September 27, 2020
Characteristics of the Christian Entrepreneur: An Exploratory Study.
By Seed Team

Author/s: Margaret Cullen – Nelson Mandela University, André P. Calitz – Nelson Mandela University & L. Boshoff – Nelson Mandela University


ABSTRACT 

Governments globally are encouraging entrepreneurship and creating platforms for new entrepreneurial business opportunities. The study of entrepreneurship has been approached from many perspectives and grounded in various theories. Historically, research to understand why individuals become entrepreneurs has centred on secular considerations, leaving many unanswered questions. It is the fundamental precept of the Christian faith that God calls not only ministers and other spiritual workers, but everyone to specific roles in His kingdom. Christian entrepreneurs must realise that their calling is to establish and lead business organisations that are designed to achieve positive Christian faith related results in the secular world.

In this exploratory study, the role of the Christian belief in entrepreneurship and in entrepreneurial businesses in South Africa was investigated. The general characteristics of secular entrepreneurs were identified and specific Christian entrepreneurial characteristics were further identified from literature and by means of an empirical study. The results indicate that entrepreneurship provides Christians with the opportunity to use their talent to the glory of God and run businesses based on Christian values and principles.

 

KEYWORDS

Entrepreneurial characteristics, Christian entrepreneurship, Christian business principles.

 

1. INTRODUCTION

Entrepreneurship is essential for international, social and economic well-being, as new ventures are the dominant source of job creation, market innovation and economic growth in many societies (Baum, Frese & Baron, 2007). Theories and research on entrepreneurs date from the early Industrial Revolution. Deakins & Freel (2009) explore three approaches  which have contributed to the study of entrepreneurship. These include:

  • Contributions of economic writers and theorists on the economic role;
  • The psychological approach based on personality characteristics;
  • The social behavioural

Historically, most of the research to understand why individuals become entrepreneurs has centred on secular considerations, leaving many unanswered questions (Kauanui, et al., 2010). The impact of religion on entrepreneurs is a field that has not been studied  extensively. Research by Audretsch, Bonte & Tamvada’s (2007) indicated that religion shapes entrepreneurial decision-making. In fact, Islam and Christianity were found to be conducive to entrepreneurship whilst other beliefs such as Hinduism, inhibit entrepreneurship (Kauanui, et al., 2010).

Anderson (1999) argues that it is the fundamental precept of the Christian faith that God not only calls ministers and other spiritual workers, but everyone to specific roles in His Kingdom. Internationally, research has been undertaken into the role of Christianity, Islam and other religions in entrepreneurial activities (Anderson, 1999; Audretsch, et al., 2007; Kauanui, et al., 2010), but locally research has been limited. In this exploratory study, the role of the Christian faith in entrepreneurship and in entrepreneurial businesses is investigated. The Christian entrepreneurial characteristics are investigated and the set of characteristics is extended.

In this paper the research problem and objectives are identified in Section 2. A literature review (Section 3) of the characteristics of entrepreneurs and specifically Christian entrepreneurs is included and the research methodology is discussed in Section 4. The research findings are presented in Section 5 and in Section 6 the implications for business, conclusions and directives for future research are discussed.

 

2. THE RESEARCH PROBLEM AND RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

This exploratory study investigated the role of the Christian faith in entrepreneurship and in entrepreneurial businesses. The research problem investigated in this study attempted to identify some of the Christian entrepreneurial business practices and the impact of the Christian belief on entrepreneurial behaviour. It introduced the different approaches which this group of entrepreneurs has to those of the secular equivalent. The paper will research and address the question: Does Christian entrepreneurship differ from secular entrepreneurship?

The main objectives of the study are as follows:

  • Conduct theoretical research on Christian entrepreneurship;
  • Determine how the Christian entrepreneurs’ relationship with God and their business purpose combine into a work-life-Christian calling;
  • Investigate how Christian entrepreneurs develop a future vision and mission and the role that prophecy plays in implementing their vision and mission, as well as concomitant strategies; and
  • Investigate how the Christian entrepreneurs conduct operational management, including decision making, ethics and

 

 

3. LITERATURE REVIEW

 

  • Entrepreneurial Characteristics

Initial studies in entrepreneurship were based in economic, social and psychological theory (Casson, 1982). More recent studies tried to identify the traits that distinguish entrepreneurs from the rest of society (Swedburg, 2000) but with no resultant unique or definitive profile (Baum, 2004). Baum (2004) argues that many of the characteristics commonly associated with entrepreneurs, such as ambition, initiative, motivation, optimism, passion, perseverance and tenacity could also be found amongst non-entrepreneurs (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1: General entrepreneurial characteristics (Baum, 2004).

