The Idolization of Entrepreneurialism

I am 32 years old. I am married with two children. I have been gainfully employed since I finished college. Every day I have the chance to do work that benefits churches and church leaders. I have published some stuff, spoken places, podcasted, and done some radio. Yet many days I feel like I haven’t accomplished enough, like my day-to-day work is somehow hollow. Why?

Because on those days I buy into the idolization of entrepreneurialism, the cultural pressure to quit what I’m doing and start something. For decades, centuries even, America has been the “land of opportunity” starting with the Pilgrims seeking religious freedom then the movement west to find land and homestead then the industrial revolution where jobs and companies boomed. In the last couple decades, the digital age, it seems this “opportunity” has become an obligation for people of my generation: an obligation to make our own way, build our own platform, sell our own wares, start our own business, and be our own bosses. That, the cultural pressure tells us, is where fulfillment is found.

Here’s the thing about entrepreneurialism: it’s not inherently better than any other kind of work. It’s just sexier. Church planting is sexier than joining a staff. Consulting is sexier than hiring a consultant. Starting a restaurant is sexier than, well, whatever middle management job you have right now. We love the notion of running our own lives from tip to tail, including vocationally. But that notion is a pipeline of dissatisfaction for many. It corrodes our contentment in the work God has given us, and that’s a problem.

Here are 5 truths to help discern the pull of entrepreneurialism.

1) You were made to work.

God created people to cultivate, to multiply, to image bear, to create. He gave mankind tasks from the very first moments of life, and the tasks were fulfillment of purpose and a means of joy because they fulfilled God’s will and reflected Him well. Then came the fall, mankind’s rebellion against God when what had been perfect broke and became painful. But work, at it’s root, is still part of our core purpose as reflections of God and spreaders of His handiwork. Work is dignified. Work is fruitful. Work is good and what we were made to do no matter the form.

2) Work is a gift.

All work is a gift, even the job you hate. It pays the bills, it keeps you busy, and it provides an outlet to be an image-bearer of God in a unique way. He didn’t make us to be creatures of leisure but producers of goods and servers of others. That’s work. So we must be grateful for our work no matter how mundane or grating it is. The more you think of it as a gift the more satisfaction you can find in it.

3) You might not be made to be a starter.

Just because entrepreneurialism is seen to be the apex of all work doesn’t make it true. Each person is uniquely designed by God, wired to enjoy and accomplish certain things. God made some people serial starters. He made some with a singular vision to start something and see it through. And he made most of us to be part of work started by someone with different gifts. We bring a unique skillset and passion to our work to help fulfill an over all objective. If you are not wired by God to be a starter doing so will leave you even more empty than you think you are right now.

4) Strengthening, restoring, sustaining, or finishing strong are equally as important.

Ribbon cutting, first day on the job, grand opening, fresh faces, and sparkling eyes – the start of something new is exciting. But the start only happens once; after that comes . . . what? After that comes you and me and others who play the key roles of keeping the work going, fixing what breaks, wrapping up projects and missions, sustaining vision and effort, determining how to improve. After the start comes the long-term success that rides on non-entrepreneurs. Be thankful and proud of your role in that. It matters just as much even if it doesn’t get the headlines.

5) So get a job and do good work.

This is more a nudge to the younger or future members of the work force. You have been so steeped in the worship of entrepreneurialism that you may think other forms of work are like making the JV team. That’s a lie birthed by idolatry. The work force needs you, and you need it. “Entry level” isn’t an insult; it’s an education and a gift. Your sole responsibility is to follow Abraham Lincoln’s advice: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Your good work is faithfulness to God and it will lead you forward toward future career choices. It serves others well and represents God’s work in you. Maybe someday you’ll start something, but probably not. And that is not just ok. It’s probably God’s design for you (and me).