A Holistic Gospel and the Kingdom Coming in the Marketplace
The business as mission community is contributing to a wider ‘listening process’ in the global evangelical mission community as part of our connection the Lausanne Movement. Lausanne asked us:
What are the most significant gaps or remaining opportunities toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20)?
We in turn received input from 25 global leaders on this question especially as it relates to business as mission. Four main themes emerged as leaders answered this question, which we will share in four blog posts through November.
The third theme was the need to present a more holistic gospel, with an emphasis on the great commandment to love our neighbour and the cultural mandate to steward creation and help humankind flourish. God’s kingdom rule and reign is for all spheres of life, and we long to see His kingdom coming in the marketplace. Business as mission is a powerful means to bring an integrated expression of the gospel, meeting people’s spiritual, relational and physical needs. For more on how business as mission impacts profits, people and planet and aligns with God’s purposes, read this short introduction to the quadruple bottom lines of BAM.
Theme 3: A Holistic Gospel and the Kingdom Coming in the Marketplace
Stewarding God’s creation should be a major focus for us. The natural disasters and the pandemic of the past year has also shone light on another gap in our work so far on the Great Commission. We have failed to adequately care for God’s Creation, to care for the resources God entrusted us to steward. As Christian leaders in the marketplace we have often failed to listen and respond to the voices within and outside of the Church to better understand the impact of our actions on our environments. Now the results of our actions are clear as the increased threat of natural disasters, extreme weather and the pandemic and its economic devastation are tied to our lack of care of natural resources. And this devastation often rests most heavily on the marginalized – those with the least resources and networks that create the resiliency to pivot, survive and thrive. So, we must actively respond to God’s call to be stewards ourselves and to listen to and raise-up voices of the marginalized in the marketplace who can help shape and lead a new vision of how we can be better stewards in the marketplace.
Demonstrating what the Kingdom of God is like holistically should be the focus of the coming years. A mixture of the gospel preached in deeds and the gospel preached in words. Relationships are key. And BAM is a key that fits to open doors. Be more “Salt and Light” in the world. But start where you are now.
An opportunity is the globalization of economies and cultures. Modern economies have shifted, opening up new possibilities for capitalism and globalization to align with Kingdom principles that create preferential options for the poor and are more compatible with Kingdom initiatives such as fulfilling the Great Commission. A growing number of multinational companies hold more economic resources and power than some nations. This is a huge shift that has multiple implications for the Great Commission. Businesses are often the new creators and multipliers of culture, positioning business relationships as key conduits through which the gospel may be spread throughout the nations. Indeed, companies now acknowledge, because they are operating multi-culturally, that establishing company culture now takes strategic priority in order to secure employee identity and engagement and customers are increasingly driven to purchase from companies which align with their values. All these factors combine to make business the new frontier where shared values and culture are being forged, and where Christian values articulated by faith-driven leaders can come to shape the worldview of many, creating fertile ground for the spread of the gospel to all nations.
The most significant gap I see is that between the evangelicals, the liberals and other parts of the global church. This gap or chasm in the body of Christ leads to a lack of integration of the gospel our Lord Jesus Christ passed to us. Even in the area of Business as Mission, the evangelicals who are the majority in this area put emphasis on individual and ethical choices in conducting business activities and often neglect structural and cultural sides of global capitalism, leading to the current ecological disasters and the economic polarization of the world. The first century Christians were fully aware of the Roman Empire and its powerful yet dangerous influences as a backdrop of the Kingdom of God they really began to belong to and tried to live in. The great opportunity in mission could be found in closing this ecclesial and theological gap. The good news we have received from the Lord was and is about the kingdom after all. This kingdom has many transformed individuals growing in the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ and also has transformed cultures, institutions, prosperity and ecological sustainability. This integration of personal faith and social renovation can come from the whole gospel.
A sense of purpose and calling among Christians is key. I think most of us think about discipleship as just preaching the gospel and getting someone to accept Jesus. But discipleship is so much more. In Matthew 28: 20, Jesus says “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. In my opinion, a big issue is Christians wrongly seeing “the Great Commission” as something you do only when you go to the other nations, and because many of us will not go to live in other nations, never starting where we are.
Great Commission focused ministries have tended to focus on reaching the unreached or under-reached with the verbal and written gospel. The remaining opportunities to complete the Great Commission pertain to engaging more believers, particularly non-clergy saints, to take part in the Great Commission through deeds or lifestyle.Romans 12:1 tells us that offering our bodies as a living sacrifice is a spiritual act of worship and this worship takes place more commonly and readily in the marketplace. Thus, the engaging effort should be most fruitful in the vocational life, since contacts can be made more easily and naturally. In this context the gospel may be shared through godly lifestyle in all aspects of life. All in all, the verbal and written gospel is integrated into an authentic life in the marketplace.
Given that there is some level of trade among even the poorest of communities, one possibility is for BAM businesses to foster trade (which is instrumental in pulling people out of poverty). Trade is based on relationships which is ideal for sharing the gospel message. The key would be to work initially with the tiny Christian minorities in the unreached people groups and to assist them in setting up BAM trading businesses. This would not be an easy task at all because it would be hard to identify Christians and they would likely need a lot of help with literacy, numeracy, finance and business procedures. I think there is some potential here because the BAM movement is becoming more and more expert in the areas of microenterprise and microfinance.
Collated by Jo Plummer, with thanks to the 25 BAM leaders that contributed input to the Lausanne Movement listening process. This listening process is part of “Lausanne 4”, a multi-year consultation on strategic issues in global mission.
>>Read Part 1: The High and Holy Calling of Business and Breaking the Sacred-Secular Divide
>>Read Part 2: Reaching the Marginalised and the Skewed Deployment of Resources
>>Read Part 4: The Task Still Ahead and Plugging the Resource Gaps
Jo Plummer is the co-chair of BAM Global and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website and blog.