Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Synergy between the Church and Government in Community Development: A Sociocultural Entrepreneurship Approach

Written By

Suwarto Adi

Submitted: 15 October 2021 Reviewed: 31 May 2022 Published: 07 July 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.105612

From the Edited Volume

Heritage - New Paradigm

Edited by Daniela Turcanu-Carutiu

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This paper aims at describing the church strategies for doing community development. As a religious institution, when doing development community, the church often confronts questions about conversion or evangelism. By implementing the entrepreneurial approach, community development programmes allow for synergy between the church and government to support sustainable development. Building on field work conducted in in three areas of Indonesia: North Sumatera (2008), Sumba in Eastern Indonesia (2010) and Central Java (2015), this paper argues that the church should seek a synergetic, equal partnership with the government in implementing community development projects. In the process it is essential for the church to practice and advocate for good governance. Engaged in such a process, the church has an opportunity to witness through community development as a manifestation of social diaconia. Oriented to public service, social diaconia seeks the common good, bona ecclesiae, where wealth is to be managed and grows to help the poor.


  • church and development
  • good governance
  • entrepreneurial approach
  • synergy and partnership
  • social diaconia
  • bona ecclesiae
  • Indonesian church

1. Introduction

Community development would give rise a good result if it carried out in a synergy or partnership [1]. The church is one agent of the social change in the community, possible to play a significant role if it can synergize between itself, the government and community. It is illuminated by religious values, the church in developing a synergy could promote the model of development that openness, social justice and participatory are as important basic values [2]. So that, by such a promotion, the church always presents Christ—that incognito lived with human and being equal with them—is as a model that all participatory development to refer [3]. Additionally, to establish development rooted in community, it needs social and cultural approach; while to encourage people eager to solve the problem in sustainable way, it needs an entrepreneurial approach [4].

The problem is how the church could do a synergy? What mechanism is to be applied? Is there a theological obstacle for the church to synergize between parties working with the community? One basic element to make a synergy is partnership, and in the history, partnership is inherent thing in the body of the church. As the body that One and Catholic, the church is always doing partnership in the life and its history, particularly among churches and then between the church and other bodies that existed in the community. Is it possible to apply entrepreneurial approach for the church diaconia in implementing community development?

This paper is aiming at describing the problem the church is facing when doing a community development. As a religious institution, when doing development community, the church often confronts the problem dealt with issues conversion [5]. Therefore, the church as a religious body bears a secular identity when doing development in the community [6]. Regarding the partnership and synergy, the church often implements some models to keep the programme well taking place in practice in the community.


2. Research method

It is composed of several field works in three areas of Indonesia: North Sumatera (2008), Sumba in Eastern Indonesia (2010) and Central Java (2015); this paper is seeking to map out the problem of the church in community development and how to solve the problem by implementing an entrepreneurial approach. What does entrepreneurial approach mean here is not limited on the economic aspect, but it is covering the large definition of entrepreneurship. So, entrepreneurship here embraces the idea of innovative and creative and how both stances are dealt with the social transformation [7].1 While sociocultural approach to the entrepreneurship means that all efforts to solve the social and developmental problem, either using social or cultural values, are construed as entrepreneurial activities; and the people are doing such a thing and living out as habitual and are categorized as the entrepreneurs.

To deepen the entrepreneurial character of the church members, this research borrows from Bourdieu’s concept of habitus and practice [8] as social action. It means all new practice of entrepreneurship as social means to develop the developmental programme is traced back to habitus or mental disposition since the people were still young [9, 10]. It is based on such methods we found that the people had a long experience in navigating social problems, social relationship, and all social dynamics in the society are open to the new ideas and being creative persons [2]. Eventually, if such things are continually developed, it could support them to be agent of social change in the developmental processes [4, 8, 9].

