Tip #1: Break Out of Your Box
Understand that God uniquely designed you. Everything about you was created to appeal to the people, place, and position that God destined for your life. Breaking out of your box is an act of surrender that allows God the opportunity to move on your behalf. If you’re seeking help discovering your destiny, reflect on these scriptures: Isaiah 43:19, Psalms 139:14, and Jeremiah 29:11.
Tip #2 Trust God
This tip could not be overstated. Many in ministry are joining the “Great Resignation” for various reasons, forcing them to step out on faith into vocations outside their typical comfort zone. When I was called to consult for a land development opportunity, I wanted to decline the offer. After prayer and agreement from my wife, I accepted. Turning down the chance to lead a development worth millions could have caused me to head in the opposite direction from God’s calling for my life. If you’re desiring to trust God in this season, reflect on these scriptures: Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalms 46:10, and Matthew 6:25.
Tip #3 Be Strategic
Strategy is time-consuming, tiring, and sometimes frustrating, but it’s what makes and breaks organizations and sets the successful apart. The planning, implementation, and execution of an idea puts your faith into action. As you balance strategy and trust, reflect on these scriptures: Habakkuk 2:2-3, James 2:14-26, and Proverbs 16:1-3.
For Christians, walking in the will of God is critically important. Understanding how your uniqueness in Christ relates to the world provides the opportunity to thrive and spread the Good News in the unreached parts of society. Even those skilled in ministry can find themselves venturing into opportunities to be influential in the business sector. I believe that God is calling many Christians to break out of the box and pursue ministry in the marketplace, trust Him by taking opportunities to work in secular settings, and strategize for success. Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
For years, I struggled to reconcile my passion for ministry and the marketplace. As a young minister, I found myself equally intrigued by the stories of great evangelists and the stories of entrepreneurs that used their influence to change the world. While the aspiration to be like the men and women I admired was immense, my reality painted a different picture. I was broke. Not only was I broke, but I faced the hard truth that I did not have the financial resources to accomplish what I felt God was calling me to do in ministry. Please don’t get me wrong, money does not make a ministry successful, but it sure does help. After all, the Bible states: “Money answers everything.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19).
As a Campus Staff Minister at a major Christian non-profit, I was tasked with raising a substantial budget to support the work of ministering the Gospel to students at Wesleyan University. After eight months of meeting with fundraising coaches and pitching the ministry to over 200 potential philanthropic partners, I was only able to raise half of my original fundraising goal. Little did I know that my failure to secure funding would be the catalyst to discovering my destiny in Christ.
Like many other young ministers, my desire to be an entrepreneur was distinctly separate from my desire to preach the Gospel. Because of this, I attributed my failures to lack of networks, lack of skill, and poor personal leadership, only to find that the deeper issue at play was that I was inauthentically engaging the call of God on my life. God called me to be a minister and an entrepreneur. In essence, an “EntreVangelist.”
I had spent nearly a decade preaching, serving on non-profit executive boards, traveling on missions nationally and internationally, and ministering in my local church. Yet, I never thought of taking the skills I acquired in ministry into the marketplace until I received what seemed to be a random call from a multi-millionaire asking me to work for him. He remembered my fundraising pitch from years ago. Now, it was his chance to pitch his multimillion-dollar project to me.
During the interview, I listened intently, mentally documented the areas needed for improvement, and made a suggestion that changed the project’s trajectory. Within a few weeks, I became the lead consultant. From that point on, I leveraged the skills I learned in ministry to lead a team of consultants, hire staff, and successfully pitch the project to city officials. While this opportunity transitioned me into a better understanding of God’s will for my life, I realized that I was internally conflicted by my desire to minister outside of the confines of the box I created around my calling. To address this internal struggle, I needed to clear up a misconception within myself regarding ministering in the marketplace.
