Missionary Skills

Business As Mission: How Entrepreneurship Can Open Doors For the Gospel

Written by McKenna Von Gunten

In the year 2050, it is said that more than 66% of the world population will be living in an urban city.

Unfortunately, as more people from underdeveloped areas move to the city, the rate of unemployment grows higher.

In Mumbai, India, poverty is rampant in the streets. Fathers will say goodbye to their families for months at a time in hopes of finding a job in the city. However, when they arrive, they’ll find that most employers won’t hire you unless you have an education. Sadly, most people from rural villages cannot read or write because they were never taught how or they had to leave school in the third grade to work for their families. Even if they do get hired, they won’t be paid well because they are born of a lower class.

Not wanting to bring shame onto their families, these men are then forced to resort to begging on the streets with no way to get home–having used up all the money they had to get to the city. What was once hope that beautiful morning now slowly shrivels up and dies, leaving the man a restless heap on the corner with a ghost-like look in his eyes.

Something snaps in society, and all of creation groans at the downward spiral of poverty as it wreaks havoc on the now single mother who sells her body to provide for her small family while her three young children lie shivering in the corner.

Can this brokenness be restored? The missionary’s heart weeps at the injustice in the world until the Lord lays the burden of His heart into the missionary’s open hands by giving him the vision to bring hope in the midst of a poverty-stricken world through transformational entrepreneurship.

Nothing is too impossible for the Lord.

What is Business as Mission?

Kingdom business (also known as BAM) is for-profit business ventures designed to facilitate God’s transformation of people, cultures, and nations.” – Ken Eldred, author of God is at Work

BAM is the intentional integration of business and mission. Business and missions are not two separate callings that simply co-exist with one another; rather, they are a lifestyle that works as one to harmoniously bring social, economic, environmental, and spiritual change to the darkest and hardest regions of the earth while taking the Church to where it is not.

BAM is:

  • Profitable and sustainable businesses;
  • Intentional about Kingdom of God purpose and impact on people and nations;
  • Focused on holistic transformation and the multiple bottom lines of economic, social, environmental and spiritual outcomes;
  • Local job and wealth creation;
  • Advancement of the local church;
  • Concerned about the world’s poorest and least evangelized peoples.

“Through business we can intentionally tackle poverty, increase quality of life, bring positive social change and carry with us the message of eternal life.”

– Jo Plummer, BAM Resource Team

Why Should Missionaries Be Aware of BAM?

“For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.” – Psalm 9:18

Social injustice is going to continue to ravish the land and cover the earth–causing entire nations to go deeper into a state of oppression. For those of lower class, caste, or status, fewer opportunities are being presented to get a decent job in the city. Again, the economy shifts and creation turns on its head as children are forced in slavery, and all sense of human dignity is lost in the mass chaos of society as it competes it’s way to success–only to find itself in tatters among the very slums it created.

Ministry is not just a calling; it is a lifestyle. As a Christian entrepreneur, you have the amazing opportunity to enable local believers and non-believers to lift themselves and their families out of the cycle of poverty by providing decent and respectable well-paying jobs.

Not only are you restoring hope in a declining economy, but by establishing a business in an honor-shame culture, you are communicating dignity, purpose, and meaning to the locals in your community.

How Does Business as Mission Involve the Traditional View of Missionaries?

We all have that picture of a traditional missionary in our mind:

Living in the heart of Africa, bare feet, red dirt roads, jungles, waterfalls, new foods, colors; learning the language of an indigenous tribe, sharing the gospel in rural villages, taking long hikes through the African forest, translating the Bible into the native tongue, building churches, telling animated Bible stories through dramas, dancing in the rain with children, drums in the distance from a nearby tribe, chants from witchdoctors, eight hour prayer meetings, and unhindered free worship in a tiny thatched mud hut.

As amazing as that sounds, that is not the full reality of what it looks like to live as a missionary in an overseas country.

In our time, many countries have banned locals from buying or selling Bibles and are restricting believers from meeting with each other. There is more persecution against the Church than there has been at any time in history. Missionaries who feel called to go to closed countries are being kicked out or refused entry because the government doesn’t see any value in their work. Not only have missionaries placed their identity in what they do–”I’m a missionary,” but they’ve sold almost everything they have to obey the Lord’s calling on their life.

Because of this–and many other reasons–foreign missions is headed in a very different direction.

Instead of going to the unexplored regions of the Himalayas’, the mission field is moving into large urbanized cities. The vision of what it means to be a traditional missionary is changing, and now we have a picture of a businessman or woman. So often we can separate “work” from God, when in reality, God created work (see Genesis 1). Being a missionary is no piece of cake, and Kingdom business isn’t either.

