Every age has its defining hero. In medieval times we had knights of valour mythologised in King Artur and the Knights of the Round Table. In the age of discovery intrepid explorers emerged sailing to the edge of the earth to discover new worlds. America’s west was romanticised by the cowboy. And the Sixties gave birth to the rock star.
Our heroes need to be extraordinary otherwise why bother? Who wants to be ordinary? But, sadly, our typecast heroes must pass the way of all flesh and die. In Uncommon People, David Hepworth tells us what we already know. “The age of the rock star, like the age of the cowboy, has passed. The idea of the rock star, like the idea of the cowboy, lives on.”1
The heroes of our age are products of the times. Our heroes embody the spirit of an age which not only defines their times but helps us understand ourselves. Even the ideas embodied in heroes fade and need to be upgraded and retrofitted to keep currency.
Otherwise, as Hepworth notes, it becomes increasingly difficult to act like a cowboy or rock star and keep a straight face. And once we’ve supressed a laugh at one of our hero’s, we know we’ve crossed the line from praise to parody.
If we held a straw poll for the hero of now, I would put my money on the entrepreneur. The entrepreneurial spirit has climaxed in late capitalism with the celebration of the new rock stars Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg leading a galaxy of Silicon Valley stars in their wake.2 My own favourite entrepreneur is Richard Branson who broke the mold in his time with Virgin.
The entrepreneur shares one thing in common with the cowboy and the rockstar – the hero, and then the idea of the hero, will fade and eventually die. We no longer aspire to be knights and explorers of lore. The signs of a hero’s death are a devaluation of the real thing into commonality that then transmutes into other forms.
The drop in currency has already kicked in with every aspiring business wannabe calling themselves entrepreneurs. And the hero of now is transmuting into intrapeneur, serial entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and even redemptive entrepreneurs!
I admire entrepreneurs as much as I admire rock stars. But just as a rock star doesn’t make a worship leader, neither does an entrepreneur make a church apostle. But maybe I’m wrong. For some time now there has been a rising trend by church leaders to align the apostolic gifting with the entrepreneurial spirit.
Here is just one attempt to create a theology of our times to co-opt the entrepreneurial spirit as a divinely appointed gift. On the site, International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL), Miguel Angel Perez wrote a post titled Advancing Apostolic Entrepreneurship.
“Apostolic Entrepreneurship in its origin was known just as Entrepreneurship. Scripture states in Genesis 1:26 ‘Then God said, let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.’“I submit to you that an entrepreneurial spirit was transferred from God to Men as part of His DNA (His likeness) being transferred to us. This trait of God is necessary for the lives of the believers to fulfil the rest of the cultural mandate found in verses 26-28 of the same chapter. The cultural mandate requires the entrepreneurial spirit.” 3
What is the harm in this if it helps church growth and evangelism? Maybe none, if we don’t mind parody. But if we want to be taken seriously by our world that’s crying out for spirituality and authenticity then we might at least want to consider some of the implications.
Why do we do it? Why make apostles entrepreneurs?
I think in the first instance it comes from a reflexive hermeneutic that maps our world back into the biblical narrative and culture. We interpret the bible in our understanding of ‘the now’ instead of trying to first understand the world then and how it translates to now.
This is the flip side of a hermeneutic that wants to rediscover our forgotten ways through restoring the early church, or whatever period you believe we all took a collective wrong turn where the ‘true church’ dived off a cliff.
For some, correcting that wrong ‘left turn’ and getting back on the straight and narrow road of proper ecclesiology means returning to orthodoxy (whatever that might mean now). For others, reformation theology. Many try and strip away all the cultural detritus to get us all the way back to the book of Acts.
The shift from the traditional understanding of apostolic office as church appointment to a more recent interpretation of apostolic function as divine gift started at Azusa Street in Los Angelos, where the 1906 revivals birthed twentieth century Pentecostalism. The revival generated its own newsletter The Apostolic Faith and later the Apostolic Church, one of hundreds of new sprung pentecostal churches.4
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles became its primary ground with proof texts in Acts 2 The Day of Pentecost and Ephesians 4 APEST (apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher) gifting which I’ve dubbed apostolic giftings based on pentecostal inspired readings.
According to the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL), “The Second Apostolic Age began roughly in 2001, heralding the most radical change in the way church is done since the Protestant Reformation. This New Apostolic Reformation embraces the largest segment of non-Catholic Christianity worldwide and is the fastest growing. Churches of the Apostolic Movement embrace the only Christian mega block growing faster than Islam.”5
One of ICAL’s early founders was Peter Wagner, know for his leadership in the church growth movement and his writing on spiritual warfare. Willow Creek Church and the mega church movement grew out of the methodology and managerialism of the church growth movement that gave us church growth formulas such as the attractional church model and Willow Creek’s seeker friendly services.6
ICAL has mapped a statement of faith that melds a typical evangelical-pentecostal formulation with a missiology mediated by economics. Peraz encapsulates this formula in a post on the ICAL site when he writes, “The money will not rain down from heaven (WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR A LONG TIME), but it will come through the advancement of apostolic entrepreneurship and through the equipping and positioning of people called to be apostolic entrepreneurs.”7
This resonates strongly with the economic theology of The Coming Revolution In Church Economics. (See my Sacred Cash Cow post Church Economics 101 on conflating evangelism with economics.)