Misconception: Ministry and the Marketplace Must be Separate
The misconception that deterred me from merging my skills in ministry and the marketplace was that I believed they were distinctly separate. Remember the story in the Bible where Jesus entered the temple courts and drove the money changers and merchants out of the temple? Well, for many that Scripture has been used to justify a separation between business and church; however, when one takes a closer look at Matthew 21:13, they will notice that Jesus declares: “My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.” This narrative focuses on the merchants and money changers perverting the House of God for personal gain. When Jesus forcefully redirects those exploiting the temple, He re-shifts the focus back to its primary use as a house of prayer. So, does this justify that the church and business should remain separate? The answer is no.
One thing to consider is that churches in America are legally and practically a business. Many, if not most churches have budgets, paid and volunteer staff, insurance, and boards of directors. In fact, the estimated hundreds of thousands of Protestant churches in America collect billions in revenue each year. They provide services, strategic planning, community development, networking events, conferences, and workshops that are considered valuable services in secular industries. A critical concept to understand is that the Church is a business and a ministry. As stewards entrusted with leading both, we should never forget that the primary function of the Church must always remain for the worship of God.
In her new book, Seller of Purple, Dr. Tasha M. Brown lays out a solid framework for newbie women entrepreneurs.
Stepping out on your own and deciding to start a business can be daunting. Most people know going in that there’s going to be a lot of time, effort, money, and sacrifice to make your entrepreneurship dreams become a reality. And if you’re a woman who is juggling work and life balance, being an entrepreneur can sometimes have its own unique challenges.
In her new book, Seller of Purple, Dr. Tasha Brown lays out a solid framework for newbie women entrepreneurs. A seasoned entrepreneur herself, who has founded six businesses and two organizations, she weaves in her sage advice with biblical principles and role models. Urban Faith® had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Brown about her new book, her practical advice for budding entrepreneurs, and what we can learn from some of the women entrepreneurs in the Bible.
When should you not venture out on your own to be an entrepreneur?
People who really need to work a job, get their credit together. Or you need to build up some capital, save up some money. Because at the core of entrepreneurship is financial risk. If you’re not in a position to do that, if you need to feed your family, then maybe you need to work a little bit. It doesn’t mean that you can’t branch out into entrepreneurship later, but there are just some things you have to have in place.
Will you have to have a quarter of a million dollars to launch out?
No, not necessarily, but should you work towards having at least $200 to pay for the Articles of Organization. Yeah. And so there are some individuals who are thinking, “I just need to launch out. I’m going to give up everything and start being an entrepreneur.” That is quite possible, but it’s just a little easier if you can manage that financial risk by planning.
What organizations have you started?
I started the Women’s Leadership Network because I recognized a gap in leadership development for women in ministry. And so back from 2008 to 2011, I was working on my Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral and Spiritual Care. And my thesis was around women in leadership or women in ministry navigating the leadership waters. It was my hypothesis that women did not have the same type of informal spaces to learn and grow as men. And so I wanted to create that space. And then most recently the Arise Prayer and Outreach Ministries.
You’ve got makeup and hair products in your portfolio. Why did you get in the beauty business?
In 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My sister was diagnosed in 2007. And so she went through her procedure in 2010. When I was diagnosed I did not have chemo or radiation, but I did have a mastectomy. And in 2011, I had what’s called an oophorectomy. I had my ovaries removed. And so in 2011, I went into menopause. And as your body ages, as you age, there’s hair loss. I also had to take a pill daily to prevent the cancer from returning and that also caused hair loss.
And so when you are going through a stage of your body changing, you look for really quick ways to feel beautiful. And so I already was in the space of having a body that was aging well beyond my 35 years of age when I was diagnosed. And so it was at my 40th birthday in 2015, that I was with my cousins and I told them that I would use mascara and edge control to cover up my edges. And I was like, “We need to create something. We need to create something.” And Dem Edges was born. Dem Edges Tinted Edge Control. And in 2016, Dem Edges was brought to the marketplace. But I didn’t want to be a one-trick pony, so I worked with someone to get a lipstick line. So it came really out of a space of being a breast cancer survivor, wanting to feel beautiful and I didn’t see things out there that really would help me.