Bourdieu stated that: ‘[Habitus]……it ensures the active presence of past experiences, which, deposited in each organism in the form of schemes of perception, thought and action, tend to guarantee the “correctness” of practices and their constancy over time, more reliably than all formal rules and explicit norms’ ([8], 54). In addition, by habitus, we can understand how the actor could do practice in a constant way. If implemented in the developmental transformation, it could generate people to be agent of development, as it explained: ‘(T)he habitus makes possible the production of all the thoughts, perceptions, and actions inherent in the conditions of its production and only those. Through the habitus, the structure of which it is the product governs practice, not along the paths of a mechanical determinism, but within the constraints and limits initially set on its inventions’ ([8], 55).

When doing a field work in three areas, the author was doing a combination between in-depth interview, FGD and collective interview; and on some occasions, the last method was sometimes very effective to get data simultaneously as a kind of validation, as well. To make it a context analysis, Indonesia development is to refer as the large context of this paper. However, analysis of the development of Indonesia, post-modern perspective is used [11]. So, by this way, the church and its role in the partnership could be placed, and the dynamics of the partnership of the church and other organizations could be presented in a balanced way.


3. The church, entrepreneurship and development

Despite of all the definitions, entrepreneurship generally refers to the character of innovative and creative [10, 12], or a kind of novel recombination of products, services or processes to give rise to a social change [7]. Furthermore, in a cultural sense, entrepreneurship refers to ways of embedding a story in the conduct of an activity [4]. As another definition that Ratten [4] developed in the cultural sense, she defined that entrepreneurship is ‘the process of storytelling that mediates between extant stocks of entrepreneurial resources and subsequent capital acquisition and wealth creation’, and from such a definition, it could be enlarged that entrepreneurship is a kind of narrative that empowers people. Therefore, by developing such an entrepreneurial narrative, energy of the people is a source for implementing the development. This means that cultures enable verbal and non-verbal symbols to be used as the way to represent stories to set up identity and developmental processes ([4], 2–3).

In terms of pedagogy, an entrepreneurship needs to be embodied culturally by educational processes, particularly among young people. The aim of this is to encourage young people and others as active of developmental agents as well as by becoming agents, people are to be active and curious of resource they have and to develop and improve their life by developmental program and activities ([9], 15–17). With regard to the entrepreneurship as cultural narrative, young people need to encourage expressing their own faith bravely and independently. Therefore, in this context, the church should implement an entrepreneurial pedagogy to motivate and encourage their own agency in developmental programme. By doing so, developmental activities are places for them to actualize and witness that they are productive workers [6].

In addition, entrepreneurial activity is an arena where creativity is an essential thing. If the church implemented an entrepreneurial pedagogy, it aroused people’s curiosity prompting intentionally proactive behaviors in response to novelty, complexity, uncertainty or conflict. Curiosity equips people to be situationally, relationally and vocationally agile, and curious people show signs of experiencing higher levels of well-being [9]. Shortly, an entrepreneurial pedagogy creates an ecosystem that is safe for young people who discovered solutions, and these are that they are expecting that will be beneficial for adult’s schedules and contexts ([9], 15–17), and eventually, it brings about prosperity for all.

In this context, entrepreneurship is not viewed from traditional theory that tended to focus on economic objectives derived from business activity, rather than this entrepreneurship is related to the cultural or lifestyle where entrepreneurship value is derived [4]. This means entrepreneurship is contextual in nature. Therefore, if we make an entrepreneurship relate to the development, it is a compatible thing. Or, if we elaborate more, entrepreneurship is to be one solution for developmental problems. The more people to be entrepreneurial persons, the more community developed. In other words, if entrepreneurship is embodied culturally and brings about cultural entrepreneurship, it could be a means of cultural or local development [12]. Such a process, at least, is in three main forms: making culture, deploying culture and cultural making ([4], 2), and through such a process, the development is a cultural or habitual one.

The church as an important local institution, by entrepreneurial pedagogy or cultural making of entrepreneurship, can play a significant role. In the context of pedagogy as aforementioned, she can shape an entrepreneurial character of agency and curiosity, to make development sustain for a long time, and in terms of practice, the church also plays a role as the network broker bridging entrepreneurs and external partners, connecting them to achieve mutual benefit and as entrepreneurial support organization directly assisting entrepreneurs and networks by providing access to information, capital, support services and training as well as by promoting local entrepreneurial cultures [13].

