck hunter.
What Mr. Woolsey the Entrepreneur has done in error is to make entrepreneurship the standard by which all ministry is judged and even worse, God save us, he has made it the very essence of ministry itself.
The Church is blessed to have entrepreneurs but let’s never forget that the Church is not dependent on entrepreneurs. The Church could do just fine if it never had an entrepreneur in a single one of its pulpits in any generation. It is more in need of plodders and preservers than entrepreneurs. The Church is inherently conservative. It is our job as pastors to conserve the Word of God passed on from Jesus to the Apostles and to pass it on to the next generation.
I learned a valuable lesson when I was a child. Hardly a Sunday dinner didn’t go by when I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s without my mom or dad saying “Well, Pastor Sohn is not the most exciting person in the world and he is not very good with remembering names but he does the one thing we need. He preaches the Word of God in truth and purity.”
I applaud Mr. Woolsey as an entrepreneur and give him points for creativity and style but I rebuke him for mistaking style for substance.