Building the Messianic Business Community

In mid-April, Israel Firstfruits hosted another meeting of the Messianic Business Fellowship in Haifa. During the gathering, the CEO of the organization, Mordechai Wiseman, announced the Business Plan Competition for 2016, which offers significant financial prizes and other incentives.

“We met in Beit Yedidiah in Haifa. There were nearly 60 Messianic business owners – mostly small business and sole proprietors, but also senior members of established companies. We were excited to see a number of Arab participants as well.” Mordechai continued, “While I’m familiar with many believers in the business sector here in the Land, I was encouraged by the fact that I didn’t recognize about one -third of the individuals who attended – an indication of the growing Messianic business community. Remarkably, some individuals recognized people they had encountered in the marketplace but had not known they were a fellow believer.”

“Three speakers shared their experiences in the workplace, both from a professional and spiritual perspective, as well as their successes and failures in the marketplace. They shared about the challenges and rewards of opening and developing a new business. In addition, we held a one-hour networking workshop. During that session, participants met rapidly with one another –seeking to find potential joint business collaboration. From this activity, in fact, several genuine projects emerged. “

Mordechai explains that the Messianic Business Fellowship was established 9 years ago in order to promote work relationships between individuals within the Body of Messiah and outside of it. Today, the group is over 500 strong and includes a range people from seasoned business owners and professionals to people who are just beginning to explore the entrepreneurial world.

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“Our mission at Israel Firstfruits is to strengthen the Body of Messiah economically. We see ourselves as the economic development agency of the Body. It’s a pretty big mandate, but on the other hand, we believe in this and are pushing across several fronts simultaneously. We desire that believers engage with others in the workplace and that they be influential. In order to do this, they should also be professionals of personal excellence. In addition to encouraging entrepreneurs and new initiatives, our organization provides professional training, and hosts networking events.”

Mordechai continued, “Entrepreneurs come to us with a wide range of experience and abilities, and we attempt to help each one according to his or her need. We find that some individuals, who think they want to start a business, go through our program only to discover it may not be the right path for their lives. From our perspective, this is a worthy investment because we may have saved that person from years of difficulties and expenses.”

“I cannot say that there are many Messianic entrepreneurs,” Mordechai continued, “but we are seeing a gradual increase in their numbers. Israel, as a nation, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse; something that developed within our culture – where the Mediterranean atmosphere and our traditional Jewish values have intersected. All of this evolved under the pressure of our complex reality – the need to learn and solve problems quickly – ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’

“For this reason, I was surprised to find so few Messianic entrepreneurs. I had assumed that within the Body of Messiah, we would have an enhanced entrepreneurial drive due to the spiritual and creative anointing.” One explanation Mordechai offers is that the earlier generations of the Body of Messiah emphasized building local congregations, and so much of the entrepreneurial and pioneering energy flowed toward the establishment of social, not-for-profit organizations.”

“In addition,” he continued, “it’s possible that the desire to prosper economically may have been misinterpreted in the early years as pride or materialism. These dynamics may be part of the reason why there are few Messianic businesses in Israel today and that congregational culture does not necessarily encourage business entrepreneurship, in stark contrast to the mainstream culture.”

“Since business entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship require similar characteristics, it is not surprising that among the founders of local congregations there are also those who had established small businesses (e.g. Victor Smadja), but these were a minority. Another example of social entrepreneurship is the communal village, Yad Hashmona, which has hosted business activities over the years.

Today we see a shift in attitude, especially with the passion of the younger generation, because they are looking for an effective path to having an impact outside the walls of the congregations. Business gives a natural framework to express this passion. Perhaps we’re just learning how to be both humble, and at the same time, influential –filled with boldness and faith.”

Mordechai continued, “I see myself as a social entrepreneur. My interest is to build and strengthen the Body of Messiah. At the same time I love the business world. As I look at the Body of Messiah in Israel, I’m optimistic because God put so much richness within us that can be developed and shared with others. We have a great potential to reach others in the marketplace. I want to encourage all the emerging entrepreneurs – even those who are just dreaming about owning a business one day ; young and old, to participate in the Business Plan Competition. This is an excellent opportunity to take a practical step of faith and see what God does.”

For more information about Israel Firstfruits Center for Economic Advancement or to register for the Business Plan Competition, write to: director@ely-israel.org.