Apostolic Entrepreneurship is about creating and providing solutions to problems. It is also about the creation of wealth for Kingdom purposes. This is a strategic plan of the entrepreneurial-apostolic church in seizing the economies of this world so as usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. But alas, a strategy with a theology that has hitched its star to the zeitgeist, investing its hope in the entrepreneur as the hero of now.
What if the un-commonality which is becoming the commonality of entrepreneurialism (both in the church as we see with ICAL and in the world with my hero, Richard Branson) is mapped to another god? A different god to the Ancient of Days, but who, according to Peraz, transfers the entrepreneurial spirit “from God to Men [sic] as part of his DNA (His likeness) being transferred to us”
The god of this world is Mamon. The corrupted system we live in is late (neo-liberal) capitalism. And the hero of our age that helps us understand these times and ourselves best is the entrepreneur.
The church is called to a revolution in which we are at war with the gods of this world. We are not called to follow the world, nor to adopt theories and ideologies inspired by the wood and stone of Baal and the hill idols in Judah and Israel.
If there is a divine calling, an appointment for our times, it is that of the prophet. Walter Bruegemann in his classic treatise The Prophetic Imagination talks much of the enculturation of consumerism in our times linking it back to the exploitation of the satiation and rule of the Old Testament kings, especially King Solomon’s reversal of the Mosaic prophetic vision.
“The internal cause of such enculturation is our loss of identity through the abandonment of the faith tradition. Our consumer culture is organised against history. There is a depreciation of memory and a ridicule of hope, which means everything must be held in the now, either an urgent now or an eternal now.” 8
We live in times where for different reasons we have accepted that we live at the end of history as culmination or apocalypse. (See my post Ground Zero 20 Years On: 9/11 and the return of the king.) But have we forgotten our way – not the way back but the way forward? Or have we got lost in the ’now’?
The church is called to a revolution in which we are at war with the gods of this world. We are not called to follow the world, nor to adopt theories and ideologies inspired by the wood and stone of Baal and the hill idols in Judah and Israel.Tweet
Brueggemann urges us that, “the task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”9 In other words, waking up to the idols that pollute the cultural waters we swim in. The sacred cash cows of sanctified money, safe stewardship, church buildings, and prosperity doctrines of wealth – just to name a few. Sacred cash cows that blind us and block the road of redemption that God is leading the church on.
Our call is to partner in Christ’s mission in the world. To be revolutionaries of the Jesus Manifesto (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19).
We need to become fish out of water. We have to step out of the stream of our environment to understand the world we live in for us to become change agents.
To move from parody and the zeitgeist of this age we need a radicalised prophetic voice that calls us away from the idolatry of historical triumphalism or apocalyptic despair to a hope of the coming kingdom of God on earth. And this can only come ex nihilio (out of nothing – Genesis 2), as something new under the sun. God’s new creation, the church and the coming kingdom appearing on earth.
God’s revelation continues to exceed the fundamentalist inerrant textualization of God’s Word (the Apostolic). It transcends the dogmatic insistence of a return to the past (Restorationist) or the promised utopia of a future present (liberal) in the eternal now. The only way forward is the way ahead – headlong into God approaching us in history (Pannenburg) with the coming kingdom of heaven on earth.
- David Hepworth, Uncommon People, xi
- See this fun infographic calling out entrepreneurs as the new rock stars Silicon Valley Are The New Rock Stars (Infographic)
- Advancing Apostolic Entrepeneurship
- Peter Wagner and the church growth movement were the latest buzz from the US when Willow Creek was emerging in early 1980s and I was studying at Harvest Bible College. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._Peter_Wagner
- Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, (40th Anniversary Edition), Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2018, p1
- Brueggemann, p3
I will return to the hero of now early 2022 by asking if it is possible to redeem the entrepeneurial spirit.
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Again a fair appraisal of the current milieu we all exist in. The timeless adage “Money talks” regardless of the currency, offers us an avenue not to promenade upon and it is quite common to see the perambulation of this age with a disregard to anything but the now to entice us into a non-consequential time of not being answerable to anyone – hence the spirit of rioting by which people vent their irrational rage at any figure of authority – Heroes? I think the commercialization of the world would lend itself to a captivation and idolization of success stories in the business world as there is little else people perceive as having any value.
What culture can Christians counter this trend with? The article clearly echoes the call of scripture to place our hope not in a fading temporal world but the new age in which we now have a foretaste in which we will have unfettered fellowship with God who is our true and only object of worship.
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