“How do you integrate your faith with your job?”
One of the questions that I get asked on a regular basis is, “How do you integrate your faith with your job?” What a great question! Since making money is not our primary focus, we need to be intentional about keeping the “main thing the main thing.”
Relationships – Be Intentional – Make It Normal
How can we empower our wives in their own ministries?
Over the years we have seen many BAM families return to their home countries! A very common reason given is that the wife has not really settled in to the country and culture. Why does this happen? Does the wife have a significant role to play in the BAM life? How can we empower our wives in their own ministries?
Here are a few things that I have learned from my wife…
I have been working my way through the New Testament to see the different models that Paul used in his ministry. I love the fact that he did not just use one method during his journeys. Sometimes we see that Paul was using the more traditional support base model while other times he took a job as a tent maker.
If you’re like me, you probably ask yourself, “What’s the best model?”
I actually don’t think that there is a best model! It all depends on what the Lord is asking you to do. Each of us needs to be obedient to his leading.
I personally love the business as mission model. Over the past 15 years of doing BAM, and I have seen firsthand how it:
gives great opportunities for proclamation
allows us to build solid relationships in the community
offers us a solid identity
is a model of work and worship to local believers
has direct impact on the culture (spiritual, social and financial)
There are also some dangers in doing BAM!
Your business idea is one of the backbones of your life as a Kingdom entrepreneur. There are a number of different methods to generate potential business ideas including:
Look for a current problem that you could solve
Find something that needs improvement
Identify a gap in the market – something that does not currently exist
Look for high priced items that you can offer for cheaper OR look for inexpensive items that you can sell with added value.
Many new and inexperienced BAM practitioners ignore these methods completely and simply copy something that has worked for a BAM business in another location. I’m not saying that this is a wrong approach. You can actually get some great ideas from others who have gone before you. However, you need to remember that there are many different variables to consider when starting a business.
Whether you are copying an existing BAM idea or are using commonly practiced business-idea-generation methods, it is unwise to jump into any new business venture without correctly evaluating it from multiple points of view.
Why is it important to use multiple points of view?
BAM businesses are built around a unique set of assumptions, values and bottom lines.
So, what are some of the variables at play in a new BAM startup?
Your host culture has its own laws, cultural implications and perceptions.
Your experience and expertise could be limiting factors.
Do you belong to a mission organization? Their vision, values and risk tolerance could impact your business.
Your investors’ expectations on financial return may change the way you run your business.
The complexity of your business idea.
We have identified 5 unique viewpoints that you should consider before you launch into a new BAM venture. If you take the time to assess your idea from each of the following positions, you will have a better chance of selecting an idea that will work well in your unique situation.
So let’s take a look at the 5 viewpoints
We are thrilled to announce a new set of tools that we have been developing over the past years. BAM 360° takes a look at the concept of “identity” as it plays out in one’s life in Business as Mission .
We realized that the concept of “identity” was more than just a “buzz word”; it was something that could have potential impact on the long-term effectiveness of our team.
In an effort to bring more clarity to the complicated issue of identity, we decided to articulate practical examples and create a tool that we pray will help us and other teams become increasingly aware of our strengths and blind-spots: BAM 360°.
So where did BAM 360° come from?
As the concept of Business as Missions (BAM) has become more popular in mission circles, a number of critical financial questions continue to come to the surface. As the two worlds of nonprofit and for-profit collide, the answers to these questions could radically affect the way you approach BAM.
1. Can you use donated money to start a for-profit business?
2. Can employees of mission agencies also run for-profit businesses?
3. Do I have to declare my Kingdom business income in my home country?
4. Can a 501c3 lose its nonprofit status by engaging in BAM?
5. Who owns the profit of my business if/when it is successful?
6. What other financial implications do I need to consider when running a for profit business?
Since there are no definitive answers for many of these questions, my goal is to help you focus your thinking in the right areas and to help you make appropriate decisions regarding each of the issues…
So let’s take a look at these challenging questions
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?
Stop & imagine this ridiculous worship scenario
You have just come to the Lord! You are super excited to be involved in your new local church. On Sunday morning, you get up your courage to talk to the head pastor about your desire to help the growing church in anyway. The next words you hear almost blow your mind!
What would you do in this situation?
Are you struggling to find time to do business?
One of the most common comments that I hear, when talking with those doing Business as Missions, is “I can only really invest 25 hours per week in my business because I need to save time for the other important things!”
What are the most important things?
When I begin to dig a little deeper into this comment, I start to hear about family commitments, team responsibilities and ministry time. All of these are very important aspects of life, but how do we expect to model to the local believers what it means to work, be married and have a ministry with this lifestyle?
