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?’
- The Poor Amongst You (people in need in our simple churches)
- Apostolic Workers (traveling extra-local workers who lay foundations and extend the work into new people groups and places)
- 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)
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: firstname.lastname@example.org