by David Stone
What is the great divide? We categorize certain activities as sacred and others as secular. Orphanage ministry or business activity. Sacred or secular? We are still stuck in the divide!
On a recent trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, I was visiting with a small expat short-term missions team on outreach. Two of the team members felt called to business AND missions. I inquired about their business AND missions activity on outreach. They said they had researched (via the internet) Micro-Enterprise Loan organizations in Nepal for a local Business As Mission company. The BAM company is fighting sex trafficking at the source – the families.
The BAM company wants to provide economic opportunity to keep the families from selling their daughters. The BAM strategy includes opening up new trekking routes into the region. That would require hostels and cafes on the routes. Local families can start businesses that would provide an economic alternative to selling their daughters. The new businesses may require small loans, and they need to know what local lending organization are a good fit.
The two young missionaries identified one local Micro-Enterprise Lending company that warranted further consideration. The following dialogue took place.
Have you visited the lending company? “No, we don’t have time.”
When do you leave? “In two days.”
What are you doing tomorrow? “Our team is going to an orphanage.”
Can the two of you go visit the lending company while the rest of the team visits the orphanage? “No”, said the team leader overhearing our conversation.
Why not? “We’re doing ministry at an orphanage. We don’t have time for business due diligence.”
Business is lower than orphans? Well, I couldn’t let that mindset and practice continue without some additional dialogue. As a person called to business, I attempted to eliminate the sacred-secular divide. The leader and team nodded their heads in agreement. Not sure if it worked because I left before dawn the next day. I’m hopeful.
On another recent trip in Thailand, I was asked, “Should I shut my business down if I’m not seeing spiritual fruit?” I thought about all the scripture I could rattle off to support my thinking. I also thought about other lessons the LORD had taught me. “No, don’t measure your efforts only in that way.”
I thought about a conversation I had with an American football coach from Baltimore, Maryland, USA. He gave me another criteria for assessing the fruit of our business.
He is a follower of Jesus. He runs his program well. He shares about God to his 16-18 year old players. He integrates his faith into the program to influence the young men to follow Jesus. In the previous 10 years, the high school team won the state championship many times. A very “successful, winning” program by most measures.
He told me about a pre-season meeting with his players and their parents. He opened the meeting for questions from the parents. Some asked about the upcoming schedule and their opponents. Some asked about their sons playing football after high school.
One parent asked a question everyone wanted to ask but was afraid to ask, “Do you think we’ll have a successful season, Coach?”
Coach said, “Will this season be a success? Ask me in 20 years. I’ll know then.”
I have used that picture so often on my BAM journey. “What am I doing now that might have to wait 20 years to be measured?” Can I think about Hebrews 11 as an expectation for my business life? Will I measure spiritual fruit only within a year or two or even my lifetime?
We want our business to play its part in the Kingdom of God. I don’t know the timing of God in all His ways, not even in my business. But I do want His hand to be on it. I know he spoke to me in 1978 about going to Afghanistan as a business person and as a missionary. I also know my journey included 24 years of business and missions before I stepped foot into Afghanistan in 2002. It’s easy for me to ask our staff, “What is God asking us to do that may take 24 years?”
I know He has called me to bring His ways for business to my city, to my State, to the USA and to Afghanistan – the multiple places we have offices. Those are my places – my “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth”. That’s my mission!
In every place, I want to:
1. Bless the nation (that’s a promise to Abraham).
2. Provide a taste of the God in and through our business.
3. Support the local family of God.
Lastly, Spiritual fruit is quite possibly being achieved but the measurement being used is not complete. We tend to view spiritual fruit measurements in terms of number of souls saved or number of people served or dollars spent on building God’s kingdom. BAM opens up the ability to be able to measure this in other ways. For example, a growing business provides opportunities for employment and grows the number of people that can support their families. This could provide more education or better health care for the family. That pleases God and is in essence providing spiritual fruit. Just being in business opens up many God-pleasing activities. By expanding our measurement, we see the current benefits of having a business. It advances the message that business is pleasing to God when done in a God-centered way.
Is my business going to be fruitful this year? Ask me in 24 years.
David A. Stone is the Founder and CEO of First Rate, Inc. based in Arlington, TX, USA; and the Founder of First Rate Afghanistan and First Rate Infotech (India). Dave is a regular guest mentor for the Ask a BAM Mentor column.