Kingdom Business

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Just got back from a small strategic European Simple Church consultation with some network leaders.

One of the things we discussed was the whole area of Business+Mission which is such a broad and diverse topic.

Thought it might be beneficial to blog some of the things that came out of our discussion (treat this as a general overview as opposed to an indepth thesis):

 

1. Bi-Vocational Church Planters

This is a model where church-planters work in both intentional mission and church planting (usually as ‘traveling workers’) and also support themselves by working as sole-traders or setting up a simple business.

We all recognized the problem of the terminology ‘Bi-vocational’ as there is no secular/sacred divide. But we have yet to come up with an alternative catchphrase.

The reality is that there are those who are called to travel to new people groups and places to preach the gospel where it is not yet known.

Some workers then continue to travel between these emerging groups/simple churches to encourage and strengthen them whilst also training more workers

Some of us are looking at business models that will enable us to continue this traveling work whilst also supporting ourselves, our families and other workers also

We talked about the difficulty for pioneer missionaries/translocal workers to balance both the huge demands, time commitment and energy required to start and grow a business as well as the cost of pioneering mission amongst new/hard to reach people groups and places on top of all the travel.

We felt the best solution for this approach would be to set up ‘automated’ businesses that can pretty much run themselves (although, in reality this process can take between 2-5 years to get up and running in the first place)

In some instances the apostle Paul made tents to support himself and others as they travelled and made disciples

 

2. Business as Discipleship

This aspect of business+mission puts business in the midst of ministry. In other words, we make disciples on the job. So we don’t just work in order to free up time and finance for mission (as above) but the work itself is the mission

Whether we are currently employed by someone else, or we set up a company where we employ others, we intentionally make disciples as we go!

This aspect addresses the questions:

What does it mean to be a disciple and make disciples in the place I work?

How can we see simple churches formed in the workplace?

How can the Kingdom transform the culture of my work environment?

Some have gone as far as setting up businesses in order to intentionally make disciples

Betel provides an excellent example of this approach to Kingdom Business. Members both live and work together as community through the businesses they have formed

Aquila and Priscilla also made tents and made disciples in their home

 

3. Business as Mission

Some missionaries use business as an ‘access ministry‘ – a way of engaging with new people groups or places

This is particularly effective when entering ‘closed countries’ or groups that would be hostile to people simply going in to ‘Preach the Gospel’

But the business as mission approach isn’t only restricted to hard-to-reach foreign mission environments, it could be used anywhere

For example, in our first encounters with cross-cultural mission in the UK we began with a project called ‘The Dream Project’

Dream provides creative and urban arts workshops for young people largely in inner-city environments

We approached local schools and workshop leaders got paid to deliver these workshops in an educational setting

This brought us valuable connections with young people, their families, schools and the local community

We then strengthened these relationships and shared the gospel

As a result some of the young people we met through the workshops introduced us to other family members and the first baptisms took place amongst that people group!

 

4. Businessmen who Give Generously

There are those (both Christians and not-yet Christian) who want to use their money ‘to do good’

Many businesses choose to give a percentage of their profits or one-off gifts to charitable causes

Some choose to set up Foundations to channel their giving

Others choose to invest start-up money in social enterprises

How can some of this money be directed towards mission and Kingdom Business?

As Paul says to Timothy; ‘Command those who are rich to give…’

 

5. Supporting Apostolic Workers/Church Planters

Many ‘missionaries’ raise support for the work they are doing, including their own living expenses

Churches, individuals and sometimes christian organizations give gifts to these traveling workers to help extend the work of mission into new people groups and places

Some would see this as an investment into ‘Multiplication Strategies’ as God has given the gift of apostles to the church for this purpose

Some ‘church planters’ raise all or the majority of their financial support this way. Others would just seek to receive only part of their total income through this approach whilst also setting up a business, working as a sole-trader or working in other paid employment (as seen above #1)

An aside might be to ask this question:

‘What are some principles of giving in simple churches?’

‘What does our giving go to?’

Wolfgang Simson in his recent e-book ‘Starfish Manifesto’ shares his conviction from a reading of Scripture that the churches gave to:

  1. The Poor Amongst You (people in need in our simple churches)
  2. Apostolic Workers (traveling extra-local workers who lay foundations and extend the work into new people groups and places)
  3. The Poor Outside (through the establishment of Kingdom Business)

While we recognize that many simple churches already care for the ‘poor amongst them’ and a few are beginning to think about setting up some sort of Kingdom Business or Social Enterprise; from our observation there is a lack of any policy, principles or investment in apostolic workers and their work in the current European climate…

It might be good if there was more intentional teaching, discussion or best practices in terms of ‘giving’ in simple/organic churches and networks?

