We’ve heard of missionaries taking the Gospel to all ends of the earth and about how to share the love of Jesus to others, but how often do we talk about bringing the church to where it’s not through Business as Mission?
What is Business as Mission (or BAM) and how is it funded? Business as Mission is a business for-profit venture that is devoted to raising money for Christian missions or to support missionaries on the field. BAM funding is strategic, holistically transformational, cross-cultural, and most importantly dedicated to seeing Jesus known in every tribe, tongue, and nation.
One scholar has defined Business as Mission this way:
[It is] a for-profit commercial business venture that is Christian led, intentionally devoted to being used as an instrument of God’s mission (Missio Dei) to the world, and is operated in a cross-cultural environment, either domestic or international.C. Neal Johnson, Business as Mission (pg. 28)
To fund these Business as Missions, I found 8 types of funding that you could pursue if you’re wanting to go overseas:
- Borrowing Money
- Sending Agencies
- Hybridized Funding
- Equity Funding
- Acquiring Investors
That’s right, you can use your business and its funding model to glorify the name of God, make money for kingdom impact, and spread the Gospel while doing it. In fact, the apostle Paul practiced Business as Mission as a tentmaker in the Bible. Joseph also used his entrepreneurial skills to save a whole nation through the power of God and His goodness.
Self-funding is when a Christian entrepreneur gathers their funds from friends, family members, and their own efforts such as working a separate job to fund their Business as Mission. They could also host fundraising events.
The method for working at a job unrelated to you BAM is often referred to as ‘bootstrapping’ since you are starting your business by generating traction organically without the help of loans or investors. Fundraising is just as organic but also just as trying.
A pro to this approach of self-funding is that the entrepreneur acquires no debt and there’s no interest to pay off since they aren’t borrowing money. However, self-funding is still a difficult route to take.
Although there’s nothing wrong with starting up your BAM this way, it is a slow and painstaking process. The BAM entrepreneur may have just scraped together enough funds to start making this method prone to burnout due to lack of vision, time, and ample resources.
For a BAM to borrow money whether, from a bank or other organization, there are almost always hurdles to jump. High-interest rates and varying regulations in different countries make it hard to predict what amount you can achieve.
With banks that are not Christian minded, it would be especially hard to attain a loan without first putting down significant collateral or having proof of a decent track record.
With start-ups, these two things usually don’t exist at a large enough scale. Your BAM will need these prerequisites to motivate a bank to loan you money.
Despite these facts, BAMs oftentimes need an extra boost aside from self-funding to get them off the ground and establish steady cash flow. If they can generate enough profit before interest rates soar, taking out a loan may well be worth it.
As Christians, we want to show our banks and communities our integrity by following through on our promises. Let’s honor our lenders by being full of gratitude and generous in our own resources to others as well.
The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.Psalm 37:21 ESV
Sending agencies, or missions agencies, are organizations that partner with Christian missionaries and businesses in vision and finance. With their already established donor base or fundraising income, these sending agencies help fund missionaries and Business as Missions to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
The money usually comes to sending agencies through churches, faithful donors, or from the alumni of the organization’s program.
Some pros for choosing a sending agency is that not only do they help with financial contributions, but with prayer, newsletter distribution, mission strategies, and information on certain countries. Intentional sending agencies are also focused on member care and training for the field.
A downfall to sending agencies is that because of their wide reach and a large number of different missionaries and missions they are supporting, it is difficult to stay in decent communication with them.
The marketplace and many businesses almost always move at a much faster pace than missions, and the unique needs of your business may not make sense to those in the sending agency overseeing your BAM.
Another roadblock to face is that most sending agencies only support missionaries and costs that cover a specific ministry, they don’t necessarily fund or invest in Business as Missions.
Business as Mission sending agencies are hard to hunt down, and they themselves are hard-pressed to find BAMs that have business plans that are well developed, match the agencies goals, and are ready to launch on the field.
Crowdfunding is the act of raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, usually through the internet and online sources.
The Chosen, a tv series about the life of Jesus, is a perfect example of a crowdfunding project. According to Fox News, it raised over $10 million between 16,000 people, making it the largest crowdfunded project to ever be made.
This feat was incredible, but unfortunately not easy to replicate.
Though God can accomplish anything through any means, crowdfunding is a niche area that requires either a surge of viral attention or a large marketing campaign.
Not every business venture will be cut out for this type of rapid gain, since The Chosen is a tv series that was made easily visible and consumable by multiple countries and demographics, it didn’t take long for the interest of it to spread.
At times, all it takes is an internet connection for your business to grow, but certain products or services may be harder to promote this way and distribute.
Nevertheless, crowdfunding reaches out towards a larger audience and is an easy way to get the word of your BAM out into the world.
Hybridized Funding is meshing together of different methods of funding for BAMs.
Hybridized funding can mix any number of funding strategies together. The two most common areas of hybridized funding are self-funding and borrowing money.
Both are rarely substantial on their own, so they are accompanied by different combinations of BAM funding.
When a business is just beginning to rev up, it’s easy for a business owner to grasp desperately in any which way for a source of start-up money.