If the cultural entrepreneurship is compounded by religious values, it will empower Christian people, either leader or lay people to be agency for social transformation [7], and it was a faith expression of Christian people in partnership with the community of faith that can be a means to overcome materialism, individualism and self-centredness [2]; and it will rise ‘religious entrepreneurship for holistic transformation’. New contextual churches are freshening the religious landscape of the global North. One core theological principle of the ‘entrepreneurship for holistic transformation’ is the belief in a ‘the kingdom shaped the church’. The entrepreneurial model intends to offer an open, just and loving relationships—with God and with others, in contrast to the predominate consumer-oriented relationships found in the world and in other models ([2], 333–334, [7], 348–349) of secular societal development.


4. Indonesia development: to build from the edge or border

Indonesia is the largest Moslem-Democratic State in Southeast Asia [14] and implementing Pancasila as official basis of state (dasar negara). Therefore, in Indonesia, there is no ‘state religion’, even though Islam is majority. The numbers of Christian people is less than 10% totally; accordingly, the church has no financial contribution from the government that is provided regularly. The church should be independent in financial aspect by itself [15]. If we put it in the context of development, the church seeks to secure the development programme to improve the life of the church and community members.

The Christian people, despite the number being less, are mostly also located in outer Island, outside Java, which is identified as the underdeveloped area. In this context, the church is experiencing a double burden of social discrimination: minority and backwardness. This situation is taking place for a long time, and since the last decade, it seemingly is going to be changed. The new spirit of development in Indonesia is that the government is to build from the backward area and distribute justice for all people of Indonesia.

If we look at the context of Indonesian, the current government anchored the official slogan of development: ‘to build (Indonesia) from the edge or border’, membangun dari pinggiran. This phrase or word, apparently, is simple one, but the meaning that bringing with is profound. We know that what it means the edge or border areas are in or located outside Java, other islands. Furthermore, by using this phrase, to some extent, is bringing about social exclusion or limitation, because as if there is a gap between one and another, particularly Java as a model of development in Indonesia. There is a boundary—and not only a border—that invisible and shaping perception results in a different identity with others ([16], 53).

Border, its meaning is dealt with territory or physical zone, or more specifically it refers to a demarcation line of group or ethnic; it is emphasizing on the border physically or see-view thing; while boundary is a kind of imagery concept that embraces a culture and identity; border is a social fact, while boundary social construction ultimately forms a consciousness ([16], 57, [17], 47–49). The concept of ethnicity, in political point of view, relates to boundary and tends to be political claim and simultaneously defined as a kind of restriction, either physically, geographically, and it functions as a mockery or stigma to ignore people or ethnic in the name of social group [18]. By implementing the concept of ethnicity or boundary, construction of discrimination, mentality and identity—in the negative nuance—is applied as a means of domination between one group and another in a community or, largely, in the state.

Employing such a definition to give a criticism the word of edge, pinggiran, we can construe that the Indonesia development today is to make a comparison and separation between Java and outside Java. As if what happened in Java is on advance rather than in the edge. This model of development is apparently ‘honor’ or to lift up the edge zone, but actually, it is a kind of ‘lowering’ to the location or area that called as the edge. In addition, in the concept of boundary, the grouping of ethnics is taking place and to them is labeled underdeveloped or another term of backwardness. Borrowing Cohen’s, boundary is related to how the individual image is constructed by forming a collective consciousness; and it is taken for granted to a group unfairly without opportunity to ask what label attached to them ([16], 54).

The concept of boundary is developed to set up identity, either socially, psychologically or mentality of the backwardness [17, 18]. In the concept of boundary, people felt that they underserved to access, privilege and other benefit that others have and get in the other places. It caused a social exclusion, expulsion, limitation and social isolation. Shortly, naming the edge region or backwardness area is a kind of form of the injustice: stigma making, destiny lowering and false-consciousness of the identity and limitation upon the social-economic access among people the rights to develop and the development.