Entrepreneurs have been identified as risk-takers (Emmet & Knight, 2010), as creative and imaginative people (Deakins & Freel, 2009), as organisers of resources (Casson, 1982) and people who are opportunity obsessed (Timmons & Spinelli, 2007). The approach to the identification of opportunity, as an integral part of entrepreneurship, resulted in numerous additional studies. Chiasson & Saunders (2005) saw opportunity recognition and formation as complementary, rather than contrasting.

Research by Ardichvili, Cardozo & Ray (2003) recognised personality traits, social networks and prior knowledge as antecedents to entrepreneurial alertness. A trait required is to identify, evaluate and develop opportunities. The study of Corbett (2005), underpinned  by experiential learning theory, focused on individuals with different learning modes and their performance in the different areas of the opportunity identification and exploitation process. The interplay of social capital and cognitive biases (social cognitive theory) explains why some people exploit opportunities whereas others do not (De Carolis & Saparito, 2006). McMullen & Shepherd (2006) studied the willingness of people to explore opportunities in terms of tolerating the uncertainty needed to take entrepreneurial action.

Opportunities emerge from changes in the environment as well as from changes within the entrepreneur (Baron & Ensley, 2006). Bhave’s model (1994) defined opportunity recognition as twofold: external and internal. Opportunity recognition is key to entrepreneurship (Short, et al.,2010). Analysis of market needs, deployment of resources and the identification of self readiness may help an entrepreneur to develop an opportunity. The influencers of opportunity recognition include entrepreneurial alertness, information asymmetry and prior knowledge, social networks, personality traits (including optimism, self-efficacy and creativity) and the type of opportunity itself, as well as the fit of the entrepreneur (Ardichvili, et al., 2003).

Recent research, which contrasts with opportunity thinking, focuses on a creation theory of entrepreneurship (Alvarez & Barney, 2007). Rather than focusing on the characteristics of the entrepreneur and the environment, the creation perspective views opportunities as actively constructed by participants and their mental models or mindsets (Edelman & Renko, 2010). The environment composition is not something that is taken as a given but instead is exploited by entrepreneurs.

Further research focused on Entrepreneurial Orientation (EO), which reflects how a business operates rather than what it does (Lumpkin & Dess, 1996). Entrepreneurial orientation can be an important measure of how a business is organised to discover and exploit market opportunities (Ireland et al., 2003, Wiklund & Shepherd, 2003; Zahra & Garvis, 2000). Recent studies on EO include resource-advantage theory (Li, Haung & Tsai, 2009), knowledge creation studies (Nonaka & Toyama, 2005) and Lumpkin & Dess’s (1996) five dimensions of EO. The resource-advantage theory views entrepreneurial orientation as resources that facilitate a business to outperform other rivals and yield marketplace positions of competitive advantage (Li, Haung & Tsai, 2009).

Research has further been conducted in the cultural, regional and national differences in entrepreneurial behaviour. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) (2011) suggests that there are marked international differences in entrepreneurial activity and regional variations within countries. Factors such as differences in local market opportunities, skill levels for new venture creation and management, unemployment levels, availability of grants and loans for start-ups, variations in entrepreneurial culture and the presence of entrepreneurial role models influence sub-national patterns (Reynolds, 2009; Bosma et al., 2008). Oviatt & McDougall (2005) focused on the cross-national-border behaviour of entrepreneurs, their behaviour and the circumstances in which they are embedded. Entrepreneurial Orientation has been deemed as a crucial organisational process that contributes to business performance and survival when the environment changes (Clausen & Korneliussen, 2012).

Entrepreneurial Intention is another field of study in this domain. Early approaches to entrepreneurial intention focussed on the existence of personality characteristics, features or traits that explain entrepreneurial behaviour (McClelland, 1961). Amongst these factors are: the desire for personal control (Grennberger & Sexton, 1988); locus of control (Brockhaus, 1982); risk-taking propensity (Brockhaus, 1980); desire for autonomy (McClelland, 1961); tolerance of ambiguity (Schere 1982) and a need for power and achievement (McClelland, 1961) as summarised in Figure 2.

