BAM integrates all aspects of life and godliness. God cares about business related issues like economic development and justice, employment and unemployment, use and distribution of resources, etc. that impact the physical and spiritual wellbeing of people. This is clear as we read the Law and the Prophets in the Old Testament. BAM is a change agent to bless the nations.
As such, BAM involves spiritual warfare. It challenges the work of Satan, whose purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy lives through poverty and many forms of oppression resulting from physical and spiritual deprivation. Therefore, the full armor of God, spiritual vigilance and prayer are indispensable for BAM operators.
But we must not over-spiritualize to the neglect of sound business principles and hard work. Starting business anywhere in the world is challenging and most people are not cut out to be entrepreneurs. Doing business overseas in emerging economies comes with formidable challenges—unwieldy bureaucracy and regulations that are not business-friendly, endemic corruption, deficient infrastructures, language and cultural barriers, and difficulty in finding reliable local employees, etc.
Many 10/40 Window countries are also politically unstable, posing higher risks to investors. Careful market research, due diligence and discernment are important even when the business does not involve heavy capital investment. Any startup without adequate capital, sound business plans and the needed skills will fail. So beyond vision and passion, one of the biggest needs in BAM is practical training and support. Many organizations are now working together to provide these resources.
A KAIROS MOMENT
While BAM poses many challenges, unreached peoples in many countries are “desperately seeking Western business know-how and investment. With jet travel, business people can get anywhere in the world in twenty-four hours. English has become the lingua franca of business. It seems that all of the pieces are falling into place for Business As Missions in much the same way the Pax Romana and the Greek language prepared the ancient world for the original transmission of the gospel. It remains for us to strategize, plan, and then act to take advantage of this kairos moment that God has prepared.” (Brian Walck in 9 Missiological Insights into Business as Mission)
Thirty years ago when we promoted tentmaking for China, we told our friends that they must be sure of God’s calling and be ready to make career sacrifices. Upon coming home, they might need to switch career from high tech to selling real estate. But we did not foresee that the world would become flat with the arrival of the Internet Age.
Since the 90s, over 180 tentmakers have returned from the field after one to fifteen or more years and done well with their careers. In some cases, their overseas experience led to better positions than what they had before. God is faithful. He takes care of those who are faithful to His call.
BAM enables us to take the gospel to the hard places. So what is the way forward?
THE WAY FORWARD FOR YOUNG & OLD
Not all BAM companies are success stories. Even in the U.S., at least 50% of startups do not survive beyond five years. Entrepreneurship in emerging economies and foreign cultures means a high entry threshold and a steep learning curve. Despite the daunting challenge, hundreds of trail blazers are already out there.
Churches need to learn more about BAM and its strategic role in global outreach. Believers should be encouraged to explore how they can contribute to BAM, even if they are not entrepreneurial or going to do startups overseas.
A brother has been in Central Asia for twenty years doing BAM. As his business grew, he needed a stronger team. An early retiree joined him recently, committing to six years of service as his senior accountant. Two brothers in their 30s also came on a three-year managerial apprenticeship, bringing with them solid corporate and business school training.
Early retirees with experience in accounting, marketing, operations, etc. could undergo training to become consultants, short-term volunteers, and bring their business knowhow to BAM companies on the field for a few months or even a few years.
For students, invest your summers wisely to discover what God is doing in business around the world. An internship with a Fortune 500 company in the U.S. will be good for your resume. But spending several weeks with a BAM company in a developing country offers a unique international and missional experience. You will learn and grow spiritually from spending time with BAM workers.
GLS is developing strategic partnerships with other organizations to offer exciting opportunities for young people to explore BAM.