How do you keep your faith when it comes to starting something new? Is it tough when sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t?
Initially, it was. In the beginning, I just couldn’t understand because I felt like I had this vision. I felt like God was leading me in a particular direction. But on the other side of those experiences, I recognize that number one, it was really important for that to happen, the experience to occur. Because in that failure was a seed, a seed of success. In that failure was a seed of wisdom, a seed of knowledge, a seed of information. And so that failure provided so much data that informed the next steps. I mean, it’s the same thing as an inventor or even someone who is in a lab, a chemist. They’ll try different things and learn what not to do. What do I need to pull back on? What do I need to add more of? And so I’ve just learned through my walk with the Lord that there is seed in that failure. And then the second thing I learned is that God is not bound by my time, just because I think it needs to happen the first time out the gate, doesn’t mean that God is like, “Yeah, it does have to happen the first time out the gate.” Sometimes I’ve got to take a couple of laps around, but I’ll still get that wind. So I just have to trust God’s timing in all of it.
What went wrong?
Small things got us ensnared, like not filing the annual report, and just not having a business process in place. Our heart was in the right place, but we didn’t have the business acumen. We didn’t have the tools. Just not having the knowledge to keep it going.
If you could go back to when you started your business, though, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is such a misconception that you become an overnight success and that people are just exploding on the scene. Well, a lot of preparation goes into that moment. And so recognizing that you may have some success right out the gate, but you have to keep planning for recurring success. It’s the long game that really works. It’s not, “Man, I did $75,000 in sales. That’s great.” And then you stop. Well, no, you gotta keep going. And so to understand and not get seduced in the trap of the immediacy of the instant gratification, but to really look further and to plan for the long haul. That’s what I would tell myself.
On the eve of the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, I ended up in a heated Facebook debate over the nature of President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comments — the latest furor in a series of election-year political clashes over tax policy, economic interventionism, class warfare, and the Occupy movement.
After seeing the film, I realized this is no mere coincidence. Because the political themes and allusions in The Dark Knight Rises run thick and rich, especially considering the whole Bain/Bane connection.
Not that the conclusive installment of this latest Batman trilogy has an overtly political agenda. Rather, its script, co-written by director Christopher Nolan and screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, clearly resides in the context of our current, fractured political climate. As British-American filmmakers raised in Chicago, the Nolan brothers offer a unique take on blighted urban political decay. So their epic depiction of Gotham, and the way it captures our gestalt, the spirit of our time, owes just as much a debt to David Simon’s The Wire as it does to Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
I’m sorry, did I just say “owes a debt?” There I go again.
See, as much as there is to love about this film, there’s just as much to object to — that is, if your goal is to use it as political ammunition.
(Mild spoiler alert.)
One story, two sides
Liberals can choose to see it as a story of corporate greed and hubris, and see the Batman as a hero of the people, the Ninety-Nine Percent. Conservatives can choose to see it as a story of a city hijacked by a runaway mob intent on redistributing the wealth of the One Percent, foiled by the ingenuity and grit of an American business-owner.
And you know what? They’re both right.
And not just because the Nolans deliberately tried to connect with broader emotional themes rather than align their film with specific political messages.
They’re both right because political factions never have exclusive rights to the truth. There are truths that liberals and conservatives both understand and embrace more or less compared to their counterparts. In the cultivation of these truths, we are drawn to political ideologies. But the pain and bitterness we feel from the losses incurred in the unrelenting allegiance to these ideologies … well, it blinds us. It traps us. We become slaves to the system. As a result, we end up doing things we regret, things we never thought we would.
Different kingdom, different mission
That’s the bad news, that when it comes to systems of this world, we are not in charge. But the good news is that in the scope of eternity, we are not in charge. The kingdom of God is not a democracy, but a benevolent dictatorship. As such, the kingdom goes by a different set of rules than what we’ve come to expect.
After all, Paul famously told the church that in Christ, there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, but we are one in Christ. He also told us that the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in our bodies. So there’s no reason why we have to remain trapped inside the identity of the closest prevailing political bloc. The more we acknowledge His Lordship, the greater basis we’ll have for humility, unity, and cooperation.
