Six Ways to Get Involved in the 'Business as Missions' Movement
Regent Business School
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Have you ever felt that your calling is not as "spiritual" as someone else's? Has a friend or a leader in the church ever implied that if you were really "on fire for the Lord" you would drop your current profession and enter what is commonly referred to as "full-time ministry"? Have you wrestled with why God would give you skills and abilities in the field of business if that is not a valid use of your time?
In many church bodies, the Christian business community has been effectively marginalized by what Dr. R. Paul Stevens has poignantly described as a "Spiritual-Vocational Hierarchy." Illustrated in the shape of a pyramid, Stevens shows how unbiblically some in church leadership view business people. Each level of the pyramid supposedly gets you closer to becoming more spiritual since, in the minds of these leaders, God is more pleased with the service of those in the upper sections—those known as "professional" clergy. (Apparently, then, He must be pretty displeased with lawyers, politicians, and others who don't even make it onto the chart!)
Sadly, these are the prevailing assumptions about work in many churches, and they culminate in apathy, discouragement, resentment, and ultimately, a sweeping demobilization of talented people. The good news, though, is that many leaders are seeing through the fallacy of this pyramid and actively awakening people to the important work they can do for the Lord, both locally and globally, using the skill set He has already given to them.
In fact, this has now become a burgeoning movement of the Spirit. Today, it is loosely called the "business as mission" or the "Kingdom business" movement, but these are not new ideas. They are freshly packaged in a way that fits the global marketplace. Because God desires to use the whole body of Christ to advance the Kingdom around the world, He has opened up several options to gifted business professionals. Here are six of these options.
Option 1: A one to two week trip to train business people overseas
Do you like to teach? Do you have something of value to share with business people around the world? Do you want to share Biblical truths at the same time? Then why not take a mere eight days of your life to share it?
Opportunities abound to conduct seminars for business people internationally. In these seminars, you can share your business acumen, answer pressing questions, and really get to know businesspeople from other cultures. Importantly, as a trainer, you'll also have an opportunity to introduce to Jesus the many non-Christians you'll teach.
Gary Shotton, a retired business owner, explains: "To get business people around the world plugged-in to their calling—and to see a fire lit in the local church for revival—why not ask the countless number of highly experienced Christian business people in America to take a few days to share their experience? After all, who is more equipped to teach business people than business people? And as they spend a few days training others in the technical truths of improving sales, increasing production, and meeting customer demands, they also teach about ethics, honesty, integrity, and generosity as presented in the Bible. Everyone wins here."
Sotten's organization, Global Business Success Foundation, has been working for more than three years to create a model for these trips. That model includes these five aspects:
Business Mentoring Sessions: The trainer presents his or her expertise to a group of people interested in those skills. The teaching has a solid biblical basis but is not overt Bible teaching. For example, a sales person might teach on improving sales from the basis of ethics, honesty, and respect.
Business Visitations: The trainer visits the students' places of business. The central purpose here is to build relationships and give encouragement.
University Lectures: The next generation of business people in every nation is studying at the universities. With formal invitations, the trip participants lecture to classrooms or even to the entire student body of major institutions of higher education.
Biblical Teaching Sessions: These are separate opportunities to teach Bible lessons about how the Christian faith applies to business and finance.
Personal Development and Fun: Apart from the development that comes from teaching, trainers grow personally and professionally by just being in another country. This is a trip to teach others and to share Christ, but it's also a time to have fun and enjoy the uniqueness of other cultures.
If your church is already mission-minded, then consider adding Business Mission Trips to the list of other short-term trips that you may be offering. If you are not currently sending out short-term mission teams, then consider starting with Business Mission Trips. In the same way that a Teen Mission Trip is designed to use the skill sets and desires of a teenager, or a Medical Mission Trip is designed to use the skill sets and desires of a doctor or nurse, Business Mission Trips are designed to use the skill sets and desires of someone from the business and professional field.
Option 2: Consecutive Curriculum-based Seminars (CCS)
CCS is an expanded or "continuing" version of the seminar model in Option 1, offering consecutive, quarterly seminars for certification in Marketing, Managerial Accounting, Information Technology, Human Resources, Strategic Management, and other business disciplines. Because the repeated contacts naturally build relationships, CCS can be used powerfully by North American churches to provide world-class training to the unreached business community overseas, bearing substantial spiritual fruit.
