by Katherine Leary Alsdorf
Passion—the theme of the 2011 Entrepreneurship Initiative and its annual Ei Forum—sustains an entrepreneur through the long hours and countless obstacles associated with taking a venture from idea to reality. Whether it’s a church planter starting a new church, a social entrepreneur starting an organization to help the poor, or the founder of a for-profit start-up bringing an innovative new product to market, passion or zeal is one of their key success factors. If truth be told, we’re all drawn to it; we all long for it to feel fully alive.
“Nothing is so intolerable…as being fully at rest, without a passion, without business, without entertainment, without care,” said Blaise Pascal in his Pensees
I’ve always sought passion and worked to nurture it in others. But I didn’t think much about its depth and breadth of meaning until reading former Redeemerite, Jo Kadlecek’s, memoir, Woman Overboard: How Passion Saved My Life. She hooked me in her prologue as she explained the connection between our contemporary understanding of passion and the Passion of Christ. Suddenly the steamy lovemaking of a Hollywood movie, or even zeal for the home team, became unworthy of the word.
In early Christian centuries, passion referred to the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death. This older meaning helps clarify what gospel zeal might look like in a new venture. While all entrepreneurs will claim a passion or zeal for their idea and venture, they may not connect it to passion as suffering, and may therefore miss the important role suffering plays in the beginning of a venture. The gospel links suffering and sacrifice to something much larger than the self, to the big picture of what Christ is doing in the world. The gospel gives us the big picture so that our zeal is united with Christ’s zeal for the renewal of all things. Our suffering serves to sanctify our motivations and purposes behind our work. These can be critical moments to help entrepreneurs (and even the rest of us) surrender their work to Christ for the purposes of His Kingdom.
Our Entrepreneurship Initiative (Ei) Forum is two weeks before Easter this year. Throughout the Lenten season, dozens of entrepreneurs will be working round the clock to ready their business plans and presentations for the competition, sacrificing hours of “free time” to give their idea a chance to come to life. We call it “gospel entrepreneurship,” because each venture intends to further shalom here in the city and beyond. The gospel—meaning the Death, Resurrection and Glory of Christ—teaches us that new life, including new ventures, are born out of death and suffering. It’s Christ’s zeal for us and, in return, our zeal for Christ that enables us to undergo the suffering and death to self that is a necessary part of starting a new venture.
In fact, Jo’s prologue tells us that this suffering, and becoming a community of sufferers, is somehow key to becoming passionate people. Without the gospel we cannot sensibly die to self and without dying to self we can not experience the power of the gospel. Perhaps this helps us make sense of 2 Corinthians 4:10 “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
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