It is based on such an understanding, the developmental model that applied to the edge region is the Java-centred one—it assumed that Java is more advanced rather than others. Accordingly, by such a model what happened is the ‘Javanization’ of the development. What is in Java the appropriate model for another region of Indonesia that is underdeveloped or backward? It starts with education to economy, Java is a model to follow; as well as from how to build a school building to mall or market building [17]. There is no empowerment and bottom-up participation of the development.

The developmental process is not seemingly an overhaul of a machine. Everywhere and every time the development is applied in the same mechanism. The development is a multiparty process and seeks to harmonize one and another. By placing Java as a model, a developmental process is going to an end. It will stop when the developmental process is started. It cannot give rise to a sense of belonging; without open participation, a sense of belonging is not growing. The concept of the edge region needs to revise if it wants to enact the sustainable and rooted development in Indonesia. Instead, it needs a new approach by developing human potencies, and then it empowers people to be creative energy of development. There is no edge region; what happened is the region is forced to be in the edge because of political or ideological aspect.

To eliminate the edge region or zone, it needs an empowerment, either by developing entrepreneurial mentality or culture that gives an opportunity of creativity for all people. Entrepreneurship is meant as systematic approach of changing habit of people and encouraging them to dig out the potency they have and embody it into people’s inspiration-based developmental programme. By applying such an approach there will be a new culture where people are free to think and to do creatively to optimize the potency they have, either socially or culturally. Such an approach is related to emancipation of what Marx had been thinking that to change the environment where people live to be a meaningful context of life, people need an emancipation—to know self as a subject of being that able to think, create and solve the problem they are facing, either individually or collectively [19]. Also, this emancipation is closed to the concept of human being as God’s image. After human beings reach an emancipation, the entrepreneurial mentality follows. In other words, emancipation and entrepreneurial are a pair of words that is important in developing community.


5. Religion and/in development

In the developmental process, the involvement of religions is important thing to consider. It means decision to develop is related to how to build a social life better, strength and integrate. Furthermore, by new stance to the religion, the development today is linked to the religious values to achieve better result. It was generated by the proponent religious NGOs in Germany and Netherlands that took part in shaping the model of development today, as expressed in millennium development goals (MDGs) and/or sustainable development goals (SDGs) led by the UN [6]. Therefore, religious values are inscribed or attached in the developmental processes. It is in contrary of what had been in the past that religion is excluded from the development planning and its implementation. Within such an approach, religion is not merely an object of development; instead, religion is to be an important factor or subject of development. It is expected by new approach of development, it brings about a justice for all. In this context, religion is no longer moral guardian of development, but it will be a giver direction and ethical base for the developmental processes; so by doing it, human values and justice will be important values in the developmental processes.

It is based on such a view the religious institution or leader should be the ‘prophet’ in developmental processes. A prophet is not just a rites leader, but she/he is a person that always presents and involves in each process of development: encourages for voicing a justice for all—or in other terms, development as religious discourse [20]; and simultaneously, religion is a source of power for people that is a victim of development and shape development and religious dimension of survival strategies [21]. In addition, outside the role mentioned above, religion also can be a ‘referee’ for all dispute taking place among people involved in a development, and its role is giving a fair decision, even though in doing this there is a risk to bear [22].

In the context of the poor, religious institution—in this context the church—should be living together with people that involve and engage in development; and in the context of referee, the church can make a partnership with the government to issue policies that it will bring about a good decision for people; and if necessary, the church could be the people’s advocate when the government violates them by transgressing the human rights principles. If the church should do all activities, she could make a critical partnership with the government and able to develop solidarity with the people that are victims of the development [1].


