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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

The Power of Planning and Marketing: 7 Reasons Tentmaking Businesses Fail [Book Excerpt]

Poor Planning Paralyzes

It was a couple years back when an individual who was interested in starting a business in our city approached me. As we sat down he pulled out a few pieces of paper, which contained his business idea. He had translated the business idea into a couple of other languages for others to read it. After glancing over the proposal, I had a couple of questions come into my mind. Who is your target market? How will you make money on this idea? 

I was surprised at his answer! He said that he had done some market research and interviewed some of the people who might be interested in his product. They told him that there was no real market for his product. They said it was not needed or really wanted at this time. 

He then said something I will never forget:

“But I decided to move forward anyway with the idea.” 

All he had done for planning was to ask a few people. The people had told him that there was not a need for his product. However, he was still moving forward with the idea. Where was the business plan? This idea was doomed for failure. 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

 

The Lost Will be Won in Their Heart Language: Business, Church Planting and Language Acquisition

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,

I find it impossible to think of ministry that could be in any way divorced or separated from what is happening in the course of everyday work during an entrepreneurial phase of starting a business. Ministry in this context must flow through the day to day activities of getting the business off the ground. You develop relationships with potential clients, government officials, employees, etc. It is these people you are able to reach with your witness, it is these people you do life with, and are able to share the Hope that you have in your Savior. However, having said that, I think it would be impossible to work on a church plant alone, and also successfully start a business. It is essential that a new entrepreneur be part of a church planting team where the rest of the team is not at the same stage of early development of their business. Otherwise there won’t be the capacity do everything that needs to be done in church planting and the business. One or the other will flounder.

To be an entrepreneur and pull off everything that needs to happen to successfully start a new business requires 150% of our capabilities. This will be the greatest walk of faith that we have ever experienced. Successful entrepreneurs have come to the realization that, until the business is off the ground, the thought of a 50 hour work week is long gone, perhaps for years. They will live, breathe, and dream their venture day and night. Whether in the shower, sitting at their desk, meeting with clients or suppliers, eating lunch, or watching their kids’ baseball game, they are constantly planning, processing, and thinking about their business. If you are not consumed by the business during the first phase of the launch, you are unlikely to succeed. Read more

The Importance of Language Skills for BAM 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,

We’ve seen that for 10/40 locations – such as China, India, the Islamic world – the statistics for BAMers wanting to stay more than 5 years are clear: you have to get to working proficiency in the local language!

Among PRI’s several hundred non-nationals (since 1990), 90% of those who made it to working proficiency in the local language achieved this proficiency prior to working in a job of 40 hours per week. There are exceptions to the rule, but very few BAMers get to working proficiency after starting working full-time on the field. If they do manage it, it is by bringing in a tutor from 7:30 to 9am in the morning – not recommended! Instead we recommend financial support from donors for the language acquisition period. It’s not current 2015 market reality to ask to ask the company to pay for it. Read more

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