Have you ever been asked an uncomfortable question?
Perhaps one of the hardest things that many BAM entrepreneurs face when entering a new location are all of the tough questions they get asked by their friends and host community. A few questions I was asked were: Why did you leave America to come do business in our country? Your local business is not making enough to support you, where do you get your money?
Did Jesus always reveal everything?
Is it important to have a business team in BAM?
Over the years, many different people have asked me whether I thought it was better to start a business alone or to partner with someone else? What a great question! And the answer is simple…it depends!
A short story: A few years back I knew of a company that started as a partnership of multiple individuals. Each partner had different skills, different expectations of business, different sending organization etc… The business started very well and actually made a significant amount of money, however, over time there became some problems. Because each individuals foundational values were not the same, they ran into issues over time, money and business philosophy. The company eventually split…
So am I saying partnerships are wrong?
When I first heard the term “BAM” (Business As Mission), I was captured by this relatively simple concept: Starting a kingdom business to access closed counties for the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a great idea! Let’s all do it. But 13 years later, I ask myself, “Have we tackled a giant that we are not equipped to fight?” I began to take a hard look at what we are asking our people to do…
Is this mission impossible?
Are you looking to challenge your life in Missions?
We have compiled a list of a 101 amazing books on missions! You will find biographies that will fan your flame of passion, missiology books and more. If you need a little encouragement or even a hardcore challenge, you’ll find it on this list.
Start fanning your flame today!
How are you perceived by your host culture?
Over the past 13 years of living in the Arab world, I have talked with a lot of “Kingdom Entrepreneurs” who struggle with the idea of balancing business and ministry. They wonder how much time they should invest into their business and how much time into proclamation. Do you struggle with those same questions? Those are great questions to wrestle through, but today I would like to ask you to look at it from a slightly different angle.
How are you perceived by your host culture?
Are you getting ready to launch into a life of BAM?
Over the past year, I have had the privilege of working alongside a new BAM startup. I recently asked my friend to share some lessons that she learned over her first year in business. Because she has never done BAM before, I thought it would be valuable for us to glean her insights as a new bammer!
So what are the 10 lessons?
So you are interested in starting a Kingdom Business?
We are in the process of developing the ultimate checklist of anyone looking to start a life in Business as Missions. It is a work in progress!
- Do you have a call to a life of Business as Mission?
- If you are married, is your wife also called?
- Decide which country or people you want to focus on
- Decide if you are going alone or with an organization
- Take a research trip to your new country to gain a better understanding
- While on the trip, make a list of possible business options or jobs available
- Decide if you are going to get a job or start a business
Keep reading to see the complete list!
Have you ever felt like you are barely holding on…
“I know I have!”
Over the past 13 years of living in the Arab world, there have definitely been times where I have been in survival mode. Times when life just seemed to be out of control. I wasn’t worried about thriving! I just wanted to survive.
I don’t think we have been called to survive! I believe we are called to thrive.
“So how is that possible?”
Here are 5 tips to help you thrive
Were single men not part of the great commission?
I was recently reading Nik Ripkin’s latest book, “The Insanity of Obedience“! I was struck in chapter 7 by this statement:
“A careful examination of the mission community reveals an intriguing reality: for every single man in overseas service, there are approximately seven single women.”
What an amazing statistic!
Why are there so few single men heading to the mission field?
“Is this really happening to me?”
Over the past month, I have been in communication with 3 different Kingdom business owners. Each of these young, Christian entrepreneurs have found themselves in an unexpected and tough situation. Their close teammates and business partners are leaving and returning to their home countries. Left on their own to run their infant businesses, these owners are asking some very hard questions:
- What could I have done to prevent my friends from leaving?
- How am I going to be able to run this business on my own?
- Where can I get help?
Facing the reality – people leave!
Is working from home a viable option in BAM?
One of the trends that we have seen in the United States is the desire to work from home – the home office! We love going to work in our shorts and slippers, the flexible schedule, & having family nearby. But does this work overseas?
A Quick Story
A few years back I ran into a man who ran his BAM business from his home. He was excited because it was lower financial overhead, close to his family, and very easy! In his eyes…it was ideal. The only problem was that the community did not understand what he was up to. There were a lot of questions and doubts in their minds.
- Why was he at home all of the time?
- Was he a real businessman?
- Does he have a real job?
- Was he really working?
It didn’t fit into the box of “going to work.”
Are you able to run the business all by yourself?
