Entrepreneurship is "in fashion", and not only because of the current economic crisis. Entrepreneurs are the creators of value, the instigators of change, and the heroes of a culture of opportunity. So, what happens when you attempt to marry the iconic entrepreneurial wisdom of Thomas Edison ("I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent") with Jeremiah 29:7 ("But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare")? One answer is embodied in the fledging ministry of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City—its Entrepreneurship Initiative or "EI."
Since Redeemer Presbyterian Church was started 20 years ago on the upper east side of Manhattan, its founder and senior pastor, Tim Keller, has been preaching about the power of the gospel to renew the brokenness in all aspects of our world. As a church, Redeemer has attempted to understand its role in praying and teaching, "Your Kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in heaven." Seeking to be true to its name, Redeemer Church is clinging to the promise and power of the gospel of Christ to redeem the people, communities, institutions and culture of our city and world. Out of this faith, the Entrepreneurship Initiative was born.
At Redeemer, entrepreneurs are especially valued in light of the ways their ventures can reflect their understanding of the gospel and bring foretastes of the kingdom to come. Through the Entrepreneurship Initiative, Redeemer identifies and nurtures promising entrepreneurs with a gospel-centered mission to serve the common good of the city and beyond—people such as Max McLean of Fellowship for the Performing Arts, Catherine Billon of Riverwired.com and Drs. David and Janet Kim of Beacon Christian Community Health Center.
In April 2006, Redeemer launched the EI by holding its first Entrepreneurship Forum to cast the vision and connect with interested collaborators. An outstanding team of investors, venture capitalists, experienced business people and pastors came together to create a steering committee, which has shaped a broad reaching initiative. The annual Forum continues to be the foundation of the initiative—renewing the vision, showcasing new ventures and introducing new investors to the program.
The engine of the EI is the annual Business Plan Competition, which promises winners the support of experts in the congregation and some "friends and family" level funding. But it also supports entrants (a total of 48 entrepreneurs submitted proposals this fall) throughout the competition process with practical workshops and advice. Seven ventures have been selected over the last two years based on their potential for innovation, sustainability and gospel impact. They look for ventures of all stripes, both for-profit and not-for-profit, as well as ventures in the arts.
Another important component is the EI Network—supporters who provide our entrepreneurs with practical assistance. The EI Network is a growing group of people with experience in marketing, finance, operations and industry expertise. In addition, an Entrepreneurs Fellowship meets monthly to build relationships among entrepreneurs and provide peer support and encouragement.
In 2009, the Entrepreneurship Initiative is taking another big step—welcoming a few other churches to the annual Forum, so that they can also think about starting a program like this in their own church. The EI seeks to create a sustainable movement of hundreds of entrepreneurs who want to work at embodying the gospel in their ventures as they attempt to better serve the needs of their neighbours in our city and surrounding communities.