Last week in Part 1 I looked at Paul’s exploits as a maker of tents and concluded that business and church planting were made for each other! Properly configured, church planting teams and business startup teams can be one and the same. There are many good reasons that we ought to consider seriously the benefits of this model in missions today. Here are just four of them.
Many conventional church planting missionaries simply cannot get out of the starting blocks and to the field due to a lack of financial resources. This is especially true right now in Brazil, where I am based. “Difficult” is often an understatement when it comes to raising and maintaining a donor base. The overall economic situation in many countries is characterized by some combination of various ills such as poverty, corruption, inflation and weak currencies. But should potential missionaries be disqualified from serving the Lord cross-culturally simply because their churches either donʼt have, or don’t think they have, the resources to send them? The obvious answer is no. BAM is a model that can creatively access and utilize the numerous resources that can be found – and not just money, but talent and people, especially the so-called and often undervalued “laypeople” – for Godʼs global glory.
But the financial benefit is only the first of four, and the traditional missionary model – even when the missionary manages to raise all of his or her support – does not usually provide the next three benefits for cross-cultural church planting among unreached peoples in restricted access nations.
I get fired up when I read stories about people like Brother Andrew and George Verwer and others who are willing to risk their lives in order to briefly infiltrate restricted contexts in order to share Christ or encourage believers. I thank God for them! I also thank Him for the thousands of missionaries who, with the same sense of calling and conviction, seek to enter such contexts, as tourists, in order to advance Godʼs cause there. But while these are viable means to enter many countries, they do not provide credible long-term solutions. In many of these places, Brazilians and others from the global south who enter on tourist visas are restricted to months or even weeks at a time, and then they must leave the country and re-enter with a new stamp in their passports. This constant coming and going is neither practical nor credible. On the other hand, nearly all countries are happy to grant longer-term business visas to those who are willing and able to do genuine business. And many from developing countries fit this bill. Having learned by experience to be very creative, and make the most out of very little, Brazilians and others from the global south are entrepreneurial by nature, so BAM just makes sense for getting into creative-access contexts.
If getting in is difficult, staying can prove to be nearly impossible – especially on a tourist or student visa – and staying with credibility is more elusive still. However, BAM helps overcome these obstacles by providing benefits that many other models do not. When cross-cultural church planters (or mentors of church planters) are busy not just “ministering” (in a conventional sense) but creating jobs and stimulating economic activity, and through their businesses providing social outreach (e.g. sports, education, health and hygiene), they are creating opportunities to “stay” for the long run among the people they want to reach, in a way that is both viable and credible. This is crucial since church planting movements donʼt happen overnight. Neither are communities and societies and peoples and nations transformed in one generation, which brings us to our final benefit.
Staying for decades among a people group does not guarantee that effective ministry will take place, that lives will be changed, that churches will be planted and that societies will be transformed. Cross-cultural workers must find mechanisms by which they can penetrate social networks in order to proclaim the Gospel fully, in word and deed. They must penetrate to the worldview level of a culture, and the best way to do that is by rubbing shoulders with “ordinary people” everyday, empathizing with them as they struggle to make ends meet and deal with the existential issues of life. The traditional missionary model often neither encourages nor allows for this kind of “real life” incarnational ministry to occur. The Word who became flesh and dwelt among us was not an aloof religious professional and neither should we be! He could empathize with people because He understood and practiced, in the truest sense, a “theology of presence”. The BAM model should be a “no-brainer” in most cases, because it allows us to strategically place ourselves among people and then “get to work” (literally) for the glory of our King. It is safe to assume that under the Holy Spiritʼs guidance lives, families, communities and even societies will be transformed.
Getting out, getting in, staying in, sinking in. These are just a few of the benefits afforded by BAM, unleashing the church for effective, holistic, God-pleasing, cross-cultural church-planting among the world’s unreached peoples.
Dr. João Mordomo is co-founder and president of CCI-Brasil, a global church planting movement among unreached peoples. João serves variously as owner, managing director and board member of several BAM companies, and serves in several BAM leadership roles including at COMIBAM, BAM Global and Lausanne.