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The Power of Business to Lift Communities Out of Poverty

This month we are exploring different motives a missional entrepreneur may have for pursuing business as mission as their strategy of choice. In this fourth post, we are exploring the power of business in lifting individuals and communities out of poverty.

Business is uniquely positioned as an essential and sustainable solution to ending poverty. Current global economic shifts and technological advances are creating a unique opportunity at this point to bring this goal in reach. Business by its nature is a relational activity, and a potentially transformational activity. Business not only creates jobs, it is where networks and relationships are the norm, creating networks and relationships that are essential for community restoration and transformation.

I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business.  That is because business produces goods, and businesses produce jobs.  And businesses continue producing goods year after year, and continue providing jobs and paying wages year after year.  Therefore if we are ever going to see long-term solutions to world poverty, I believe it will come through starting and maintaining productive, profitable business. — Wayne Grudem, Business for the Glory of God

 

The role of businesses and job creation in ending poverty

Thriving businesses and job creation are vital for ending poverty. Kaushik Basu, the Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at World Bank states, “Jobs are the best insurance against poverty and vulnerability” (World Bank, 2013). John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, shares from his own business experience, “Business is the greatest creator of value in the world. It’s helped lift humanity out of poverty and into prosperity” (Fox News, 2013).

From the voices of the poor themselves (in a survey of over 60,000), jobs and businesses were cited as major paths out of poverty:

In a large set of qualitative studies in low-income countries, two of the main reasons that people gave for moving out of poverty were finding jobs and starting businesses. (Narayan, Pritchett, and Kapoor, 2009)

The development world has reached a similar conclusion, that aid alone is not the solution to poverty. Renowned books, from Dead Aid, to When Helping Hurts, and Toxic Charity warn us of the destructive tendency of “us to them” aid that wears away at the dignity and productive capacity of people and communities. Read more

The Power of Business in Gospel Planting Among the Least Reached

This month we are exploring different motives a missional entrepreneur may have for pursuing business as mission as their strategy of choice. In this second post, we are exploring the power of business in sharing the gospel of Jesus and planting churches in the least reached places.

Jesus gave us the mandate to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28) and this ‘Great Commission’ will lead to us to the hardest places to reach with the gospel, where new believers may come to Christ in places where there isn’t already an expression of local church.  Many within the business as mission movement, especially those from church planting mission agencies, are hopeful that BAM can be a key strategy in starting new churches and transforming communities. Where these hard to reach places are often closed to traditional mission models, there are only a few places in the world that aren’t open for business!

Rationale for the integration of business and church planting

It is useful to consider some good reasons to combine business and church planting. Indeed, combining the two did not just begin when missionaries could not find visas to live in closed countries. Instead, there has been a natural merging of business, church planting and the presentation of the gospel throughout church history.

The apostle Paul himself was a tentmaker, or small business owner. He supported himself and saw this strategy as being beneficial for church planting. For example, among the Thessalonians, Paul “Worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while [he] preached the gospel of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:9). This example was needed to teach the Thessalonians that they also were to work and not be idle (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9). In Corinth, Paul did not accept payment from the people in order to clarify the message of the gospel, making it clear that the his preaching was not tied to financial gain (1 Corinthians 9, 2 Corinthians 12). Yet Paul’s tentmaking was not absolute; he would accept support and be “fully devoted” to preaching and teaching where there was support and when the context was appropriate (Acts 18:5).

Another significant example of God working through the marketplace is the Moravians, who were Christians that formed a spiritually and economically integrated community in Europe during the eighteenth century. The first Moravian missionaries, David Nitschmann and Leonhard Dober, were sent out by the Moravian community to Saint Thomas in the Caribbean to establish a mission to African slaves. One of the missionaries supported themselves through his carpentry skills. Other missionaries soon followed them. All missionaries “sent out” by the Moravians were expected to support themselves if they could and to provide any profit they earned from their endeavors to the mission itself, not for themselves personally. They sought ‘profit for the Lord’, as documented by William Danker in his book of the same name.

