by Renita Reed-Thomson & Dr. Phil Walker
A Kenyan pastor approached us following our workshop and said, “Church begins on Monday. Sunday is ‘garage/maintenance time’ to prepare for that.” The lightbulb had gone on. It is the lightbulb that reminds pastors and church leaders that the Church gathers on Sunday for the purpose of being equipped to be scattered on Monday, shining the light of Christ everywhere they go. Unfortunately, the Global Church tends to be inward focused, defining itself as a building or by programs, rather than the people. While the majority of adult members in our churches spend the majority of their time in their workplace, we do not disciple them to the purpose of doing their work as an act of worship. Discipling Marketplace Leaders is seeking to remedy this as it brings the work of Business as Mission into the Church.
Finding Common Ground
In 2012 Dr. Phil Walker (President and co-founder of International Christian Ministries) was conducting a leadership seminar in Accra, Ghana. Renita Reed-Thomson (Regional Director for a BAM ministry) was attending the seminar with her team. At the break, she began sharing with Phil about the challenges of the BAM movement. While successful in helping Christian business owners grow in their ability to operate successful businesses, she was concerned about their spiritual journey (Deuteronomy 8:18). It was easy to see financial growth, but hard to know if they were growing in their walk with the Lord. Phil discussed his frustration with the local church and its inability to substantially impact the community by empowering members to be light and leaven in the community. Phil invited Renita to Kitale, Kenya, to teach a course on Church-based Business as Mission at ICM’s Africa Theological Seminary.
Over the initial months of teaching pastors, Renita saw a dramatic change in their perspective regarding business and work. Teaching business as a calling, supported theologically, pastors shifted from business as a “necessary evil,” to business as calling, contributing to fulfilling the Great Commitment of Genesis 1:28. Renita shared with other BAM practitioners about integrating BAM formally with the church. They said BAM and the local church could not find common ground for working together. Some stated that the church is “too difficult” to work with and therefore should be side-stepped. Renita decided on a research project to test whether the faith and work movement was possible within the local church. From 2013-2015, Renita conducted an 18-month research study, in three cities with six churches and 260 businesses.
The Fruit of Working Together
The results were dramatic in outcomes. The local church, business owners, and the businesses benefited from working together. The local church showed numerical and financial growth, the local business showed growth in profit and sales, and the business owner showed growth in household income and spiritual growth.
Additionally, these other key findings were noted:
1. Church-based BAM training enables the BAM movement opportunity to be part of the DNA of the local church, like a women’s or youth ministry. Church history has seen several iterations seeking integration between faith and work. Unfortunately, these had limited success due to limited connection to the church, where there are opportunities for ongoing discipleship, encouragement, and equipping.
2. In Church-based BAM, business owners are encouraged by their pastor to see and understand their businesses as part of God’s plan and mission. This affirmation brought tears to some during their commissioning as marketplace ministers. They were recognized as part of the mission of God and not merely an ATM for church projects. Failure of the local church gathered to see the importance of the church scattered is to lose their most strategic members placed where they can have considerable impact. The symbiotic relationship between Christian businesspeople and the local church is critical for the fulfillment of the the Great Commission.
3. BAM provides the local pastor and church with the practical application of theology. Most pastors are taught informally that work is a necessary evil and that calling is about leaving the marketplace and becoming a “full time” Christian worker. When pastors understand this fallacy, their eyes are opened to the potential of business as core to effectively living out the Christian life. Evangelism moves from a program to “life on life” experience.
Since they first met and discussed their frustrations, Renita has built a training curriculum around the concept of Church-based Business as Mission and ministry. Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) was the product of holy discontent. In DML, Pastors go through a two-day workshop. At the conclusion they are asked to institute a “business month” into their church calendar. Ministry is set up in the local church to support workers in the workplace. Training is provided, along with Bible studies related to the integration between work and faith.
In 2018, Phil stepped down as President of ICM in order to help Renita implement a new model of church involvement. Renita sees DML as an answer to her frustration of not knowing if the people she trained under the traditional BAM model were growing in their faith. Phil saw the connection with Christians in business as the vital link for both discipleship and light, leaven, and salt in the community.
The process of moving to Church-based Business as Mission (CBBAM) has not been simple nor easy. There have been challenges, as well as opportunities. The single most significant barrier to the introduction of CBBAM is the absence of a theological framework that pastors and their church leaders can understand and accept. There is paradigm shift needed that moves from “church as building” to “people as the Church.” The paradigm shift needs energy, focus, commitment, and determination. In 2018, DML discovered that working with denominations is much more efficient and effective. Currently DML is working in six denominations to roll out DML in more than 20,000 churches. DML has launched in nine countries in Sub-Sahara Africa.
Fulfilling the Potential of Church-BAM Partnership
In 2004, the Lausanne Occasional Paper on BAM gave two recommendations for Business as Mission in the ‘BAM Manifesto’. The first was for the Church to identify, affirm, pray for, commission, and release businesspeople. The second was for the businesspeople to accept this affirmation. It is still the most straightforward presentation of what and how BAM should be done to fulfill the great potential that can come between the local church and Marketplace Ministers.
The dichotomy between BAM and the local church needs to end. There is too much at stake. The BAM movement could be and should be the catalyst for a second reformation, which empowers every member to be a minister in their work and business.
Two people met by “chance,” both frustrated from different angles. God turned frustration into opportunity as thousands of churches across Africa introduce Church-based Business as Mission. The DML model keeps the local church central to discipling nations, and work as central to combatting poverty, while carrying the message of reconciliation to the nations.
Watch Emiline Nde and Renita Reed-Thomson talk more about working with the church and discipling marketplace leaders:
Read more from Dr. Phil Walker and Renita Reed-Thomson on The BAM Review
Dr. Phil Walker is the President Emeritus and co-founder of International Christian Ministries. Phil currently serves as the Board Chairperson for Discipling Marketplace Leaders. His 40+ years of service includes living in both the Middle East and Africa. He continues to follow his passion to “equip the Church for service” by teaching for DML.
Renita Reed-Thomson is the President and founder of Discipling Marketplace Leaders. Renita has her MBA and is completing her PhD in Sustainable Development. DML is a product of her experiences in Africa where she has lived and worked since 2005.
For more information on DML, go to disciplingmarketplaceleaders.org.
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Join us at the BAM Global Congress, the ‘one stop shop’ for the global business as mission movement. The Congress is open to everyone interested and only happens every seven years, so don’t miss this chance to connect with BAM leaders from every continent! Find out more information about the Congress here.
The BAM Global Congress in April next year will reflect the four major constituencies of BAM, including:
- An Academic Track
- A Church Track
- An Agency Track
Plus, Business topics and sub-tracks of all kinds:
- BAM stories and cases
- BAM planning and start-up
- BAM operations
- BAM incubation and investment
- Practical integration of business and missional objectives
- Industry-specific Roundtables
- The application of BAM to tackling human trafficking and poverty
- The application of BAM to taking the gospel to the unreached
- And many more.
Picture credit: DML