As some of you know, I ventured (or strayed) into the dotcom world in the late 90s. It was a heady time when new companies were popping up in dorm rooms, garages, and in coffee shops. Entrepreneurs were getting funded on the basis of scribbling a few notes on a napkin. “Conventional” business world was temporarily suspended in favor of the “new” economy that we were entering.
For part of that time, I was involved in running my own start-up and had a chance to interact and network with other 20/30-year olds who were involved in start-ups. Later I worked for six months at Christianity.com, now on its third owner.
Two things converged to create a chaotic experience:
- Internet companies were going public and create enormous sums of paper wealth for lots of people. This often happened irregardless of profitability (an “old” economy assumption);
- As this happened, more and more companies kept getting huge sums of venture capital (also known as “other people’s money or OPM).
In my opinion, this changed what I thought was the beauty of the Internet revolution — a group of people setting out to change the world. These early missionaries bootstrapped and worked long hours because they wanted to make a difference. They believed in their mission.
As the venture capital increased and IPO’s created instant millionaires, you saw fewer missionaries and more mercenaries. Here’s the basic difference:
- A missionary does what he does because he feels called to the task and would do it for free.
- A mercenary is a hired gun who is simply there to make money.
In my opinion, the mercenaries ruined the Internet revolution.
This is why I love to be around other church planters. No one goes into church planting for the money! I believe the assessment tests are designed to select only those people who are a bit nutty and crazy.
And Christ-followers who are attracted to church plants tend to be missionary in nature as well. This is a good bit of the reason why the most evangelistic years of a church’s life will be the first ten. A majority of the people are “on mission.”
The truth is … God always expects the church to be missionary in nature, no matter if it’s one year old or 100 years old. May God create more missionaries and fewer mercenaries.