 

Secular Entrepreneurial Characteristics

  • Risk takers * Organiser of resources                  * Opportunity recognition
  • Imaginative * Opportunity obsessed                   * Family background
  • Locus of control * Entrepreneurial orientation           * Desire for personal control
  • Creative * Desire for autonomy
  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • Need for power and achievement

Figure 2: Secular entrepreneurial characteristics.

 

Demographic or background variables, have also been found to be associated with entrepreneurial intention. Gender for instance, as pointed out by Kolvereid, Shane & Westhead (1993), significantly impacts individuals’ intentions to become entrepreneurs. Crant (1996) in the same manner argues that it is more likely for men to openly express their preference or intention to engage in self-employed activities than women. Furthermore, Scott and Twomey (1988) highlight that family background plays a major role in shaping people’s ambitions and inclinations to become entrepreneurs.

Crant (1996) adds that it is much easier for someone raised in a family of entrepreneurs to engage in entrepreneurial activities, than someone with no relatives engaged in such activities. Other studies found a positive relationship between previous employment and entrepreneurial education (Wilson, Kickul & Maulins, 2007); religion (Weber, 1930); ethnic group (Aldrich 1980) and entrepreneurial intentions. The socio-political  environment includes factors such as ethnic group, the impact of networks, government support, family assistance and cultural acceptance (Fatoki & Chindoga, 2011: 163), all of which are positively or negatively associated with entrepreneurial intention.

The Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) (Fatoki, 2010; Fatoki & Chindoga, 2011; Pihie & Hassan, 2009; Steenekamp, et al., 2011) postulates that human behaviour results from one’s intention to perform that behaviour and that intention itself depends upon three factors: attitude towards the behaviour, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control (Ajzen 1991:181-184). Empirical studies (Fatoki, 2010; Fatoki & Chindoga, 2011; Goethner, et al., 2012; Krueger, et al., 2000; Mazzarol, et al., 1999; Steenekamp, et al., 2011) found strong support for a positive relationship between having a favourable attitude towards entrepreneurial activities and entrepreneurial intention. On the other hand, subjective norms are defined as the degree to which society impacts on the individual’s intention to carry out or not to carry out the intended behaviour.

The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), which bases human behaviour on three interacting factors (personal factors, behaviour and environment) (Bandura, 1986), provides a useful framework for understanding, predicting and modifying various types of human behaviour. Personal factors include cognitive, affective and biological events (McStay, 2008: 41). Environmental factors refer to both the social and physical environment. The social environment includes role models, family members and friends, while the physical environment refers to one’s access to resources and surroundings (Pajares, 1997: 19). These three factors constantly influence each other and one is not necessarily the result of the others as intervening factors do exist (McStay, 2008: 42).

The decision to become self-employed may stem from the push effect of unemployment or from pull effects induced by an economy producing entrepreneurial opportunities. Reynolds, et al. (2005: 16) distinguish between opportunity-based and necessity-based  entrepreneurship. Opportunity-based entrepreneurship involves those who choose to start their own business by taking advantage of an entrepreneurial opportunity as defined above. Necessity-based entrepreneurship involves people who start a business because other employment options are either absent or unsatisfactory (Stokes, Wilson & Mador, 2010).

As indicated above, historically, much of the research to understand why individuals become entrepreneurs has centred on secular considerations, leaving many unanswered questions (Kauanui, et al., 2010). Rindova, Barry & Ketchen (2009) suggest that there are many entrepreneurs who give up financially successful jobs to become entrepreneurs in order to make a difference or to create change for the betterment of society. The new global economic order is based on knowledge, intelligence and innovation and not on planning, control and obedience. Competitive advantage lies in human capital, with the qualities of commitment, responsibility, creativity and energy determining success (Ashar & Lane-Maher, 2004). Organisations need to cultivate the human spirit – individuals who find joy and passion in their work when they feel a spiritual connection to their occupation (Kauanui, Thomas, Rubens & Sherman, 2010; Chalofsky & Krisna, 2009).

Anderson (1999) pointed out that it is the fundamental precept of the Christian faith that God not only calls ministers and other spiritual workers, but everyone to specific roles in His kingdom. Christian entrepreneurs therefore realise that their calling is to establish and lead businesses that are designed to achieve positive results in the business world. Businesses established by Christian entrepreneurs differ from secular businesses because Christians believe that they do business while being guided by the Holy Spirit as indicated in Ephesians 2:8-10; John 15:16a and 1 Corinthians 12: 12-18.