6. Human development:synergy between the church and government

Synergy can start with partnership; the development programme is to improve the life of the poor by providing them goods and services can be developed into synergy. Among the churches, partnership has a long tradition, as stated:

‘Partnership is important……the work of helping others is not only the church’s task, but it is collective work. The world is the field for all people to give a service. To do this service, the existence of a partner is necessary. The main partner is the church, then mission body that in the past sowed the seed of the Gospel here; partnership is reflecting a reality that the church is one’2

By implementing partnership the parties that cooperate each other are expecting to do a programme in equal position; and it is to come up because one and another has a limitation,3 therefore, by partnership there will be a common strength, and it is to enlarge the service of community development.4 In terms of governance, synergy includes what the government and other sector in community had to do in overcoming the problem that arises and growing the common good [23]. Synergy to some extent is reflecting a human solidarity, moral, political and ideological or spiritual between those are in the North and South to join and seek social transformation collectively [24].

It is related to partnership synergy that stake place if there is a mutuality: there is common objective to achieve [25]. In the more positive context, continuing what Brehm [26] developed, synergy could be construed as a commitment to mutual interaction in long time and share of responsibility, mutual obligation and power equality. Analytically, synergy has two important aspects or dimensions that are a combination of relational and organizational:

6.1 Relational

This dimension is emphasized on how partnership is effective to implement, and it includes some aspect, among others, mutuality, clear expectation, rights and duty, accountability and transparency. What support these are the principle of trust, expectation, appreciation, integrity, credibility and ownership. It means that partnership is dealt with trusting relationship where each and other are mutually open and responsible [26]. If a partnership is not supported by such principles or values, it will be an unequal partnership. To embody such a partnership into practice, it needs some instruments, i.e. agreement, memorandum of understanding, and it will content what it must do and how to share the burden and responsibility between parties taking part in partnership ([27], 15–17).

In one FGD with some churches and religious NGOs on the partnership and its relational dimension, there was a good idea on the partnership, as following:

In the context global, partnership to be build is not to make other as an object, but to develop its capacity. In the partnership, the local resources are necessary. By improving capacity, it will rise an ability to solve the problem, and it brings an impact that service to others is improving them.5

Through partnership there was an enhancement capacity among those involved in the partnership, in managerial, personal and cultural aspects. Because when implementing partnership, there is a learning process between one and another.

6.2 Organizational

The issue of how to manage synergy through organization is the core thing of the organizational dimension of partnership. Or, how the partnership is institutionalized in formal way, so that it will be effective to implement. It means, if one organization has no organizational culture, system and mechanism, it is difficult to enact an effective partnership. For instance, if the State does not have the clear system and governmental management, it will be difficult to find international partner of development. If the dimension of relation of partnership is closed to values and character, while the organizational dimension covered the tangible thing: management and governance.

Refer to the above explanation, synergy in the development programme is a necessary [28]. It is impossible to grow the rooted development without synergy among parties, particularly between government, commercial sector and community, including in this context the church. However, in developing a good partnership, particularly between the church and government, both must develop a mentality or culture of the good governance. Partnership without good governance will fall into exploitative one. It means, there is possibility one party exploited by other, or distrust of one and another, because there is no common platform to achieve the common goals. It is expressed, by someone:

‘Beside trust, openness, transparency, and accountability are the important values in a partnership. It means, good governance is to be basic principles. Encountering such a situation, it needs a maturity. Sometimes, good governance principle is to be a means of pressure in a partnership. If we can not negotiate, it will be a subjugation. To avoid such a subjugation, we need a kind of power transfer. In other words, partnership should be based on openness and trust, while managerial aspect is just a kind of supporting one’6

If looking at the governmentality, there is an issue of power, even though it is not in the form of violence. The organizational dimension of partnership is often to be a stumbling block of synergy between the church and government. If it is only emphasizing one dimension of partnership, for instance, the dimension of relation and ignoring the organizational one, it will not bring about the good development for people; and corollary, if it pays attention only to the organizational dimension, there is possibility to do a kind of violence, because the good governance is imposed. Both dimensions must be paired when the church is going to make a synergy with government to support people in achieving the good things.

