If you were here last year for the series about my experiences in the University of Iowa’s online writing workshop, then you know how stressful fiction writing can for me, even though (or probably because) I actually want to pursue it as a full-time vocation someday (whenever I work up the courage to just go for it, already!) In addition to the typical “insecure writer” problems relating to whether anyone will like my work or want to spend their money on it, I’ve also worried about whether this dream is “Christian” enough. Like any good Child of God, I want whatever I do to please Him and point people to Him. I don’t want to just write because I can put words together nicely. I want them to matter. And since I don’t want to write only Christian fiction, how does that even work?
Whenever I’m struggling with something, I always try to turn to the Bible for some answers. Actually, more accurately, I turn to the YouVersion app to look for reading plans related to my issue, which leads me back to the Bible, so same thing. 😊 In June, I found a plan entitled C.S. Lewis and the Call to Create, and it gave me some things to think about. It also led me to the organisation that provided the plan, Called to Create. I signed up for the weekly devotionals, pre-ordered the forthcoming book of the same name, and I’ve just been consuming pretty much everything they post on social media since then.
A few weeks ago, I got an email with an invitation from the author of the book and founder of the organisation, Jordan Raynor, to join the Launch Team. What?! I didn’t even finish reading the email; I was in immediately! There are quite a few nice perks, but the best one is that I’ll get a free advance copy of the book so I can talk about it and help to spread the message. Yay! I haven’t received my copy yet, but I’ll share my review here as soon as possible. As part of my commitment to help spread the word, I also reached out to Jordan with a few questions about his motivation for writing the book, and what he hopes readers will take away from it. Check it out!
Q: You are a Christian, husband, father, and best-selling author of Startup Stories: Lessons Learned from a Startup’s Launch, Grind, and Growth. Can you share a little bit of your background as a creator and serial entrepreneur?
I’ve spent my career starting and running companies. Initially, most of this was in the political world. Right out of college, I was hired as the CEO of a political news startup. I ran it for about a year-and-a-half, in which we experienced tremendous growth. That’s when I caught the entrepreneurial bug. I left that company to start my own venture—a digital agency for campaigns and causes. After a year-and-a-half into that venture, I got acquired by a bigger agency based in D.C. Today, I run a venture-backed tech startup called Threshold 360, where we are on a mission to allow anyone to virtually step inside of any location on earth. We’ve got about 100,000 locations in our database right now that developers can integrate into their own digital properties to help people choose where to go offline.
Q: Was this desire to create or innovate something you grew up with, or did it occur later in your life?
I’ve always been creative. Growing up, I loved music, was involved in choir, played the piano, etc. I didn’t realize how much I loved entrepreneurship until, ironically, I was running a political campaign while I was a senior in high school. Campaigns are all about starting something from relatively nothing and winning. That’s essentially what entrepreneurship is all about.
Q: In the Called to Create devotional on YouVersion, you write that “Many Christians don’t feel called to their work because they’ve bought into the centuries-old myth that there is some sort of hierarchy of callings in which the work of a pastor or “full-time missionary” is somehow more eternally significant than that of the entrepreneur, artist, janitor, or salesperson.” Did you experience such a struggle yourself? If so, how did you overcome it?
Absolutely. There were a few moments in my career in which I thought, “Man, if I really loved the Lord, I wouldn’t be running companies, I would be planting churches or serving as a ‘full-time missionary.'” It was the writings of Tim Keller in Every Good Endeavor and Andy Crouch in Culture Making that radically changed my perspective on this topic, helping me to realize that my work as an entrepreneur could be just as God-honoring as that of a pastor.
Q: You have a new book coming out on November 7, Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate and Risk. How did the idea for this book come about?
Called to Create was born out of my own desire to seek to understand the connection between my Christian faith and my work as an entrepreneur. As I read folks like Keller and Crouch and discussed this issue with other entrepreneurs, creatives, and professionals in general, I started to realize that there was a need in the market for a book on faith and work written squarely for Christian entrepreneurs and creatives.
Q: Can you share a little ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into your interviewing and writing process to show how the book came together?
It’s so difficult to reverse-engineer how a book was written. I asked for a lot of interviews, and just asked question after question, allowing the answers to shape the narrative and structure of Called to Create. The easiest part of writing the book was actually writing the words once the structure of a chapter or a part of the book was well thought out. The hardest part was figuring out how to organize the themes and content. The other thing that was particularly difficult about writing Called to Create was that I was always aware that if I was going to write something in the book, I had to really believe it and be prepared to live it out day-by-day as I build my own business. Writing a book with such strong opinions about what it looks like to connect your faith with your work is like asking the world to be your accountability partner. I had to really make sure I believed every word I was writing.
Q: Not to give away anything that might be in the book, but what is the most significant lesson you have learned in your years as a Christian entrepreneur and creator?
That human beings will be miserable if the primary motivation for their work is to make a name for themselves.
Q: Who should read Called to Create? How do you hope the book ministers to them?
Called to Create is primarily for any Christian who identifies themselves as an entrepreneur or creative. This includes entrepreneurial employees, non-profit founders, mompreneurs, students looking to make something of the world, small business owners, and a growing number of self-identified creatives: photographers, painters, musicians, authors, Etsy shop owners, designers, architects, and chefs, all of whom risk financial and social capital to create something new for the good of others. That, to me, is the essence of being an entrepreneur. My prayer is that Called to Create will help this audience recognize the eternal importance of their work, and that they would embrace their entrepreneurial and creative gifts to reveal the character of God, love others well, and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Q: My website is called Written by Tracey, so of course I have to ask, what was the last thing you wrote (besides the book, of course)?
Ha! I love that question. The last thing I wrote was a presentation to the Called to Create Launch Team outlining how I secured my first traditional publishing deal for Called to Create.
Q: And since I firmly believe reading puts the FUN in fundamental, what is the last thing you read?
Even better question. I just finished Grit by Angela Duckworth. Fantastic book on the importance of passion and perseverance in any significant undertaking, be it writing a book, running a company, etc.
Q: You did a post on this in the Facebook group recently, but can you share with my readers some of the Scripture verses you meditate on as you create or build your businesses?
The verse I dwell on the most as I create is Deuteronomy 8:18: “But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” It’s easy for entrepreneurs and creatives to get sucked into the lie that we are the ones producing results, and success, and wealth. Scripture is clear that that is not the case. God is producing results through us. That should humble us and cause us to see our work and the fruits our work generates as gifts to be stewarded well for the One who has called us to create.