They mean business

Imagine! The gospel message is shared through running a business:

  • A young woman running a language institute in South Asia has students who come to visit her home. As in their culture, they set up tables to pray to their gods. The woman sets up her own prayer table to Jesus, mindful of being sensitive toward her students. They see her prayer table, which opens up a conversation about worshiping the one true God rather than many gods. The students start to ask questions.
  • In Northern Africa, a small factory employs a small group of mostly women. They regularly have staff meetings where the gospel is shared in culturally applicable ways. Some of the women debate what is being shared, making comparisons to the Qur’an. But, after some time, they no longer debate and simply listen. There is more acceptance of the gospel message.

These two stories are shared by JP, the SIM International Ministry Point Person for Business Ministries, who says the lives of people are being eternally changed in the context of businesses. The vision of SIM Business Ministries is ‘to have employees who are thriving or flourishing in sustainable business environments to reach those communities where Christ is least known.’

Four key pillars undergird this vision.

The first is business as mission. SIM strives to support those who have a calling to begin a business in another country. JP says, “We try to work with the individual to develop a good business plan and determine what is the best business to do there. It might not be necessarily what the worker wants to do. It has to be a viable business.”

Many mission workers do not have the skills to create a business but can build one up if they are given a model to work with. So JP and his team are working hard to create business models that would have validity in various cultures.

“How we operate the business is vital. In most of these countries, evading taxes or passing bribes is very normal. Ethical business practice is not normal. When your employees see you doing ethical business, being successful and standing up for truth, it speaks volumes,” says JP.

This also applies to another pillar of Business Ministries: business for church planting. This involves training local pastors in how to do missional business. Within the context of their business, they are catalyzing church planting. Church and business cannot be pulled apart.

Levels of influence also play a major part in business. The government, customers, employees, vendors and suppliers are all impacted by the way the business is run. Often the traditional Christian worker has ministered to the poor or marginalized, but they don’t have the same level of influence to take the gospel to other tiers of society. JP says, “When you are in business you are reaching other levels of society.” A new segment of society is now being reached through business ministries.

Another pillar is professionals in mission. There is a high demand for professionals to move to unreached areas. JP tells the story of how he shared at a church in the US. He already knew the community surrounding this church was the corporate headquarters of several large international companies. “I focused on the professional in mission and spoke about sharing the gospel and taking your job with you. From that, we had several folk come to us and we heard the same story. They said they wanted to do mission service but also loved their career. They didn’t think they could do the two together.”

We have to let go of our traditional mindsets of missionary service. By going as a professional, many aspects will be different — financial support may not have to be raised; the visa is obtained through their employer.” On the other hand, they may not be able to attend spiritual conferences, so member care will look different. “It’s a focus on integrating faith and the workplace,” shares JP.

The final pillar is micro-enterprise — teaching business skills to minorities and the marginalized. Examples of work done here include South Sudanese and Somali widows learning handicraft skills in Kenya, which brings back their self-confidence and offers spiritual transformation. Another group in South Asia, who have been ostracised from their community for becoming Christians, learn new skills so that they can become independent and further share their new faith.

There are endless opportunities for the gospel and business to go hand in hand. Who do you know has a big heart for both?                     

 —Fiona Murray

We already have business ministries in locations including Bangladesh, Ecuador, Jordan, Kyrgystan, Ethiopia, Japan, Côte d’Ivoire, North Africa (2), Philippines and Ghana, and several further countries where access is more strictly closed to mission workers.

Email if you’re interested to know more, or to tap into the advice available on setting up a missional business.