We know Paul was supported generously by the church in Philippi

 

6. Mission Resourcing

We recognized another aspect that didn’t fit squarely into the ‘giving’ to apostolic workers category.

That’s the whole area of resourcing mission.

Some apostolic workers facilitate training and resourcing in mission (‘to equip the saints for works…’)

This may take the form of training courses, websites, conferences and gatherings and sometimes even written resources (books and audio)

Some receive registration fees for this training, conferencing or events organizing or speaking (see Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch)

Few might not and just depend on ‘gifts’ for this aspect of their work

 

A Mixed Bag

It’s clear that much of the above are not strictly separate categories for how mission intersects with business. There are many overlaps

There are some who would argue for one approach above another

There are some who would say apostolic workers should be supported by the churches and Christians they work amongst

There are others who say church planters should work with their own hands and not receive any help or support

 

Is it Biblical?

We see many aspects of ‘business’ intersecting with ‘mission’ and also ‘apostolic finance’

Jesus it appears worked as a carpenter for many years

But when he began his ‘public ministry’ was ‘helped by a group of wealthy women’

Paul was a tent-maker but also received generous gifts from some churches and ‘robbed’ some to give to others who did not give

In trying to keep this post short (but failing) we haven’t the time to delve deeply into this matter

But this post is an invitation to ongoing debate/discussion

 

We are sensing it would be good to set up a social network or something on the internet to discuss Kingdom Business

It might also be good to connect with others who are thinking in these terms, maybe we could connect on a group SKYPE call or meet face-to-face to explore Business+Mission

If interested please respond to this post and or email: peterjfarmer@hotmail.co.uk

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

daniel devadatta February 18, 2011 at 11:47 am

Business as Mission (the modern version called BAM) is perhaps still in it’s infancy. The networks and perspectives are still being developed. I for one believe that BAM is more than tent-making (dealing with financial support) or even an effective strategy for other mandates (eg, disciple making, compassion to the poor, entering certain parts of the world, etc.) Business should be seen as a sphere/entity within any society and has intrinsic value and not merely a means to another end. The vocation of christian business persons is to be people of a particular kind of faith influence within that sphere. What do other feel about this?

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Roger February 18, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I agree with you Daniel. Business has been seen as a way in difficult environments (Business as a front), as a way of sustaining your self, as a way of building contacts, but the new with BAM, as far I understand it, is that the actual creating of a business IS the mission. It’s an end, not a mean. At the conference I attended in Sweden on BAM I felt the dignity of the business person being restored and honored as Mats Tunehag spoke. Traditionally they are the cash cows that mix with Mammon, a shady lot, but in the BAM paradigm their work is kingdom work. Being a pastor myself I instinctively felt truth there.

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Jonathan Fokker February 21, 2011 at 8:42 pm

I agree with you. We need to work from a Kingdom of heaven perspective. We are salt and light everywhere. A business can be used to bring the Kingdom of heaven through Kingdom principles, but also for creating work for people, being social and helping people (social enterprises). My questions is: are there working examples of this, when BAM changes societies and new churches are planted? Would love to learn more.

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Peter Farmer February 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Yes, I agree! What it should say under the ‘Business as Mission’ section is perhaps ‘Business as Access’…

This would free up ‘Business as Mission’ to be a much broader concept that includes all the others and more- hence the title ‘Kingdom Business,’ which in essence is another way of simply saying ‘Business as Mission’

That’s why we have recently set up ‘Newforms Enterprise’ to Pioneer Change in business, education, government and so on

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daniel devadatta February 22, 2011 at 3:03 am

Right ON! I am unfamiliar with the models emerging on the European continent and more familiar with some on the Indian sub-continent, in the US and in the East. I am sure there are many more.

Here are a couple of issues that we are struggling with. Can we really say we are ADVANCING the kingdom through business? What makes a business a kingdom business when compared to just another well run business?

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Simon Mason May 16, 2011 at 5:05 pm

As I said to Andi this morning, we could spend ages developing “types” for business. Alternatively we could recognise each person is unique and God is creating a unique work for them, so each will be a blend of some or all of these principles.

Personally, until we understand that Adam both walked with God in the cool of the day as he followed the Shepherd and worked with God in the garden, as he was about his Father the Gardener’s work, we will not understand why Paul made tents not because he needed the support but as his TEACHING and a MODEL for others to copy.

If God is a Gardener, and he created the garden and told Adam to work the Garden, how can we fully reflect God if we reject his creativity and productivity that comes from gardening and only want to walk with him in rest and green pastures.

Jesus said he led the sheep out to find pasture and that he lays a table in the midst of his enemies. The resources are out their in the big wide world. The one that God created, the one that God owns and the one he wants to reflect his original design – not a barren waste but a well tended garden, full of Adams, both multiply resources and multiplying descendents.

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