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Transforming the Church, One Engaged Business Person at a Time

by Larry Sharp

Over the years I have had various business owners and executives travel with me as I’ve coached and supported companies around the world. On one particular trip, the VP of a Fortune 500 company came with me and some others to a former Soviet Republic country. He had gone on many mission trips, built churches, passed out tracts, and tutored English – all good things! But in Kazakhstan he helped Kazakh believers and expats with business mentoring on topics like making financial projections, contract law, and international marketing. On the trip home he told me that he finally saw how his skills can be used to build the kingdom of God. “Where are we going next?” he asked, after a short time of reflection at home.

I have had many experiences like this, witnessing firsthand the moment business people have felt affirmed and become engaged in using their skills and experience in business as mission. They go from seeing their contribution as limited to PRAY or PAY, and start to realise they can be actively involved – i.e. PLAY! And there are multiple ways for people to get engaged.

For the first time she saw that her business ability and position was a God-given asset.

A young fellow about 30 years old heard me speak in a large mega-church in Pennsylvania. He asked to meet with me and said, “All this is new to me and I don’t think my wife will want to move outside the state, what can I do?” After finding out he was the owner of an SEO company with 14 employees, I said absolutely – and you don’t even have to leave your computer. He has been a wonderful contributor to business startups in unreached areas of the world.

On another occasion, I spoke in a church in the Philadelphia area one Sunday morning. The pastor seemed open to all I spoke about that morning but the real encouragement was talking to several business people afterwards. One woman was a chemical engineer, a former Proctor and Gamble manager who supervised the development of Pampers. She joined our team and helped us with our “product development” when we were just getting going as a BAM consulting group.  Read more

Education and Identity: Managing Connections to Christian Networks

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

How do you manage your associations with Christians and Christian networks – both national and international – in light of security concerns? My ideal is to maintain my relationships with churches and Christian organisations (and indeed receive vital support/services from these); and I want to be well connected into the local church. However, I am concerned about how those connections may endanger my business. How have you managed both the relational side and other more formal associations you have with organisations or churches?

~ Feeling Cautious

Dear Cautious,

I personally believe that there are two key areas that you need to focus on as you consider your associations with Christians and Christian networks while working in a hostile environment. You should concentrate on education and building a strong identity.

Ever since we moved into a restricted access country, we have been working on educating all of the different parties involved in our lives. Most of our sending churches had only dealt with traditional missionary models, so we had to talk with them about:

  • How they communicate with us in email
  • What they could post about us online
  • How they should refer to us during their services.

During the first few years, we had to be vigilant about what they were writing in their online bulletins and websites. Over time, they have come to understand the seriousness of their actions. One simple way to make your point clear is to share real life stories of people who have been questioned because of “church mistakes.” Read more

Pragmatic and Prophetic: Managing Connections to Christian Networks

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

How do you manage your associations with Christians and Christian networks – both national and international – in light of security concerns? My ideal is to maintain my relationships with churches and Christian organisations (and indeed receive vital support/services from these); and I want to be well connected into the local church. However, I am concerned about how those connections may endanger my business. How have you managed both the relational side and other more formal associations you have with organisations or churches?

~ Feeling Cautious

Dear Cautious,

This is first and fundamentally a theological-missiological issue, secondly a relational issue, and thirdly a risk-related issue. Let’s tackle the question in this order.

By “theological-missiological” I mean that the question takes us to the core issues of spiritual warfare, identity with the Kingdom of God, and the often overlooked and neglected matter of suffering for the sake of righteousness, in fulfilment of God’s purposes. The point is that, ultimately, our security is not our concern! We are engaged in a spiritual warfare, in which the advance of the Kingdom of God is often painfully slow and subject to setbacks, and that suffering, even to the point of shedding blood, let alone expulsion, is the New Testament norm. It’s commonplace, but profoundly erroneous, to assume that because we are doing something as value-added as business, we have therefore some sort of iron-clad guarantee that we’ll be exempt from the same tests, trials and trauma of any other missional effort.

By “relational” I mean that our being blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ by definition implies a willingness to be associated with this community, to take pride in our shared identity, and to find meaningful ways to engage with other Christians. Our businesses should not be seen by the host country as discriminatory (i.e. don’t hire all Christians!) or a cover for activities that may be illegal at worst, or at least misunderstood (i.e. avoid associations with certain styles of activities or messaging that can be counter-productive). But we should resist any fear or shame in being identified with the local and global Christian community which shares the Name of Jesus, just to protect our business – which, while important, is of secondary importance to the Body of Christ. Read more

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