As I have talked with a number of tentmakers over the past years, a common struggle has appeared. Most of them struggle with trying to run the business on their own.
- Is this something your struggle with?
- Are you considering starting a kingdom business on your own?
- Do you need some help in this area?
Here are a few ideas that could help you grow your business by developing a business team.
Looking for some other great resources on the subject of BAM?
Check out these 9 websites that offer valuable insights and information about Business as Missions. Sites like:
Enjoy these 9 excellent BAM websites
Do you ever feel like an impostor?
Do you ever feel like you are way in over you head? Do you wonder, “Why in the world would anyone buy from my company?”
The reality is that most people in the world have what Seth Godin refers to as the Impostor Syndrome. We look in the mirror and we feel like there is no way we should be doing what we are doing. We feel like we are inadequate!
Do you feel this way? Does this sounds familiar?
So how can we conquer this fear?
Do you ever feel like your life is totally out of control?
If you are anything like me, there are times in life where you are simply reacting. You your life is rapidly unfolding before your eyes and there is not much you can do about it. Forget about strategically planning out your day; all you are trying to do is survive. Does that sound familiar?
So that brings us to the million dollar question: “So how do you balance it all?”
- How can we be proactive and not just reactive?
- How can we live lives to the full with having our lives live us?
- What is the key to a tentmaker’s life?
Back to the basics – laying a solid foundation!
Can I spend the first year on location just learning language?
The simple answer is NO!
In most closed countries, it does not make sense for a foreign business person to come in and spend a full year learning language (6 weeks – maybe). There will be immediate questions like:
- Where do you get your money?
- When do you plan to start working?
- What are you really doing?
We all agree that language learning is vital for any long-term tentmaker! The question that we must address is: How can I spend my first year learning language while developing my professional identity?
What’s your view on making money?
When we first started our business, a man called up our US office as a potential customer. He was interested in one of our higher priced items and was asking a few questions. One of our sales team employees started to tell the client that they didn’t really need the high level product but would be better off just going with the normal middle of the line product. In business, we talk about upselling the client, which basically means trying to increase the amount they purchase by cross selling additional products and services. This sales representative was doing the opposite – down selling.
When I stepped back to look at why this was happening, I realized that we had all come out of traditional missionary work. We wanted to save the clients has much money as possible. We were not approaching the business to make money, but rather to save our customers money. Was that good for our business?
Five years ago I had the opportunity to meet a BAM person at his office. As I climbed the stairs to his office on the third floor, my eye caught a very professional sign with his company name and logo. Needless to say, I was impressed! As I entered his office, there he sat at a fairly large desk dressed in suit coat and tie. As we shook hands, he offered me his business card, again professional and top quality.
As our conversation began, I asked him:
“What does your company do?”
I will never forget his reply! “What do YOU think we should do?”
At first I thought he was joking, but I soon realized that he was not.
“One of the many faulty foundations in BAM”
A few months back, I had the opportunity to consult with a young tentmaker who was struggling at getting established in his business. A normal practice for me is to start the initial session off with some basic questions about business philosophy and values. Shortly into the conversation I asked this man, “So how much time are you willing to give to your business?” He thought for a minute and then replied, “I can really only afford to give 25% of my time to the business. I have my ministry that gets 25%, my team leader responsibility gets 25%, and my family gets the other 25%.”
Assuming that he was talking about a 40 – 60 hour workweek, he was saying that he could only commit to 10 – 15 hours per week on his business.
Something was wrong with his foundation; one of his core values was faulty.
Are your foundations faulty?
Perhaps one of the most common reasons that BAM ventures fail is either a faulty foundation or lack of one altogether.
As I was driving downtown in our city the other day, I looked up and saw a brand new hotel. If I had to guess, I would have thought it was around 30 stories tall. My local friend mentioned how small it was compared to some of the massive towers in the United States.
Have you ever thought about what it takes to build something like that?
The architectural planning and construction are amazing! Although I don’t know anything about building, I do know that if you plan to build a large structure, you first need to lay a strong foundation. You must dig down deep and lay a foundation that will never be shaken.
As we continue on the topic of “How to develop a tentmaking identity“, we will look at the area of Professional Identity. Most tentmakers spend huge amounts of time and energy on their Christian Witness, but they have given little attention to their professional identity. If you are looking to create a long-term tentmaking identity, you will also need to address the key issues of Professional Identity and being culturally sensitive.
Is your Professional Identity strong?
Here are 15 different questions that you will want to ask yourself in order to assess the professional component of your identity.
