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. 

 

 

7 Fruitful Practices for BAM and Church Planting

BAM companies are usually very diverse, each business with its own unique features. However, through research into real experiences of BAM and Church Planting, some shared commonalities emerged in the following fruitful practices:

1. Contact

Make sure that the business provides regular contact with the focus people.

Intentionally create a business that provides regular contact with those with whom you are hoping to share the gospel – whether they are employees, customers, suppliers or others. A bakery business owner estimates that they have a chance to meet an average of 100 people a day. Christ can be made known to staff, suppliers, and customers through business activities. One employer who hires local women who come from difficult home lives seeks to help those women achieve a greater quality of life. Another BAM company provides business opportunities and income for local Christian leaders, encouraging them to stay and carry on the church planting work rather than moving away for employment to support their families. An agricultural business enables local Christians to do church planting work by training them in an egg production business. In this model they also help the trainees set up the businesses which provides contacts for them, as well as an income. This agriculture business also provides church planting training to the locals as part of their strategy.

Although the business is usually the context in which contacts are made and relationships started, several BAM practitioners (BAMers) mentioned that conversations about spiritual matters typically take place outside of the workplace. However, in other cases BAMers reported that these conversations start naturally through a shared work environment. Read more

Business and the Body: Burgers, Burma and Keeping Connected

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up a great year we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Staff Pick” for the fall of 2015.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

From the rooftops you can see it. The personality of the land shifts as the row of buildings stretches towards the river shore. There is a gap there, the space for the river that marks the border, and on the opposite shore the skyline is again lifted by buildings. The buildings on either side of the border hide secrets behind their darkened windows and signs. These are the real stories behind the international headlines about war and human trafficking, about refugees fleeing persecution. The stories are reflected on faces around town – the people that have ended their journey at this border town where the river divides Burma from Thailand.

Set into the curve of the river on the Thai side is a small city, unremarkable by Asian standards. Bustling with local Thais, NGO and aid workers, adventure-seeking tourists, and the quieter but prominent refugee community; the unspoken undercurrent is ‘we’re all here, hoping for the best, and doing the best we can.’ It’s a promising setting, ready to receive the incoming ‘Friendship Highway’, which is said will unify these Asian countries with trade partnerships and tourism. New buildings and malls dotting the cityscape are the first evidence of a hoped-for economic boom. The new road is not all good news. It will also provide a thoroughfare for the darker trade of humans, vulnerable to poverty and traffickers. Read more

Life Encounters Life: The Integration of Business and Mission

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up a great year we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Editor’s Pick” for the fall of 2015.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

We interviewed a ‘practitioner of integration’ who over the last 16 years has tightly integrated business and mission together among an unreached people group in Asia.

Can you tell us a bit about how and why you got started with business as mission?

We were trained and sent out into the mission field with the vision of bringing the gospel for the first time to a Muslim people group. The idea of doing business was really birthed out of our experiences during a research trip into the area. The people we are working amongst are relatively poor, uneducated and in a remote area. Few venture down the maze of narrow streets which make up their communities. Those who do, either belong from birth, have family, or have come to do business. Although the initial response of the community towards visitors is always hospitality, underneath the question is brewing, “Who are the newcomers and why have they come?” This was really brought home to us after we spent 7 days in a Police jail on our research trip being questioned about why we were there! Although we started with a more traditional missions and church planting model in mind, we soon realised that there was only one option for a genuine, respectable role in the community and that was to do business. Read more

Life Encounters Life: The Integration of Business and Mission

We interviewed a ‘practitioner of integration’ who over the last 16 years has tightly integrated business and mission together among an unreached people group in Asia.

Can you tell us a bit about how and why you got started with business as mission?

We were trained and sent out into the mission field with the vision of bringing the gospel for the first time to a Muslim people group. The idea of doing business was really birthed out of our experiences during a research trip into the area. The people we are working amongst are relatively poor, uneducated and in a remote area. Few venture down the maze of narrow streets which make up their communities. Those who do, either belong from birth, have family, or have come to do business. Although the initial response of the community towards visitors is always hospitality, underneath the question is brewing, “Who are the newcomers and why have they come?” This was really brought home to us after we spent 7 days in a Police jail on our research trip being questioned about why we were there! Although we started with a more traditional missions and church planting model in mind, we soon realised that there was only one option for a genuine, respectable role in the community and that was to do business. Read more

Business and the Body: Burgers, Burma and Keeping Connected

From the rooftops you can see it. The personality of the land shifts as the row of buildings stretches towards the river shore. There is a gap there, the space for the river that marks the border, and on the opposite shore the skyline is again lifted by buildings. The buildings on either side of the border hide secrets behind their darkened windows and signs. These are the real stories behind the international headlines about war and human trafficking, about refugees fleeing persecution. The stories are reflected on faces around town – the people that have ended their journey at this border town where the river divides Burma from Thailand.