What more to think is the position the church should choose when making a partnership or synergy with the government. The church will choose being the programme implementor or as a mediator of the development—and the community as the implementor of development programme. In context of synergy, at least there are three parties which complete one another when making a partnership; and there are two points of meeting between them: partnership and participation. The first point is engaging the church—as intermediary, and the government (donor); while the second is with recipient/beneficiary of the development (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Partnership synergy and power relation.

Besides the issue of position, something that is important to consider is power relationship among parties involved and shaping the synergy partnership. When the government as donor makes a partnership with the church, it will be possible there is a power balance; as the church has no vested interest upon the development fund, so the church has no ambition of political power. However, we must criticize another interest that might be rising among people within the church; if it happened, the partnership is instrumentalist for them, and the principle of good governance is not taking place, and eventually, community could be the victim of partnership: there is no participation due to people being merely instrument of the church in the political game of development.

What no less is saddening is sometimes the church and community make a collaboration to undermine the government authority. Then, synergy partnership is coming to an amorally and fugitive conspiration for the sake of the church authority. Religion is a kind of political commodity, and it will be a politization of religion. Participation is changed into mobilization and people become ‘missile’ for the church’s vested interest and elite. The principle of good governance is not implemented. If such a thing is taking place, democracy is not growing, and freedom is turning into a meaningless party.

The best position for the church in making synergy partnership is in between the government and community—it could give rise to a participatory development. In this position, the church can play a role as prophet as well as the good patriot for the people. As a prophet, the church could be a moral guardian and speak out the critical voice to the government that does not practise the development properly. And at the same time, it will be an advocate for people who undergo repression or subjugation. Accordingly, the church will be able to rise up and encourage people participation in development, so by doing this people are empowered to be the responsible and good citizens.

A strategic partnership might be representing the best synergy in doing development; by doing such a partnership, what they discuss and do is the comprehensive programme to answer the issue of poverty and humanity.

‘The issue of poverty and humanity now is reaching out inter-region and inter-nation. Accordingly, the partnership today is no longer carried out based on the project, or issue-based only. It needs a new partnership that is a strategic partnership’7

To implement the concept of strategic partnership in practice, at least, there are three models that church could develop: first, cooperation, it is a basic and simple or minimalist partnership: it was not accompanied by creating a common vision; only shares information; and authority is on each organization that makes a partnership. This kind of partnership is manifested in a temporary activity, for instance, when facing a flood or natural disaster; each organization shares and contributes what it has, food, medical or labour to do a programme of flood emergency.

The second model is coordination; it is rather an intensive relation as there is a demand to shape a formality: mission is to be discussed and agreed openly, there is a collective planning and sharing the role; and each organization still has its own authority, but there is a risk taking commonly; resource, for instance, finance, is to manage together, as well as if there is benefit, it is to be managed commonly. The form of this model is manifested in the establishment a forum or a foundation that serves or focuses on the legal aid for migrant worker, for instance. This forum is an amalgamation of several ideas that had been discussed; then from discussion there is a collective mission, and it subsequently breaks down into organizational structure and its programme.

The last is collaboration, it is a kind of profound and trusted partnership; by doing this partnership there is a bounding or commitment of one and another: there is a new structure that set up together—even though it is separated from each organization; there is joint or common vision and mission; there is a common planning that made it comprehensively together; on each level of organization, all information is distributed and shared openly; authority will be decided by new structure that set up together; there is commitment to bear a risk together and openly; resources are to be managed together, and products are to be distributed openly to each organization (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Some models of partnership synergy.

The model that would be implemented by the church is depended on the context and issue they are facing, because each model bears risk that should be taken on. Commitment, engagement, sharing of resources are important aspects that need to be considered. The more to choose the higher model of partnership is the more commitment, engagement and resources are needed, included its risk. However, all these are well taking place if good governance is well implemented. Unfortunately, the aspect of good governance is left behind or abandoned, so that the partnership is coming to the transactional processes, and eventually, partnership is just beneficial for parties involved, while people who should be beneficiaries are ignored and remain as a victim of partnership.

However, to reaching a collaborative model of partnership, there are several obstacles to overcome.