That sense of humility in action is what I found so moving in this latest film. Part of Batman’s redemption was in the way he was able to get beyond his pain and see more value in trusting and working with others. Most of us will never experience Bruce Wayne wealth, but all of us, if we put our faith in Christ, can rise above our fears and work with others for the common good.
Not only that, if we as the church are to fulfill our mission, we must rise above. Because there are others who need to experience Christ, and they don’t have the luxury of waiting for a sequel.
So let’s keep showing up, engaging, and rising above the conflicts that divide us. Because when it comes to saving the world, I have more faith in a risen savior than any caped crusader — even one as cool as Batman.
Last year, when UrbanFaith talked to Brian Jenkins, president of Entrenuity, a national entrepreneusrship training organization, about race-based funding disparities in urban ministry, we had no idea Jenkins was writing a small business start-up guide for youth, and perhaps he had no idea it would inspire a move into for-profit business training and the development of a social media platform for aspiring entrepreneurs. So, we thought it was time to talk to this dynamic leader again, this time about his new social entrepreneurship project, StartingUp Now. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
UrbanFaith:You’ve been training young people to be entrepreneurs for a long time. Have people been starting more of their own businesses since the recession?
Brian Jenkins:Yes, many people have been coming to us and saying, “We need your help in getting our businesses going.” Part of that discussion led to me writing our new model, the book called StartingUp Now: 24 Steps to Launch Your Own Business, which is a great tool for what we call “new and aspiring entrepreneurs.” We believe we’re the first ones to offer a content/social networking tool with the integration of our business planning guide. We don’t know of anybody else that has that right now, but I’m sure there are others that will follow.
Is StartingUp Now an Entrenuity project?
No, this is entirely new. Entrenuity is my non-profit. StartingUp Now is a for-profit. As an entrepreneur, there’s this model we use called PSA. You state the problem, identify the solution, and create the action. What I have found is that we need less non-profit organizations in urban challenged communities. We need to build more for-profit businesses. One of my goals is to build for-profit businesses, to give people opportunities where they are. It always starts with a business plan to be very strategic.
So you’re not only sustaining your own work, but you’re modeling social entrepreneurship for other people?
Absolutely. I grew up in non-profit culture, but in 2008, when everything crashed, we had to figure out a new way. Many churches, ministries, and non-profits are still operating pre-2008. I’m saying to them, “Being entrepreneurial is about being able to pivot.” We’re still using strategies of going to donors and the donors are telling us, “We want new models. First of all, the money is not there as it was before and we’re just not going to continue to give a blank check towards operating expenses. We’d rather pay for skill development, but not for just general operating expenses.”
Don G. Soderquist, the retired vice chairman and COO of Walmart endorsed StartingUp Now. That’s quite an endorsement.
It’s been pretty powerful. The opportunities continue to open up. Just this week, we were selected to conduct a workshop at the Chicago Ideas Week in October, where leaders like President Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg have spoken. Because StartingUp Now is a tool for someone with no prior business training whatsoever and the book is less than 100 pages, people are picking it up and doing it. And, there is a range in the type of person using it. The youngest person that we’ve had work through it is in sixth grade. We also have some guys that I’m personally working with who have been incarcerated.
Why would someone use the StartingUp Now Skillcenter, which launched April 18, instead of Facebook or LinkedIn?
It’s like Facebook/LinkedIn for entrepreneurs. Let’s say you purchase our book and you want to work on your business plan online. You’re not familiar with Facebook; you’re not familiar with LinkedIn or some of the other tools that exist. In fact, those may overwhelm you. Some of the people we’re working with don’t even have email addresses. It provides one central location for them to be able to access content that we’ve either curated or developed on our own instead of someone who may not be familiar with business planning typing “income statement” into Google and coming up with 25 million hits. Where do they begin?