Christian entrepreneurship is not a new idea, but is a return by unfulfilled business leaders to the sense of “calling” enjoyed by fellow laity in the United States of America and Western Europe (Anderson, 1999). The Christian goal is to develop a business that blends business excellence and entrepreneurship with Christian Biblical and theological perspectives. Christians bring a unique perspective to entrepreneurship as they have a religious motivation to conduct their business ethically and legally, with an understanding that the entrepreneur was created by God to be a steward of His Earth (Johnson, 2006).

The subject of entrepreneurship has been extensively researched. However Christian entrepreneurship has not been the subject of notable academic investigations. The researchers consider this article to be exploratory research, with the view to conducting further investigations in this important research area.

3.2   Christian faith as the source of power

Power has its origin in the position or behaviour of the person initiating the power base (Victor 2007). Krejcir (2007) described the Christian character as the spiritual fruit that is built in the individual’s relationship with Christ. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit promotes the Christian’s ability to relate to others and grow in character. A combination of these Christian character traits forms the backbone of internal power and Christian purpose (Krejcir, 2007).

Purpose is the knowledge that Christians have that they are in a relationship with Christ and that they are acting out this calling. Christians devote their abilities, spiritual gifts and calling to bring out the best in people and situations. Christian entrepreneurs understand that giving meaning to life will bring eternal treasure and results (John 15). They obediently submit to God in their daily relationship. They recognise the authority and direction from appointed leaders, family and the church (Deuteronomy. 13: 4; Proverbs. 19:16; John 14:14; 15:14; 2 Corinthians 10:5). Christians remain flexible and open to the ideas of others and are willing to be instructed and challenged to change for the better (Colossians 3:2).

Wisdom is the true desire for the knowledge contained in God’s Word and the ability to apply this knowledge in everyday life. Wisdom enables Christians to have sound judgment and make quality decisions (1 Kings 3:9; Psalm 119:97-98), by choosing to follow Scriptural precepts as the primary important schedule and value for life (Matthew 6:33). Joy and peace allow Christians to enjoy their own circumstances with expression of real happiness in harmony with God and others (Proverbs 15:13; John 15:11; 17:13). Christians develop the ability to surrender and yield to God’s control in every situation. God is seen as the ultimate provider and the giver of peace. Christians, by handing over control of heart, will and mind to God, are able to make and maintain peace with others (Matthew 5:9; Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7).

Courage, confidence and endurance come from the realisation that God is the source of strength in any situation. Christians have the ability to react, knowing that God is in control and “that He who is in me is greater than he who is against me” (Deuteronomy 31:6; 1 John 4:4). Christians rely on God for all things in their lives. This confidence will enable them to push forward in the direction into which they are called because God is governing. This belief makes them realise that they are not responsible for the results, only obedience to their Godly calling (Philippians 4:13). Christians develop endurance and staying power in order to accomplish God’s will (Galatians 6:9).

Diligence allows Christians to live with excitement and passion in order to complete their work and calling from God (Proverbs 10:4; Romans 12:11; Colossians 3:23). The diligent love their calling, always doing their best to glorify God (Colossians 3:23). They are well organised, competent and resourceful, efficiently making the most of every situation and seeking better ways to do their work (Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 4:23; 5:15- 16; 1 Peter 4:10). Christians must have integrity and obedience to a moral code of ethics and values that have honour, truth and reliability as a basis (Hebrews 7:26). This will allow them to keep their word and do their best even when no one else is looking (Psalm 78:72). They are loyal and remain committed to those whom God has brought into their lives and has called them to serve (Proverbs 17:17).

3.3   Profile of the Christian entrepreneur 

Nel (2006: 11) described how God established the evangelists, the pastors, the teachers, the prophets and the apostles. No one replaced the other or became more important. He appointed individuals with each of the gifts. They had to take their rightful place in the body of Christ. This gifting in church life has counterparts in the business world. The marketplace evangelist uses business as his platform to evangelise customers, employees and suppliers.

Nel (2006:12) argued that most Christians in business have not moved past their evangelistic role. The marketplace needs Christian business men and women to become mentors, care- givers, visionaries and entrepreneurs. Nel (2006: 13) claimed that the relevant church is everywhere on earth. This includes the market where the plans of God are to be fulfilled (Nel, 2006: 12). Apostolic trust is based on preparedness to go into the world, take new ground in unknown and risky places. An apostolic ministry is exciting and nerve-racking; it may come with severe discomfort and even pain. An entrepreneurial spirit is in essence apostolic in nature and the Christian entrepreneur has a wonderful, although sometimes painful calling to fulfil (Nel, 2006: 12).

