Positive Lessons that the Church could learn from the Startup Community

Startup Life

Well a short while ago I typed out a very short post talking about a few things that I had to process for myself after watching a powerful documentary about the Power of God at work all over the world. Well these thoughts have now been processed, super quickly, and I feel more confident about how to move ahead to work towards a future where I am surrounded by other people who are desperately seeking the power and presence of God.  I honestly thought that thinking through these thoughts was going to take me weeks, rather than a mere hour!

So now, I feel ready to write out the post I initially intended to share today: Positive Lessons that I wish that the Church would learn from the Startup Community.
A few weeks ago here on this blog I spoke about my need to go out to meet people.  One of the options that occurred to me, which I turned down, was the idea of going out to “hang out” with other entrepreneurs. Well guess what?!  Since I wrote that post boredom has well and truly prevailed and I’ve gone out and enthusiastically thrown myself into the “Startup Scene” here. Well it is still early days, and perhaps I am not really in a position to be making conclusive analyses just yet.  Thus far though, it has been so good!  It has been so good to actually be out talking to people, not merely to my computer screen. It has been so good to meet people who are like me, who have ideas and try them out, and take risks and invest themselves into their ideas! Happy sighs!

So here then are a few things that I think that the Startup Community could teach the Church:

People who understand you
This is possibly the best aspect of hanging around with other entrepreneurs.  I am in an unusual situation because unlike the other entrepreneurs there, I am not trying to win new customers or clients from the regular meetings I attend. I am going purely for the sake of meeting other people and having people to talk to. It has been so good to meet people who are “on my wavelength”. Because we are all living that same kind of life, we all instantly understand one another (or at least that is how it feels for now!)  So someone will say something, and because that is so similar to your life, you just get it! These are some of the things that people regularly discuss and agree with one another over (constantly you are getting heads nodding in agreement):

-Late nights. Not getting enough sleep. Yep, totally understand that!
-Difficulties with knowing how to prioritise your goals, what to focus on first.  Yep, that’s me too!
-Wanting/Needing to save as much money as possible, or in business terms, being as “lean” as possible
-Working on an idea for ages, and having to deal with lots of glitches, constantly having to “go back to the drawing board”.  It is so common to hear this: “I lauched a year ago….but it did not work…so now I’m starting again!”
-Loneliness!  Coming along to the meetings to have a reason to get out of the house, and a chance to meet and talk to people!
-Trying to raise awareness of your product
-Being super ambitious, having loads of goals, sometimes juggling multiple startups at once

And then also, because we are “all in the same boat”, we all “speak the same language”, we’re all bumping up against the same issues, and coming up with our own ways of dealing with the issues, it is so easy for someone to quickly assess your idea, and say “Have you considered this?  Have you thought of doing it this way?”

In Church, in theory we should all be speaking the same language, at least concerning our faith. We could be expecting to meet people who have faced similar challenges, and who might be able to instantly assess our situations and say “have you considered this?” In practice though, my challenges in faith seemed to be totally alien to most people and I met no-one who had encountered similar challenges to me. Because they had never encountered these things themselves, and they obviously did not know anyone who had been through similar things, to put it kindly, they did not know how to relate to these issues in my life. There was no friendly camaraderie, no sharing of similar experiences. And these were challenges that I encountered precisely because of the extent of my pursuit of God. And other people who claimed to be Christians just did not get it, and could not get it.

Which leads onto another point: Utter sincerity
Everyone who comes to these startup meetings does so because they are in the process of launching a startup, or they want to market their services to startup professionals. There is absolutely no reason for anyone else to go there; there is absolutely no incentive for anyone else to go there and “pretend” to be launching a startup.  For many people, this is their full-time thing. For them it has to work because there is no backup plan. So people tend to talk about their ideas with that passion that comes from investing your all into something. Even that is energising. When you are asking people about their dream, which is what brought them to the meeting in the first place, what they came prepared to talk about, it is easy for them to talk about it!  People’s eyes light up, they see it, they have a real vision for it. It is real in their lives. Another reason that I love going to these meetings is that I love coming across very interesting ideas, thinking about how I could modify them, add to them, or simply steal them outright! So whenever anyone shares their idea, and the brilliance of it just clicks together and works in my mind, it triggers my own thinking.

