Kingdom Code 10 Questions: Part One
The tech christian group, Kingdom Code, that OneSheep has been a part of since it’s inception, recently posed 10 questions to the group, about the arena of Christians working in technology. This is the first in a series of posts that will look to unpack those questions.
In a Techcrunch culture, how much are startups (and church plants) about making a canvas upon which the founders are the heroes? How do we innovate and build stuff and even companies — and keep a healthy, Jesus aligned, spiritual centre of gravity?
As a start-up ourselves this first double question is clearly close to home. Being totally honest, the idea of a techcrunch or start-up rockstar culture was the last thing on our minds when we began. We very much wrestled with whether we should be doing this at all, was this really what God was calling us to. It was a huge faith step that involved all our families being fully onboard and the stark reality each month of would we even get paid.
This is perhaps different if you’re in a situation with VC’s throwing money at you to take a nascent idea mainstream, but I think that’s very few and far between.
My view is that making a church or kingdom start up work without God is arguably impossible. If the Lord does not build the house they labour in vain. So, going into either of these things seeking hero status rather than God’s glory is equally arguably going to fall on it’s face and therefore never achieve one’s hero aim. In a sense it’s self controlling perhaps, it certainly isn’t a Christian endeavour. Of course in a totally secular company these things happen differently, and I’m sure some of these motives are around, a lot.
However, the more nuanced response is that this is indeed a temptation when things have got going and you’re starting to see some fruit and growth potential. But personally, the far more subtle and therefore realistic challenge and question is about how we seek success for His glory and not our own, and how do we realise what His glory making success looks like in a culture where success is measured very differently. How do we pursue success and impact without “bigging” ourselves up, when a lot of the time we need to push ourselves out there and over emphasise just to get noticed, to get funded, to get something people will grab hold of.
Do people who launch startups and build new products have peculiar challenges around depression and anxiety. How do we walk with Jesus in that?
Yes I’d absolutely agree we do, having walked this for nearly 3 years, this is a totally unique context and experience to what is experienced in larger or established ministries. Not least the huge risk involved financially, which directly impacts family. There is a whole questioning of calling, purpose and vision that comes when plans don’t outwork they way we expected. Perhaps an over evaluation of what we think or feel we should be doing according to God’s purposes. There is the isolation from being new, small, unknown in the industry you’re in too.
We walk through it one step at a time. We need a solid faith in His plans and provision, and solid grasp of “don’t not worry about tomorrow”, but equally a strong understanding of the balance between faith and action. Sometimes you need to know others have got your back, and God can provide in that way. Other times we need encouragement this is the right path. Sometimes we need to be shown the bigger picture by those a bit further away from the day to day.
We must find balance. We can’t sit and pray all day for success, we can’t work all day and not pray. We can’t expect God to throw everything in our lap, we can’t work expecting Him to not do anything.
How do we bring a biblical theology and ‘Jesus audit’ to bear as we decide what to build? Is a prayer app inherently more ‘godly’ than an app selling shoes? Is building an app to make money OK?
This is really a question of the heart and comes back to motives and vision. We must understand the end purposes and bottom line reason behind why we’re building what we’re building. If it’s what you might call a secular service or product, there should be a check in what will this thing do, enable, change or encourage. Does that extrapolate away from God’s ideals and design? What might we need to do to mitigate the worst outcomes? Is anything we do totally neutral?
More generally if we see a business opportunity to build an app that could sell lots of shoes and realise it could make a load of money, but fail to see how that same opportunity can demonstrate God’s values to employees and customers in the process and that the financial reward must be stewarded wisely, then we’ve probably lost our Jesus centred living.
Yes, a prayer app is inherently more ‘godly’ inasmuch as it’s function will help directly give more glory to God, draw people to him, foster intercession and encourage people to pray, hopefully deepening their relationship with God..
However, the underlying coding, design, interaction, excellence and overall project conduct, regarding developers and connected services has the same ‘godly’ value and currency as any app.
Finally, building an app to make money is absolutely ok, and is good stewardship of our skills, talent, opportunity and resources. I think we could argue apps should only be free if payment is a barrier to connecting more with God (eg. Bible and Prayer, evangelistic and discipleship apps). Business is a good thing created by God for the purposes of continuing and driving the creative nature He has put within us.