Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and Missions.

Hello and welcome to episode 103 of Missions on Point. We are in a series on contemporary issues and missions. In this episode, we're going to continue talking about business as missions, or BAM, and some of the key questions and definitions for a mission's team or a church to think about with regard to their missionary's participation in some form of BAM and whether or not that requires or should have support from the local church for that business.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, you can always email us at I also want to encourage you to submit ideas or concepts for future Missions on Point episodes.

Back to BAM, the key question of the episode today is this one, is BAM work missions? Is BAM work "missions"? You need to ask some questions and look at some factors to determine, is this BAM proposal actually missions or is it just business?

Just recently, I was talking with someone about a young missionary candidate that was proposing their business as missions concept to missions team for support, and the primary question was, is it just business or is it actually missions? The difference is huge for the individual making the proposal because if it's just business, they don't necessarily need the church or want the church's involvement because the church's involvement means a certain level of accountability with regard to the ends of their business. That is, what are the goals of reaching some achievement or mark or results out of their business that are related to spiritual Christian mission's ministry? If it's business only, then they're free to risk their own means and resources to start a business anywhere they want in the world. It doesn't necessarily have to be tied to spiritual goals. They reap whatever reward or loss on their own. They're also freer to choose what kind of business and where it will be conducted.

So I think we have to go back to some foundational definitions in order to understand how to ask the right questions. Now, these definitions come from our Propempo perspective, which you'll find out soon enough. We're going to walk through that so that you can have the foundational understanding of how we ask what questions we're going to ask.

The first is just the definition of missions. Missions is any cross-cultural ministry beyond the normal outreach of the local church, which has as its purpose the fulfillment of the great commission by making disciples of Jesus Christ intentionally contributing to the planting of churches and or the training of indigenous leaders to do the same. So we give priority to evangelism, discipleship, and leadership training aimed at establishing and strengthening local churches, especially where there is little or no access to a biblical understanding of the gospel.

Then, secondly, what is the definition of a missionary? A missionary is a sent one, an individual especially selected, trained, and sent by their local church to minister across cultural and or geographic and or linguistic barriers with the purpose of establishing and strengthening biblical local churches through evangelism, discipleship, and leadership training. A missionary is providentially guided to missions commitment, selected, equipped, and prepared under the leadership of their local church. Communicates personal vision, develops and maintains a spiritual and financial support partnership, works under designated field authority, responds and reports to sending constituencies, and fulfills field ministry objectives, strategies, and goals.

So then, thirdly, what is business as missions? BAM is the intentional use of business, whether for-profit or not-for-profit and entrepreneurial relationships and opportunities by Christian practitioners for the purposes of Christian ministry goals. The concept has application to the domestic business environment for any Christians in the workplace. In missions, it can take many forms. For example, seeking and accepting a placement assignment in a foreign country, expanding a business to a selected cross-cultural location, starting a business overseas, starting a business or accepting a work contract, and an environment that has little or no access to the gospel, developing cross-cultural business relationships with goods or services providers in a limited access country and micro enterprise relief and community development, et cetera, aimed at reaching a particular people group otherwise unreachable by open Christian ministry.

If you accept these definitions or definitions that are close to them, then the big question to follow up is, how can we determine whether or not a BAM work is a church supportable missions ministry. Someone proposes a BAM ministry or work or missions opportunity, they would call it, and the church and missions team or leadership has to determine whether or not this is actually a supportable work.

Here are some distinguishing marks, and we're going to contrast between business that is not missions and missions via business. The first issue is initiative, then accountability. Thirdly, worker qualifications. Fourth, financial support. Fifth, what do you do with the proceeds and equity of the business? And lastly, strategic focus. All of these answers of distinguishing marks are given in the form of the church's role or the mission agency role.

The first one is initiative. Business that is not Missions is a business venture that was started by a company or an individual completely apart from the church's initiative or goals, completely apart from influence of a mission agency, but missions via business has initiative that the business venture was started because of the church's initiative or goals. It was because of the church's or the mission agency's initiative to put someone in a particular place that the whole idea of this business was started.

The second issue is accountability. Business that is not missions, their accountability is the business and its goals and activities are under the control of the individual or company that started it with, again, no relationship to the local church or the mission agency. But missions via business that is supportable BAM missions, the business and its goals and activities are guided by and under the control or clear ministry objectives through the church and mission agency.

