Lutheran Volunteer Corps, one of my mentors asked me why I had chosen a faith-based organization focusing on social justice, rather than a secular organization. This question caught me completely off guard—I had never considered that my passion for social justice could come from anything but my faith. So many of the Scripture passages that speak to me most deeply are those that call for an end to oppression and injustice, that call for us to care for those who are in need, for those who are rejected and for those who are forgotten. From Jesus to Martin Luther King, Jr. my models of social justice are strongly tied to faith.

"> Social Justice as an Extension of Faith | Forum for Theological Exploration Introducing the Leaders for Tomorrow’s Institutions | Forum for Theological Exploration A Lesson on Leadership | Forum for Theological Exploration When in Doubt, Do ... | Forum for Theological Exploration “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations …” | Forum for Theological Exploration What is our next most faithful step? | Forum for Theological Exploration What is Changing? | Forum for Theological Exploration Survival in the Lily Fields: FTE Doctoral Fellowships | Forum for Theological Exploration Faith & Politics: Conversations Leading to Action | Forum for Theological Exploration second installment of my thoughts on diversity in the classroom. It doesn’t take the events of last week to make it difficult for me to write on the topic because even on ordinary days (if those actually exist) whatever I feel led to say smacks of being trite.

"> Classroom Violence | Forum for Theological Exploration The Pulse of Justice – The Passion of Jesus | Forum for Theological Exploration Leading Differently When Different is Dangerous | Forum for Theological Exploration Where Were You on Bloody Sunday? | Forum for Theological Exploration Our Students Will Lead Us | Forum for Theological Exploration Pentecost: A Time for Change | Forum for Theological Exploration Can the Church Help End Violence & Injustice in Our Communities? Seven Themes We Heard in Chicago. | Forum for Theological Exploration “Go, set the world on fire!” But don’t burn it down. | Forum for Theological Exploration Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Culture, Queerness, and Faith | Forum for Theological Exploration Behind the Doctorate | Forum for Theological Exploration Refreshed Through Discernement | Forum for Theological Exploration Creating Space for Imagination | Forum for Theological Exploration Leading Differently by Listening to Whispers, Shouts and Echoes | Forum for Theological Exploration God, thank you for making me BLACK! Black History Month Musings | Forum for Theological Exploration Same Ole Gospel | Forum for Theological Exploration terrorist shooting in San Bernadino, CA.

"> Leading with Love in the Wake of Islamophobia | Forum for Theological Exploration Set the Prisoners Free | Forum for Theological Exploration Sacred Work | Forum for Theological Exploration It Takes a Village | Forum for Theological Exploration What’s Your New Year’s Resolution? | Forum for Theological Exploration The Hope of Now | Forum for Theological Exploration Trusting Brown Hands | Forum for Theological Exploration God Beyond Borders | Forum for Theological Exploration More Questions Than Answers | Forum for Theological Exploration Reflections on three years with CMTEV | Forum for Theological Exploration A call to ‘Opt-in’ | Forum for Theological Exploration Theological Education, Diversity, and a Transformative Future | Forum for Theological Exploration Benefits of a Vocational Friendship | Forum for Theological Exploration FTE’s Ministry Exploration and Mentoring Grant; The grant was such a tremendous blessing as it enabled me to develop relationships with women that have utilized their experience and/or understanding of grief in their respective ministries.

"> Affirmations of Calling | Forum for Theological Exploration Ferguson & Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community, Dr. Leah Gunning Francis discusses the significance of her work for faith communities and emerging Christian leaders.

"> Seven Questions with Leah Gunning Francis, Author of “Ferguson & Faith” | Forum for Theological Exploration A Reflection on My Ministry Exploration and Mentoring Grant Experience | Forum for Theological Exploration The Sublime Power of Belief | Forum for Theological Exploration Theological Education After Ferguson and Long Island and Baltimore and Charleston and…. | Forum for Theological Exploration The Ministry of Surrender | Forum for Theological Exploration The Stillness | Forum for Theological Exploration Racism: The Most Sinful of Legacies | Forum for Theological Exploration What Is Thy Name | Forum for Theological Exploration Active Faith is Urgent | Forum for Theological Exploration The Birth of Goodness | Forum for Theological Exploration Re-Arranged by the Spirit | Forum for Theological Exploration Vocation in Between the Aftermath of Violence and a Hoped-for Future | Forum for Theological Exploration To Follow a Call | Forum for Theological Exploration Where Two or Three Are Gathered | Forum for Theological Exploration Tooth Fairy | Forum for Theological Exploration Marking Vocational Transitions Faithfully | Forum for Theological Exploration Mission Year to attend FTE’s Discernment Retreat in Lake Arrowhead, California.

