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 second theme was the need to intentionally rebalance the deployment of resources and focus more attention on those that are currently marginalised. We need to acknowledge that many more resources are focused on some areas of the world and some categories of people than they are on others. Business as mission has a special concern for the world’s poorest and least evangelised peoples so this is extremely pertinent to us, read more about what defines BAM here.
Theme 2: Reaching the Marginalised and the Skewed Deployment of Resources
There are still vast swathes of the world’s population that remain marginalised. Marginalised from mainstream economic life, freedom of worship and conscience, decent environmental conditions whether air, water, housing, working environment, etc. Vast swathes remain “un-digitalised”, and largely unreached “hidden in plain sight” from the gospel in its wholistic intent. We must recognise and respond to the strategic imperative of the Great Commission, within the context of the Great Commandment. Conversely, rebuilding, redeeming, and restoring broken, imperfect contexts and environments affords amazing opportunities for the Church to engage and have an enduring, relevant testimony of love and creativity that will honour our Father in Heaven.
The remaining least-reached groups are often in places which limit the access of traditional, far-culture missionaries. Same and near culture workers will need to be highly contextualized, adapted, flexible, and have an identity which allows credible access to the community. In many cases this will be business (farming, trading, small manufacturing) but in other cases may be NGO work or other work. We need to mobilize the near culture churches into a missions mindset revolution, with them increasingly sending humble, hard-working, believers (often in small family groups) to these least reached groups in both urban and rural settings.
While technology and travel progress has helped us spread the Word further and faster than ever, at the same time there are widening gaps in the fruit of our faith. These widening gaps relate to where and who experiences the promised reconciliation, restoration and flourishing that should be the result of our discipleship and the living out of our Christian faith. We have witnessed great progress in the last decades on alleviating global poverty (with the exception of the COVID-19 pandemic’s reversal of that progress for the first time in decades, with another 100+ million people falling back into poverty). However, this economic prosperity and flourishing often excludes marginalized groups, with growing divides between the rich and the poor in almost every nation. The gaps between rich and poor are increasing, in rich nations and poor nations, in majority Christian and non-Christian nations. We have marginalized people groups from God’s promises based on our own fears and bias’ related to our ‘isms’ on race, ethnicity, religion, social status, gender, etc. There is an opportunity today for the church to look closely at these gaps, understand our role in perpetuating the divides, and now find opportunities to address these gaps institutionally and individually. We have an opportunity to be motivated by the truths revealed in this time to better answer God’s call to love our neighbor – to love ALL of our neighbors – through our roles in the church and the marketplace.
With regard to the harvest field, the church is aware of the challenges to reach the remaining unreached people groups and we need to embrace every avenue that gives us access. BAM is an example of such an avenue, but we need to think beyond just being a witness through our working life, to actively engaging in discipleship making strategies.
The second great challenge is the concentration of investment capital in the industrialized nations. By way of illustration, only 5% of global capital investment is on the African continent; given the number of countries and the size of the population in Africa, this further dilutes capital and its impact.
Over 40% of the world’s people groups (ethne) remain unreached by the gospel, although the gospel is available in nearly all ‘political’ nations. In these unreached people groups 2% or less of the population is Christian. Nearly 30% of the world’s population have had no or little exposure to the gospel. And 40% have heard the gospel message, but not responded. Only some 10% of the world’s population are followers of Jesus. The remaining 20% are nominal Christians. (Data are from various sources, collated here). It certainly appears that there is a long way to go if the church is to fulfil the Great Commission. The problem appears to be that (evangelical) Christians are not aware of these facts and so most mission funding is allocated to local activities or to ‘traditional’ mission fields.
A major issue is the call toward kingdom-centric entrepreneurship and business is lacking adequate support and endorsement by the global church. Alongside this, the commitment of personal and corporate resources towards missional/kingdom business is overshadowed and skewed by such resources deployed in other financial markets. The level of risk appetite warrants deeper reflection in light of Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27).
We tend to consider Matthew 18:12 redemption (i.e. bringing back the person that has left the church) as more familiar, safe, easy and, ultimately, more valuable than seeing redemption of people in all nations. This is evidenced by the lack in numbers of disciple-makers working amongst unreached people groups.
We still have 90% of the laborers for the gospel working where there are churches. We need to be focused on Matthew 24:14 – And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come – in light of Matthew 28:18-20. As Oswald Sanders points out in his booklet, Certainties of Christ Return, Matthew 24:14 needs to be prioritized for the church. Yet unlike the various military forces; mission agencies, parachurch groups, and the churches, barely talk to one another. There’s tons of redundancy and waste because of this. My impression is that each group seems more focused on the task, and not on Jesus. Many have low standards, have no ‘real’ accountability and we wonder why God isn’t blessing our efforts. We rejoice at a 10% harvest, when I believe He yearns to give us much much more.
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 3: A Holistic Gospel and the Kingdom Coming in the Marketplace
>>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.