Book Review: Called to Create by Jordan Raynor

A few weeks ago, I blogged about being invited to join the launch team for the book Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate and Risk by Jordan Raynor. I even interviewed him and shared a bit of his story. Being outside of the US, the publisher wasn’t able to send me the paperback (😢), but I got to download my advance copy early last month. Refresh your memory or read my convo with Jordan here, then dive into my review below!

I have spent roughly half of the last six years interviewing, researching and writing about entrepreneurs and creatives. I’ve profiled them for ezines, magazines, supplements, a documentary and even my own blog. That’s well over 100 people, from those in the MSME sector to ‘bigwigs’ at the helm of large corporations. One of the first questions I always ask is some version of ‘What inspired you to start this venture?’ Essentially, what I want to get at is the ‘why’—what or who is the motivation behind starting that insurance company, or learning to make soap, or writing that book? This ‘why’ is one of the many questions Jordan Raynor explores in his forthcoming book, Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate and Risk. The book is aimed primarily at Christians who are themselves entrepreneurs or creatives, or those who would like to be but are concerned that pursuing ‘secular’ work might not be a true calling or something that genuinely honours God.

At the heart of the book is answering another question: what separates a Christian creative and/or entrepreneur from a non-Christian one? The answer I got quite clearly is knowing who you create for, who you work to honour with your creations and/or business, and that is God. One of the first things Jordan does is offer a new definition of entrepreneurship that puts a slight twist to a traditional meaning, which is anyone who takes a risk to create something—for the good of othersAs Christians, our main goal for pursuing a creative endeavour or starting a business shouldn’t be to make huge profits and retire early, but to truly add value to the lives of others, whether that’s our staff members or customer base. In fact, Jordan posits that following the call to create is not about trying to make a name for ourselves at all, but to work for the glory of God. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? Have you ever read about an entrepreneur—especially a wildly successful one—who stated glorifying God as his or her primary or even secondary pursuit? Personally, I have only heard that from two persons, and Jordan is one of them. Developing this mindset and pursuing creation from this perspective will certainly put us at odds with the prevailing culture—might even get us laughed out of the room when we approach potential investors, but it’s not something we should be ashamed of proclaiming.

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Jordan does a great job of pulling from the Bible and citing the writings of other inspired Christian writers and teachers in firmly driving home the point that creativity and entrepreneurship aren’t inherently ‘ungodly’ pursuits. After all, the first time we meet God in the Bible, he was busy creating the heavens and the earth out of nothing! He was “The First Entrepreneur.” Creativity is the first aspect of God’s character we see, so it is unfortunate that so many of His children are actively discouraged from following any path in this direction (unless it involves actually working in the church building).

Using the stories of more than 40 Christian entrepreneurs and creatives from various fields—several of whom shared the same concern about the ‘goodness’ of ‘secular’ work at the outset of their journeys, Jordan shows the error in this way of thinking, and examines various ways in which the Christian who is called to create can honour the Lord with his or her work. And no, that ‘work’ doesn’t have to be making and selling Christian products or even social entrepreneurship.

There’s hardly anything explicitly ‘Christian’ about digging wells (Charity: Water), beer (Guinness), shoes (TOMS), electronics (HTC), fast food (Chik-fil-A), online payment apps (PayPal) or most of the other companies or inventions profiled. What’s different is that their founders and creators—Scott Harrison, Sir Arthur Guinness, Blake Mycoskie, Cher Wang, Samuel Truett Cathy, Peter Thiel and more—ensure that they adhere to and live out the Word of God through their work. Called to Create is not a manual to show us ‘how to’ integrate Godly principles into our own ventures, but in the stories, many of them first-hand accounts, you will get to understand these precepts and see their application in areas such as: discerning where and how God has called you to work; figuring out how to glorify God and not yourself or the almighty dollar; understanding some of the unique challenges of operating as a Christian creative or entrepreneur and the proper way to deal with them; handling failures; understanding the purpose of profit; using your work to win others to Christ; and answering the question, “Is there any eternal significance in what I’m doing?”

Another very important issue the book showcases is the importance of community. Many creatives tend to work alone, and many entrepreneurs often feel they are alone, especially when the going gets tough. Jordan highlight this especially well by looking at the role community played in the lives and work of two of the greatest writers in history, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. The world might never have been blessed with the Narnia series or The Lord of the Rings series if it wasn’t for The Inklings, a group of Christian writers who shared met weekly in Oxford in the 1930s and 40s. It is vital for Christian creators and entrepreneurs to engage in regular communion with God and others of the faith in order to remain attuned and effective. We need others to help shore us up when we are weak, and to keep us accountable. The Word teaches us that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) and to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

Called to Create is very easy to read. Jordan writes in an open, engaging style (no esoteric theology here!) and as I said before, even when he is sharing his own story and personal thoughts, he looks to the Scriptures. It might cause you to rethink your whole idea of entrepreneurship and creativity, and might even lead you to really examine the true motivations behind your own business or that idea you’ve been pondering. So if you’re concerned about doing your part to wrest business and creativity back to the side of right, I encourage you to pre-order your copy of Called to Create, out November 7. Be among the first to read this book and begin to explore your identity as a creator for the Kingdom of God, and share it with your friends. And even if you don’t consider yourself a creative, or entrepreneurial in any way, shape or form, there are principles in the book that you can follow as a nine-to-fiver to ensure that your work honours God and that you are an effective witness for Him in the workplace as well.

I close with an ‘altar call,’ this charge from Pastor Jerry King, as shared in chapter one of the book: “Step up. Bring what you’ve got. Don’t you dare hold back. Not cringing back, not with arrogant pride, with sane humility bring your stuff. Other people need it.” Other people need the products you create, or the message you share explicitly in your work, or the job you provide in a safe, respectful environment run on Godly principles, or the help they receive as a result of the profits or time you donate, or the spirit of Godly excellence with which you do your job. Who will answer the call today?

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Called to Create by Jordan Raynor

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this. It answers perfectly many thoughts I have about pursuing the desires of my heart where work is concerned. Bless you, girl!

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