People also understand that we are there to support one another. That is the name of the game. We’re there to encourage one another: “Well done!  I love that idea!  Keep going!” We are constantly saying to one another “I’ll like your page on Facebook and you can like mine!” So then every single person you meet is deeply invested in the startup world or very sympathetic to the startup world. Every single person goes to those meetings only for the sake of supporting other people’s ideas, and being supported in return. That is the only thing that draws them there. Every single person can offer you questions or insights or strategies about how you are going about your startup.

In church – unfortunately there do appear to be incentives for people to be involved, even in leadership, who are not totally sincere in giving their all for Christ. People are not necessarily walking your walk, so they cannot offer you adequate and appropriate encouragement, or even ask relevant or helpful questions. Some people apparently do not understand the need to go to church to support people and to be supported in turn, and many of these people are all too happy to be throwing around negativity rather than positivity.

No hierarchy/pecking order
In the startup world, thus far I have not noticed any established hierarchies in place.  This is all the more true because an abhorrence of office politics etc is exactly what led many of us to reject conventional employment in the first place. So at least in theory we are all equal. And in terms of ambition, we are certainly equal in that we are all people who are aspiring to be the very best at what we do.  It can be quite humorous to hear all these grand job titles flying about, when you know that the companies in question consist of only a few people at most:  CEO: Chief Executive Officer!  Managing Director!  COO: Chief Operations Officer !  CTO: Chief Technical Officer!  Founder!  That oftens causes me to chuckle somewhat. I have to admit that a reason why we can all be equal is because we are not necessarily working towards one common agenda, but because we are different individuals coming together each with our own goals and dreams, we are all leaders in our own right,  our coming together is to seek support from one another to thrive in our individual agendas.  So because of this, there simply is not the same need to establish a hierarchy as there would be in a church, with a common shared agenda. There is no need to establish who is in charge of whom, or who is in leadership over whom, or even whose startup is better than whose.  So much of church life seems to be about establishing or reinforcing the pecking order, that it is so good to interact with people without that aspect constantly overhanging our interaction.

No money necessary
This is something that I am always talking about regarding church. The startup events that I have been to prove this point so emphatically! There is no need to make a financial contribution whatsoever. At times we may each pay for our own coffees, or make very small contributions of £2 each, for instance, to pay for room hire. But other than that, no money is required whatsoever! That is because what draws us together is genuinely the support that we can receive from and offer to one another.  And that inherently does not require money at all.  The hall, the meeting itself are simply means to enable us to get together, to release the support that is there available within each one of us.

And this is what always puzzles me: If the startup world can happily thrive like this without financial contributions,  why does the Church need money? Why does the collection of money seem to be the central function of a church – any church?  Why does a church seem to need all these endless contributions, simply to merely exist? If church is about our coming together to encourage one another, to support one another, why does money need to be the most essential part of that?  I’m going to answer that question myself: in addition to paying for the support of the pastor (which is an idea I disagree with so very strongly, at least in its normal manifestation in many modern churches), for many churches the money is an end in itself. Or to put it another way, it is precisely because of that money that they meet in the first place. It is not about unleashing the support and encouragement that we can offer to one another in our passionate pursuit of Christ. This is where the sincerity is important. Many times, from experience these pastors are not very passionate in their pursuit of God. It is the money that they can receive from the congregation, or what can be achieved with the money, that provides the real incentive for them to set up in ministry. This is why so often in these churches spiritual insincerity reigns, right down from the pastor, right through the congregation. And then all the special effects that they set up in their churches are to lure other members from other congregations, for the sake of increasing their own membership and through that the resources that will be available to their own church.

