Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and Missions. We are in episode 102 of Missions on Point. Today's episode will begin a series on contemporary issues in missions. This is the first of the series, we're going to use two episodes to talk about Business as Missions. There are many contemporary issues in missions, most of which have some measure of controversy. You will almost certainly run into some of these issues, maybe not all of them. You, your church and certainly any prospective missionaries need to be familiar with these issues. This episode will introduce you to Business as Missions. I realize that much of the literature out there and things that you'll find in search engines will refer to it as business as mission. That is mission as a singular not as missions a plural. We dealt with the distinction of that and why I think it's important to say missions way back in episodes 10 and 11 of Missions on Point so go back and listen to that to pick up the reasons why most missions historians would say that Paul's tent making activity was an example of Business as Missions.

There are many different types or flavors of Business as Mission or BAM, many of which range in the spectrum of charity to profitability or profit making businesses from social engineering or social intrapreneurial ship to more secular business goals for goods and services and profitability. In some cases, people may regard BAM as simply a Christian doing any kind of work in a cross-cultural setting with the goal of simply living out their Christian life, not any specific ministry goals in mind. Others regard BAM as a means to an end, a necessary evil, if you will. In order to get into many countries in the world today you have to have a business reason to be there. There's no such thing as a religious worker visa or a pastor's visa or a church planter's visa. They have to have a legitimate business reason to be in the country therefore, they must join or start a business in order to validate their reason for being in country.

Others use other kinds of visas as leverage for a nonprofit or NGO, Non-Governmental Organization or student status or perhaps a teacher status within an educational institution. There are many other contract type of jobs that may be available in engineering, in medicine, in government, leadership, consultation, many types of contract jobs that one may assume without having to start one's own business, however we'll save that for another episode. For the sake of our conversation today, let's just think about the missionary who needs to start a business in order to have a legitimate immigration presence in the country and does so specifically with ministry goals in mind. They want to reach an unreached people group, they want to share the gospel and disciple and plant churches, they want to develop indigenous leaders for those churches.

It's not just business for business sake or business for profit's sake. Even with this more limited sphere of discussion of Business as Mission, there are a lot of entangled pieces of knotted ball of yarn, complex ethical issues and business issues related to it. In the big picture as Greg Livingston of a well known missions to unreached people groups says there are job takers, that is those who accept a contract to work as Christians in one of those challenging or difficult countries to work in, there are job makers that is those who create businesses so that they create their own job and employ others as well.

Unfortunately, there are many job fakers that is, missionaries who go in knowing they need to start a business and they start one on paper but they never really do the work. They let it pose as a facade or a fake platform, if you will, for them to have presence in the country. It's not a surprise that those Christian workers often don't make it long term and certainly don't have a profitable business. If there's any government oversight of accountability for their business, they lose out and they simply lose their visa.

This BAM trend has been so pronounced that in 2004 the [inaudible 00:05:02] Conference Forum wrote a paper on it explaining some of the essentials of good Business as Mission. Here's some of their foundational business principles. Number one, the business strives to be profitable and sustainable in the long term, though profit is not a sure thing certainly striving for profit means that you're striving for excellence in the business, it's not just a sham or a fake.

Number two, it strives for excellence and operates with integrity and has a system of accountability. This would be true of any good business.

Number three, as mission distinctives, it has a kingdom motivation, purpose and plan that is shared and embraced by the senior management and owners. They are trying to accomplish lasting and spiritual goals.

Number four, it aims at holistic transformation of individuals and communities. This is in line with the gospel. The gospel transforms people. Local churches have a long-lasting impact on transformation of people.

Number five, it seeks the holistic welfare of employees. This could lean into holistic welfare in the sense of spiritual and eternal welfare of their employees. In fact, this is one of the less articulated goals of missions and it's a problem for pioneering or frontier type of missions, strategic missions in unreached people groups. How do you get people to minister to? How do you recognize who you have opportunities with to share the gospel and through which you hope to see God work to draw them to salvation and create a new local church where one has not existed before? And the answer is in business, you have a natural up and down supply chain stream of customers and suppliers through whom you have a natural relationship to share Christ and the gospel.

