Matt was thrilled to finally share with his Southeast Asian neighbors all the opportunities to serve them through his social work. He described how he could dig wells for access to clean water, build schools, or hold food and clothing drives to bless their community. To his surprise, his friends told him he was wasting his time. They didn’t want any of that. Instead, they desired access to western markets through Matt’s connections. One friend said, “In this way we can produce a product, sell it to the West, and make money for ourselves. Then with our own money we can choose how to meet the needs of our community such as food, clothing, shelter, and education, instead of having you westerners tell us what we need.”
Matt took this curt response as a sign of genuine friendship and prayerfully considered their advice. Sensing this was the Lord’s will, Matt and his wife Amy left their social work behind and set up an essential oil distillery to harvest local Southeast Asian plant oil; a product highly sought after in the West. This small for-profit manufacturing business provided employment to many farmers throughout the rural countryside and as a result, positively impacted the lives of hundreds of indigenous unreached people. To date, nearly a thousand of these precious people have responded to Jesus Christ in an area that previously had not known His name!
Business for Transformation
God orchestrated this wonderful story of redemption through the dynamic combination of both spiritual and economic ambition. Matt had a background in agriculture, Amy knew chemical engineering, and they both longed for salvation to come to the unreached. All they needed was the candid response of a local friend to help them put all the pieces together into the beautiful concoction of what we at OPEN call Business for Transformation (B4T).
B4T is the strategic use of business and professional skills for the purpose of bringing economic and spiritual transformation to communities among least reached peoples. B4T is the glorious mixture of apostolic zeal to preach the gospel where Christ is not known (Romans 15:20) together with the ancient understanding of work (Genesis 2:15), a God-imaging activity that He receives as worship. (See more here, here, here, and here).
Every day, nearly 60,000 people1,2 are born into cultures and nations around the world that have little or no access to the Gospel. The vast majority of these nations do not grant visas to Christian religious workers, and even if they did, traditional sending methods could only produce a tiny fraction of the workers needed for the task. Our current efforts to gather worshippers for Jesus from every tribe, tongue and nation must be seriously reevaluated, to include the 99% who do not relate well to the traditional missions approaches for proclaiming the Good News. God’s fame and the eternal destinies of the largest population of lost people in history hang in the balance.
God is at Work!
Thankfully, with God there is always hope. The rise of many wonderful Faith, Work and Economics (FWE) networks3, Business as Mission (BAM) organizations4, and almost inexhaustible resource libraries and blogs5 on the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of work have greatly multiplied in the past decade.
As a result, many in the Church are being mobilized toward real, practical and spiritual initiatives to bring transformation to their local communities via the marketplace.
Professionals and business people who have been trained to ask fundamental questions like, “What tangible needs in the market are being overlooked?”, “What are the possible solutions to these needs”, and “What resources, skills, and relationships do I have that could provide for those needs?” are now also starting to ask questions like, “How is God present in my work?”, “In what ways can I incorporate prayer for my co-workers while also modeling Christ’s love towards them?”, and “How should I operate my business so as to glorify God and bless my employees and community?”
Church leaders are increasingly calling out the unbiblical cultural norm that teaches us to segregate the “sacred” parts of our lives from the “secular” parts. They are commissioning their marketplace congregants as they would their global workers. They are teaching about the priesthood of all believers and expecting them to actually make disciples in their workplaces. Once staunch denominational boundary lines are being traversed as a result of faith and work partnerships.
Unleashing the Whole Church
Through the increased activity of the faith and work movement across many streams of the Body of Christ, the latent potential of the faithful, job-working, church-volunteering, financially-sustaining majority is slowly being realized. This move of God is laying the groundwork for an enormous and unprecedented surge in potential cross-cultural workers. In this way, God has provided the perfect solution to meet the needs of the world who are not only starving for relationship with God through Jesus, but are often just as impoverished materially as they are spiritually6.
In God’s wisdom, He has equipped the Church with virtually every skill, resource, and relationship required to bring both spiritual renewal and economic flourishing to the world through a growing number of men and women who know how to intentionally live out their faith in the marketplace.
There’s just one problem, at least in the Western Church, most of the faith and work efforts have yet to crossover to the global marketplace, focusing instead on the flourishing of communities where the church already exists. The understanding and application of faith and work as a means for discipling all nations has barely scratched the surface of where it could go. There are various reasons for this but none of them are due to the lack of a working model.
How OPEN Seeks to Multiply the Impact
Speaking in business terms, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has already been established and it is effective! B4T stories like Matt and Amy’s in Southeast Asia are happening in many places. Throughout the OPEN Network – a network comprised of faith-filled professionals and business owners living and working in almost every Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist country – there are many successful B4T initiatives resulting in economic and spirtual transformation. B4T as a model in the Church simply needs to be scaled.
As far as OPEN is concerned, we believe we are strategically positioned to serve the Body of Christ for this purpose, not for the sake and name of OPEN, but to steward the gifts God has given us for His glory. For the last 20 years, B4T practitioners in the OPEN Network have been learning from Jesus how to live this out and help others who desire to do the same. Experienced OPEN Mentors are caring for the next generation of workers through holistic discipling in submission to local sending churches. Yearly gatherings of B4T workers on the field enable field relationships to deepen, establishing community, equipping and sharpening professionals while at the same time enabling the longevity of the work.
OPEN also serves local churches as they send their professionals to the ends of the earth. OPEN provides internship and apprenticeship opportunities, investment capital, business coaching, cross-cultural discipleship training, networking, and hosts B4T Expos around the world.
Want to know more? Contact us so we can build a relationship and find ways to serve you and your church as you engage in B4T. Together, let’s be the generation that unleashes the whole body of Christ to reach the whole world.
For more information about OPEN go to:
OPEN is a network of 300+ people starting businesses and working for both local and international companies in least reached areas. B4T is a growing movement within the BAM world that stresses the two bottom lines of financial success and spiritual impact. OPEN prioritizes the following things:
1. Least-reached people: We establish in areas and with people where there are no or few churches.
2. Profitable and sustainable businesses: Our business owners and all employees draw a salary/paycheck, and bigger businesses have a bigger impact.
3. Jesus’ name: If the authorities, co-workers and community do not know that we love Jesus, then why are we there?
4. Holistic transformation: We impact our local communities in reproducible and measurable ways—first spiritually and economically; then socially and environmentally.
1 Andrew Scott, Scatter (Moody Publishers, 2016), 11
2 Some global statistics show a world average of 220,000 new births per day. Joshua Project estimates the populations of all unreached peoples make up 41.6% of the world population, resulting in greater than 90,000 new people added each day to unreached populations.
6 What is the 10/40 Window? Joshua Project