One common misconception among Christians is that there is one way, and one way only, to do missions: drop everything and move to another country. Those who are called to full-time missionary work are often burdened with an unrelenting expectation to go to the furthest nations – places with the worst economy, the most disease, the greatest level of poverty, etc. However, I would like to propose a different idea: you can be a successful missionary in more than one way. For instance, you can be a missionary to your community as a stay-at-home mom, a missionary to your professors and fellow students as you study for your degree, or a missionary to your co-workers and partners in the marketplace or business world. This last example is an idea commonly referred to as business as missions.
While there are many ways to define this practice, there are two descriptions that predominate. First, business as missions is the idea that you are a missionary everywhere that you go and in everything that you do and secondly, business as missions is the dedication of any business in which all efforts and profit go towards church planting and the spread of the gospel. Each of these concepts can have incredible power when used correctly as those taking part in the business community seek to honor the Lord in their trade.
The concept behind this first definition of business as missions is that being a missionary is more than a series of actions, but a mindset. When we surrender our occupation to the Lord and begin to align our value system with His, we allow our mindset to be shaped into His likeness. When this happens, it affects everything that we do – the way that we act towards our loved ones, how we treat those that we disagree with, our interaction with co-workers and customers, and our intentions and motivations for every aspect of our lives. Put simply, the idea of business as missions in this aspect is that our workplace is our mission field. It is our job to love each person that we come into contact with as Jesus would and to promote the spread of the gospel with every given opportunity.
The idea behind the second definition is the belief that the use of a successful business for the spread of the gospel and church planting is extremely effective. To give a clear explanation of this concept, imagine that a young entrepreneur starts up a local coffee company whose slogan is something catchy like “brewing for the sake of the world”. This young businessman then markets his company by disclosing that all profits (except those used to keep the business running) will go towards taking the church to where it is not and spreading the gospel. Soon, business is booming and the small coffee shop begins bringing in enough money to fund a local church-planting ministry working in South Africa. This is business as missions – taking the church to where it is not while simultaneously creating a positive impact on the surrounding community.
As we submit our skills and passions to the Lord, we begin to see a change take place not only in our impact, but in our own hearts and minds. Business as missions is simply giving our desire to see change over to God along with our abilities and saying “here I am, Lord – send me”. For as Hudson Taylor once said:
“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply” — Hudson Taylor
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