In the startup world to me it is just ridiculous or incomprehensible that you would need all these games and gimmicks to attract entrepreneurs.  We are all drawn by what we each need from one another, and that is sufficient and compelling reason for us to get together without needing expensive, glitzy music systems, billowing smoke, etc etc. I bet though, that if there was a way of similarly getting money from startup entrepreneurs as there is a way of getting money from people at church, that in itself would be sufficient to attract people into the startup world who are not really interested in startups, who have never run startups, who cannot truly identify with the issues involved in running startups, who would then start posing as the startup equivalent of “pastors”, and then they would start constructing all these glitzy gimmicks to start attracting other people as the startup equivalent of church members, who similarly have no real interest, no real passion, no real commitment to, no real experience of the startup world.  And then the startup scene would start becoming just as much of a waste of time for real startup entrepreneurs as many churches currently are for many real and passionate followers of the Biblical Christian doctrines.  There would no longer be true encouragement, any instant identification with issues, any real understanding. There would be no longer be that feeling that we are all facing the same challenges, living different permuations of the same life. Rather there would be rampant insincerity, treating you as weird because heavens! – you actually are a startup entrepreneur – how odd!  You actually take this startup thing seriously!  You are so over the top!  You are so super-startup! And then they will talk about you, and pull you down behind your back, because they naturally could never understand the life that you are living.

So yes, I honestly think that money is a huge poison in church life. I have decided for myself that from henceforth, if money is strongly involved in a church’s life, I do not want to have any interaction with that church whatsoever.  Unfortunately money is strongly woven into the fabric of most churches, which is why I am not going to have any involvement with most churches.  Ironically money is extremely important to everyone in the startup world, in that we are all working to be financially successful.  However, we don’t let it sully our interactions with one another.  In church the way this issue is often presented is that if you are complaining about the endless financial pressure a church puts on you, then you are not sufficiently committed to God. Well perhaps I am not sufficiently committed because I am definitely complaining!

Lastly, the startup community truly is all one community.  There is fluidity between different meetings, and you often meet the same people at different meeting. Why would anyone get offended by this? Each leader is not a leader as such, more a convener of gatherings.  It is utterly plausible that the leader of one meeting would themselves go to meet people at other meetings.   You as an individual choose the startup meetings that you find useful. Because the leader of each meeting does not personally gain anything from your choosing to attend or not attend their particular meeting, there is nothing to make them insist that you need to regularly attend their particular meeting every week or month. The meeting is offered purely in the hope that it would be useful.

This is how it should also be in the Body of Christ.  This is certainly how it was in the New Testament church that the church truly was one community.  However, things could not be more different in the modern church. We are not by any means truly one community.  Even looking within denominations where we all agree on and subscribe to exactly the same teachings, even then leaders are often extremely territorial over who might or might not “belong” to their particular church. Very many people make a big deal about being “planted” in a particular church. Obviously this is not biblical in the slightest because the Bible does not recognise the idea of individual, distinct churches. In my opinion the reason why church leaders are so adamant about their church members coming faithfully to their particular churches is because of what they as leaders hope to gain from this:  It makes their particular church look popular and it means that they know that they can rely on the financial contributions of the members. Because of all those hierarchical issues about who is in charge, who is the boss, it is mostly unusual that a church leader would simply pop over to a meeting organised by another church; there is none of that casual fluidity that you get in the startup scene.

And then you also get lots of people at these startup events! And then these are whole crowds of people who are pursuing the same goals as you! Instead of having to slowly comb through a church to find like-minded people, here are whole crowds, altogether, all in the same place, at once. I’ve recently left two churches which were both so tiny – in fact, beyond tiny, microscopic. And then in addition to another small fellowship these would often be the only people I would meet every week. My soul was literally crying out to meet lots of like-minded people, at the same life stage as me, with the same goals; people I could truly identify with. And as things currently stand, that need is not being met via church, but rather through the startup world. Sometimes there will be hundreds of us in the same place, all driven by similar passions, all working towards similar goals.

Largely because of these reasons, at the moment I’m using the startup world to fulfil many of my Church needs, that is, needs that I would usually have sought to meet via the Church. I don’t want to deceive myself; I am of course aware that these people are largely not Christians, and so they cannot offer any Christian encouragement. I’m still going to need to find Christian communities which are truly passionate for Christ.  At the moment though, while I am searching and praying for that, hanging out with the startup scene feels like a more productive and encouraging way of using my time than trying to get involved in those money-oriented, spiritually deficient churches.

Bible Verses:
John 13v34-35:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Photo of startup business meeting by StartupStockPhotos on Pixabay
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