Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Entrepreneurship & Regional Development

For a Special Issue on

The Emerging Subfield of Religious Entrepreneurship

Manuscript deadline
01 November 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Brett Smith, Miami University, USA
[email protected]

Saulo Dubard Barbosa, EM Lyon, France
[email protected]

Allan Discua Cruz, Lancaster University, UK
[email protected]

Miruna Radu-Lefebvre, Audencia Business School, France
[email protected]

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The Emerging Subfield of Religious Entrepreneurship

There is a resurgent interest in research at the intersection of religion and entrepreneurship. This “theological turn” to entrepreneurship research (Smith, McMullen, & Cardon, 2021) includes an increasing number of publications in top-tier management and entrepreneurship journals (Block et al., 2020; Smith et al., 2019; Henley, 2017; Lindgreen and Hingley 2010), the creation of an academic research conference (, and the launch of a special issue in one of the leading entrepreneurship journals.

While interest in the topic is not new - dating back to seminal works of Emile Durkheim ([1912] 1965), William James (1902) and Max Weber ([1930] 2013), there is a difference in the combined quantity and quality of the emerging research. In the past, a number of barriers have limited the development of this research stream, including lack of personal relevance to scholars, the declining importance of religion in parts of the world, skepticism about the validity of research on religion, and the seeming inevitability of secularization, among others (King, 2008). However, scholars are overcoming these obstacles – real or perceived – because of religion’s prevalence, centrality, established base of literature, and ability to provide novel answers to important questions in entrepreneurship (Smith, McMullen, & Cardon, 2021). In short, religion is a very old and still contemporary social phenomenon concerning varying populations worldwide, and which today increasingly attracts the attention of entrepreneurship scholars. As a result, a substantial number of scholarly activities are contributing to the development of the research domain of religious entrepreneurship as an emerging subfield.

The Distinctive Domain of Religious Entrepreneurship

             Over the last several decades, the field of entrepreneurship has gained legitimacy in academia. It has even spawned several subfields on topics such as social entrepreneurship, corporate entrepreneurship, and development entrepreneurship. These subfields advance our research in important ways, by extending the reach of entrepreneurship into new areas, by highlighting important boundary conditions, and by raising critical new research questions (Lumpkin, 2011). To continue to advance research on entrepreneurship, we call for research on the subfield of religious entrepreneurship.

            The distinctive domain of entrepreneurship research was initially defined as “a scholarly field that seeks to understand how opportunities to bring into existence ‘future’ goods and services are discovered, created, and exploited, by whom, and with what consequences” (Venkataraman, 1997: 120). Over time, the domain has expanded to include a focus on entrepreneurial action (McMullen & Shepherd, 2006) and entrepreneuring (Rindova, Barry & Ketchen, 2009: 477), which encompass a process perspective and broaden a narrow focus on wealth creation to incorporate changes to “new social, institutional and cultural environments” as well. Taken together, these foundational understandings provide clarity for the field of entrepreneurship about its purpose, distinguishing features and collective identity.

To advance the study of religion, sociologist Christian Smith (2017) developed a definition based on social scientific theory to avoid problematic definitional issues of the past. Accordingly, religion is defined as “a complex of culturally prescribed practices, based on the existence and nature of superhuman powers, whether personal or impersonal, which seek to help practitioners gain access to and communicate or align themselves with these powers, in the hopes of realizing human goods and avoiding things bad” (Smith, 2017: 22). This definition recognizes religion’s multidimensional and multilevel nature, as well as its unique set of practices and values in the search for the sacred, divine, and ultimate (Mathras et al., 2016) By calling attention to superhuman powers, it also provides clarity for the relationship between religion and spirituality. Specifically, it includes spirituality premised on a deity or theology but excludes world-oriented and people-oriented spirituality (see Hill et al., 2000).

Building on these foundations, the subfield of religious entrepreneurship occurs at the overlapping intersection of religion and entrepreneurship. Religious entrepreneurship is defined as the processes of “discovery, enactment, evaluation, and exploitation of opportunities to create future goods and services motivated by the cultural and ideological beliefs, practices, and/or outcomes rooted in religious faith” (Smith, Gümüsay, & Townsend, 2023). This definition provides the foundation for two essential research questions:

1) Why, when, and how the practices based on believed superhuman powers affect opportunities, entrepreneurial action, entrepreneuring, and the consequences of entrepreneurial processes for the pursuer and other stakeholders; and,

2) Why, when, and how opportunities, entrepreneurial action, entrepreneuring, and the consequences of entrepreneurial processes affect the practices and access to believed superhuman powers in the hopes of realizing good and avoiding bad.

