What people say about BAM and how you can avoid it from coming true to you…
If you’ve spent any time around the mission community, there are 3 common criticisms about the concept of Business as Missions. If we actually analyze their fears and concerns from past history, you may even see why they came to their conclusions. But does it have to be true of you?
Let’s take a look at each of the criticisms and then look for ways that we can keep from slipping into these same ruts.
1. “You’ll either do business well or ministry well – but not both”
Have you heard that before?
Over the years of doing ministry in the Arab world, I have come across many people who think that it is impossible to run a legitimate business while having a impactful ministry. They believe if you are going to run a profitable business, you will need to sacrifice any chance for church planting. Coming from the other direction, they say that if you want to have a powerful ministry, you cannot surrender valuable time to running a business.
For sure, we have seen in the past where kingdom businessmen have become distracted by their businesses. We have also seen some very powerful ministry coming from those who are neglecting their professional identity. But does it have to be like this?
So the question that I have, “Is it possible to do both well?”
Absolutely! I am convinced that it is not only possible but also necessary. But how?
The first thing to remember is that we should not dichotomize our business and ministry.
Each hour that you put in your business, rubbing shoulders with your employees, and interacting in the business world offers a perfect time to be salt and light. You may not be preaching on the street or doing a discovery Bible study, but you can talk about how Jesus impacts your life.
Over the past 14 years, I have seen unbelievable opportunities to share of the love of Jesus through our business. A simple example was when I had the fantastic open door to talk about marriage to our office staff. I told them that husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the church. I could have stopped there, but felt compelled by the Spirit to share that Jesus died for His bride and we must be willing to die for our wives. I believe we must make the most of every opportunity that the Lord brings our way.
The second thing and probably more important thing to consider is we are modeling to the local church what it means to work and do ministry.
Most of our disciples and new believers will NOT have the privilege of being financially supported by donors. We wholeheartedly want them to be leading discipleship groups and sharing, but they will also need to eat. They will need to learn how to work and do ministry at the same time.
Have we been modeling to our new believers this aspect of life?
How can we expect them to work 8 – 10 hours per day to support their families and also have a vibrant ministry if we don’t model it to them?
2. “Those doing BAM are a bunch of fakers”
Another common criticism that I hear about those doing Business as Missions is that they are a bunch of fakers. It is true that in the past many of those who have gone before could have been labeled as “tent fakers” but I believe that concept is changing.
There are 2 probable reasons why people defaulted to the faking mentality.
The first is that they have a faulty foundation in their thinking that business will take them away from ministry. The second is that they have not been equipped and coached to do a legitimate business.
From my observation, we have thrown these “merciful missionaries” to the “bulldogs of business” without any training, guidance and support. This needs to change!
For those of you who have been involved in the BAM arena, you will surely know that the 2 issues above are being addressed. There has been a significant shift in thinking towards really being authentic in our business identities and moving away from the faking model. There are also a number of great training resources and programs that are being developed by organizations and individuals looking to empower the Kingdom Entrepreneurs.
3. “I have never seen a successful BAM model“
“I’ve been working along side tentmakers for 20 years and I have never seen a business that is profitable, sustainable, and effective in ministry! So why should we invest our time and energy into a model that doesn’t work?” The head of a funding organization spoke these strong words to me during a strategic meeting focused on impacting closed countries for the Lord. I bit my tongue as a few successful tentmaking ventures came to mind; however, he was shockingly close to being right. Most tentmaking businesses have failed!
If we look at all of the different complaints and criticisms directed towards those doing BAM, this is perhaps the one that needs to be tackled the most.
Is Business as Missions an effective model for reaching the nations?
One could make a very strong argument that the BAM model has been unsuccessful in impacting the closed countries for Jesus. The BAM model of the past!
I strongly believe that there is a “new generation” of Kingdom Entrepreneurs that have the visions, values and desire to use business for effective church planting.
Even in the past 10 years, I personally have seen some very effective BAM practitioners running authentic businesses that impact their host culture with light.
The reality is that many of the “unreached groups” live in places that are closed to traditional missionaries. Without a different model, many if not most of these groups will stay on the path to hell.
We have one choice!
We must find a way to access these “closed countries.” The vehicle for that is business…
My point is simple! Business as Missions is an effective model if done with the following key principles:
- The Lord is the center of the vision for the BAM venture
- Prayer is an integral part of the entire process
- A specific vision & strategy is defined for how the business and ministry will go hand-in–hand
- The business concept is developed from solid research
- The team members are trained and equipped to do business & ministry
- The team is committed to putting in the time and resources need to get the business off the ground
- The team looks for intentional opportunities in the business for sharing Jesus
- The team is committed to time outside of the business hours for being in and part of the community
- The team will boldly proclaim Jesus when given the opportunity
- The business team will make decisions based on their core values and vision, not just profit margins
- The sending organization (if one is involved) needs to grasp the difficult nature of BAM and allocate resources for training and equipping
- The team has a business coach or mentor that can help them navigate the dangerous waters of small business (teaching, training, accountability etc…)