Clearly in comparison to the one week seminars, the CCS model entails more of a long-term commitment to a community. It requires a substantial investment of time and patience to help transform business people and their companies through this training and mentoring process. But many have found the dividend to be well worth it, among them, Doug Hunter, a businessman and church leader at Perimeter Church in Atlanta. Using as his platform a business curriculum developed by a local company, Doug is mobilizing those within his church to implement CCS around the world.
For more information on how your church can get involved in facilitating the use of this dynamic seminar strategy, contact Scott McFarlane, Director of the Business as Missions Division of Advancing Churches in Mission Commitment (ACMC) at [email protected]
Option 3: Consulting with Kingdom Companies
If they choose to do so, Christian businessmen and women can offer more than seminars and classes to their counterparts around the world. They can also lend their expertise in a consulting capacity. Sometimes, this entails consulting with companies owned by non-believers. Often, though, it entails helping fellow believers overseas.
Like all organizations, "Kingdom companies"—businesses that have as one objective the spreading of the gospel—need advice. Kingdom companies in Asia have expressed a significant need, in particular, in the areas of strategic planning, marketing, feasibility studies, business operation, and process development.
To meet this need, EC Institute, an organization closely involved in the Business as Missions movement, has partnered with John Terrill, National Director of MBA ministries of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and Matt Cobbett, co-founder and director of Coram Deo Consulting. Together, this trio is mobilizing the MBA students at top schools (Harvard, MIT, Chicago, and Northwestern, to name a few) to invest their summer breaks consulting with Kingdom companies. As a result, some Asian businesses are now advancing the cause of Christ in even more creative ways, not only by addressing social justice issues and meeting the physical needs of those in their communities, but also through discipleship programs and church planting efforts being integrated into their businesses. These privately-held, multi-million dollar businesses are actually transforming communities!
For more information on how to get involved in an MBA consulting project, contact Matt Cobbett at [email protected] (www.coramdeoconsulting.com), John Terrill at [email protected] (www.intervarsity.org/gfm/mba) or EC Institute at [email protected] (www.ec-i.org).
If you are not currently in an MBA program, but you're interested in this sort of consulting, there are several other organizations that will match you to opportunities all over the world. For more information here, contact Scott McFarlane at [email protected]
Option 4: Micro Enterprise Development/Micro Finance (MED)
In many countries, poverty is rampant and economic development is stifled by government, war, and corruption. MED offers a pathway around some of these obstacles by providing small amounts of capital to start businesses—loans that are managed and repaid in the local community.
Mike Baer, of Micro Development Systems, runs programs in several different countries, providing training courses for aspiring entrepreneurs and capital for worthy business plans. He tells the following story about MED:
"Karl (not his real name) is one of our graduates, a man who has a great heart for God and an amazing testimony. One of the earliest Christian believers in his Muslim country, Karl had suffered for the gospel. After a period of persecution, Karl fell away from the Lord and ended up in prison on charges of murder (he was innocent, but that doesn't matter in many countries). While in prison, someone sent Karl a Bible in Russian, and as he read the Word he was again gripped by God and made a full repentance from his backsliding. He began to preach to the other prisoners and many of them believed—so many that Karl was eventually discharged from the prison because the officials felt his influence was 'too disruptive.'
"Karl was now a free man, but like many of his fellow Christians, he was unemployed and impoverished. That's how he came to enroll in (this MED project). Upon graduation, Karl was given a micro-credit of $1,000 and enabled to start a small cattle operation. He later returned for another loan to start a second business so he could employ other believers in his village. This spawned a third business and the impact multiplied.
"Although Christians in Muslim lands have little or no platform from which to influence their communities, Karl discovered that being a successful businessman changed all that. Through relationships formed in his business dealings, Karl began to share Christ and to do good for his village in His name. The result was amazing. His contacts began to embrace Christianity and formed a small fellowship. Then another was formed … and another. Today there are over twenty churches in the area surrounding Karl's village, and in addition to managing his three businesses, Karl serves as a kind of 'circuit riding' pastor to nearly 250 believers."
