Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Cor 10.31
Everyday faith is applied in the world of business. We engage in everyday business transactions, such as buying groceries at the local store, or working for a business. What does business look like when it’s missional?
Business as Mission – Definition
Business as Mission is about operating real, viable, sustainable and profitable businesses with a Kingdom of God purpose, perspective and impact; leading to spiritually, economically and socially transformed people and societies—to the greater glory of God.
Unlike the usual, run-of-the-mill business paradigm driven by the profit motive for the enrichment of owners, the Business as Mission paradigm engages the Body of Christ among its accountability partners, and focuses on a four-fold bottom line that seeks economic, social, environmental and spiritual transformation. In this paradigm, profit is not bad — rather it is understood in terms of a Biblical definition of wealth for God’s redemptive purpose.
Business as Mission is not a new movement. The concept has its roots in the economy of the Bible: Abraham with his flocks and herds, Boaz with his fields and harvests, Solomon as merchant, Jesus as carpenter, the disciples as fishermen, Paul as tentmaker, and Lydia as trader in purple. Men and women of God ran businesses. We can learn much from them.
Here’s a business as mission example from the time of the Second Great Awakening. Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771-1824) was born in Norway when Christianity was in decline and the economy stagnant. Within two months of his spiritual rebirth, he started a revival movement, preaching “the living faith” throughout Norway and Denmark. Hauge combined church planting with business entrepreneurship, starting 30 businesses in fishing, brick-making, spinning, shipping, mining, milling, publishing and printing — all part of a great Norwegian revival. Hauge’s approach to the gospel and the Great Commission was to take care of the whole man. As James writes, ‘If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?’ Ja 2.15-16. Hauge’s legacy is one of holistic spiritual, economic and social transformation, and it’s a good illustration of the goals, principles and outcomes of business as mission.
A current example today: a firm that intentionally chooses to locate its businesses amongst the poorest of the poor to bring about radical community transformation. One such business is located in an area of the Philippines amongst people trapped in a cycle of poverty, with unemployment at 70%, and women and girls relentlessly caught up in sex trafficking to survive. This particular company came up with a creative solution to a complex set of problems, and worked with the poor to start a coconut processing plant, providing jobs, health, education, justice, life-skills and ongoing discipleship, to bring about holistic community transformation. (See the Dignity Coconuts story via the link at the end of this article.)
How relevant is business as mission for today? It’s crucial. The most poverty-stricken people in the world are in the 10/40 window. Either we help solve the world’s biggest problems by providing jobs and bringing hope, or we leave the poor to get radicalized and blow up the world (figuratively speaking, of course). Reaching the lost is risky. However, we were made not for the safety of the harbor, but for the high seas. Let’s not opt for a comfortably co-opted, irrelevant Christianity. As a Muslim background believer said recently to a business entrepreneur operating in 10/40 country, “I know you might die here, but I won’t let you die first.” Our Lord is worth living for, and if necessary, dying for too.
Come and see
You don’t have to set up business amongst the poor to do business as mission. We are in desperate need of business as mission here in the USA too, where business conduct is pedestrian, and where few people see meaningful evidence of faith in action. Build a business with heart, and let your business reflect the character of God.
To learn more, whether as a business entrepreneur, owner or employee, attend our September 29 seminar on Business as Mission, sponsored by Bethel Seminary. Click here for more information.
To register, call Trish at 952-540-9460, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations.)
Acknowledgements and Resources
Business as Mission defined and explained here.
Corbett S. & Fikkert B. When Helping Hurts. Moody, 2009
See the Dignity Coconuts web site here (Click to the ‘Our Story’ page).