Raised in the small evangelical church in Ireland, Reuben Coulter has always felt God’s call in his life to alleviate poverty. This calling has taken him all over the globe – from Kenya to Switzerland to India. He now lives in Bristol where he serves as the director of Ecosystem Development at Faith Driven Entrepreneur.

One night in university led Reuben’s perspective on God to change drastically. He was coming home one wet evening when he passed a homeless man sitting on the pavement. When Reuben leant down to give the man some money and ask him how he was doing, the man began weeping. He explained that people rarely asked him how he was and went on to share his story with Reuben. This interaction led Reuben’s perspective on God’s character to shift.

My born again again’ experience was really understanding that God cared deeply about the world and the people around me,” Reuben said.

Reuben knew then that God’s call for his life was to help change the situations of people like the man he met that rainy night while he was at university.

My passion has always been poverty alleviation. I guess that’s the call that God has put on my heart, but that has taken very different forms over the years,” Reuben said.

After university, Reuben worked as a public health specialist for Tearfund, working in Congo, Jaipur and Liberia. He soon became interested in addressing the economic root cause of the poverty he was working among, however. Reuben came to understand that this was necessary in lifting people out of poverty.

Aid can sustain people; it can help them survive but, of course, we want to see people thrive. We want to actually give people independence; we want to see them find a job and grow and develop and have that dignity of work. I discovered that after a number of years,” Reuben said.

This led Reuben to Geneva, Switzerland, where he ran the World Economic Forum’s Africa portfolio. He then moved on to work for Transformation Business Network, a group of Christian investors, where he served as CEO. Reuben and his family moved to Kenya so that he could be right beside the entrepreneurs instead of working with them from thousands of kilometers away.

Reuben now works for Faith Driven Entrepreneur, an organisation that supports Christian entrepreneurs in living out their faith in their work.

Reuben on the risks faith-centered business may bring

At Faith Driven Entrepreneur, our mission is to inspire and equip every single Christian entrepreneur in the world to understand how they can live out their faith and to discover what that looks like in transforming their community, their city and their nation,” Reuben said.

The founder of Faith Driven Entrepreneur, Henry Kaestner, is a tech entrepreneur. When he started his company Bandwidth he wanted to be really intentional about building a company that honoured God. That meant making hard decisions like saying no to customers from the adult entertainment industry and investing in his employees’ wellbeing. In the early years this meant less revenue, slower growth and being turned down by many investors. However, over time it became one of the fastest growing companies in the US. It is one example of how a faith-centered company, despite making sacrifices, can result in flourishing and success.

Reuben on Faith Driven Entrepreneur

Faith Driven Entrepreneur focuses on supporting entrepreneurs in three ways:

  1. It looks at how it can inspire entrepreneurs in their journey in faith-centered business. Faith Driven Entrepreneurs creates content through books, podcasts and video series to equip entrepreneurs.
  2. It runs an investment marketplace where it identifies the best Christian enterprises on its platform. From there, Christian investors can invest in these faith-driven businesses.
  3. Faith Driven Entrepreneurs strives to walk alongside entrepreneurs in their journeys. Through mentoring, local partners and networks, it supports entrepreneurs right where they are. Reuben explained how the journey of an entrepreneur is a unique experience and requires this kind of support.

Being an entrepreneur is lonely; it’s difficult. You need people who can mentor you and who can equip you on that journey,” Reuben said.

Reuben on non-traditional ministry

Reuben spoke of a newfound shift to non-traditional ministry that is being discovered, especially among younger Christians. There’s a realisation among many younger Christians that living out your faith doesn’t just have to be done through a traditional kind of ministry career or a not-for-profit career. Interestingly, people are realising that business can be a form of ministry if we think about it well,” Reuben said.

This shift to non-traditional ministry has left gaps in the support available for those working in ministry outside traditional church or mission roles. This is why Faith Driven Entrepreneur created their discipleship course for entrepreneurs.

Reuben on successful faith-centered business

It can be difficult navigating how to build a successful business while still keeping faith at the forefront of every decision you make. Reuben talked about intention when addressing this subject. The first thing is being very intentional about the vision you create for your business. It’s easy on the financial return side to think about what success looks like. Instead, entrepreneurs should think in a spiritual, social and environmental way – what does success look like?” Reuben said.

Reuben also stressed the importance of not walking alone in the journey of entrepreneurship. He encourages entrepreneurs to find others to be next to them in their endeavors, whether that be business partners, advisers or mentors. These allies keep entrepreneurs accountable in putting faith at the centre of business.

Reuben on the church supporting entrepreneurs

Reuben spoke on how local churches can support entrepreneurs. He believes churches can support entrepreneurs by being right beside them in their business journey. This can take the form of creating peer discipleship groups, business mentor programmes and other networks to create space for entrepreneurs in the church to be in community with one another. Providing these spaces can equip new entrepreneurs and experienced entrepreneurs alike.

Reuben also emphasised the importance of storytelling in the church. Normally, when someone wants to give a testimony at church, it’s the person who’s gone to Kenya to paint an orphanage or something similar. But actually getting businesspeople up to tell their stories about what they’re doing on a week-in-week-out basis in the marketplace is incredibly encouraging [to entrepreneurs] and validates that this is a form of ministry,” Reuben said.

Takeaway

Reuben’s take on non-traditional ministry is so important in our world today. Equipping and encouraging our fellow believers who have been called into non-traditional ministry roles is vital in them flourishing in their callings. 

My conversation with Reuben is the ninth in a series of interviews I have conducted with Christians in leadership as part of our Job creation project. The Evangelical Alliance seeks to encourage the church to step into the unemployment crisis wherever possible, to love our neighbours and demonstrate the character of God to our communities.

My ‘born again again’ experience was really understanding that God cared deeply about the world and the people around me