Are followers of Jesus expected to be changemakers?

— Tom Sine —

Recently when I attended the SOCAP Conference in San Francisco that has an unusual mission…”Accelerating the Good Economy!” I was one of some 1,900 participants. Most of the participants were social innovators or those that wanted to be plus social investors including representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates and the Rockefeller Foundations.

I can’t remember ever being at event, including church mission conferences, with so many people determined to make a real impact on some of the daunting social and environmental challenges facing us in the future.

The people I met and listened to at SOCAP arrested my attention in ways I hadn’t expected:

First, I discovered that a number of these social innovators are imagining, creating and launching a range of new forms of social enterprise that are having a much greater positive impact than I imagined possible. For example Paul Polak, who spoke at SOCAP, created a new business with partners in India called Spring Health. One of India’s major public health problems in rural areas is lack of access to clean water. This new firm uses off the shelf electrochlorinator technology, to purify water in large tanks fabricated at village stores. Spring Health hires a network of young men who deliver the safe water to those in the region on bikes for a very modest cost. Spring Health plans to grow this social enterprise to reach 5 million people in 10,000 villages in India in three years.**

Second, many of these social entrepreneurs are not only using their imaginations to create new businesses that have a large impact, they are also using their imaginations to create fuller more purpose focused lives. For example, when I was in San Francisco I talked to a young entrepreneur named Jay. He had recently received his MBA in Sustainable Business from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute here in Seattle where he also received coaching in both business practices and personal development. Jay joined several other entrepreneurs in creating a small community of entrepreneurs in the San Francisco area called Sandbox House.

These young innovators not only support one another in developing their best business proposals but also in using their imagination to help one another create more focused responsible lives. I suspect they realize, as many business innovators do, that being on top of your game is essential to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

I was surprised to discover that Sandbox House is not unique. There is a growing network of entrepreneurial co-living communities springing up all over the planet, of primarily younger people, who are drawn together by their common desire to both imagine new ways to have a positive impact in their world as well to learn how to live with a little more intentionally and responsibly.

I find this same desire to imagine, create and launch new ways of having an impact and creating fuller lives among young missional innovators that I worked with and learned from in recent years. In fact, the Parish Collective collaborates with the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology to co-sponsor and the Inhabit Conference. This annual event every April is one of the few faith based forums where participants are invited to imagine, create and launch new forms of community empowerment as well as some new some forms of social innovation.

I realize that we can’t all quit our jobs to become social entrepreneurs or become missional church planters. I also realize that we can’t all move into: living communities to reach out to those in need. But is it possible that following Jesus means more than simply showing up at church, putting two cans of corn in the food bank, and offering a little word on the job for Jesus… If we get a chance? Is it possible that following Jesus actually means becoming a changemaker?

Can I suggest a discipline for our lives as we approach the season of Advent? Can I suggest becoming a changemaker by:

  1. setting aside 20 minutes a day, every day, for prayer and Scripture?
  2. setting aside two hours a week to either reach out to neighbors in the workplace or the neighborhood?
  3. setting aside an evening a week to be a part of a small missional home group to support one another as we seek to become changemakers?

Are followers of Jesus expected to be changemakers?

Please write me today and give me your candid feedback…and tell me how you are becoming a changemaker…

**  Polak, Paul & Warwick, Mal, The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products And Services for Three Billion New Customers, SanFrancisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013, p. 152-159.