"> Our Becoming | Forum for Theological Exploration Falling Deeper Into My Calling | Forum for Theological Exploration Let the Streets Inspire You | Forum for Theological Exploration Whose Name is on the Invitation? | Forum for Theological Exploration The Feeble Art of Radical Hospitality | Forum for Theological Exploration Finding God in the Rabbit Trail | Forum for Theological Exploration What is Worship to Me | Forum for Theological Exploration A Resolution for Religion | Forum for Theological Exploration Sacred Cows at the Lord’s Table | Forum for Theological Exploration I am a Pile of Trash | Forum for Theological Exploration The Church Knows Something | Forum for Theological Exploration Critical Feeling | Forum for Theological Exploration “Do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19 | Forum for Theological Exploration Buddy Crossed the Line | Forum for Theological Exploration Campus Ministries Shaping the Future | Forum for Theological Exploration Teaching Theology after Ferguson | Forum for Theological Exploration Imagination Next | Forum for Theological Exploration If it was a Snake ... | Forum for Theological Exploration The Power to Reshape Brokenness | Forum for Theological Exploration Campus Ministries that Stick | Forum for Theological Exploration How to Harness the Awkward Pause | Forum for Theological Exploration 2015 FTE Doctoral Fellowships. This is an appropriate moment to reflect briefly on why we do the work of supporting rising theological educators of color.

"> Why We Do This | Forum for Theological Exploration In Praise of Small Spaces | Forum for Theological Exploration Culture Shock | Forum for Theological Exploration Can We Keep Our Promises? | Forum for Theological Exploration An Opportunity to Re-Engage not Remake the Church | Forum for Theological Exploration Living Stream Church of the Brethren.

"> Innovative Ministries: Stepping outside my box | Forum for Theological Exploration Attentiveness and Practices in Christian Ministry | Forum for Theological Exploration Conducting My Beautiful, Cacophonous Clone Choir | Forum for Theological Exploration Can you Repack That? | Forum for Theological Exploration An Open Reflection to My Younger Self | Forum for Theological Exploration A Christian Take on Mindfulness | Forum for Theological Exploration The Building of Community in Unlikely Places | Forum for Theological Exploration Compensation for Being | Forum for Theological Exploration Transitioning-into-Ministry (TiM) Participants Gathering. The first year I thought it was a fluke. The second year I was looking for it. This year, I was expecting it. What was is “it”? The power of a room.

"> The Power of a Room | Forum for Theological Exploration Listen Closely | Forum for Theological Exploration Communication as an Art | Forum for Theological Exploration Celebrating a Birthday or Celebrating the Birth of an Idea | Forum for Theological Exploration Shhhhhhhh! | Forum for Theological Exploration Do We Know Enough About Other Religions? | Forum for Theological Exploration My Time At the FTE Vocational Discernment Conference | Forum for Theological Exploration Is the Institutional Church Worth Saving? | Forum for Theological Exploration A Muddy Epiphany | Forum for Theological Exploration In Search of Community | Forum for Theological Exploration Prayers on the Wind | Forum for Theological Exploration

Why Social Entrepreneurship Should Matter to Faith Leaders

By: Dori Baker
May 22, 2017

What makes a social entrepreneur?

Someone who challenges cultural perceptions about the dis-enfranchised and the displaced? A leader who upsets binaries that erase the genius we might otherwise see in one another? A change-agent who looks at surrounding culture, sniffs out creative vitality, and follows that which resembles “good news for the poor”?

Each one of these fresh descriptions of social innovation emerged during an FTE Community Forum hosted recently in Los Angeles. We gathered in LA on the very date that, twenty-five years ago, the city was on fire, engulfed in racial violence after the acquittal of four police officers videotaped beating African-American motorist Rodney King.

