Business As Mission

The two pioneers of civilization-Christianity and commerce-should ever be inseparable.

Can commerce and Christianity really work together to create authentic transformation in the world?  What happens when you integrate business profits with the goal of world evangelization?  Ken Crowell, founder of Galtronics, had a vision in 1978 to go to an area where there was little or no Christian witness, to give employment to believers and non-believers in a safe working environment, and to support the building of a local church.  Today, Galtronics is the largest employer in northern Israel and a global leader in wireless antenna solutions.  A growing number of evangelicals believe that a paradigm called (BAM) Business as Mission can create opportunities for commerce and Christianity to work side by side to further world evangelization.  Business as Mission seeks to practically integrate for profit business with the mission of making disciples of all nations. Not only does BAM exist to financially support missions, but the very people in the business are the target for ministry including: employees, customers, business partners, vendors, etc.  

{BAM} – A working definition

According to leading BAM entrepreneurs, Business as Mission ventures has at least four main components:

  • Creation of a business entity controlled by Great Commission minded owners who seek to glorify God with every aspect of their business.
  • The business has sustainability and profitability as a goal.
  • The business exists to advance the gospel among unreached peoples of the world.
  • The business is socially responsible, meaning it does not profit at any cost.

If our goal as the Church is to finish the Great Commission by engaging the unreached peoples of the world, then we quickly realize that majority of these peoples live in countries closed to missionaries and in the poorest countries of the world.  This means that we must continually find creative ways of getting into these countries and engaging these peoples.  One creative approach is through kingdom-minded evangelical Christian entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs can go anywhere in the world provided a legitimate, sustainable for-profit business can be developed in that area.  Historically local people and governments are receptive to new businesses that can employ their people and have long-term potential to bring new capital into their economy.  We do not have to look very hard to discover that most of the world is in need of basic social services.

  • 50% of the world’s growing population of 6.5 billion people live in poverty {2.3 billion people living on less than $2 day, and 1.2 billion on less than $1 day}.
  • One out of five human beings on the earth does not have access to the basic social services of healthcare, education, safe drinking water, and adequate nutrition.
  • Over 3 billion people are denied the freedom to even teach ideas, much less have the opportunity to pursue education.  
  • The majority of these people and peoples live in the 50 largest unreached cities in side the 10/40 Window that have no church and have never heard the Gospel.
    Statistics taken from:   Myers, Bryant L., Exploring World Mission, Context & Challenges, World Vision International, 2003.


Foundations of Business as Mission

Business as Mission creates a new path for entrepreneurs and business people who intentionally desire to use their God-given and market-honored skills to meet the needs of the people of the world and as a viable passport to the unreached peoples of the world.  BAM practitioners look to pioneers like Joseph in Egypt, Nehemiah in Jerusalem, the Moravians in Africa & South America, and William Carey in India who all mixed business with ministry.  In 1768 the Moravian missionaries founded C. Kersten and Co., a tailoring company in Suriname, a small country in South America.  C. Kersten and Co. gave employment to the slaves of Suriname, training, and the gospel.  By 1926, the city of Paramaribo, Suriname became home to the largest Moravian congregation in the world with 13,000 members and 7 church buildings.  

Going back to Adam & Eve’s work in the Garden, we see that God commanded them to “subdue it”.  Subdue it implies that mankind was to make the resources of the earth fruitful.  According to Ken Eldred, author of God is at Work, Business as Mission companies have not one but a three pronged bottom-line:  profitability and sustainability, local job and wealth creation, and advancement of the local church.  BAM companies will pursue each of these objectives simultaneously.  Business, the truth, and the gospel are the basis for building Kingdom Business in the developing world. Profit does not have to be a sign of greed, but can also be an indicator of others being served in a cost-effective manner.  Businesses that do not to create local jobs and local wealth fail to bless that nation they working in and are ministering to. A BAM entrepreneur improves the situation of everyone working in and around the business. Advancing the local church is not about employing only Christians, the company itself can be a mission field.  BAM companies seek to influence employees, partners, suppliers, customers and the local community for Christ.   While the focus and mission of the business is to be evangelical (ie. Sharing the Gospel) the business also creates products or services for the community.   The business itself should not be considered unspiritual because it is profitable. BAM entrepreneurs use the business model to not merely to create a profit, but also to create a bridge for the gospel.  BAM companies lead and manage their business ethically, honestly, and with social concern for their neighbors.  Business as Mission companies exists to make money, but it also exists to spread the gospel and start new churches.
 
Different Models of Kingdom Business

Ken Eldred says that there are at least three business models as related to missions.  When business serves as only a source of financial support for missionaries then it could be defined as Business for Missions.  Christians that use their vocational skills and experience to only give them access to another culture, historically referred to as “tent-making” could be called Business and Missions.  The Business and Missions model or tent-making is typically only focused on spiritual results.  The third way of business relating to mission is called Business As Mission (BAM).  The BAM paradigm sees business activity itself as ministry and missions work.   BAM does not have the spiritual and secular divide.  The BAM model is an integrated approach to God’s Mission and not a compartmentalized view to life, family, ministry and work.  Business as mission has economic, social, and spiritual goals that all work together to further world evangelization.  

BAM and College Students

At Harvard the Social Enterprise Club has replaced the finance and management clubs as the most popular on campus.  Many college students today including Christians and Non-Christians desire to not only make a lot of money when they graduate, but seek not jobs but opportunities that will change the world.  Students are passionate about looking for the right opportunity to use their skills, education, imagination, idealism to make the world a better place.  These same students have an urgency to impact the world not in twenty years but in the next one to three years.  Biola University in Los Angeles and Spring Arbor University are already offering courses in Kingdom Business.

The BAM model seeks a holistic transformation of people and peoples that includes economic, social, and spiritual transformation.  BAM has the potential to begin the process of breaking down the sacred-secular or the ministry-work divide that has long blinded and separated the church from the marketplace.  BAM entrepreneurs continue to pioneer an integrated approach work and ministry, showing us how God created work as a part of His mission of making Him known in all the earth.  God created us in His image to also be creators of goods and services as we make Him known to all peoples.  Business as Mission is an opportunity for the blessed to be a blessing to all peoples of the world.



Resources used and for further study:
Christianity Today, the Mission of Business, November 2007, www.christianitytoday.com
Winter, Ralph D., When Business can be Mission, Mission Frontiers, Nov-Dec 2007.
Forman, Justin, Mission Agencies, Infrastructure, Passion Business As Mission, Mission Frontiers, Nov-Dec 2007.
Forman, Justin, www.businessasmissionnetwork.com
Eldred, Ken, God is At Work, Transforming People and Nations through Business, 2005.
Grudem, Wayne, How Business Glorifies God, www.christanity9to5.org
Yamamori, Tetsuano & Eldred, Ken, On Kingdom Business:  Transforming Missions through Entrepreneurial Strategies, 2003.
Walck, Brian, Missiological Insights into Business as Mission.
www.lausanne.org/documents/2004forum/LOP59_IG30.pdf