“Really big and sudden changes in the world of missions don’t come often. But now one is upon us. It’s the major optimism and thrill of business people who are devout believers starting or extending ‘Kingdom Businesses’ around the world.”
(Ralph Winter in Mission Frontiers, Nov-Dec 2007)
Faith At Work & BAM
Beginning in the 80s, Marketplace Ministry sought to bring transformation to the workplace. In thirty years, the Faith At Work movement has spread all over the world. Today, over 1,000 organizations in the U.S. are focused on helping Christians integrate faith and work. This is an important foundation for the Business As Mission (BAM) movement in our time.
From Lausanne to Urbana and the 2013 BAM Global Congress, the Church is called to mobilize business resources to reach the world with the gospel. This has led to serious research with case studies and training materials from around the world that are widely available. Google search “business as mission” and 54 million results pop up in 0.5 second.
Entrepreneurship & Globalization
Entrepreneurship captures the imagination and aspirations of young people today. Almost every school has a class, a club or center on entrepreneurship. Universities build “entrepreneurial ecosystems” to encourage commercialization of technology developed by faculty and students. Facebook is the success story among student startups. Access to open-source software and thousands of student business competitions help fuel this rapidly growing trend.
21st century globalization is offering unprecedented opportunities for entrepreneurship and missions. For the younger generation, this is a kairos convergence of their careers as professionals, their stewardship as global citizens, and their calling as World Christians to live out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Business As Mission offers the opportunity and challenge to reach the world for Christ.
Reaching Needy Places
Broadly speaking, the gospel is taken to the nations by missionaries, NGO workers in humanitarian services, and tentmakers, among them, BAM operators.
But access is an issue in many 10/40 Window countries most in need of the gospel. Many Muslim nations do not issue missionary visas. In recent years, even the door to NGO workers is closing in some countries. English teachers who work for low wages are often suspect for being undercover missionaries. But apart from teaching, jobs for professionals are hard to come by in the troubled economies of most developing countries.
However, businesses that inject foreign investment and create jobs are welcome everywhere. Jobs give people security and dignity, booster the economy, and improve stability in society. But BAM is much more than an entry ticket. A business that is intentional about God’s purpose and strives to follow biblical principles in dealing with employees, customers, suppliers, banks and government will have holistic impact on the people. The spiritual, economic, social, and even environmental benefits could be transformational for society.
Tentmaking & BAM
Tentmakers are self-supporting missional professionals. They may work for employers, who are nonbelievers. Tentmakers strive to be salt and light at work. They have personal influence. But their influence over an entire organization or institution is often limited.
By contrast, a BAM company is Christian owned and led. It is conceived and developed with a missional purpose and strategy in mind, and operated according to biblical principles and values. The staff are not exclusively Christians; they include nationals, people they want to reach with the gospel. A well run, profit-making BAM blesses the lives of its stakeholders in the community and government. Its witness is visible like a city on a hill (Mt 5:14-16).
Finally, tentmaking professionals go where there are jobs. But BAM operators can go wherever they can to create jobs for themselves and others.