3.4   Called to Make a Difference 

Anderson (1999) argued that it is the fundamental precept of the Christian faith that God calls not only ministers and other spiritual workers, but everyone to specific roles in His Kingdom.

Christian entrepreneurs realise that their calling is to establish and lead business organisations that are designed to achieve results in the world. Christian entrepreneurial organisations differ from secular businesses because they do business while being led by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:8-10; John 15:16a; 1 Corinthians. 12: 12-18).

The idea is not new, but is a return by unfulfilled business leaders to the sense of “calling” enjoyed by fellow laity in the United States of America and Western Europe (Anderson, 1999). The goal is to develop a business that blends business excellence and entrepreneurship with Christian biblical and theological perspectives. For many entrepreneurs, joy and happiness come from productive, challenging, integrative and creative activities, which can translate into the realisation of being part of something bigger than themselves (Kauanui, et al., 2010). Christianity changes an entrepreneur’s priorities, but Christianity can be integrated with entrepreneurship as entrepreneurs conduct their enterprises in a way that is distinctly Christian (Johnson, 2006).

The Bible places emphasis on spiritual gifts. Christian entrepreneurs believe that their gift is the specific position in which God has placed them. They believe that God has given them  the opportunity to create a business enterprise which meets the needs of people in the marketplace. Christian business men and women can be even more relevant when they become mentors, care-givers, visionaries and entrepreneurs in their areas of influence. The plans of God are to be fulfilled in their business (Nel, 2006: 12).

Christian entrepreneurs develop a specific vision of the future because of the position in which God has placed them (Anderson, 1999). This vision creates a very strong commitment in the Christian entrepreneurs to weather set-backs and adversities. Anderson (1999) argued that through their relationship with God, the Christian entrepreneur becomes empowered by His vision. Although their motives are often misunderstood, dedication to the unfolding truth of their vision as revealed by God is the guiding premise of their labour (Romans 1:1-14; 2 Corinthians 4:1, 6: 4-10; Galatians 6: 9-10).

The Christian entrepreneur knows that entrepreneurial business requires major commitments to be made. Generally, there isn’t sufficient information available in order to totally justify decisions. Therefore, the Christian entrepreneur becomes a calculated risk taker, with risk taking based in belief. There is significant Biblical foundation for taking risks. The Christian entrepreneur is drawn to a life of adventure in service, but recognises that the price of the adventure will be occasional failure and setbacks (Genesis 12: 1-12; Acts 21:13-14).

Christian entrepreneurs are called to a life of serving customers through the realisation of their Godly vision (Anderson, 1999). Christian vision does not see the entrepreneur against the world; it sees the entrepreneur involving a group of committed individuals to embrace the Godly vision in order to constantly bring new value to the customer. Christian entrepreneurs prize their personal relationship with stakeholders to ensure the necessary commitment (Anderson, 1999). Not only do Christian entrepreneurs have a unique understanding of their role, they also have a unique understanding of how they carry out that role (Johnson, 2006).

The Christian Entrepreneur gratefully receives material blessings as the result of successfully developing a business. Material goals are always secondary to the primary calling and vision. The Christian Entrepreneur constantly seeks out strength from his relationship with Christ to stay in line with the vision.

Barbee (1983) found that business people, who take religious values seriously, score significantly higher than others in their ethical judgments. A Christian worldview can  be seen as supportive of ethical entrepreneurship. Barbee’s findings are consistent with the findings reported by Nash (Cited Barbee, 1983), in her book Believers in Business. She interviewed approximately ninety evangelical Christian CEO’s of entrepreneurial firms concerning the way they resolved ethical business issues. She reported that the majority of these entrepreneurs seriously attempted to integrate their faith commitments into their difficult business decisions.

Longenecker (1983) in Barbee (1983) stated as follows: “In fact, we might also apply Martin Luther’s idea of God’s calling as it applies to secular work. In the light of Luther’s teaching, entrepreneurship can be viewed as a noble calling. A calling that permits the entrepreneur and the entrepreneurial organisation to serve God by the service they render to customers and the broader society.”

3.5   Role of the Church in entrepreneurship

Weber (1922) argued that religion played a big role in motivating people to take up entrepreneurial activities. He claimed that this explained the rise of capitalism in the West. Weber (1922) observed that religious groups such as Quakers had strong links with entrepreneurial activity.

