Becoming an Entrepreneurial Church

RE-THINKING HOW WE DO CHURCH The Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi asks: Why is it more people know McDonald's golden arches than the cross of Jesus Christ? Photo: REUTERS/Mike Cassese
Published October 4, 2010

Did you know that more people around the world can identify the golden arches of McDonald’s than the cross of Jesus Christ?

Why is that?

Ask any bystander what the Anglican Church of Canada stands for and you will probably get a blank stare.

Why is that?

Ask the check-out clerk at your neighborhood grocery store if he or she knows anything about your parish, and you may well get the same blank stare.

Why is that?

Try to buy an Apple iPhone 4 and you have to wait weeks. When the phone first came out, it was an instant hit and people lined up at stores across the nation to purchase one.

Can any of us remember a time when the church generated such excitement?

You and I have been to restaurants, sporting events and concerts where people wait in line for the privilege of paying their money to experience what that business has to offer.

When was the last time anyone waited in line to attend a worship service?

The September issue of the Harvard Business Review focused on innovation. The question posed was, “Can Entrepreneurs Save the World?” The world has lots of problems from global warming to food shortages to insuring adequate medical care in poor countries. The Harvard Business Review [p. 55] says, “We need out-of-the-box thinking, audacious goals, and lots of experiments. Today’s entrepreneurs bring all that and more to the table.”

I wonder…what does the church bring to the table? Are we as savvy on behalf of the gospel as entrepreneurs in selling their products and services? Do we have an out-of-the-box mindset that is as willing to experiment with new ideas as companies in Silicon Valley? If not, why not?

Now don’t get me wrong. The church is not a business, but shouldn’t we be at least as effective in sharing the gospel as corporations in selling their products and services? Shouldn’t people get at least as excited about Jesus as they do about the newest cell phone? Why is the world so much better in selling their products than we in the church in sharing Jesus?

Ask yourself: What if we in the church were as good at what we do as Tim Hortons with donuts or Starbucks with coffee or Research in Motion with the Blackberry? What would it take for us to have the same stellar reputation around the world as Canadian banks now enjoy? What if we were as committed to spreading the good news of the kingdom of God as the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan to spreading fertilizer? What if we had as much fun and gusto in sharing the gospel as Canadian beer companies in selling alcohol? What if our members were as enthusiastic about their churches as Canadian hockey fans about their teams?

We Anglicans are good folks. But good just isn’t good enough these days. We have to act boldly, think creatively, and break free from our self-imposed restrictions. We are too hierarchical, too bureaucratic, and too rule-oriented to respond effectively to a rapidly-changing world where yesterday’s successes are today’s dinosaurs.

Dare I say it? We need to become spiritual entrepreneurs who are willing to risk as much for God as business investors for new ventures. This is no time to play it safe. The writer Joan Didion said, “When the ground starts shaking, all bets are off.” Well, the ground is shaking from under us. It is time to re-imagine, re-configure and re-energize the church in Canada. People are spiritually hungry for what only the church can offer them. After all, we have Jesus, which is precisely what the world so desperately needs.


The Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi is the rector at Saint James Westminster Anglican Church in London, Ont.



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