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 also asked us:
What promising breakthroughs or innovations do you see that can accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission?
We received input from 25 global leaders on this question especially as it relates to business as mission, here are selected replies that highlight the main themes, including:
- Prayer and networking that fosters servant-hearted partnership
- Witness and discipleship in the marketplace
- Mobilisation of business people – especially the next generation
- Higher quality training and business incubation
- Greater accessibility of funding for businesses
- Media and technology bringing multi-faceted impact
What promising breakthroughs or innovations do you see that can accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission?
The ability for believers globally to pray together by sharing information, prayer needs, and sharing answered prayers will lead to the greatest breakthrough.
Acceleration = Movements. Incremental change will not reach the goal. So in every area we need to ask, “How do we make this simple, scalable, replicable, sustainable?” Movements can be facilitated through collaboration, networking and partnerships. When applied to prayer, resources, technology, equipping, etc. we will see greater breakthroughs. Since it requires increased humility, putting one another first, greater listening, etc. all these invite the Holy Spirit to do His work.
The breakthrough will be when everyone sees their profession as that which can accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission. In addition to BAM efforts, another breakthrough is the several hundred thousand evangelical Christians working abroad for transnational corporations, government contracts, consulting gigs, university teaching getting the vision to share Jesus and disciple people. For example, I coached a group of 40 professionals working in North Korea a couple of years ago. There are a couple of hundred countries in the world, most of them non-western and they all want western technology, science, etc. Why not thousands of Christians at work living like Jesus everywhere. That would be a breakthrough – not only relying on traditional missionaries, but Jesus followers who live differently and beg the question for earnest seekers.
I do believe that the new generation is arriving on the scene less affected by the sacred-secular dichotomy and the hero worship of traditional missionaries (to the exclusion of other vocations) that has been prevalent in previous generations. Capturing these young minds and teaching them a truly polycentric mission model is key to greater involvement and engagement.
I see progress on reconciliation happening where partnerships bridge the divides between the marginalized and those at the center of the marketplace. I’ve witnessed transformation when people on both sides of a partnership are seeking to extend beyond their own biases and fears, committed to long-term partnerships of deep listening, humility and respect for people who are different from them. These transformational partnerships are rooted in the understanding that every person is made in God’s image, created and creative, with unique value, creative potential and voices that need to be heard. On the practical side, the speed of disruption into online communication, training and e-commerce is a game-changer for the work we do focused on businesspeople and business-focused partnerships as those agents of transformation for a world without poverty. For example, our business curriculum training moved to an on-line format that allows more consistent quality and lower-cost to scale impact with partners around the globe. However, these innovations could also create an acceleration of existing gaps – where those with digital access can grow and people groups and business without access fall further behind, more disconnected from education, networks and markets that are essential for them to survive and thrive in this new world.
From my perspective, the emergence and growing traction of the business as mission movement holds significant potential. This implies the stepping up of labourers for the harvest, in this case those who will, through business, go and make disciples of all nations. I think the BAM movement does need to differentiate carefully between the more generic, localised “marketplace movement” in which all Christians, everywhere, involved in a working environment in a commercial or business context, have the opportunity to be and make disciples. But this is not necessarily the same as the specific calling, capability and components required to start, grow, lead and manage an intentionally missional business enterprise. There are other innovations – some of them digital – that are contributing to the forward momentum of the Great Commission, but ultimately, in my view, we must be realistic and sound on the matter of incarnational presence. As I would describe it, are we bits and bytes, or made in the image of God – and, if the latter, what are the implications for the church-present and active.
We need to make a system to equip the next generation of Christian to do business as mission. There is a great interest among young people to have their own business. We can use this interest to equip them both with business skills and missional mindset. This will strengthen the church and influence the society.