Weber’s (1922) thesis about Protestant religion and the rise of capitalism was in part based  on the idea that certain elements of religious belief helped shape people’s motivations towards business development. Business was regarded as a religiously valued endeavour.

The literature findings on the characteristics of Christian entrepreneurs are summarised in Figure 3.

Christian entrepreneurial characteristics

  • God’s calling * Working under
  • God’s control * Diligence
  • Improved ethical judgment * Reliance on God
  • Understanding of role in life
  • Christian biblical and theoretical perspectives
  • Conduct business being guided by the Holy Spirit

Figure 3: Characteristics of Christian entrepreneurs.

 

4. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

This study employs case study research to achieve the defined objectives. Case study research brings understanding of complex issues and can extend experience to what is already known through previous research. Case studies emphasise detailed analysis of a limited number of events or conditions and their relationships. Social scientists have made wide use of this qualitative research method to examine real-life situations and provide the basis for the application of ideas and the extension of methods (Vosloo, 2004).

Researcher Yin (2003) defined the case study research method as an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident and in which multiple sources of evidence are used.

One objective in case study research is to establish a research focus by forming questions about the issue to be studied and then to determine a purpose for the study (Vosloo, 2004). The research object in this case is a group of entrepreneurs with a common belief system. Triangulation was used to increase the reliability of the data. The need for triangulation arises from the ethical need to confirm the validity of the research process (Yin, 2003). Triangulation examines information collected through different methods (Yin, 2003).

4.1   Case study subjects 

Throughout the research study, the identity of the individuals participating in the interviews was protected and all information provided by them was treated as confidential even though the subjects had chosen to give up the right to confidentiality. The researchers carefully selected five unrelated Christian entrepreneurial cases to ensure the validity of the study. They were all considered to be established Christian entrepreneurs.

The cases were unique and they could be considered typical, representing a variety of Christians in the entrepreneurial business environment. Subjects were asked to discuss their history which included family and religious background, education and business profile. The interviews were conducted in private and each interview was in excess of two hours long. All the personal interviews were conducted in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The personal interviews were undertaken to limit the possibilities of misunderstandings and to ask quality questions by which to interpret the subjects’ answers. The interviews were recorded for further analysis.

The questionnaire was designed to include the four themes as indicated below and consisted of nineteen questions:

  1. Demonstrate entrepreneurial character traits;
  2. Work as a calling and a life purpose of worship to God;
  3. Structural bases of power – Basic Biblical management; and
  4. Internal bases of power – vision and prophecy

 

The questions that were posed during each interview were chosen in term of the problem being investigated and the goal and objectives of the investigation. These questions were based on the literature study. The results and data were analysed and reported on by using  the methods suggested by Miles and Huberman (cited by Yin, 2002: 110) and according to Yin’s (2003: 111) suggestions, on the basis of the frequency of the various corresponding responses. Theme analysis was conducted using AtlasTi and the results of this analysis were compared with the problems being investigated and the literature reviewed.

5.   RESEARCH FINDINGS

The research findings below address the research problems identified in Section 2. The nineteen questions asked to each of the five individual Christian entrepreneurs are reported  on in dominant themes, which are identified below:

  1. Demonstrate entrepreneurial character traits;
  2. Work as a calling and a life purpose of worship to God;
  3. Structural bases of power – basic Biblical management; and
  4. Internal bases of power – vision and prophecy

The overarching thinking of all the respondents concurs with the research done by Johnson (2006), in that their businesses are a means to an end, where the business is used to glorify God.

5.1    Demonstrate entrepreneurial character traits.

All the subjects agreed that they are excited, rather than obsessed, by entrepreneurial opportunity. The word “obsessed” clashed with all the subjects’ belief systems. They all believed that every person who walks the road with Christ will be successful and that they are not obsessed with opportunity but see ideas and opportunities, because of their strong faith, that others often don’t see. All the subjects agreed that they are capable not only of the creation and recognition of business opportunities, but also have the will and initiative to seize them. The thought patterns are those of opportunism. Opportunities, rather than threats are identified, even if the opportunities are for others. Their relationship with Christ and a process of failures enabled opportunity recognition even if for someone else. The risk associated with new ventures is taken, because it is inspired and prompted by the Holy Spirit. Risk taking is directly connected to faith. All secular business decisions are made through either fear or greed.