In this context, the dimension power of governmentality is possible to come up. In the management of partnership often there is a potency of power, in which fund and knowledge are to be a sensitive issue. As always, those having resource of power can determine the approach or value that they promote and implement in the partnership. In the collaborative model, one party can share human resources and other raw material, while the other can share fund, knowledge and technology. There are two impacts, the positive one is social change and systematic development, and the other side is economic, social and political hegemony that if not paid attention seriously, it will give an impact that is the marginalization of the poor people by presenting new values of freedom, democracy, liberalism and capitalism that are oriented to those having capital and power.8


7. Entrepreneurship, development and the church-diaconal: the creative loving

If using sociocultural entrepreneurship to analyze what have been described above in detail, the church has potency to implement community development with diaconia approach or involved religious values in shaping development mentality or entrepreneurial character among the church and community members. For instance, the belief in a Kingdom of God, where the final end is justice and prosperity, is reflected in terms of cultural values, such as hard work, discipline, open cooperation and appreciate others; by doing such a reflection, it will find that Kingdom of God is a kind of topos or location where to embody social justice and prosperity, it needs hard work and discipline and mentality that every person should be respected or appreciated whatever they have, either physical capacity or another tangible skill. If such a thing is well taking place, the core theological principle of the ‘entrepreneurship for holistic transformation’ based on Kingdom of God is really a thing and not merely a discourse.

In addition, if using theological perspective and transform into social, open, just and loving relationship, it can be a starting point. In this context, the relation between diaconia and entrepreneurship is possible to meet each other. Diaconia is based on the love or compassion, and this kind of love, to avoid romanticism, should be dialogized with other values of social and cultural, to create a self-dignity. Encountering between diaconia and entrepreneurship results in a Christian-based social entrepreneurship that is an expression of the creative loving. This model intended to offer a new kind of loving relationship that empowers people to do creative works to reach self-independency and dignity in the name of faith.

Both models, social diaconia and religious entrepreneurial activities, are possible to implement in practice. In this context, religion is able to give a positive-critical meaning of the developmental processes: from planning to evaluation. Employing Christian-based social-cultural entrepreneurial, the practice of community development is a practice of social diaconia of the church. It means, the church does not let the development process without her ‘intervention’, due to the development seen as diaconia service of the church to confess her faith. Accordingly, social diaconia is not merely love-charity service, but it should be able to build people awareness to express the creative loving for social justice by creative participation in the development.

Such a practice of development must encourage the church as a mediator between government and community to implement the participatory development for the sake of social justice and prosperity. Participatory itself is rising when people have a mentality of subject of being, by entrepreneurial programme, either accompanied by social or cultural approaches.

To make it clear the role of social and cultural entrepreneurship for developing community, the effort of local church and its pastor to build an economic institution is here presented as a model. Living among the church members are relatively poor as well as the community members, the church seeks to find both theological thinking on economy and proper instrument as a means of prosperity. Due to the historical trauma on the cooperative, the church does not want to revitalize it. Discussing the theological and practical aspect of credit union (CU), the church supports the pastor initiative to set up CU as new economic institution for the church and community members. To develop entrepreneurial character or mentality among people, the church builds social-theological foundation: (1) theological piety must be embodied in economic piety, and (2) management of mammon; for the last idea, pastor said: ‘If we ourselves are not able to manage the earthly mammon, how we can manage another thing?’9.

Both theological foundations are not emphasizing on ‘money’, but on the stance to and management of money. To institutionalize both personal stance and management, it needs an organization; and then CU is to ‘transform’ the negative nuance of cooperative in the past. Shortly, CU is a fellowship to institutionalize the positive stance and outlook on money, and it intended to materialize the common welfare.10 Additionally, what important is the character changing that brings about a new paradigm in looking at money and wealth, as expressed:

‘CU emphasize the life is mutual helps and solidarity. This was to be possible because of the system of CU that is help others to help ourselves.’11