Though there is nothing inherently wrong with intermingling different methods for funding, you can imagine how messy things could get.
Because the United States has so many restrictions on donor-based income and other income sources in the category of self-funding, it’s hard to say how easy it’d be for BAMers to manage these multiple sources of income.
BAM entrepreneurs would be at risk of spreading their business too thin since accounting for it all would be quite the hassle.
Although hybridized funding can be more complicated than most funding options, it is almost always used in the structure of any business and oftentimes necessary. When pulled off correctly, any number of funding strategies could work cohesively and effectively for a Business as Mission.
Equity funding is when an investor gives you money for your business in exchange for a percent of your company. They now not only have a chance to get a return on their investment and gain profit from their portion of the company.
One way this is accomplished is through seed funds. Seed funds are small sums of money given to a business to use as they start up their company and multiply their earnings. This money is usually given by the government to encourage employment in underdeveloped areas.
Another perspective of equity funding is angel funding. Angel funds are usually small amounts of money given by investors who want to invest in the business financially and see growth and multiplication in missions.
Though they are not always Christians with Biblical values, they are looking for social equity, or for their money to help a cause and make a difference.
Venture funds are the last piece of equity funding. Investors in the category of venture funding are looking for businesses with higher success rates and a reliable promise of a return on investment within three to five years.
The pro for equity funding is that your business has a more reliable source of funding and depending on the level of investment, the investor is willing to give you the advice to help you succeed and grow.
On the other hand, a large percent of your company will go to the equity investor and therefore they will have more control over your business.
When choosing an investor from any one of these three categories, it would be wise to discern how much of your company you are able to part with to advance its growth.
Acquiring Impact Investors
Acquiring Impact Investors is probably the best option for funding your Business as Mission and for brightening the future of the BAM world.
With impact investing, these investors are committed to working alongside BAMs that are making a difference for the Kingdom of God and enhancing the communities they are in.
Impact Investors usually invest more than angel funders do and are typically Christians. You and your BAM should still be crystal clear about your desire for investing in the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and living by the Great Commandment to ensure you and your impact investor are on the same page.
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:37-39
Because of their motivation to see a return not only in finances but in kingdom work, impact investors are intentional with their investments. They expect you to have calculated what exactly it will take to see the success of your BAM.
They desire to see holistic transformation and are not afraid to make sure you are working hard towards this goal.
Once your business has created a stable flow of profit, you can pursue the idea of franchising. This only happens when you’re well on your way and have the means to build up more locations.
The goal is to have a product or service that is long term self-sustainable and has the potential for consistent growth.
Franchising is great for BAMs because it inspires intercultural growth. The only way to grow as a BAM is to grow in the community and be a part of that local culture, therefore, the larger the franchise, the larger the influence within the culture.
From an intercultural perspective, franchising allows you to employ more locals and create more jobs, enhancing the community your BAM is in.
A franchise cannot be an afterthought, it cannot be added just because it can, it is as much a BAM as its originator is and must carry out all of the same purposes as the original business and its mission.
The Purpose of Business as Mission Funding
Jesus tells us to go throughout all the earth and spread the Gospel, making His name known throughout every ethnic group on earth so that He can return.
He will return and create a new heaven and new earth, but this will not happen until every tribe, tongue, and nation has heard the good news of the Gospel. The goal of every Business as Mission is to see the Great Commission fulfilled.
The purpose of BAM is to operate in a cross-cultural environment, bringing the Gospel to where it’s not through business so that employees, communities, consumers, and everyone linked to the business can know the love of Jesus.
Funding a Business as Mission is important work that glorifies the name of the Father. As Christians, we are not called to sit back and wait for God to magically make the money fall into our laps.
Yes, if it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill, but we are called to be coworkers with Christ, coworkers of bringing the Gospel to where it is not.
Funding for a BAM is hard work. God calls us to have integrity and determination, and He gives us vision and creativity to come up with ways to fund these ventures and make them into businesses that glorify His name.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.Isaiah 30:21 ESV
Though it is a daunting task, we were never meant to do it on our own and even if we don’t have the answers, we can always run to the Holy Spirit and ask Him for wisdom and guidance.
One size does not fit all for funding a Business as Mission, but God will be faithful to provide for you and your business since He was the one to call you to it in the first place.
The Future of Business as Mission Funding
BAM funding methods are the practical wheels that move this mission forward, and in the future, the world of Business as Mission is hoping to connect funding models, investor information, and willing organizations to the call of BAM entrepreneurs.
Leaders in the field of Business as Mission are also hoping to impact the world through a Business as Mission movement. Ever since the early church, business men and women have been spreading the Gospel through the marketplace and advancing the kingdom of God.
When Business as Missions interact with anyone in their sphere of influence, whether within the business or outside of it, it’s impossible to not see the light, love, and creativity of Jesus.
God has given us the gift to steward our businesses well, so that our Business as Mission funding can be strategic, holistically transformational, cross-cultural, and most importantly dedicated to seeing Jesus known in every tribe, tongue, and nation.
So as you choose a method for funding and growing your Business as Mission, get excited about the difference you’re making all over the world for God’s glory.