Set into the curve of the river on the Thai side is a small city, unremarkable by Asian standards. Bustling with local Thais, NGO and aid workers, adventure-seeking tourists, and the quieter but prominent refugee community; the unspoken undercurrent is ‘we’re all here, hoping for the best, and doing the best we can.’ It’s a promising setting, ready to receive the incoming ‘Friendship Highway’, which is said will unify these Asian countries with trade partnerships and tourism. New buildings and malls dotting the cityscape are the first evidence of a hoped-for economic boom. The new road is not all good news. It will also provide a thoroughfare for the darker trade of humans, vulnerable to poverty and traffickers. Read more

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Business, Language and Church Planting

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I can see that language acquisition is going to be essential to both business and church planting efforts in my target area, but it is a lot to think about. How have you seen language learning combined with business development and start–up? What has worked? Any other tips for successfully putting together business strategy and church planting strategy?

~ Planning to Plant

Dear Planning,

This is a good question and there are no easy answers. Your approach will depend your goals and your constraints.

Here are a few questions to consider:

1. How do you define business: one where you will be totally supported by your operations or one in which you will still receive outside funding to support your living expenses?

If you are okay with being subsidized through outside funding and able to raise such funding, even if for an initial timeframe, this will allow for more options. One option could be to spend more time learning a language for a period while you do some business-related work. Another benefit if you started a business would be that this support could sustain a period of losses, before profitability is reached. Read more

Lessons From the Edge: Living the Gospel Among Unreached People

Insights from a BAM Practitioner 

This BAM Practitioner has been in business in Asia for 16 years.

Meet your people every day
Your business has to bring you into contact with people. I think this really is the most important thing. If we view the challenge of missions as “how to get a believer together with an unbeliever” then this has to be absolutely central to any BAM model. Access to people is not the end goal, but it means we are able to show the Kingdom and share the King with people. If a business opportunity or role comes up that doesn’t help us be with our people, then we don’t pursue it. It’s surprising how simple, yet easy to miss this can be.

Be respected
That sounds simple, but it’s not so easy in practice! Our lives must be credible to people. Our business must be respectable. Think about what you can do that will make sense to people, what roles or actions will bring understanding and respect. I had a supplier who was supposed to deliver goods, but was late. I had to cut the payment because he was late, and after a long conversation about it, he told me he was going to take me to court. After two weeks he comes back and says, “Well I went to the court and they all told me that you wouldn’t cheat me, so they sent me away.” That place of respectability that we can have in business can be a powerful place to convey the message of the gospel!

Express the Kingdom
We are showing people around the Kingdom, but we also need a safe place where a verbal expression of the gospel can happen. It’s got to be part of what you do. Providing a way for that may change your business model. We’ve changed the way we do production so that clusters of women can do certain jobs in groups in their homes. This is good for productivity, but also for opportunities to share biblical ideas, our stories, and Jesus in countless moments where our Christian staff are sitting with the women and children. This happens in other contexts with the men as well.

Read the full interview with this practitioner

 

More Fruitful Practices for BAM and Church Planting

Although BAM companies integrating church planting strategies tend to be very diverse, there are some common fruitful practices. Read the first 7 practices in Part 1 here. Part 2, more fruitful practices for BAM and church planting:

8. Prayer

Incorporate prayer right from the start.

Prayer is one of the cornerstones of church planting and BAM. Some of the businesses incorporate prayer in their meetings with key staff, while most pray for their business, and their business decisions on a regular basis. Most BAMers regularly pray for their staff and sometimes have opportunities to pray with their employees individually. Most people respond to and welcome prayer for themselves and family members, especially at times of distress and trouble. Often BAM practitioners develop a reputation as a man or woman of prayer and have people seek them out because of answers to prayer. In one company, a business owner prayed for healing of a sick woman, who had tried many other options, and she was healed. This gave the owner a chance to talk about spiritual ideas and a church was started as a result.    Read more

7 Fruitful Practices for BAM and Church Planting

BAM companies are usually very diverse, each business with its own unique features. However, through research into real experiences of BAM and Church Planting, some shared commonalities emerged in the following fruitful practices:

1. Contact

Make sure that the business provides regular contact with the focus people.

Intentionally create a business that provides regular contact with those with whom you are hoping to share the gospel – whether they are employees, customers, suppliers or others. A bakery business owner estimates that they have a chance to meet an average of 100 people a day. Christ can be made known to staff, suppliers, and customers through business activities. One employer who hires local women who come from difficult home lives seeks to help those women achieve a greater quality of life. Another BAM company provides business opportunities and income for local Christian leaders, encouraging them to stay and carry on the church planting work rather than moving away for employment to support their families. An agricultural business enables local Christians to do church planting work by training them in an egg production business. In this model they also help the trainees set up the businesses which provides contacts for them, as well as an income. This agriculture business also provides church planting training to the locals as part of their strategy.

Although the business is usually the context in which contacts are made and relationships started, several BAM practitioners (BAMers) mentioned that conversations about spiritual matters typically take place outside of the workplace. However, in other cases BAMers reported that these conversations start naturally through a shared work environment. Read more