Business as mission is an increasingly popular ministry approach, particularly in areas and regions that are not open to more traditional types of missionary work. Joe Maxwell, writing for Christianity Today in 2007, gives an excellent overview:
BAM practitioners use business ventures not only to make a financial profit, but to act as an avenue for the gospel. They administer their companies like any Christian running a business: ethically, honestly, and with concern for the business's neighbors. Yes, they exist to provide jobs and services and to make profits. But BAM companies are more than examples of Christian capitalism. The business itself is a means to spread the gospel and to plant churches. BAM companies increasingly have a global flavor, creating jobs in developing countries (unlike traditional aid or missions work) and making disciples who carry the gospel to the larger, hard-to-reach community.
As the church in China matures, and looks for more ways to be salt and light in society, business as mission is increasingly seen as a viable means for evangelism.
Zhao Xiao, a Christian economist in China is one if its most out-spoken proponents.
In 2012, Chinese Church Voices posted a translation of an article about Zhao Xiao from the Gospel Times, highlighting a talk Zhao had given in California where shared his vision of business as mission with Chinese characteristics:
Regarding workplace missionaries, Dr. Zhao spoke of the idea of "kingdom enterprises." He explained that "kingdom enterprises" are different from common commercial enterprises. Although both seek to make a profit, "kingdom enterprises" do not seek first and foremost to make a profit. They make a profit by offering better products and services.
More importantly, said Dr. Zhao, "kingdom enterprises" are built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, the solid Rock, not based on any secular management philosophy. Therefore, the greatest goal of "kingdom enterprises" is to expand the Kingdom of God, bringing people to Jesus by influencing other peoples with the lives of their employees.
Dr. Zhao said that there are many examples of countries which have been transformed as a result of workplace missionaries. Examples of such transformations are Uganda and Nicaragua, where the percentages of Christians are 89% and 70% respectively.
Dr. Zhao also compared the advantages and disadvantages of the two paths in achieving the "30-30 Vision." He believes that the traditional model of church missions has a lot of limitations, with many restrictive conditions slowing its development. Yet workplace missionaries can conveniently fill in the gaps left by traditional church missions models.
To be more specific, with "kingdom enterprises," workplace missionaries can be self-sufficient without financial support from the Church. In places where the Church has minimal influence, "kingdom enterprises" can easily make an impact. In preaching and training, "kingdom enterprises" are equipped to be more effective than the Church.
Dr. Zhao emphasized that the concept of "kingdom enterprise" isn't just a theory. There are already many successful examples of "kingdom enterprises" in China. They need to achieve positive results across China. He used a Christian couple in Northeast China who own a beverage business as an example to explain that people can become workplace missionaries through their "kingdom enterprises."
The famous city of Dali, Yunnan Province has long been a popular travel destination because of its unique natural landscape. Although it is beautiful in its own right, having a place to stop and rest while on a long journey makes it even more wonderful. There is a tiny place in Dali called The Gospel Inn which exists for a unique purpose.
The Gospel Inn exists to spread the gospel and bring true spiritual fulfillment to seekers on a journey. It is run by a Christian couple. The husband, Long, recently agreed to be interviewed by a Christian Times reporter over the phone. He shared with us the unique ways that God worked both before the inn was open and since then.
Now the inn has been open for more than six months, and already six people have come to know Christ. Long sees that God is using their place and their work is already bearing fruit. He says that he has offered the Gospel Inn to God, and he prays that God will use it, and be the powerful King over that place. He believes that God, having started this work, will carry it out to completion. He told me that he had never done business before, and that he started this completely based on a vision from God; he believes all of this is in God's hands.
Both articles are worth a fresh look.
Image credit: Riding down the street in Dali, by eatswords, via Flickr
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