Why I’m Joining Praxis
Building a community of redemptive entrepreneurs.
1 March 2018 — Today is a good day. I’m joining Praxis full-time as a partner, leading our practice in theology and culture. My principal assignment will be to help strengthen the theological and cultural foundations of this remarkable community, which already embodies so many of the commitments that have been central to my own life and work.
I met Josh Kwan and Dave Blanchard, Praxis’s co-founders, early in their story. The thesis of my first book is that the only way to change culture is to make more of it — Praxis was taking that challenge seriously by creating an accelerator program for Christian leaders of startup ventures in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.
In 2016 I became a “Praxis Scholar.” That role — speaking and mentoring with accelerator classes and Praxis Academy, the Emerging Founders program, and the annual Praxis Summit — has been incredibly fulfilling. Every year in our accelerator program I’ve met founders of businesses and organizations who are seeking to do redemptive work in every imaginable sector. A few of the ventures are explicitly Christian in their aims and ethos; many of them are not. What they have in common is a deep commitment to personal transformation in Christ for the sake of creating transformative culture, around the world and especially on behalf of the vulnerable.
While Praxis mentors bring world-class expertise in technology, marketing, management, investing, and more, what has been most encouraging to me about the Praxis community is their deep commitment to spiritual formation in the way of Jesus. There aren’t many events designed for startup founders and investors — with plenty of people in the room who have built multi-million- and even billion-dollar companies — that feature a stunning, prophetic talk on the power of Mammon, but that’s what Praxis spiritual director Jon Tyson delivered at last year’s Praxis Summit. Nor do you often hear candid, powerful accounts of God’s grace in the midst of disappointment and difficulty, but that’s what we heard from Praxis nonprofit portfolio lead Jena Lee Nardella. This is a community who seek to take Jesus at his word in the Beatitudes, while also seeking to be agents of God’s blessing, putting their resources at risk in order to create flourishing enterprises and communities.
This may account for one of the striking features of the Praxis community. If smart and humble is a 2x2 (my favorite kind of graph!), there are a lot of people in the startup world who are smart but not humble, and more than you might think who are neither one. On this 2x2, Dave and Josh and their team are way up and to the right.
So after many months of conversation and prayer, I’m joining the Praxis team. We’ll be producing playbooks and podcasts this coming year that define the Praxis understanding of redemptive entrepreneurship, and tell some of the stories that are emerging from it. We also want to create more events that extend the conversation about redemptive entrepreneurship to more people and benefit from ever more diverse communities. I’ll continue to write and speak more broadly as well. I expect that all my work will be enriched by being embedded in a community of people who are actively building enterprises that create jobs, channel resources and empowerment to the vulnerable, and aim to reshape the horizons of possibility in our culture.
The only thing that’s been uncomfortable about my role at Praxis to date has been my title. I’m not really a “scholar” — on my best days, I’m some combination of journalist, musician, and minister of the gospel (as well as son, brother, husband, and dad). Happily, now that I’m joining Praxis full-time, I get to drop that word and replace it with one I’ve wanted all along: partner. It’s the right move.