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.