One book we read for class was Social Entrepreneurship. In it, there are examples of empowerment on nearly every page. From Roots of Empathy in Toronto to Harlem Children’s Zone and Teach for America, each of these make lasting change in communities by investing in people, curriculums, and partnerships across disciplines and sectors that will sustain and make more effective the work. In each, the work of the reign of God happens in communities. Each of these and more empower from every direction with multiple collaborators and make that lasting redemptive difference.
One cautionary word for what I would call “unmoored social entrepreneurship” is addressed in this quote from the Trappist monk and activist Thomas Merton:
There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
The temptation for congregations and non-profits pursuing kingdom work will be to neglect the interior work of faith that gives energy to the outer work. Without this, social entrepreneurship ventures for congregations will lose their vitality and connection to the congregations’ witness.
Congregations and non-profits committed to this work must always guard from losing their why. Why do we do what we do? Towards what end are we moving? Who and what is energizing our work?
I find that social ventures that lack this, lack a spiritual power, and the ones that have it can thrive.