5.2    Work as a calling and a life purpose of worship to God. 

All the respondents agreed that God created the people of the earth to bring Him glory. They all believe they are living within God’s will and purpose for their lives. Three have realised that God wants them to live in harmony with their wives and to be a godly father to their children. One believed that God’s plan and purpose for his life will only be revealed gradually. He agreed that his main purpose is to extend the Kingdom of God on earth and bring Him glory. The fifth respondent said that God’s purpose for him is to serve and have a good relationship with God and others. Their life purpose is to worship God. They believe that everything they do is an act of worship. They all agreed that it is impossible to have a dualistic lifestyle. Goals include “to be exactly where God wants me to be at any time”; “Let God’s Kingdom come on earth”; “to be King, Priest and Prophet in his own home and family” and “to be witness of what God has done in their lives”. This belief is the base for their Entrepreneurial purpose. All the respondents believe that God’s favour ensures sustainability and growth in their businesses.

All the respondents want to uplift and develop others as part of their entrepreneurial businesses. Goals include: to establish a business hub where entrepreneurial men can find a mentor and a spiritual father in the office next door; to be available to anybody that wants to further the Kingdom of God; to mentor young business partners and finance their entrepreneurial projects.

One respondent identified with the Apostle Paul. Paul was a tentmaker because he did not want to be a burden to others. Paul had to produce for himself and teach others. Entrepreneurship is part of their Christian calling. They believe that there is no difference between an individual’s private, his entrepreneurial and spiritual life. Spiritual life must run hand in hand with entrepreneurial life and be balanced with truth. It is impossible to divorce one from the other. Business purpose is to “Let God’s Kingdom come on earth” and “to be King, Priest and Prophet in business and private life”. Everything must be done as stewards and as an act of worship to God. They believe that they must be Christ-like examples to their families, friends and the stakeholders in their business ventures. The world must see Jesus in their actions.

5.3    Structural bases of power – Basic Biblical management.

All the entrepreneurs are involved with their staff in a personal capacity. They all give more than is legally required. All the entrepreneurs teach and mentor their staff. All the subjects agreed that they treat their staff in the same way that they would want to be treated. They all attempt to get their staff involved in entrepreneurial activities of their own. They also want to recognise their worth, reward them well financially and to encourage them to be entrepreneurs. The human factor plays a large role in recognising that workers have the same needs as they do. It was suggested that the main difference between their businesses and any secular business is prayer. They pray for each other as much as they pray in the business. “The way I treat my staff is a reflection of my relationship with God”.

All the entrepreneurs tithe in their personal capacity. None of the businesses tithe. All the businesses offer at least ten percent of their time, skills and resources to the communities and people they serve. “Everything I have, God can have. God must just say when and where”. Three of the respondents have made the commitment to God to part with ten percent of every office day for His purpose. They assist others to succeed in their own endeavours. Giving is closely connected to life purpose. Generosity is a fundamental Christian principle, tithing as an individual, but using the business resources to bless others.

All the entrepreneurs surveyed have lost everything on more that one occasion. They all approach God with their problems. They are all in agreement that everything belongs to God in the first place. Even if they lose everything it will not affect their relationship with Christ. They agreed that God did not plan to let them fail in the past; it was through their own disobedience. Either greed or fear was involved in most mistakes. Entrepreneurs must go through a learning process after failure and then ask God to give them peace; having learnt all there is to learn from failure.

Three respondents tend to be autocratic and strong willed. They claim that they are softening because of their improving relationship with God. They all tend to be very goal focused and task-orientated rather than people orientated. The other two tend toward servant leadership. They believe that they are only stewards of all they own and not the owner. “God is the boss”.

5.4    Internal bases of power – vision and prophecy prayer. 

The general agreement in the group is that they focus on God and that they can only react to God’s prompting. Business vision is part of God’s vision for the organisation. The essence and focus of vision is obedience to Christ. Prophecy plays a big role in their long-term decision making. Problems are brought before God in prayer time. God provides the strategies in problem situations. If God gives peace about business decisions, it is as good as God is giving a go-ahead.

Time is spent in prayer and fasting. “I hear God better when my stomach grumbles”. All the respondents constantly pray about corporate decisions. “God’s norm is unity” and business decisions should be made in accordance to a unity principle. “Unless you are able to be quiet, you won’t be able to hear God. You won’t be able to think, you won’t have peace in a particular situation”.

