Fresh Expression of business what do you mean by that? Developing fresh expressions of church is something that has become very fashionable. Well, at least it has in the British church. The idea is to do things outside the institutional church and meet people where they are and do something different. It could be meeting in a private home or a public space. The aim is to meet the practical and spiritual needs of a particular community. A community that has something in common such as their age or stage of life or sport or interest. It is not just people who live in a particular area.
It is about doing the old thing but in a new way so that it is more effective. What if we did the same with business? When you think about it the idea of developing a business was around before the church. What was the woman in Proverbs 31 doing if not running a business?
Fresh expressions of business do things differently. Business need not be all about money. It could be about walking alongside people in the community being the hands and feet of Jesus while the whole project is paid for using the mechanism of business. It could be providing people with things that they need such as a job or a home or just items for their home through the mechanism of business. It could be making connections with people who buy goods and services from you, connections that lead to them understanding more about Jesus and even becoming one of His followers. It could be able making this world into more of the sort of world that God wants it to be in many many different ways.
Yes it really is us
This is something that I am doing myself. In my case, it was the idea of having a business that supports me financially while leaving me free to work in the community that I found so attractive. I support various community activities in my own church things like a craft group that is run on an afternoon for people with special needs and the group for toddlers and their parents that is run on a morning. It is having the freedom to have a work from home business that enables me to do those things.
There is something that drives me nuts. I have the paper qualifications to teach business start-up in the UK. What that means in practice is that I could go out and get a job teaching people to start a business. Stop and think about that a moment. You train soldiers because you are a soldier and you train sailors because you serve your country in the navy. Does a soldier train a sailor or a soldier train a sailor? Both are part of the armed forces, both trained to fire weapons in defence of their country but a tank is nothing like an aircraft carrier. To me, someone who is supporting those starting a business should not be employed they should be running a business. The same with someone who is running a club that supports those running a business.
Sadly online you see this all the time. I just did this course and now I will set myself up as an expert. They are not an expert in what they have just done the course in. Don’t get me wrong they know something about it but not to the extent that a real expert would. the thing that they are an expert at doing is making things sound good, i.e. marketing. They can sweet talk the birds from the trees and once you are off the trees and in their hands, things look very different. This type of manipulative marketing gets business, especially online business a bad name.
How do we handle the situation?
One way is to run the other direction. If business is evil, then we should not have anything to do with it. One problem with that is that it is quite possible that Jesus took over Joseph’s building business in much the same way as Peter and Andrew were being trained to take over a fishing business. They were not called evil because they were involved in business. Then there was Paul who supported himself by making tents and Lydia the seller of purple. There are examples of people running businesses all over the Bible.
Sadly many have run away from business. They read of Jesus getting a whip and driving traders out of the temple and say they were businessmen they deserved it. But what sort of business were they running? There are many who would say that they were exploiting people who came to the temple. Jesus was angry when he saw people behaving badly in the temple courts. Angry enough for the miscreants to feel real lashes from the whip he was carrying. It was those who followed corrupt practices that felt the tongue lashing of the prophets, centuries beforehand. It is those businesses that have exploited people and damaged the environment as a result of loving money that have given business a bad name. It has given people an excuse to denounce even those who run a business in the way that Jesus would run one.
It is possible to run a business in such a way that we can hold our heads up high. We actually stand out from the crowd because we really are a shining light. We become the preservative that stops the entire system from rotting.
Where do we go now?
That is where this idea of fresh expressions of business fits in. We need more than fresh expressions of church if we are going to be salt and light in the world. There again some fresh expressions of church are fresh expressions of business at the same time. This leads to situations like a building being used as an exhibition centre or a training centre during the day and a church on evenings and weekends.
It is hard doing something new on your own. The one thing you want is to get together with people of a like mind and share ideas and build a supportive community. That is the reasoning behind setting up The COB Club. It is not a church, although at times we might do some churchy things like break bread together or pray with each other. It is not a business club where people from the local area gather together to get to know each other better.
To be honest, only a small fraction of business owners actually attend a local club and there would be an even smaller number of Christians interested in joining a local club. To find even a handful of people of a like mind it might be necessary to travel many miles. It is so much cheaper and time-efficient to meet in an online environment. Even in that environment, it is possible to get to know people better and to share ideas.
I used to really appreciate the email based fellowships I was part of in the days before Facebook. There was one time when someone offered to help me. They were so incensed by the way someone else was treating me that they asked me if I wanted them to teach this other person a lesson. I had forgotten that one of the members lived less than 10 miles away and could actually do something practical to help me. I am not sure what would have happened if I had let him but at least he offered to help when no one else would. I don’t expect it would ever be necessary to stand up for someone like that in The COB Club but there are times when we all need a bit of extra support. That is the idea behind The COB Club.
The problem I have at this point is that The COB Club is a prototype. I know what I want it to achieve but this prototype is designed to test the best way to reach that goal. I need people who are willing to be guinea pigs. One of the principles that God has drilled into me, again and again, is the importance of starting small with apprenticeships for people and prototypes for businesses and projects.
What it costs and what you get in return?
I have set the shopping cart so that no more than 50 people can sign up to the initial contingent. The subscription is not much more than a token i.e. £10 a month. Once it moves onto the next stage it will cost more and it will be worth every penny of the higher price. You, however, will remain part of the initial contingent until such time as you sign off. If you ever signed up again you would become part of whatever the current level of entry was.
What do you get in return? One thing you get is access to the COB Library. One of the things in that library is a long Bible study that I did on the Proverbs 31 woman. I wanted to do a money course and thought about using some video teaching. I was not quite comfortable about that so said, Lord, what do I do. That was when I was led to Proverbs 31. The more I studied the passage the more I realised what an excellent example she was for anyone starting a business. I realised that the order that she did things showed that she definitely had her head screwed on right when it came to money and business. You won’t have heard anything like this in church for the simple reason that it takes someone who knows a business principle or two to see where they are hiding in this passage. Most preachers do not know a lot about business. Even fewer know anything about dressmaking as well.
There is a live and interactive element in The COB Club because this makes the VAT situation easier to handle. This includes a discussion forum. There will also be new material every month. I have quite a few ideas but as part of the initial contingent, you will also be able to make suggestions. The whole idea of a prototype is to test what people want and the initial contingent are my guinea pigs. Actually, that puts you in a very responsible position i.e. responsible for helping me make The COB Club as good as possible.
Still interested? Remember the initial contingent pays £10 a month for as long as they are a member. If you are not quick enough to sign up for that the price goes up to £20 a month.