Yes, entrepreneurs can!

ketebagBAMBusiness as mission is a growing trend around the world.

James and his wife thought starting an ice cream business in Central Asia was a good way to get a long term visa, but were soon struck by other benefits: relationships with staff, clients and suppliers were according to biblical principles; in a tense local inter-racial environment, they saw harmony between employees from different backgrounds; and importantly, the work supported their core ministry — the gospel.

In India, the EC Group employs physically disabled people and Freeset employs women getting out of prostitution while introducing them to Jesus. Villagers in Fiji are being helped by missional business to market coffee that was found growing wild in the bush. Carlos and his wife went to West Africa as traditional mission partners, but seeing the poverty around them they realised that starting a business would help provide jobs. Other mission partners have started fashion businesses, consultancies, hotels, a burger restaurant, textile factories and a photography business. A Business As Mission (BAM) initiative in Colombia formed a coffee co-op of previously rival farmers, and paid them fair trade prices.  There’s a Tanzanian safari business run by a SIM couple. Another couple went as pioneers to North Africa, starting a small art workshop in a bazaar. You can read about a North African language teaching business featured here.

‘Difficulties and dangers’

It can range from simple ‘tent-making’, to small companies launched with micro loans and donor gifts, to large capital-based companies. There’s no one model of how it should be, and it will vary depending on the particular mission partners and the host country. But as this mission tool grows, leaders in what for want of a better phrase could be called the ‘theology of BAM’,  are raising danger areas. Brian Chan has been doing BAM for 10 years, and says we should “unleash every tool God has given us”, but he has seen issues that need to be faced :

  • Faking – in other words, saying you are a business for visa or other reasons, but actually not making any money, or even trying to.
  • Bribery – if the country you are doing business in does this as a matter of course; what will you do when you come under pressure?
  • Is BAM a real mission calling from God or is it just an excuse to do what you want to do, in the excitement of an exotic place?
  • Money is dangerous; never let yourself be in a position of not being held accountable to other Christians.
  • Persecution.  A business will not shield you as a Christian in a hostile place, and may make you more of a target. Are you ready?

Some say business as mission is the next wave of evangelism. Historically, the Moravians used it. William Carey mixed business with ministry. In the early church era the gospel was often carried by those seeking to do business. The bottom line for BAM might be financial, but the bottom bottom line is  this: is the venture’s principal reason for existing the greater glory of God; to create an intentional platform for sharing the gospel and planting churches?

— Zoe Cromwell