Today, God is calling Christian businessmen and women with Kingdom mindsets and eternal values to step into cross-cultural settings and become the new missionaries. Kingdom business is no longer about what you do, but how you use the tools that the Lord has placed into your willing hands to help others live a purpose-filled life. As you actively engage the unreached and build spiritual capital to further the Kingdom of God through your work, creation flourishes and societies function like they’re supposed to.

Is BAM More Effective When Compared to “Tentmaking”?

The first missionary, Paul, was a tentmaker by trade. We read in Acts 18:1-3 that Paul stayed in Corinth with a Christian couple because they were also tentmakers by trade. Because of his work, Paul was able to travel and support himself on his journeys while preaching weekly in the synagogues.

Many missionaries have tried to use “tentmaking” or business as a means to gain access to restricted countries to share the gospel. However, this does not always work, and people are much harder to reach than if you’ve built a strong relationship with them by working together on a daily basis. As a missionary, it would be very difficult for you to connect on a deeper level than “Hi, how are you?” because almost anywhere in the world, people spend the most time either at work or in traffic.

Business is meant to serve as a platform to stand on–not a cover to hide behind–for the glory of God by being a good steward of the skills and knowledge He’s given you to transform lives among the various regions of the world.

With starting a business in a foreign country, you not only create jobs and shift the economy, but you are building spiritual capital by bringing integrity, excellence, quality, and hope to both employees, customers, and suppliers. Kingdom business also presents a wonderful opportunity for the local community to grow their trust in you, while you are then able to reflect Jesus through your work and live out the gospel in a familiar environment that could connect both locals and tourists to the love of God.

“One of the next great moves of God is going to be through the believers in the workplace.” – Billy Graham

How is BAM Currently Transforming Lives Overseas?

BAM is currently thriving all over the world. Churches are being planted and are becoming self-supported because people in the community now have jobs provided through Kingdom business and are able to tithe so that the church no longer has to rely on Western funds. Unbelievers and Christians are working together in the same environment, and people are coming to know the one true God.

Because of Kingdom business, women and children in the Red Lights Districts all over the world are being set free from sex-trafficking because they are being equipped with sewing, cooking, and jewelry making skills. Now, they are able to pay for their rent with the profit they make from a respectable and decent job.

Men don’t have to leave their families or beg on the streets because they are getting an education and learning computer engineering. Creation stares and hopes while society is taken aback as brothels are emptied and one less child is on the street because her parents have a well-paying job.

It makes you wonder if business as mission really can be the open doorway for God to bring both economic and spiritual transformation to an entire nation.

Today, Christian businessmen and women are being granted access to closed nations because of the local jobs they provide and the value they bring to the economy in that region. In many places, the government recognizes that Christians businessmen and women are far more successful in bringing much-needed expertise, technology, quality, and capital and are wanting them to establish their businesses in their country.

These are just a few of the many beautiful woven tapestries and stories of how God is moving through BAM all over the world:

Over the past two decades, BAM has been spreading the vision that the calling of a pastor or a missionary doesn’t make you more qualified or holy in the eyes of the Lord. Instead, your calling is to take what you’re good at and do it to the best of your ability while trusting that God is leading you to fulfill His purpose for your life.

How Can I Use My Passions and Skills to Further the Kingdom of God?

At Bethany Global University, students have the opportunity to learn how and why Christian businessmen and women play such an important role in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. We offer a double major in Transformational Entrepreneurship in Missions and Bible & Theology while also equipping students for business in cross-cultural settings through a minor in Intercultural Ministry Studies.

Students will get a strong foundation in the Bible while also taking weekly classes on transformational business and how it can be effectively used on the mission field. They will also be able to start their own businesses on campus for the first two years to learn the mistakes, failures, and success of an entrepreneur while living in a safe environment where it’s okay to fail. Whether it’s baking pies or building tables from reclaimed wood, it’s better to learn now before going on the field and not know what to do. While on Global Internship, students will engage with local businesses and possibly start their own while learning the language and building relationships with the natives.

But, not everyone is called to do business in a major city of the world.

God may be calling you to the far regions of Tibet or an uncivilized people in Romania. Missionaries are still needed as doctors in India, teachers in Thailand, Bible translators in Papua New Guinea, and who are pouring their hearts and souls into loving orphans in Uganda.

On the other hand, He may have given you a dream to combine your love of coffee and people by starting a coffee shop in South Africa for friendships to built in a fun environment. Or, you may have the skills of an architect that you could use to build houses in Tokyo. Business as mission is taking what skills God has placed in your hands and using it for His glory to make a difference in people’s lives.

Don’t worry about someone else’s call–instead, follow God’s leadership in your life and let Him use you to transform relationships where you’re at.

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