In recent years, many people have begun to more fully appreciate the huge power and potential of business as mission as both a means to enter into contexts where missionaries are unwelcome, and a mechanism to catalyze church planting among unreached peoples. In fact, while other models often work in other contexts, BAM is distinctly qualified to open doors where the Gospel and church planting often are most needed. I won’t say “uniquely” qualified because I don’t want to get an influx of emails calling me a BAM extremist, but I will admit I lean in that direction!
Yet while the power of BAM to catalyze church planting becomes increasingly apparent to us, this relationship is not a new one. Luke, in apparently hyperbolic fashion, wrote in Acts 19:10 that in a period of two years, “all the residents of Asia (roughly today’s Turkey) heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” What was he thinking? Surely a medical doctor and historian would never resort to such embellishment of the truth!
Paul took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. – Acts 19:9-10, NIV
Everyone? In a huge geographic territory? In just two years! Well… yes. Pretty much. Apparently, Paul’s “Tyrannus Training Institute” (Acts 19:9) was neither a residential program, nor purely theological in nature. Rather he seems to have been discipling and training people who came and were equipped and then went out into the highways and byways of Asia, sometimes as “missionaries” entering into unfamiliar regions, sometimes as “lay people” returning home to their place of origin, but always on mission. It seems that so many people came and went, so many teams were equipped and sent, enough “so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”
We may infer that it likely was not literally everyone, but rather large groups of people in all the major cities of Asia, and probably a smattering of others scattered throughout. We also may infer that the so that in verse 10 is not a throwaway phrase, but rather deliberately used to express purpose. It was Paul’s purpose to train and send out people who would evangelize and plant multiplying churches! When we grasp the power of planting multiplying churches, it’s not difficult to imagine the scenario that Luke describes.
We may – very safely – further conclude that the people Paul was sending out were not all “religious professionals”. To the contrary, they could not have been such. There was neither time nor inclination on Paul’s part, nor would such “shoddily” trained religious professionals have been well received. (“You studied where?! The Tyrannasaurus what? Never heard of it. Part-time? Seriously? In a modular format? Is that even accredited?!”)
No, Paul’s was not a “conventional” missionary model. He’d already demonstrated in Corinth, in Acts 18:1-4, both his belief in the importance and power of professions in ministry, and his conviction that while God doesn’t call all His children to full-time ministry, He does call them all to minister full-time, leveraging their professions as a context for ministry. This is especially true with business.
Spoiler alert: I’m about to hijack Acts 18:1-4 from all the tentmakers out there! Or, maybe we can share?!
In Acts 18:1-4, we note that Paul was, by training, a tentmaker. Actually, he was a leather worker who often made tents. He united forces with Aquila and Priscilla and worked both professionally, making tents, whilst also ‘reasoning’ – which we understand to mean evangelizing – in the synagogue. But have you ever stopped to wonder things like, “Who did the marketing?” They had to have clients to buy their tents. How did the clients find out about them? Who paid the bills? They had to buy their leather from someone. In other words, Paul and Aquila and Priscilla were both a ministry team and a work team, i.e. a small business. In fact, these same dynamics could certainly have been the case in all of Paul’s apostolic church-planting teams. While Paul was the technical specialist (working with leather), it’s likely that Barnabas and Silas and Timothy and others of his teammates were not technically skilled in leather work. So we ask, “What did they do while Paul was crafting tents?” Barnabas was an encourager. Maybe he was the team’s salesperson, encouraging people to buy their tents? Timothy was a pastoral sort, so perhaps he handled customer relations?
My point is this: business and church planting were made for each other! Properly configured, church planting teams and business startup teams can be one and the same.
Dr. João Mordomo is co-founder and president of CCI-Brasil, a global church planting movement among unreached peoples. João serves variously as owner, managing director and board member of several BAM companies, and serves in several BAM leadership roles including at COMIBAM, BAM Global and Lausanne.