In this material and dynamic world, participation in business constitutes for many people an index of personal and social prosperity. As believers, on the other hand, we tend to be entirely disconnected from the field. Meaning and success are measured not by worldly values, but rather by our faithfulness to God. But, wait—what about being faithful in the worldly capacities that God has bestowed on us? To gain perspective on these questions, and about “kingdom” entrepreneurship and business, we spoke with Mordechai Wiseman—CEO co-founder of “Israel Firstfruits Center for Economic Advancement,” a non-profit organization committed to economic development of the Body-of-Messiah in Israel.
Shattering the Myths
“Since the start of the modern era,” says Mordechai, “there has been recognition and understanding that in order for the Body of the Messiah to be healthy, it must also find expression in the material and economic world. It is not possible to separate our spiritual lives from our daily lives. We don’t only go to congregation; we also work and make a living.”
In his opinion, if God bestowed on us worldly gifts and abilities, then certainly we should be fruitful through these. If we won’t be faithful to use these tools, how will we manage to be whole with our spiritual fruit? Indeed, God is the Lord of all. He isn’t present only in our Shabbat services, and we don’t live our lives only in the congregation building. Our God is the end-all and be-all, such that there’s no way to disconnect things. Nevertheless, the common outlook persists—though it may not be said out loud yet echoes in our heads—that the poorer you are, the holier you are. Further, many feel it’s not possible to be the owner of a successful business and yet devote enough time to the things of the kingdom of heaven. But the Word of God proves to us that this approach is incorrect. Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, and many others were men of God and blessed materially. “We must not be owned by our possessions,” Mordechai explains. “But it’s difficult to speak of God’s blessing, especially to non-believers, when there’s no such proof in our lives and we’re economically dependent on donations or loans.”
Light and Testimony
We also must understand that if God has blessed us with managerial and entrepreneurial capacities, economic skills and talents through which we can make a living, He expects us to use them to serve others in our community – and not just ourselves. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wealth and success – he who is faithful deserves to enjoy the fruit of his talents.
But there is another reason, about which Mordechai helpfully elaborates: “We all understand the importance of work in the congregation. We’re willing to serve as ushers, teachers, praise leaders, and evangelists within the congregations. But the real need for the spiritual gifts is in the outside world – the world needs to see the Lord through us. For that reason it’s important that we be there—near, available, real, and shining the light of the Messiah. If the Body of the Messiah won’t be active in the marketplace, entire sectors won’t be exposed to the faith. The average Israeli is not likely to wake up one Shabbat morning and decide to go to a congregation—someone first has to tell them about Yeshua. The one who will do that he needs to be active outside of the congregation.” But again, how will we share with the world about the goodness of God, His faithfulness, and the blessing He promises to those who believe in Him —especially to Israelis who demand to see results—if we have no testimony of such blessings in our lives?
The Goals of “Israel FirstFruits”
Today, compared to the rest of society, the Body of the Messiah is lagging in the marketplace, and many believers lack the tools and training that would enable them to catch-up. In order to meet exactly this need, “Israel Firstfruits” was founded about four years ago. The organization’s goal is to serve and enable the Body of the Messiah in Israel to successfully engage and represent God in the marketplace.
Courses and Activities
“Israel Firstfruits” offers a range of services to local believing entrepreneurs, including programs mixing business training and spiritual preparation. Mordechai emphasizes that “spiritual preparation is just as critical as the business training if we wish to establish a business honors God. When a believer succeeds and has a flourishing career or business, coping with the success is a challenge that one needs to be wise about and ready to handle.” Part of the preparation is done through studying biblical principles, praying, and getting connected with other believers in the field. Aside from the courses, the organization is available to advise and coach entrepreneurs at different stages of establishing and growing their businesses.
Business is Relationship
We need to remember that business is done with people, and therefore “Israel Firstfruits” greatly emphasizes the development of relationships between believers in business and the marketplace.
“The goal is to build each other up. When we personally know other believing business people, we have access to counsel, accountability, and mutual support.
Dare to be an Entrepreneur
“Israel Firstfruits” invites beginning entrepreneurs, business owners, and also those who currently don’t have a specific idea yet but understand that this is the direction that God is leading, to get in touch and receive advice regarding next steps. “There is no need to know everything beforehand,” Mordechai assures. “There is only the need to be committed to the process.” And indeed, with an program assembled from A to Z, believing teachers who are also business owners and have a great deal of professional knowledge and experience, brethren in Messiah that join you in the process, and the blessing of God—all that is required is commitment and a little courage.
For more information about “Israel Firstfruits” go to: israelfirstfruits.org