I’ve just been through a 6-week business intensive that we call the SOBE, School of Business and Entrepreneurship. Technically I was staffing the course, but the truth is that I was there to learn. We had 13 students from around the world, who each gave a 10-minute presentation of their business plan to a “shark tank” as their final exam.
We had phenomenal speakers every week; a collection of local businessmen who are embracing missions alongside us, as well as speakers from around the world who are very connected to the missional aspect of their businesses. They were all brilliant, and gave generously of their time and expertise.
I heard so many things I don’t ever want to forget. Here are a few of them.
As Christians, we usually divide our work and activities into sacred or secular. We think a missionary or a pastor does sacred work, while a lawyer or business owner does secular work. What if we are all called, as believers, to full-time ministry in our field? It might be farming land, trading stocks or representing clients in a courtroom. When God made Adam in the Garden of Eden, He “took the man and put him into the garden to cultivate it and to keep it.” Genesis 2:15 We were created to work; what if this is our daily worship? It reminded me of a quote I read a long time ago, when I was first introduced to the idea that God did not set up a secular/sacred divide in our work. If money and trade and business were His idea, why would He not be right in the middle of it?
Peeling potatoes was more essential for Brother Lawrence’s spiritual growth than attending the evening prayer service because Brother Lawrence recognized that God was there in the kitchen as much as he was in the chapel. -Andrew Spencer
I was especially delighted with the thought that when God made mankind on earth and gave us the mandate to cultivate it, He had hidden in the earth all the raw materials we need to create boats and cars and computers and fidget spinners. Not only that, He hid in humans the intelligence to figure out how to make this stuff, trade it, ship it, and then how to manage it. The business of creating products and services was all God’s brilliant idea to help us thrive on the earth.
I learned about what BAM (Business as Mission) is, and what it is not. It is not business for missions, nor is it business to cover up the mission, as in restricted-access countries. BAM refers to for-profit, sustainable businesses reflecting the kingdom of God in their mission and values, including these four bottom lines:
- Economic Profitability
- Social Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Spiritual Transformation
I believe Jesus is the answer to our soul’s greatest needs, but suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that? James 2
Lots of kind-hearted people have been touched by the plight of the poor in developing countries, and were moved to give from their abundance. When I lived abroad, I was on the receiving end of containers from the USA, filled with clothes, shoes, food, all manner of donated items to help the poor. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this creates a cycle of dependency that hurts the local economy, besides the psychological and spiritual difficulties this dependence creates in a society.
I now see that BAM brings beautiful answers to the problems of the poverty cycle. One of our teachers in the SOBE has started a business in a country where desperate poverty has caused many women and children to be sold into the sex industry. His business supplies a living wage for men and women to provide for their families with dignity, in an environment that champions them as valuable children of God.
In the past, Hj and I worked with several ministries that were fighting sex trafficking and prostitution. The biggest struggle these ministries faced was trying to find viable jobs for women who sincerely wanted to leave, but felt that prostitution was the only means by which they could afford a house and food for their families. BAM addresses these needs, through spiritual discipleship as well as restoring hope and dignity through jobs.
This isn’t just for developing nations. As a school, we took a field trip to Denver to visit several businesses practicing BAM. We saw a coffee roasting company that employs homeless young people, as well as a connected coffee shop that does the same. We visited a discount building supply store and cabinet shop that employs men and women transitioning out of homelessness or prison. In traditional business, I’m sure these are the people you don’t employ, but that’s the beauty and irony of the upside-down kingdom Jesus taught. I asked the owner how hard it is to employ people that the rest of the world tends to marginalize, and his answer really surprised me. “It’s really not hard at all. They’re motivated to work!” We joined them in a lunchtime Bible study the day we were there. I found it so inspiring to see firsthand the way God is transforming individual lives and society through these businesses.
So, that’s [some of] what I learned in the SOBE.
“There is no understanding of any domain or dominion without understanding its design and purpose before sin and the fall. We were not made for sin. Sin happened, so God must and we must deal with it. But we do not have governance, science, education, family, business, beauty and the arts, communication because we are fallen from God’s ideal. We do not have nations and cultures because, after sin, there was no other way we could be ruled. We have all of these arenas of life because we are created in the image of God and they are all part of revealing Him. They are all ways in which we know, see and worship God. Our work, creating communities that reflect who God is, is our worship now and forever.” Landa L. Cope