Love is free; for everything else, there's money

MEDIUM-LENGTH: Jesus Christ, the greatest entrepreneur of all time?

Compassion in the jungle
Compassion in your hands
Would you like to make a run for it
Would you like to take my hand?

- “The Animal Song”, Savage Garden

At the time of writing, Wikipedia states that there are 2.382 billion Christians in the world. This means that there are over two billion people that worship a man named Jesus, who lived two thousand years ago, whom they have never met, as a deity.

I would like to set aside the many potential metaphysical and theological discussions on this matter, and instead focus for a moment on Jesus’ incredible popularity. From a secular perspective, there is something about this man, or the memory of this man, or what he represents, that has captivated people for two thousand years.

Why?

Also from a secular perspective, Christianity is the most “popular” religion on the planet in terms of raw followers, and continues to grow on a global basis. Its institutional manifestations have been some of the most consistently wealthy and successful organizations on the planet for many hundreds of years, weathering “industry-changing” disruptions like the Schism, the Protestant Reformation, the Theory of Evolution, and modern philosophy.

Why?

Finally, from an entrepreneur’s perspective, Christianity began as a one-person, sandal-strapped enterprise that became one of the longest-lasting and influential movements in world history. Christianity is still a massive “industry” today, and it’s all thanks to this one innovator named Jesus.

Why?

Although my thoughts on this matter will eventually fill part of a book1, one of my hunches regarding Jesus’ success has to do with Jesus “business model”. This business model can be elegantly summed up in one word, and is illustrated by the following exchange between Jesus and one of his theological opponents:

… an expert in the law tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

- From Matthew 22:35-40

The one word that summarizes both of Jesus’ commandments, and the thing they both have in common, is “love”. But how can one construct a business model based around love?

Love: relationships, abundance, trust

There are three elements to Jesus’ practical application of love that I would like to highlight, which perhaps might be of value to both entrepreneurs and Christian spiritual leaders.

Relationships

In the insightful book The Master Plan of Evangelism, professor and evangelist Robert E. Coleman describes a fundamental nature of Jesus’ approach to ministry as relationship-centred. Although Jesus is famous for the Sermon on the Mount and his other public appearances, Coleman takes care to point out that one of the first things he did was invite a group of disciples to follow him.

Travelling, eating, and resting together would have given the disciples an opportunity to form a deep bond with Jesus, which evidently left a lasting impression on them one way or another. This would have been a very different, more personal, deeper experience of Jesus.

Coleman also notes that after Jesus’ death, it wasn’t the crowds or the multitudes that carried on his ministry - it was the disciples. This goes to show that depth of relationship has staying power, and is the first aspect of love that validates it as a “business model”.

Abundance

Jesus is famous for his miracles - fish, bread, wine, healing. That’s obviously an abundance mentality at work, and supernatural powers can make that pretty easy. But he was also fairly generous with his time, if a somewhat challenging teacher to approach.

In the context of personal relationships, which we’re all familiar with to some degree, love often manifests in giving. There are gifts on holidays, on birthdays, and on special occasions like Mother’s Day. Most parents would not hesitate to sacrifice for the benefit of their child. The courtship process in romantic relationships often involves a lot of generosity on both sides, and in some cultures is an explicit requirement for union.

This kind of abundance mentality is interesting, from an entrepreneurial perspective, seeing as how current marketing and sales best practices (especially for long sales cycles) tend to emphasize taking a long-term “giving” mentality. It seems marketers and salespeople have found ways to create something out of (almost) nothing for their customers, posting better results and creating emergent value in the process.

Trust

For many Christians, one of the most compelling aspects of Jesus’ ministry is his simple ask: “follow me”. It is interesting to note that in some cases, this was the first thing he said to some of the people who eventually became his disciples.

To drop everything you’re doing - your whole life, in fact - to follow some random Nazarene preacher means one of three things. Either you’re a fool, your current life is highly unsatisfactory and you’re already in the market for a change, or the person whom you are being asked to follow is so compelling, you’re willing to take a chance.

I find it interesting that the word for “faith” in the Biblical Greek is πίστις, or “pístis”. The connotations and meaning of this word have to do with trusting in, being persuaded of, or having confidence in the reliability of something. In the case of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels, he was God in human form so infinitely reliable (and probably very compelling).

Although we can’t replicate this aspect of business model precisely, thinking about how we earn trust and demonstrate reliability in business contexts seems relevant.

Reflection questions

  1. What is an innovative-yet-simple initiative you could hold in your city to benefit children? Could you organize it with some time investment, a bunch of phone calls, and a friend or two?

  2. If you are a business owner or entrepreneur, how can you be more generous in your marketing, sales, and client care functions?

  3. Take 1 hour to read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke with the intent of looking to Jesus as an interpersonal and entrepreneurial role model. What do you find?

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Planned release date: Winter 2022 or Spring 2023.