Providing the proper training, coaching, and strategic capital is a critical success factor. This allows us to focus on the quality, not quantity, of BAM companies that exist. Our ability to identify the opportunities that are present and adequately support them so they can be successful is why we must pool our resources and network whenever possible. We have seen some incredible breakthroughs take place when this type of roadmap is in place. BAM has been negatively portrayed in many circles because there was never a process in place. Individuals with great intentions were put in no-win situations with no support and the result was devastating for all. This is exactly what we don’t want, and this is why proper due-diligence on all fronts is imperative before the business opens its doors.
I notice two breakthroughs, which we did not make but God did. The awareness of the ecological stewardship awakened by the covid pandemic would be the first. Now we Christians are forced to remember the first covenant God made with the Noah family and all the creatures written in Genesis 9, which was actually a reminder of the command God gave to the first humankind in Genesis 1. We now struggle to remember our ecological and cosmic responsibility due to the ecological disasters and the consequent pandemic. The fulfilment of the Great Commission cannot just come from evangelism of all nations in terms of coverage; it requires discipleship in depth which brings out our initial responsibility for the whole world including nature. Another breakthrough we see now is the rise of the global refugees and their migration to cities in the world. The case of refugees is mostly involuntary migration due to wars and conflicts but as much migration is voluntary one induced by economic needs and motives. These phenomena are not initiated by Christians. And yet we Christians can see new opportunities and challenges in these. Business economic activities are critical in both our ecological stewardship and urban living with the increased diversity. In order to make the above-mentioned breakthroughs a new practical opportunity, we may need to reflect how our daily economic activities could be integrated with our creation care and our interaction with different peoples we meet.
I believe technology, mass media and academia are three instruments which are under-utilized for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Similar to healthcare and medical apps, technology can be utilized for individual spiritual development and accountability. Second, technology can offer us a more efficient and effective method of sharing the Gospel. Mass media and social media can also be utilized since most of human activity is migrating towards those mediums. Academia has a unique and powerful impact upon any society and its opinion leaders, with multiple collateral benefits such as its members being appointed in key influential positions in government and international institutions.
Media is perhaps the most effective conduit for furthering the Great Commission, yet it is changing rapidly. It is both more fragmented and democratized in the internet era, as well as more centralized and globalized with multinational corporate media investment and distribution. Both aspects of the changing nature of media must be better understood by the church in order to equip the faithful to capitalize on these developments to further the Great Commission. Both trends count on extraordinary business acumen to be successful in the global marketplace of education and entertainment offerings. For instance, The Bible Project is a nonprofit helping people everywhere experience the story of Jesus. The YouVersion Bible app has users in every country of the world. According to an article in Business Insider, “YouVersion is largely the brainchild of LifeChurch.tv’s ‘Innovation Leader,’ Bobby Gruenewald. Prior to joining LifeChurch.tv, Gruenewald was a finance major, Christian rapper and entrepreneur.” These are just two examples of the ways faith-driven entrepreneurs now use cutting-edge business strategy to launch and grow media organizations that further the Great Commission.
Mobile phone technology holds much promise among unreached people groups. Many poorer countries have leap-frogged over analogue communications technology and adopted digital technology. It is common, even among the poorest of communities, for people to have mobile phones. Access to mobile technology can facilitate the development of business, especially by providing a mechanism for payments. In principle, this should make it easier than ever before to establish BAM businesses in the poorest and least evangelised people groups.
One breakthrough is the growth of funds investing into BAM companies – yet more can be done in the area of startup and venture capital funding model versus risk returns on capital. Another is incubators and accelerators that nurture BAM entrepreneurship for kingdom impact. A third is the training and development of entrepreneurship founded on biblical model and values, yet more could be done in collaboration between faith-based business schools and seminaries.
When it comes to BAM I believe we need to think bigger. As Christ followers why are we not thinking of going into a country and doing BAM at the level of multinational company? Years ago I heard someone share how a Muslim business man went into a war-torn country and served the nation by rebuilding their telephone infrastructure. He was loved by the community for doing this and was able to give back by building schools, mosques, etc. Why are we not thinking this big? I am not saying bigger is better, but I do feel as Christ followers we need to go all in when it comes to strategically reaching the nations with the love of Christ.
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 responses to the first ‘listening question’:
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)?
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.