These questions recognize religious entrepreneurship as bi-directional and recursive. It acknowledges not only the influence of religion on entrepreneurial antecedents, processes, and outcomes, but also the influence of entrepreneurship on religious antecedents, processes and outcomes. It recognizes that religion, as entrepreneurship, is a human experience. It can be both an individual as well as a collective endeavor occurring in entrepreneurial teams, families, communities, and regions. The former approach is consistent with Max Weber’s (2013) focus on how religious beliefs, practices, and values facilitated entrepreneurs developing and executing their business. This approach is represented in recent work that identifies the religious antecedents for entrepreneurial action (Gümüsay, 2015; Smith et al., 2019). This approach also highlights the potential to develop new theoretical constructs, such as a relational identity with God, that explain important entrepreneurial outcomes, such as persistence and well-being (Smith, Lawson, Barbosa, & Jones, 2023). This research stream suggests that entrepreneurs’ religious convictions may increase their persistence in pursuing an opportunity despite challenges and constraints (Cavalcanti Junqueira, Discua Cruz, & Gratton 2023). However, if the entrepreneur’s actions result in the failure of a venture, the failure may not only affect the firm but the result may also have negative – or positive – consequences for the entrepreneur’s religious identity. In this way, religious entrepreneurship may contribute to recursive interactions of entrepreneurship and religion.

The latter approach aligns with Adam Smith’s view that considers religious leaders as entrepreneurs (For a full review of both perspectives, see Seabright, 2016). For Smith, the role of nonconformist religious leaders is critical to gaining more religious followers. In his review on religion and organization studies, Tracey (2012) calls attention to this view by focusing on the development of religious organizations and the opportunity to examine entrepreneurship through new religious organizations and movements. To date, the former view has received considerably more research attention while the latter view has been relatively neglected despite its potential to provide empirical and theoretical insights (Block et al., 2020).

The distinctive domain of religious entrepreneurship opens a number of provocative avenues for future research. First, religious entrepreneurship raises questions about how the interaction and different forms of integration affect the entrepreneur, the entrepreneurial process, and entrepreneurial outcomes. Second, religious entrepreneurship raises questions about the multi-level effects of religion and entrepreneurship, including the role of values, communities, and regions. Third, religious entrepreneurship opens new avenues for both conceptual and methodological research, including the roles of different religions, as well as the bright and dark sides of religious entrepreneurship as experience, process, and practice. Finally, this new research domain is open to varied methodological approaches including qualitative, quantitative, mixed-methods, ethnography, and me-search, among others.  

Submission Instructions

We are open to the submission of both conceptual and empirical papers, with different levels of analysis and methodological approaches. Possible themes:

  • How do different religious beliefs impact entrepreneurial action and practice?
  • How do religious beliefs and practices vary across regions and how the interplay between religion and local culture affects entrepreneurship?
  • How do religious beliefs and practices influence entrepreneurial teams?
  • How do different religions differ or align in their views of economic and entrepreneurial practices?
  • How do different religious interpretations (for instance, a fatalistic vs. agentic religious view of the world) foster or hinder entrepreneurship in distinct social contexts (poverty, aftermath of catastrophic events, warzones, etc.)?
  • How does business failure impact entrepreneurs’ faith?
  • To which extent entrepreneurs integrate their religious values and beliefs within their businesses? Why? What are the consequences of that (positive and negative)?
  • What is the dark (and bright) side of religious entrepreneurship?
  • To which extent are religious organizations entrepreneurial? How do they innovate?
  • To which extent religious networks are used by religious entrepreneurs? Why and with what outcomes?
  • What are the specific cognitive and social processes that connect religion and entrepreneurship?
  • How do different cosmological views (e.g., monotheism vs polytheism) interact with personal characteristics (e.g., gender) in entrepreneurial settings?
  • Are there significant differences between religious vs non-religious entrepreneurs and their firms (in terms of demographics, business characteristics, entrepreneurial processes and outcomes)?

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