The Moravian missionaries in Suriname on the northern coast of South America started what would become very large commercial operation. While employing African slaves in a tailor shop, the missionaries found it easy to talk about the gospel while sitting together at a tailor’s bench. As they added a bakery and a watchmaker’s business they were able to employ more and more of the slaves and gave them not only work, but also a new way of life. This mission resulted in a permanent department store that had a great impact on the local area and thirteen thousand members worshipping in seven churches. The Moravians also went to Cape Town, South Africa where they combined evangelistic efforts with trade, industry and agriculture, not only providing their own financial support, but also financially helping the local people. A further benefit of the Moravian commercial activity was a boldness in setting the moral and ethical standards for business in their area. Read more

7 Fruitful Practices for BAM and Church Planting

BAM companies are usually very diverse, each business with its own unique features. However, through research into real experiences of BAM and Church Planting, some shared commonalities emerged in the following fruitful practices:

1. Contact

Make sure that the business provides regular contact with the focus people.

Intentionally create a business that provides regular contact with those with whom you are hoping to share the gospel – whether they are employees, customers, suppliers or others. A bakery business owner estimates that they have a chance to meet an average of 100 people a day. Christ can be made known to staff, suppliers, and customers through business activities. One employer who hires local women who come from difficult home lives seeks to help those women achieve a greater quality of life. Another BAM company provides business opportunities and income for local Christian leaders, encouraging them to stay and carry on the church planting work rather than moving away for employment to support their families. An agricultural business enables local Christians to do church planting work by training them in an egg production business. In this model they also help the trainees set up the businesses which provides contacts for them, as well as an income. This agriculture business also provides church planting training to the locals as part of their strategy.

Although the business is usually the context in which contacts are made and relationships started, several BAM practitioners (BAMers) mentioned that conversations about spiritual matters typically take place outside of the workplace. However, in other cases BAMers reported that these conversations start naturally through a shared work environment. Read more

More Fruitful Practices for BAM and Church Planting

Although BAM companies integrating church planting strategies tend to be very diverse, there are some common fruitful practices. Read the first 7 practices in Part 1 here. Part 2, more fruitful practices for BAM and church planting:

8. Prayer

Incorporate prayer right from the start.

Prayer is one of the cornerstones of church planting and BAM. Some of the businesses incorporate prayer in their meetings with key staff, while most pray for their business, and their business decisions on a regular basis. Most BAMers regularly pray for their staff and sometimes have opportunities to pray with their employees individually. Most people respond to and welcome prayer for themselves and family members, especially at times of distress and trouble. Often BAM practitioners develop a reputation as a man or woman of prayer and have people seek them out because of answers to prayer. In one company, a business owner prayed for healing of a sick woman, who had tried many other options, and she was healed. This gave the owner a chance to talk about spiritual ideas and a church was started as a result.    Read more

7 Fruitful Practices for BAM and Church Planting

BAM companies are usually very diverse, each business with its own unique features. However, through research into real experiences of BAM and Church Planting, some shared commonalities emerged in the following fruitful practices:

1. Contact

Make sure that the business provides regular contact with the focus people.

Intentionally create a business that provides regular contact with those with whom you are hoping to share the gospel – whether they are employees, customers, suppliers or others. A bakery business owner estimates that they have a chance to meet an average of 100 people a day. Christ can be made known to staff, suppliers, and customers through business activities. One employer who hires local women who come from difficult home lives seeks to help those women achieve a greater quality of life. Another BAM company provides business opportunities and income for local Christian leaders, encouraging them to stay and carry on the church planting work rather than moving away for employment to support their families. An agricultural business enables local Christians to do church planting work by training them in an egg production business. In this model they also help the trainees set up the businesses which provides contacts for them, as well as an income. This agriculture business also provides church planting training to the locals as part of their strategy.

Although the business is usually the context in which contacts are made and relationships started, several BAM practitioners (BAMers) mentioned that conversations about spiritual matters typically take place outside of the workplace. However, in other cases BAMers reported that these conversations start naturally through a shared work environment. Read more