In the midst of the ongoing violence and suffering in our communities, nation, and world, FTE President Stephen Lewis asked us to consider how people of faith move beyond simply imagining a different future and begin to build it. How do we innovate the kind of future we’d like to inhabit?

Perhaps a key lies at the intersection of faith, social impact and entrepreneurship.

FTE’s Community Forum surfaced an urgency among Christian leaders who are called to create hybrid expressions of faith community in spaces that are both secular and sacred, holy and ordinary, church and marketplace. An innovator works in these margins—creative spaces where life grows in the tension between safety and risk, comfort and creativity.

Four innovators invited us—an intergenerational group of Christians exploring social entrepreneurship—to re-imagine how we engineer space, excavate stories, invest in neighborhood economics and listen for harmonies in our stories. These “imagineers” included an architect, anthropologist, Episcopal priest and ethnomusicologist who create alternatives out of the already-here.

Steven A. Chaparro is lead storyteller and strategist at Visioneering Studios, Inc. He shared his story of growing up as a pastor’s kid who felt a tug to be a minister, but also identified a false split between working as a pastor and serving the common good. Steven asked attendees, “What if churches were not these specially segregated spaces, but ecotones—the spaces in between?” He described putting his architectural skill and ministry to work to engineer spaces designed to serve human flourishing and build God’s beloved community. This gives rise to re-imagined ministry, such as the Moniker Warehouse, a co-working space in San Diego. He describes it as a “dream factory” where a church is one tenant among a lively mix of twenty artisan brands, creating jobs and becoming a community asset in one of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.

Marlon Hall is a storyteller, archeologist and self-described “curator of human potential” who believes the best way to honor God is to fully develop one’s talents and skills. Through his Houston-based non-profit, The Eat Gallery, Marlon helped seven budding entrepreneurs launch businesses that match the health needs of underserved populations with artful food. “The food was good, but they were part of something bigger,” Marlon explained. Community developed. Passions blossomed. People came alive to the “why” of their existence. His philosophy of social entrepreneurship is to excavate the stories of cultural creatives, following vitality that resembles the Gospel. Marlon believes it’s our spiritual and Christian responsibility to learn what a community needs and find ways to serve it, all the while creating opportunities for people to make meaning and money at the intersection of one’s passion.

Rosa Lee Harden held up a one-dollar bill and asked, “Where do you want this to spend the night?” She urged “emancipation from a predatory economy” and told the story of growing up in a small Mississippi town before the big-boxification of the US economy. Money stayed in the community, providing jobs, and supporting families in a way she described as “neighborly.” Could a few people working together to invest their dollars in neighborhood really make a change? This is a growing movement that redefines economics from the bottom up, funding local ventures, creating toolkits to support entrepreneurs, and encouraging shared learning. This movement inspired Rosa Lee to be part of initiatives such as Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) and The Parish Collective—organizations that encourage the planting of small, place-based churches that celebrate and connect models that support human flourishing.

Alisha Lola Jones is an ethnomusicologist whose academic work focuses on contemporary African-American male performances. She and her sister began hosting Genius for Men, a men’s empowerment conference. “We acknowledge the genius of young men who were getting kicked out of school because we don’t know how to teach their kind of brilliance,” she said. Now Alisha teaches others how to look for unexpected forms of genius. Her start-up, InSight Initiative, Inc, consults in the design of events that uplift people while also turning a profit. Alisha suggests listening for harmonies in our stories, giving an example of her unique journey into a career portfolio that amplifies her academic training, while addressing the trauma experienced by people of color in her home cities of DC and Chicago. Her advice to would-be entrepreneurs? “There’s going to be doubt. There’s going to be famine and fallow ground,” she said. “Those who made it big had blips along with the ascension. Risk should be part of the conversation.”

As the day came to a close, evocative questions lingered:

What if we already have everything we need to create alternatives to the systems that are snuffing out the life chances of the people we love and serve?

What if, within our individual stories and our collective memories, lie the exact blueprints for creating a future in which we can all flourish?

What if God’s spirit set loose on the world aches to create new life from the compost of our dying institutions?

Like most hard questions, these don’t fit with multiple choice answers. They do, however, inspire us to take next steps we might not have imagined before.

Tags: Inside FTE, Innovation in Ministry, Thinking Out Loud


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