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How Great Church Planters Think

A recent article for Inc Magazine, written by Leigh Buchanan, revealed how great entrepreneurs think. The article was based on a study conducted by Saras Sarasvathy, professor at the University ofVirginia. She asked successful entrepreneurs (people who had started multiple companies and had at least 15 years experience) how they would handle decisions in a start-up venture. The interviews suggest that there are four marks of a great entrepreneur.

It could be argued that church planting is an entrepreneurial enterprise. It is a start-up venture, it requires hard work, and it is risky. Following are four indicators of a great entrepreneur, with applications for being a great church planter.

1. They do the doable, then push it. Entrepreneurs do not always begin with solid goals; they creatively use their strengths, intuitions and resources.  One entrepreneur said, “I don’t believe in market research…Instead of asking all the questions, I’d try and make some sales. I’d learn a lot, you know: which people, what were the obstacles, what were the questions, which prices work better. Even before I started production. So my market research would actually be hands-on actual selling.” Great church planters do the same. They know what they want, but their methodologies may change along the way. Church planters know that they may not have all the answers and that they must be open to the Spirit’s guidance.

2. They woo partners first. Sarasvathy discovered that great entrepreneurs take an “anthropological approach” to their customers. One said, “You can’t go out and survey customers and say, ‘OK, what kinda car do you really want?’ I believe very much in living it.” Great church planters also use this approach. Instead of conducting mountains of demographic research, great church planters get to know the people in their communities on a personal level and let their specific needs shape the church.

3. They sweat competitors later. “Entrepreneurs fret less about competitors”, Sarasvathy explains, “because they see themselves not in the thick of a market but on the fringe of one, or as creating a new market entirely.” It is ludicrous to think that church planters view other churches as competitors. Great church planters study other churches—not for how they can compete against them—but to discover needs in the community that are not being met, and then filling those needs. They are constantly looking for ways to share the love of Jesus with others in new ways.

4. They do not limit themselves. Instead of trying to predict the future, entrepreneurs enjoy responding to and reshaping opportunities. Buchanan observed,Entrepreneurs thrive on contingency. The best ones improvise their way to an outcome that in retrospect feels ordained.” When faced with limited information about a product or market, one entrepreneur said, “I see this as a missionary product, an entrée into some of the best users and buyers.” Sounds like churchy language, doesn’t it? Great church planters never limit themselves by knowledge. Instead, they constantly use any and all of their resources to creatively develop innovative ways to share the Gospel.

What other ways are entrepreneurs like church planters?

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