Our God is an internationally focused God who is passionately involved with His global plan of redemption. We see it initially described in Genesis 1:28 to fill the world with worshipers and ultimately fulfilled in the glimpse of the redeemed in Revelation 7:9. Theologian John Stott wrote, “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.” While many no doubt know that the church sends missionaries all over the world, there are other means of missions that small groups have been utilizing to reach the rest: business.
The Business as Mission (BAM) model was established by Paul 2,000 years ago as a tentmaker and the movement has gained esteem in recent years by using professional talents to reach the whole world with the whole gospel. While BAM can be the on-ramp for church planting, social justice, human trafficking and many other objectives, the purpose of this article is simply exploring the question, “Why should we consider BAM?” In order to understand BAM, we need to discuss the need of taking the gospel to the world. This task dates back much further than the modern understanding of Business as Mission.
The World in Need
The Joshua Project is a research initiative seeking to highlight people groups around the world with the fewest followers of Christ. According to their research, 2.9 billion people in the world are considered unreached. An unreached people group means there is less than 3% of the population that would consider themselves Christians. That means over 40% of the world lives without access to the gospel!
While a physical border is usually a dividing factor, the specific definition in determining a people group is defined by crossing a cultural, language or physical barrier in order to communicate the gospel. Since the gospel reached out of the boundaries of Judaism in Acts 11, crossing cultural barriers has been the primary task of individual believers, church planting organizations, and parachurch ministries. These means of spreading the gospel have been crucial to the gospel’s spread to present day. BAM has come on the scene to be a team player and assist in finishing the task of reaching the 6,700 unreached people groups. BAM could be compared to Dennis Rodman who joined the Bulls and carried them to win 3 more championships after they already won 3. It’s a new asset for a new era — with quite a new look!
Our Work as Worship
Without understanding work as an act of worship, the purpose of business can seem to satisfy self-interests rather than to advance the Kingdom of Heaven. While we live in a broken world, the first 2 chapters of the Bible are saturated with the concept and the action of work before sin enters the picture. God was working from the beginning.
Tim Keller explored the biblical purposes of work in his book Every Good Endeavor. Analyzing a pre-fall world, Keller wrote “work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later, or something human beings were created to do but that was beneath the great God himself. God worked for the sheer joy of it. Work could not have a more exalted inauguration.”
1 Corinthians 10:31 reads, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This can be applied to many different situations because of its general nature, but work is included in the “whatever you do” and is something that the Lord created for us to use for His glory. Most Christian business people have typically thought of their work as a means to generate income for the purpose of doing their “real Christian duty” of donating to a Christian cause. Few Christian business people see the connection between working and glorifying God. God desires businesses to provide opportunities for individuals to express their God-given identity in meaningful and creative work.
Extending Worship through Work
Business As Mission only exists because of the collision between the need for world missions and the understanding that work is worship. Business allows for access into a country with closed borders towards churches and para-church organizations and helps a community flourish.
For example, a world-class guitar manufacturer moved to India to train artisans and to provide jobs, income, hope, and opportunity where there is a great need. The founder’s dream of connecting Indian artisans to healthy markets is being realized through their business practices. The 11 guitar builders have bonded on a common goal that has allowed for deep relationships and opportunities to share the hope of the gospel, while providing sustainability in the form of profit.
A local coffee shop in China was created with the goal of making great coffee and influencing growth among employees. They have used their creativity from the Lord in the food and beverage industry to employ local Chinese. A culture of empathy is a strong core value for this coffee shop in a country where empathy is not typically felt. Being a part of an organization with grace has been the greatest impact seen from the founders of this business. Not only was there a large impact on the employees, but the coffee shop created a space for connections with other gospel workers and they were able to help each other with their ministry.
Some are called to full-time ministry and some are called to business. Whatever the case, the Lord is at work on a global scale and He is utilizing unique callings for His Kingdom. So to answer the question from the beginning, why Business as Mission? It’s simple, Business as Mission utilizes the role of business to accomplish God’s plan around the world.