Baer's organization is but one of several that have successful MED operations in virtually every part of the developing world. For more information, contact Scott McFarlane at [email protected]
Option 5: Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SME)
After getting their companies off the ground, small business owners often need larger infusions of cash to grow their businesses and to employ others. With financial commitments typically ranging from $5,000 to $100,000, some Christian development organizations assist these small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Ken Eldred, in his forthcoming book on Kingdom business, illustrates how this works through the example of Integra Ventures, an organization operating primarily in Eastern Europe.
"Vili and his brothers own and operate a bakery [a client of Integra Ventures], a successful Kingdom Business in western Romania that employs 130. The bakery specializes in confectionery items such as cookies, cakes, and pastries. Vili sees his faith and his business integrated in a way that is refreshing; his focus on helping others is a central component of the objectives of Kingdom Business
"The bakery is providing meaningful employment to scores of Romanians. But it is going even further, making an effort to hire those who face challenges to employment. For example, an orphanage in his region is dedicated to training orphans in social and business skills through an employability program. Vili provides jobs for some of the orphanage graduates. Moreover, profits from his Kingdom Business have also allowed Vili to invest in a café and small bakery in a town close to Serbia that provides employment for 'unemployable' women in the village …
"SME lending has made much of this possible, allowing people like Vili to expand his influence. And as loans are repaid, additional SMEs are helped and another community is impacted. It's an approach that has the power to transform cultures at the organization and community level."
Option 6: Overseas Private Equity (OPE)
OPE involves an individual or group investing in a company in another country—often, but not always, a Kingdom company. This is usually an investment of $100,000 or more to be used in creative ways to advance the Kingdom.
Here's one example of how OPE has made a difference. One investor injected $150,000 into an IT start-up in India, a company with the mission: "To be a witness in the market place and present Christ by life and example." The General Manager is a godly, experienced business woman who is also a leader in her local church.
Her company of about fifty people seeks to leverage all the creative capacity of business to support the indigenous church. To give but two examples, the company used its architect to design a church building and Bible college. Similarly, one of the managers owns and directs a local foundation that supports church planting, social welfare programs for orphans, and literacy programs for women.
From a missiological standpoint, this is ideal. It is run by an Indian woman who lives there, rather than a white westerner who travels there a few times a year. This reduces accountability and dependency issues. The company has also been able to partner with a local non-profit organization that reaches out to young people suffering the effects of polio and other forms of physical handicaps, training these young people to use computers for the growing IT industry.
Don't Just Sit There, Change a Life!
Bob Lupton has written a tremendous summary of the state of so many business people in the pews today in his book, For Theirs is the Kingdom.
"There they sit, row after row of remarkably gifted grown-ups. Dressed in proper Sunday attire, they are waiting—waiting for the minister to step to the microphone with words to ignite them, hoping that this Sunday he will challenge them to more than a capital funds campaign for the new family life center. They wait, these talented ones, for words to stir them, to drive them from their comfort to challenges worthy of their best. Perhaps today they will hear the call to tasks of greater significance than their own personal success or the growth of their church.
"An architect, a CPA, a surgeon, and seven other professionals file down the center aisle. They bow for prayer, then dutifully fan out with the offering plates to collect a cut of the profits from the marketplace. With the exception of a CEO who reads the morning Scripture, ushering is the most noticeable role that lay leaders fill.
"Less visible are the real estate developers, insurance brokers, and educators who serve on church committees. But there they sit, a people with the nature and the gifts of the Divine, fully equipped with every skill and ability necessary to tackle the complex problems of the world. Although domesticated by their culture, they long for the courage to throw off the obligations of consumerism and spend themselves for the God who has called them."
If God has blessed you with skills, experience, education, or financial means, you need not just sit there in the pews any longer. There are at least six ways for professionals to "spend themselves for the God who has called them." Change a life on the other side of the globe. Build up a Kingdom business. Transform a community—or a country. Introduce people to God and touch their eternity. Find a way—today—to get involved in the Business as Missions movement.
Scott McFarlane is the Director of the EC Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the Director of the "Business as Missions" Division of Advancing Churches in Mission Commitment. Scott has traveled to more than twenty countries, studying issues related to culture, religion, business, economics, development and poverty. You can reach him at [email protected]
From Regent Business Review, Issue 11. Copyright © 2004 Used by permission.