The High and Holy Calling of Business and Breaking the Sacred-Secular Divide

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 first theme was the need to continually break down the sacred-secular divide and affirm the high and holy calling of business. This is, as it turns out, is also foundational to all the other themes and consistently comes up in lists of priority issues for business as mission. To learn more about what the sacred-secular divide is and why and how we work to break it down, please read this introductory blog by Mike Baer.

Theme 1: The High and Holy Calling of Business and Breaking Down the Sacred-Secular Divide

Specifically in the context of BAM, I see a couple challenges that I believe we can address in the near future. One is the continued lack of the global church embracing the high and holy calling of business. This lack restricts the enlistment of disciple makers in business as mission, limits the equipping for this work by the church to church-centric training, and prevents the next generation from seeing the potential of working in business as a venue for global evangelism.

From the perspective of the church, a huge gap remains the theological marginalisation of work as a sacred act of worship in the understanding and behaviour of Christians in their everyday context. Ministry still remains largely defined in “church-type” terms, and “ministers” still remain largely a professional “class” in the minds of most avowed Christians. This must continue to be addressed.

The biggest opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission is in the marketplace. It’s the Body of Christ in the workplace. The Church in the workplace. We need to change the view of church away from Sunday and towards the business week.

In order to quicken the pace to realize the vision of Matt 28:18-20, it is imperative to mobilize all believers to participate in the effort intentionally. “The Church” should practice for real the “priesthood of all believers” and no longer just rely on the clergies and the “professional staff” in ministry. ALL believers need to be mobilized to share the good news and to become disciple-makers from day one when they themselves become Christians. They need to be told that their own testimonies plus the power of the Word, together with the power of prayer would be sufficient, and they are already given the power and authority to do so through the Holy Spirit. With such a conviction, we would have “priesthood” Kingdom workers in all walks of life already pre-positioned to spread the good news and bring transformation.

There are outstanding opportunities for Christians to integrate faith in their workplace or business seven days a week. This is where we can serve, to meet the real spiritual and physical needs of others, demonstrating the kingdom of God. Then for churches there is an opportunity to identify, affirm, pray for, commission and release workplace and business people to exercise their gifts and callings as business people in their workplace and in the world – among all people and to the ends of the earth.

Opportunities exist in both the harvest field and the harvest force and I believe the Lord is at work in both these areas. With regard to the harvest force – the mobilisation of followers of Jesus – there is a part of the church that is willing to change and embrace the priesthood of all believers and recognising the contribution of the various callings etc. for example, in business. As we continue to encourage this change in thinking more broadly and create opportunities, the momentum of “disciples making disciples” will grow.

At least three internal divisions have ruptured the sacred ground on which the global church stands. The gender divide within the church stands out as a leading culprit in creating a bias that blinds. This rift breaks alongside the sacred/secular divide that has caused the church to miss the sheer magnitude of strength lost when business is not named as a legitimate kingdom calling. And finally, ripples from the Great Reversal of the early 20th century continue to be felt to this day, manifesting as a false theological contest between a gospel of justice versus one of evangelism. What results is a blindness in the church to the ways God is calling women, businesspeople, and the “justice generation” to lead in carrying out the Great Commission.

By far the biggest gap in my view is that in the twentieth century the church essentially outsourced the cross-cultural efforts of the Great Commission to the professional missionary, meaning someone “called” to a clergy role or a missionary class of people. All of this is good but what has happened is that the rest (which is most) have been conditioned to Pray and Pay (give) and dabble in missions with a short-term trip or something along those lines, rather than get involved in the work of the Great Commission with their profession. This gap is really quite an opportunity. We need to mobilise everyone, in all giftings, strengths, talents, experiences, skills, qualifications etc., to be involved.

The 2004 BAM Manifesto recommendations for business as mission have not yet been fulfilled.  The first recommendation has often been intentionally or unintentionally sidestepped in order to work on the second recommendation. The first recommendation was for churches to recognize, partner with, encourage, pray for and equip business people. The second recommendation was for business people to receive this calling and do their work to the glory of God. Without making workplace ministries as part of the fabric of the church, the efforts and progress made in integrating faith and work are in danger of being a passing movement for this particular time and place. Almost every church has a youth or women’s or men’s ministry. Every church should also have a workplace or marketplace ministry as that is where most members spend most of their time being the church from Monday to Saturday! Yet most churches do not train or equip their members for the marketplace.  Most churches might preach a sermon or two per year on ethics in our work but there is a disconnect between our worship and our work. This is a significant gap. The recommendations in the 2004 Lausanne Occasional Paper in the BAM Manifesto were wonderful and have the potential of reaching the hidden people groups right in every city, town, and village; but sadly, the BAM movement has by and large neglected doing this work through the church.


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 2: Reaching the Marginalised and the Skewed Deployment of Resources
>>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.