Damaging Beliefs About Work and Missional Calling

by Larry Sharp

In recent years I have taken notice of what pastors have stated on topics related to Business as Mission (BAM), the theology of work and the Great Commission. Here are some comments which give me particular concern and have caused me to wonder how typical they are or if they are part of the cause for the slow growth in the BAM movement.

I was part of a workshop at a BAM conference designed for pastors with about 30 in attendance. At one point after much had been presented and then discussed by the group, one pastor remarked that he was not in agreement with some things because “after all work was a result of the fall of man.” I was shocked, and wondered how long it had been since he read the book of Genesis.

The truth:  God is a God of work demonstrated in the creation of all things, and then He gave a job description to the earth’s first human inhabitants.

 

When I lived in Pennsylvania, I was part of a mid-sized church and a member of the missions committee. We organized a week-long conference each year and many of the 70+ missionary units were in attendance. A special speaker was always invited. One year on the first night, the pastor got up to introduce the mission speaker like this. “It is a privilege to have Mike Sullivan share with us this week. He trained as a Biochemical engineer and worked in that industry for six years until God called him to a higher calling. He then served in Indonesia and is now president of Mission XYZ. Welcome Mike.”

Of course, people clapped in appreciation for Mr. Sullivan and his response to God’s call. I did not clap and I have changed the names and places because of the unbiblical nature of the introduction.

The truth:  Religious “ministry” is not a higher calling but God wants all believers to use their God-given capacities for His glory and that is their highest calling. There is no spiritual hierarchy.

 

I was invited to give a full-day Saturday seminar in a nearby church. About 40 people attended including the pastor. He listened carefully but did not contribute to the discussion opportunities. Shortly after I arrived home, I received a phone call. Pastor Dave invited me to come to his study on Monday morning. I welcomed the opportunity to talk further on these topics.

I was not long in his office when Pastor Dave stated cogently and clearly that he did not believe I was doing the right thing and the Great Commission was not given to business people and laymen. He said God called special people for the role of apostles and missionaries and the spread of the Gospel was their “calling”.

I left that office discouraged and saddened, until later in the day when business people started to call me inviting me to share with other groups and to talk about how they could get involved.

The truth:  The Great Commission was given to all believers and is not the purview of the clergy class.

 

When I am asked to be part of a training weekend or series of seminars in a church, I prefer if the senior pastor is in attendance and if that is impossible at least one of his associates should be there. One time when I inquired about the pastor’s whereabouts after we had discussed his coming, the missions pastor said that the senior pastor declared to him that “BAM is just a fad and it will soon pass”, and will not be attending.

The truth:  This pastor is the precise person that needed to attend because BAM is not a fad, it the re-discovery of how the gospel spread in the first century, where the everyday believer lived his relationship with Jesus in the marketplace of life, for the glory of God.

 

It was the Sunday for dedicating the new missionaries who were heading to Central Asia. The couple gave a few words and several people came forward to lay hands on the young missionaries. The pastor concluded with his prayer of dedication with a clear reference to these special people who were “called to full time ministry”. In talking later with people in the church I realized that all of God’s people in that church were not expected to be in ministry. The unbiblical sacred-secular dichotomy was alive and well.

The truth:  There is no full-time ministry and part-time ministry. Everything we do in every aspect of life is full-time living like Jesus, being and making disciples.

 

I am convinced that the foundational principles for Business as Mission are rooted in the truths of God’s word and his purposes for the peoples of the world. Without accurate theology and raison d’etre, we will lack the enduring substance for real change in how the “mission of God” is accomplished in the world.

 

Larry Sharp is the Founder and current Director of Strategic Training and Partnerships of a Business for Transformation (BAM, B4t) consulting firm, International Business and Education Consultants (www.ibecventures.com). Larry served 21 years in Brazil and then 20 years as Crossworld VP of Operations and as Vice President of Business Partnerships. He is currently a VP Emeritus and consultant with Crossworld. Since 2007 he has devoted energies toward Business as Mission (BAM) and currently is a consultant on BAM and education themes. Larry travels within North America speaking and teaching in conferences, colleges and churches on themes related to Business As Mission (BAM, B4t) and missions.  His travels abroad relate to BAM, crisis preparation and management, and team building. 