All the respondents agreed that the communal purpose for all people on earth is to worship God and to bring Him all the glory. The respondents agreed that they must live each day in obedience to God’s plan, to have a meeting with Christ every day, because His task list originates from this meeting. “My dream is to be totally dependent on God, specifically in decision making. In order to really be so tuned into God’s voice that it blurs out the white noises of the world.” Three guiding questions are asked: “Is it from God”; “Is it from Satan”; or “Is it from the flesh”.

The main findings from the study are presented in Figure 4 and the possible interpretation of the results is discussed in the following section.

 

Research findings- additional Christian entrepreneurial characteristics

  • Opportunity recognition for someone else * Serving God
  • Uplift and develop others * Bring glory to God
  • Living and working in harmony
  • Offer time, skills and resources to community
  • Work is an act of worship
  • Incorporate prayer into business Figure 4: Research

6.   CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH

The core and desirable attributes of entrepreneurs in general are present in most entrepreneurs, including secular and Christian entrepreneurs. The aim of this study was to focus on the research question: Does Christian Entrepreneurship differ from secular entrepreneurship?

The results from the study and possible conclusions indicate that courage, confidence and endurance come from the realisation that God is the source of strength in any situation. Christians rely on God for all things in their life. The respondents agreed that they determine their business entrepreneurial vision by focusing on their relationship with Christ. They only react to God’s prompting. The essence and focus of their vision is obedience to Christ. This relationship enables Christians to push forward in the direction into which they are called because God is in control. It affirms the realisation that they are not responsible for the results, but act in obedience to His Godly calling (Philippians 4:13).

It is acceptable in Christian circles to experience a calling to a specific business endeavour. It is not the purpose of this paper to investigate how callings can be confirmed; however in all areas of life, not excluding entrepreneurship, problems occur when individuals misinterpret a calling. In business, spiritual guidance, when wrongly interpreted, could have negative consequences when quality business decisions are needed.

All the respondents believed that their business failures were significant. All the respondents believe that these failures set their spiritual foundation and they subsequently started to experience Christ in a deep and personal way. They developed an understanding of the faithfulness of God and a deep reliance on God as the source of their power. The danger in such thinking could be that ‘spiritual obedience or disobedience ‘might not be equated to the lack of business skills or purely bad business decisions.

All the respondents have the will and initiative to recognise and react to entrepreneurial opportunities. They all believe that God is in control and that God owns their businesses and all of their resources. If the opportunity is from God, they will respond and get involved.

The research also revealed that Christian entrepreneurial purpose differs from secular entrepreneurial purpose. Christian entrepreneurial purpose is about being obedient to and serving God. The Christian entrepreneur must be a witness to God’s goodness, serve others and use the business as a vehicle to worship Him. Christian entrepreneurs are not in  control of their situation, they trust God for daily purpose, direction, calling and task. There are non- negotiable principles in Christian teachings, for example, ‘do unto others as you wish them to do unto you”. For Christians to apply both spiritual and business principles at the same time need not be problematic, but could lead to decisions which would not benefit the business. The findings concur with Johnson’s (2006) findings that entrepreneurship presents Christians with a unique opportunity to use their vocation for the glory of God.

A further conclusion is that Christian vision sees the entrepreneur involving a group of committed individuals to embrace the Godly vision for the business and to constantly serve and bring new value to the customer. Christian entrepreneurs put their personal relationships with stakeholders at the top in order to get their necessary commitment (Anderson, 1999). Their goal is to develop a business that blends business excellence and entrepreneurship with Christian, Biblical and theological perspectives.

The general entrepreneurial characteristics, the secular entrepreneurial characteristics and the Christian entrepreneurial characteristics discussed in the literature have been combined with research findings from this exploratory study (Figure 5). The research contribution of this study is the identification of additional Christian entrepreneurial characteristics that extend the set of existing Christian entrepreneur characteristics (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Summary of Christian entrepreneurial characteristics.

 

The subject of Christian entrepreneurship has by no means been exhausted and should be researched further. The researchers propose that the link between Christian entrepreneurship in small and medium business and their sustainability must be studied. There seems to be a strong correlation between entrepreneurial character traits and those of the Christian in business. A study that attempts to draw this direct correlation should be considered. The role of entrepreneurship in other religions should also be explored.

The impact of belief on business vision, entrepreneurial purpose and business sustainability gives Christian entrepreneurs competitive advantage in that they see entrepreneurship as a calling. The characteristics of entrepreneurs are evident in Christian entrepreneurs; however they have the advantage of belief and spiritual guidance.


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