Transformation of the idea of cooperative that in the past had negative nuance into CU is a reflection of cultural transformation of entrepreneurial mentality. By doing such transformation the church has promoted a thorough community development. Furthermore, looking at the success of this CU, the local government has offered a collaborative programme: CU will be an official instrument of poverty alleviation. The transformation process of CU is also an explanation that the entrepreneurial changing of mentality had given positive contribution to the development in community. Because CU now is reaching out to members in community and not limited only in the church. ‘Through this CU, we feel that Christ is not far away and flee from the social problem’, pastor said:

‘The more the CU member’s welfare is increasing there is an impress that Christ is for all people. Or Christ is working in and through the church so that other people are given the served that has been done. It means, Christ is not serving for the church member only, but the other people also.’12

The good the church is, the church that continues to do public service for common good or bona ecclesiae ([29], 100). Such a church is the church that able to transform itself and then subsequently adapt to its community, so there is no gap between both. Only, by doing such thing, the church could engage itself into the development; and eventually, the church could generate the participatory development, as the manifestation of social diaconia and doing service not just for charity-loving but creative and social loving. Such development is as Christ incognito present into the human life, transforming and transferring the redemptive life for the world.


8. Concluding remarks

The church as religious and social institution, in the context of Indonesia, a country that is doing a massive development, has a task that is not easy to do. It is not a state-church, the Indonesian church must do creative thing to develop community for the community and the church members as well. Also, it is not supported by sufficient fund, particularly from the members, the church should look for another source of fund to empower people surrounding.

In doing a community development that is giving a positive impact to its members, the church implements partnership with the government. By doing such a partnership, the church is able to empower people; and to continue the development sustain, entrepreneurship is applied as a means of completing it. Through the partnership the church is facing a problem of the limitation and power relation. In seeking to overcome the problems that are possible rising, the church attempt to implement a good governance. Developing trust, making a good communication, negotiation and complying with the items that are drafted in the contract are some managerial actions as a faith expression that matches with the concept of good governance.

By tracing the history of the church by life span of the pastor and some young people involved in the developmental practices, we found that good governance is a meaningful point of reference. Good governance is interpreted by them as an expression of faith as well to erect an open and equal partnership with government. Once the developmental programme secured, the church implements a socio-entrepreneurship to empower both the church and community members.

To make a partnership is a difficult thing; therefore, the church should be able to navigate, so it will not be entrapped into the government manipulation, or the church is instrumentalist in the development processes. Developing the dimension relational and organizational of partnership has made it possible for the church to do synergy with the government. Being synergy, it means the church could be equal partner of the government in doing community development. Accordingly, engaged in such a process, the church has an opportunity to witness the world that the community development is a manifestation of the social diaconia. It is oriented to public service, social diaconia of the church is to intend to create a common good, bona ecclesiae, where the wealth is to be managed, developed and grown to help the poor. Eventually, to support the development sustained in the community, the social diaconia is implemented by entrepreneurial approach. All these are carried out in the social and cultural perspective, so that the programme of community development of the church is a combination of empowerment and entrepreneurial activities, and it is expected to be a witness that the church is as Christ had present incognito with people to transform them together and participatorily. This is a model of the development that the church should conduct in Indonesia today to achieve a common prosperity. [***].


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  • Scholars from several contexts, particularly in Africa, have developed such approaches. However, what they are applying is dealt with the gospel prosperity, for instance, Lovemore Togarasei, "The Pentecostal Gospel of Prosperity in African Contexts of Poverty: An Appraisal", in Exchange, vol. 40 (4), Jan. 2011, pp. 336–346; or James Kwateng Yeboah, "The Prosperity Gospel: Debating Modernity in Africa and the African Diaspora", in Journal of Africana Religions, vol. 9 (1), Jan. 2021, pp. 42–69. Both papers discussed that entrepreneurial action is an expression of prosperity gospel, but what I discuss here entrepreneurship is an extended of theology of work in a new dimension.
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  • Interview, FN_100616.
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  • FGD, FN_100616.

Written By

Suwarto Adi

Submitted: 15 October 2021 Reviewed: 31 May 2022 Published: 07 July 2022