 

 

Central Asia: Disciple-Making in the Marketplace

In the world of “Business 4 Transformation” we often seem to be enamoured with outward appearance, even though we know that we should be striving for lasting fruit (which usually does not go hand in hand with glitz and glory!) In Kazakhstan, we are facing a similar challenge as the last 10 years have been a time where people have been tested, somewhat by persecution but more so by the coming of the glitz of wealth that believers were not well equipped to deal with. As a result, many are not walking with the Lord and the need for ordinary business people who live like Jesus (even just a little like Jesus) in the marketplace remains a huge need, in order to see expansion of the Kingdom of God in the nation.

Kazakhstan is a largely bi-vocational country where paid pastors remain a small minority. But how do you make a living and do ministry where there are few good examples of Godly business people to follow? Business people are beginning to be seen as legitimate believers within the national church, which is a big change in recent years.

After many years of working in Central Asia, I believe the greatest need is such a simple one that it is often overlooked.  We have so many methods, but the Scriptures say simply, “Go and make disciples.” This is simple but the results are so stunning. We are called to go deep into a disciple’s life with the truth of Scripture, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded”. This may sound simple, but it takes lots of effort. In obeying this command, I will be inconvenienced and there will be setbacks as we encounter life’s problems. But, it is so rewarding to see disciples taking hold of the Scriptures for themselves – and then repeating it with another person! Read more

13 BAMers Share: Why Engaging in Missional Business is Important for Southeast Asia

We ask BAM practitioners – both nationals and expats – all over Southeast Asia to share why they think missional business is vital for their nation, and why they are doing what they are doing. Here is what they told us:

 

Missional Business in Myanmar is very important because business opens so many doors where traditional missions doesn’t. I’ve shared my faith with non-believers more since doing business than when I was teaching youth ministry to local pastors. I think when you work in a country like Myanmar where there is no middle class there are huge opportunities for poverty alleviation through business and also engaging the rich in business as well. I’ve had amazing open opportunities to talk with the wealthy, government, and poor communities. Missional Business is so important for the gospel in a country like Myanmar.

Ryan – from the USA, doing business in Myanmar

 

Engaging in “Missional Businesses” in Myanmar is very needed for both aspects: mission and business. We have had social mission strategies before. But the fusion of business and mission is a new effective way to reach people in the workplace.

Sang Sang – from Myanmar, doing business in Myanmar Read more

The Opportunities and Challenges for BAM In and From China

China’s economic growth of eight to ten percent annually for the last twenty years, creates an ideal commercial environment for business as mission within China. There are many opportunities for doing business and large amounts of foreign investment available. At the same time, as one BAM practitioner in China has noted, “China has one of the largest unreached populations in the world, business is a significant channel for Christians to effectively impact countless people and help set them free from sin.”

In the BAM Global Think Tank Report the opportunities and challenges of doing business as mission both in and from China are shared. These observations from surveys, case studies and a SWOT analysis confirm great potential for BAM in and from China. However, the Chinese mission movement is still growing into maturity and experience of business as mission is very new. The Chinese church both inside mainland China and overseas has a long way to go to fully understand and embrace the strategy of business as mission. They must learn from their own difficult experiences and also connect with the wider BAM movement in order to be more effective for the future. Read more

Business as Mission from Australia and New Zealand

It is usually a mistake to lump Australia and New Zealand together! Each is quite different in characteristic from the other and each enjoys a bit of friendly joking about the other, as well as a fierce sporting rivalry. However, one thing they do have in common is that both Australians and New Zealanders have been among BAM pioneers, with a steady interest in business as mission growing in each country. We ask two BAM friends from each nation to share about their involvement:

 

Our journey in BAM started when I was fired from the position I was working in with a mission agency in Nepal. In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened. That was 2000. We started a software company, and slowly grew until we now have a staff of 12 in Nepal, 5 in New Zealand and 3 in other countries. We make software for managing pharmaceutical supply chains, which is now used in about 30 countries.

Right from the start we had a strong sense of rightness about starting down this path, and when it’s been tough we’ve hung on to that. It’s a good thing to have. Here are a few things we’ve reflected on along the way:

Things are fragile, especially at the start. A change of mind here, the stroke of a pen there, and we would have a very different story to tell. It’s good to remember this when we start to feel that we’re pretty good at what we do, and good to remember when others fail – it’s not always in our hands. Read more

Transformational Business in Haiti [Video]

Daniel Jean-Louis speaks about the challenges and opportunities of Business as Mission in Haiti in an interview with Roxanne Addink de Graaf.

For more on BAM in Haiti, read the BAM Global Think Tank Report Business as Mission in Haiti.