An executive from SCORE, the Service Corps Retired Executives, said, “This is so much easier than using our Business Plan Pro because it’s not overly filled with content that someone would never use.” That’s one of the strengths. You can start where you are, but you can become as sophisticated as you want, depending on the type of business that you’re in. Now, it does have its limitations. We’re not trying to be Business Plan Pro. We’re trying to be StartingUp Now and reach the first time or new entrepreneur.
Could the program help someone like me who has run a small business haphazardly for a decade?
You’re describing the exact customer that we’re starting to find. What’s happened is when I wrote the book, I wrote it because of my background in youth work, but when we were doing the focus groups with adults, we were finding that adults were saying, “I could use this right here, right now.” It’s for that customer just like yourself: I have a business, but I want to find ways to more effectively marketing my product or my service without being overwhelmed with content. We offer two levels of membership. First, it’s free for a basic membership, which gives somebody the ability to access the content. For the pro membership, we do charge a membership fee. That’s based on whether a person is a youth or an adult.
What does the paying subscriber get?
The pro user gets access to the StartingUp Now business plan online. They can work on their business plan from their computer, their tablet, or their smartphone with any internet connection. The free membership basically gives someone the ability to learn about the platform and find out if this is a model for them. You can curate your own custom profile. You can access those curated business topics and resources. We’ve identified about 1,500 different resources that fit within the categories that are there. It allows a person to market their business. It allows you to connect in 72 different languages. It also provides the ability to post resources and then share them with those that are in your network, similar to what you would do with Facebook. With your privacy settings, you can adjust those resources so that they are available just for yourself, your friends, or other members. That’s one of the things people really like.
On the site you have sections for entrepreneurs, facilitators, and the community, so the Skillcenter is designed for more than just individuals?
Chicago public schools are running two pilot programs right now. We trained their teachers. It’s for the individual user, but it’s also for the classroom. So we have a facilitator’s guide. All the content that’s in the facilitator guide is online as well. A teacher can use this in the classroom to teach entrepreneurship and also provide access to the Skillcenter for their students. There is content that’s facilitator specific as well.
We also just found out that a couple that we’ve been coaching and that has been using StartingUp Now as their guide are runners up in the city’s small business competition here in Chicago for their catering business plan. And, a group came to our March 1 launch party from Grove City, Pennsylvania. What’s unique about them is that they’re using the book with business owners who have never written a business plan. They were saying how easy it was to sit down with people who have never done it before. It’s really expanded our marketability beyond traditional under-sourced urban neighborhoods. Now we’re selling to adult training centers. We presented to Willow Creek Community and they thought it would be a great resource for their own members, not just their outreach ministries.
You’re working with both faith-based groups and public schools. Is there a Christian dimension to the program?
It’s values based. We do quote Scripture within the book, but it’s not strictly faith-based. We definitely have a strong appeal to ethics. Since it’s values based and character based, it’s gotten me into places that I couldn’t go with a faith-based model.
You’re not an engineer, so you had to partner with a developer to launch the site. What kind of advice would you give people about choosing partners?
Integrity, integrity, integrity. This is why it took me so long to get the platform up and running. Our initial developer was a Christian. We eventually found out that after paying him several tens of thousands of dollars, he was not doing anything as far as the development. In fact, he had deceived us by using shareware, something that you can get online for free.
When I first found out, I went directly back to our investor. I didn’t hold anything back. Our investor’s response to me was, “Now you’ve learned. Just don’t make the same mistakes again.” It was a very humbling experience, because he and his family have been behind my work for over ten years. To say that I made a decision, put this money with this guy, and then I had to go back and say, “I don’t even know if we’re going to get anything back.”
The Skillcenter was built on a platform called EntreOasis. We worked with a company called Media Spark to integrate the StartingUp Business Plan Template and customize the EntreOasis platform for StartingUp’s purposes. I don’t even know if the CEO of Media Spark is Christian, but he has become a great friend through this period. I let him know that this developer came and took our funding. He said, “Hey, I believe in what you’ve got. I want to impact the world.” That’s the phoenix story. That situation is what spurred StartingUp Now.