Missions isn't just for pastors and missionaries. Missions should be supported by the whole church. God has gifted his church with a variety of gifts for carrying out the Great Commission and glorifying him.
Most churches already understand how they can support missions through prayer and financial support. Yet many churches overlook how members can put their business skills to work for the sake of overseas missions. Not only that, but it's the members with real business skills who may provide the best access for Christians to obtain access to closed or restricted countries.
Have you heard of something called business as missions?
WHAT IS BUSINESS AS MISSIONS?
What is it? Business-as-Missions (BAM) is about creating legitimate businesses that enable church planting in areas that would otherwise be closed to evangelism.
BAM is needed today because it is increasingly difficult for church planters to live and share the gospel in many countries around the world. Think places such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and China, where governments continue to crack down on mission work. If we make it our "ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named" (Rom. 15:20), then we need to help church planters find creative means for gaining access into these countries.
Fortunately, governments welcome business. They value the investment and the jobs that businesses bring. Being identified with a business also helps church planters to be more accepted in their community as they operate in cultures whose understanding of "missionaries" dates back to the Crusades.
HOW CAN LOCAL CHURCHES BE INVOLVED IN BAM?
Even as the task of church planting belongs to the local church, so the task of BAM also is one that is finally rooted in the local church. How can local churches get involved?
Raise up fruitful businesspeople who are passionate for the gospel
Churches should raise up mature and faithful businesspeople in their congregations, people whose lives are fruitful regardless of where they are in the States or overseas. Businesspeople should be discipled and encouraged to be discipling and sharing the gospel with others.
This doesn't mean developing a program per se, but rather cultivating a culture that encourages members as a whole in the task of missions. Concern for the spread of the gospel should not be limited to a missions committee or a few members; rather, the whole church should be involved in supporting their church planters.
At the same time, it is all too easy for businesspeople to think they are competent and qualified simply because they are good businesspeople. However, they will find out quickly that their experience, though helpful, is not directly transferable to BAM projects. Given the church planting focus of BAM and the fact that most restricted countries are usually developing countries with unfriendly business climates, businesspeople must be flexible and approach situations with a learner's attitude. Churches should thus filter their ranks of businesspeople for the right combination of experience and humility.
Involve businesspeople in specific opportunities
Businesspeople can be involved with BAM several ways. Let me highlight three. The first two can be done at home while the third, which is the most effective, must be done overseas.
1) Businesspeople can be consultants for a business project.
Church planting teams who desire to establish a business need help in developing a business plan, launching the business, and running the business. At Access Partners, a group that I work for which helps to foster sustainable business development for the sake of church planting in restricted areas, we have broken down the business development process for a BAM company into 6 discrete steps:
- Discovery: defining a potential business opportunity
- Exploration: determining the viability of such an opportunity (including a preliminary business plan)
- Pre-Launch: preparing for launch through doing paperwork, raising funds, and recruiting personnel
- Launch: beginning operations
- Growth: on-going support
- Transition: defining an exit strategy
Each step has a way to involve businesspeople. For example, a member of Solid Rock Church helped us develop a business plan for a training center. Another member of Covenant Life Church mentors a sales director for a coffee business that we support.
Consultation can occur from a person's home city or through a short-term trip. We have done both.
2) Business owners can extend their operations overseas.
Church planters need legitimate pre-existing businesses. It is difficult to start a new company in the U.S., one of the most business friendly countries in the world, it's nearly impossible in the kinds of countries that restrict the spread of the gospel, such as Pakistan, Vietnam, or Yemen. Such countries not only are developing, with limited infrastructure, but also have corrupt business practices and huge amounts of government red tape.
One solution is to partner with existing businesses to support these church planters. If you have business owners in your church, encourage them to look for ways to use their business in a way that supports church planters overseas. The goal is not for these new overseas branch offices to be wildly profitable; however, they should at least be close to breakeven in order that the business is able to support their on-going operations.
3) Churches can encourage their businesspeople to move overseas and run a BAM company themselves.
The biggest need in BAM is the right people. Too often, businesses are run by church planters who are both unqualified and not uninterested in running a business. We believe the solution is to recruit seasoned and experienced businesspeople who will go overseas.
At Access Partners, we have a Business Directors program in which we recruit such people. We look for businesspeople to partner with a church planting team and manage the team's business operations, freeing up the rest of the team to pursue their church planting focus.
A note of caution: filter the missions teams that you support so that you are sure they have a church planting strategy that is biblical. Simply because a team is doing business does not mean they should be supported. We recommend establishing long-term relationships where you know the church planters personally. Ideally, you should help members of your church whom you have sent out.
A GOSPEL OPPORTUNITY
Given government restrictions at the present, BAM presents an opportunity to encourage new partnerships in our churches in an increasingly important and strategic way for the gospel. May God use the whole church to bring the whole gospel to the whole world!
The author of this article is the executive director of Access Partners. For more about Access Partners, visit www.access1040.com.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by 9Marks.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © 9Marks. Website: www.9Marks.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Toll Free: (888) 543-1030.