This video was recorded at the BAM Global Congress in April 2013. Read more

BAM 2779: Following the Brazilian Business as Mission Journey

by João Mordomo

License plates in Brazil are a combination of three letters and four numbers. For decades, the license plates in my state, Paraná, have begun with “A”. Recently, however, the increasing number of vehicles on the road has pushed us into unchartered territory. All new plates begin with, you guessed it, “B”. The current system allows the plates in our state to range from AAA 0001 to BEZ 9999. In the past couple of weeks, I couldn’t help but notice an increasing number of new cars on the road whose plates begin with “BAM”. At first it was just one or two, but now it’s increasingly common to see BAM plates everyday. As of the last week of May, there were at least 2779 of them!

There seems to be a parallel with “business as mission” BAM as well. Blame it on innovation theory if you want, but the fact is that BAM is finally, and noticeably, gaining a foothold here in the world’s fifth largest country. We’ve moved from the innovation phase to the early adopter phase, and this is evidenced in numerous ways. Just a few of the BAM developments we are now seeing on the road to spiritual, social and economic transformation include:

BAM Conferences

The concept of BAM first showed up on the Brazilian church’s radar at the 3rd Brazilian Congress on Missions (CBM), in 2001, in the form of a 15 minute overview given by a global BAM statesman. The first BAM event in Brazil was held a year later, in Curitiba, with a few dozen people (and the same statesman). Then every year or two another event would take place, in addition to the seminars offered at the 5th, 6th and 7th CBMs in 2008, 2011 and 2014. In just the past two years, however, we’ve seen events take place not only in Curitiba, but also in other major cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Porto Alegre, Vitoria, and others — and these have been larger and tackling a more diverse range of BAM issues. Several international networks such as Lausanne, BAM Global and Open B4T (as well as several marketplace ministry and tentmaking networks), have been instrumental in helping develop “BAM Brazil” in many of these locations. Read more

Six BAM Views from the Continent of Africa

We asked people working on the front-lines of BAM in different parts of Africa to share some of their experiences and perspectives. They see business as a powerful means to share the message of the Gospel in the marketplace, deepen the impact of Jesus’ teachings on society, tackle evils such as poverty and corruption and mobilise the next generation of African Christians to transform their own nations. Here are six BAM views from Africa:

 

BAM is crucial in South Africa as a key to two major challenges: discipleship and economic empowerment. South Africa is said to have a high percentage of Christians, however, like many other parts of the world, sin is a key challenge. Corruption, sexual immorality, crime and other evils are on the rise, indicating that Christianity has not been making the kind of impact on society as it should. Business as mission could therefore provide an avenue for regular discipleship in the marketplace, as believers model Godly character and leadership.

South Africa also has a high percentage of poor people, although it is Africa’s most advanced economy. BAM – especially ‘BAM at the base of the pyramid’ – may be the key to large scale sustainable economic empowerment, particularly through the establishment of SME sized companies in rural areas.

Henry Gwani is originally from Nigeria, now working in BAM in South Africa Read more

Kingdom Impact in Kenya: How Sinapis Equips African Entrepreneurs

Sinapis was founded in Kenya in 2010 with a mission to empower aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing world with innovative, scalable business ideas by providing them with a rigorous, Christ-centered business education, world-class consulting and mentoring services and access to seed capital. Through these means, they strive to create Christ-seeking business leaders, sustainable employment and an improved quality of life for many that they may glorify God in service of His people.

Sinapis runs an Entrepreneurship Training Program that includes 16 weeks of curriculum that covers customers, financials, human resources, operations and Kingdom Business. Upon completing the program, members of each graduating class are invited to submit their business plans to Sinapis. After a thorough selection process, entrepreneurs with the highest potential proceed to Sinapis’ annual Business Plan Competition, a live pitch event that brings together business owners, investors and other individuals in the entrepreneurship ecosystem and culminates with one entrepreneur winning a $10,000 grant. Outstanding finalists in the Business Plan Competition advance into an intensive 6-month accelerator program known as the Fast Track Fellows Program. Entrepreneurs in this program benefit from key resources such as customized mentorship from successful business owners, professional advising from experts in law, branding, accounting, etc., and one-on-one support from world-class management consultants. For those ready to raise investment capital, Sinapis matches them with early and growth stage investors. Read more

Business as Mission: A Perspective from Africa [Video]

Dennis Tongoi speaks about the opportunities for Business as Mission in the continent of Africa.

This video was recorded at the BAM Global Congress in April 2013. Read more