This report says number six is this business seeks to maximize the kingdom impact of its financial and non-financial resources. This means that they're using their resources appropriately, both money and personnel and intangible resources to influence their whole sphere of relationships for the better for Christ's sake.

Number seven, it models Christ-like servant leadership and develops it in others. The way the business operates is important as a testimony to the community not just that it operates.

Number eight, it intentionally implements ethical Christ honoring practice that does not conflict with the gospel. Of course, you want your business model to reflect gospel priorities and values, including how you do business, keeping your word/ the best BAM businesses instruct all of their people in Christ's teaching to business life and practice a missions minded business.

Number nine is proactive in intercession and seeks the prayer support of others. We accomplish spiritual things through prayer and God does his work in ways far beyond what we can do. We're seeking prayer, asking for prayer for the business as well as the spiritual results of the business.

And lastly, 10 seeks to harness the power of networking with like-minded organizations so it's perfectly appropriate for a missions business, a Business as Mission enterprise to seek consultation and relationship and partnership with other businesses that are like-minded. While there is a very wide range of potential of the types of businesses that could be legitimate business as missions enterprises, there are a number that have been extremely popular in the last couple of decades.

One is teaching English as a foreign language. English happens to be a very popular and dominant language. I've heard stats of something like 80% of all the information on the internet is an English. Of course, American and English-speaking media dominates all over the world. English is a dominant language of business and education so many people around the world desire to know English and its natural that missionaries would try to fill that need while trying to also influence them spiritually for the sake of the gospel. Christians have been hired around the world in private schools and public schools, in elementary schools and in universities for teaching English.

The practice of medicine is another very large area. Historically, we've had missions creating medical clinics and hospitals around the world, even those that are friendly to Christians. Yet in today's world, providing medical services or medical related services in close countries is a natural way of getting a contract or launching a business to provide those services. Of course, they have to jump through more hoops of certification of their credentials in any foreign country.

Another huge one is the whole travel industry. I think this is so popular because it assumes a low threshold of entry. Almost any foreigner can go to another country and open up a travel shop of some kind to help people with travel or to become a travel consultant. What they don't realize is that there are specific technologies and certifications needed to be a really good one and in order to be successful in the travel industry you have to book a lot of things. You have to book many, many hotel nights for instance or book transportation and flights and accommodations. Missionaries who say they are a travel agent or have a travel office and all they really book are friends and church mates coming a couple of times a year will not hold up to government scrutiny in the long run.

There are many missionaries that discover in their host country some goods that could be produced relatively inexpensively for sale in the west and so they're using highly skilled handcraft tradesmen or people that can produce certain kinds of things in a cottage industry type of style for them to be able to sell. Then they have to deal with marketing, quality control, management of those employee relationships, all of those things in order to make it really work.

Businesses that require economy of scale on a bigger level require facilities, maybe specialized tools and equipment and a supply chain that's prearranged and customer client contracts as well. Go back to the basics, this is really important to understand. BAM is a way of life in missions now. It is very significant and important for many unreached fields to have a Business as Mission plan but it also means that the missionary really needs to have good business skills. How do they get that? They're probably not going to get it in the Bible school or seminary or maybe not even from their church internship. They need to have some experience and skills so that when they arrive on the field, they have a pretty good idea of what kind of business they can set up.

They need to understand accounting, they need to understand government structure of accountability and registration and follow through of getting their business actually registered and approved. All of these things take some level of time and expertise, not to mention when the business is actually running then getting it into this zone of profitability so that it is sustainable over the long term. The missionary needs to be there long term to accomplish those spiritual goals that they have in mind. Often this means that they must have at least a national partner where they are but probably also a business partner or consultant who is a friend and understands their ultimate spiritual goals but wants to help them with the mechanics of running the business. Certainly, it doesn't hurt to have some legitimate training so that they understand what it is like to write a business plan and to get funding and to actually put things into production, whether it's goods or services and win sales so that they can continue to do business in that country.

If we want the gospel to get to some of these difficult unreached areas, we're going to have to understand Business as Mission. The next episode will delve into it a little bit more. Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever Amen.

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