The third issue is worker qualifications. In business that is not missions, business-oriented workers with no particular cross-cultural training, ministry training and experience or calling to full-time service validated by the sending church, the worker or employee is a Christian, but not considered a missionary. For BAM, missions via business, workers are competent in business but having specialized training ministry skills and experience and calling validated by the sending church. The worker or employee is considered a missionary.

The fourth issue area is financial support. In business that is not missions, the business or employment opportunity rises or falls on its own merits, apart from financial backing from the church. Fundraising from the congregation at large is not allowed, but for missions via business, the business or series of business opportunities may supplement or even eclipse the need for personal support for the missionary workers, fundraising as needed through the missions team and as a missionary is allowed.

The fifth issue area is, what to do with the proceeds or the equity of the business? For a business that is not missions, proceeds and benefits belong to the owner and workers with no special obligation back to ministry or church connections. Equity belongs to the business owner. For BAM, missions via business proceeds and benefits are expected to benefit the ministry and offset the need for church financial support. Equity may belong to the sponsoring agency or to the church. This financial issue gets a little complicated because the particular business in question might be a not-for-profit or non-profit or NGO type of organization, or it might be a for-profit organization.

In many countries where BAM is essentially a requirement for long-term ministry, the proceeds of the business go to benefit the business side of it while support may support the worker and his family in the business. That is, there's a little bit of a distinction or separation of funds. The business is hoped to be able to supply all of the cash flow and funding for operation of the business and maybe a little bit more for expansion while support for the family helps them pay basically their living expenses to live and stay and operate the business in the country. For those kinds of situations, the business income helps to pay employees that are local people, and supplies office space, registrations, all of the legal things required to operate the business, but the owner, if you will, or manager or director of the business actually receives their personal support through missions-type support.

The sixth and last issue area is strategic focus. In a business that is not missions, the location and opportunities are chosen primarily for personal or business reasons with ministry involvement as a byproduct, whereas in the BAM missions via business side, location and opportunities are chosen for strategic ministry focus reasons with business involvement as a means to those ends.

So the big picture of all of these issues is the distinguishing marks of business as missions as a missions via business type of enterprise, and that is, who chooses what kind of business? Where will it be? What are the end results going to be? How do you work your business relationships in such a way as to maximize those spiritual end results? How are the individuals involved in the business itself accountable for the support that's being raised to keep that business going, and what are the actual qualifications? Certainly, we want missionaries to be qualified in their interests, inclination, and desires for the business itself, and yet their spiritual qualifications and ministry skills and experience are very important.

Go all the way back to the Apostle Paul in the first century and some others of the New Testament that had had business ventures as Christians. It seems like Paul only used his tent making, or business as missions opportunity, when the need required it. His primary focus was always on the spiritual end goals. Having said that, it's still easy to picture Paul actually talking to people while he's working up and down the supply chain of supplies for tent making and the customer relationships of people who are buying his product in order to evangelize and disciple them in the Lord.

I remember hearing the story of a good Christian executive who was working in a major industry in a closed country, and he had this fantastic reputation of being an excellent, kind, gracious boss for all the people in the country that worked for him. He was known to be a Christian and exercised his Christianity quite openly, and yet it wasn't really a business as mission type of opportunity. He required no financial support. He didn't require accountability directly to his home church or a mission agency. He just took the job as a Christian strategically for his own purposes and had a great Christian testimony and witness among the people that he worked with. He didn't have time or inclination or training to be a church planter, but he just was a signpost for Christ and the gospel in his workplace.

On the other hand, I've known of many examples of missionaries who went and started a business and considered it simply as a necessary evil to their presence in the country. They didn't even like their job. They didn't do a good job of it, and everyone knew that they were basically treading water in their work just so that they could hang around and try to meet people in coffee shops to share the gospel. In fact, there's some mission agencies or teams that have specific rules that don't want the missionary to spend very much time in their business so that they can do more "ministry."

I strongly object to that idea. I think that if the missionary has a business as his reason for being in the country, he needs to love it. He needs to work it. He needs to work hard at making it an exemplary business and one that actually produces good results in the business world as well as in the spiritual world. There is a natural audience from all those that he comes in contact with through his neighbors, his business association, his suppliers, and his customers. All of those are natural pathways for relationship, and the gospel, and discipleship ministry moving on so that he can actually fulfill the spiritual goals better because of his business and because of the excellence of the testimony of his work and his business.

May God give us grace to have missionaries who do business as mission really well and it becomes an effective platform for the gospel. 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 preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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