I was sitting in my office when a plain-closed policeman from immigration knocked on the door. My heart started to beat a little faster because I knew who he was! He asked if I had time to chat…so we headed out to a local cafe. Was my time up? What was the purpose of the visit?
Over the next hour the officer asked me questions about my business, employees and income. Then the conversation changed…
“We are not stupid!”
The policeman made the above statement when he started talking about other businesses in the city. He said, “We know the people that are here to do real business and those who are just setting up fake companies so they can be missionaries.” He then began to name different expats around the city explaining how little their business made and how much they paid for rent, schooling, new cars etc… He pronounced, “Those guys are missionaries. They say they are doing business, but they are just here to evangelize.”
A few years ago I was talking to a fairly influential leader of mission organization and he made the comment, “One of the problems with BAM is that many times BAM people lose focus on the Church Planting and focus mainly on making money.” Since that time, I have wanted to make sure that no one could ever say that about my life or my Tentmaking ministry.
The reality is that this should always be a concern no matter what type of activities we are involved. Medical Missions without proclamation is just curing sickness! Education for knowledge purposes makes well-studied people but no outreach. We need to always be asking ourselves if the work we are doing is helping to further the Kingdom of God. We are one body and many parts…we all have different roles and gifts…but all working together to build the Lord’s Kingdom.
We all want to be more effective church planters.
As we continue on the topic of “How to develop a BAM identity“, we will look at the area of cultural sensitivity. As we have discussed, it is so important to have a strong Christian Witness, as well as, a strong Professional Identity. That said, you need to ask yourself…
Are you being culturally sensitive?
Here are 11 different questions that you will want to ask yourself to see if you are culturally relevant.
Are we harnessing the power of all our people for ministry?
Is your church like most other churches that do not see businesspeople in a missional light! He is just going to do his job! Is it time for a new model?
Why do we look at “missionaries” as the only ones who have been “sent out” from the local church to do the Lord’s work?
What if we started to look at every single believer as a potential “ambassador for Christ?”
Does someone need to belong to a mission agency to be an effective witness for Jesus?
Last week in our post “How to develop a BAM identity“, we discussed 3 key components to your long-term BAM identity: Christian witness, professional identity & being culturally sensitive.
Each of these 3 components is vital in an effective BAM ministry!
How do you know if your Christian witness is strong?
Our team spent an afternoon compiling these 13 questions that help us stay aligned spiritually. Perhaps you will find them helpful!
5 Things to Consider!
Are you searching to find the perfect mission agency?
Perhaps one of the most important decisions you will have to make as you start out your missionary career is:
Which mission agency should you join?
As you are aware, there are tons of great sending agencies around the world. How in the world can you find one that fits your calling? Over the years, we have seen that there are a number of key factors to consider when choosing the right mission agency.
Your business starts to fail for reasons out of your control?
A True Story
A number of years ago there was an amazing BAM business going in our country. The business had grown quickly and was very successful. From what I understand, the owners decided to leave their organization and be fully self-supported. Because of the growth of their business they also needed help. They saw this as an amazing opportunity to bring some Christian families to be salt and light in this closed country. They recruited their staff and brought them over to work. None of them were on financial support from churches but were fully funded by the business. What an excellent model!
After a few months, something happened! Their successful venture ran into an unanticipated problem that resulted in a crash of their business. Shortly after the crash all of the new employees were heading back to their home countries because they had no way to support themselves.
“Looking for more freedom in your BAM life?”
“I am just so tired of having to report back to my home churches!” is what I heard from a BAM person a while back. He was feeling like he needed to preform for his churches and gain their support by producing numbers. Do churches really expect that? Where was he getting those expectations?
When we look at the model of 100% self-supporting, there is obviously more freedom! The question we need to ask is:
“Is more freedom better in a BAM person’s life?”
Freedom is a good thing! We encourage the oppressed to fight for freedom, however, there is one thing that I have noticed. Freedom without accountability is not healthy.
“Are you worried about raising financial support?”
“Does being self-supporting sound liberating to you?”
As I have discussed the different BAM models with young people, many of them have shared their desire to NOT raise any financial support from donors. In their minds the ideal model would be to be 100% self-supported through their business. The question is: “Is it the best tentmaking model?”
Over the next few weeks we will look at this model addressing the key advantages and disadvantages.
A very common question that people ask is “What types of opportunities are there in Business as Mission?” The reality is that there are tons of opportunities in the BAM arena. It really depends on what category of tentmaking that you fall under.
Are you looking for a long-term ministry opportunity?
Is short-term more of what you had in mind?
Do you want to support BAM businesses who are already on the front lines?
In today’s post, we will look at a few key ways that you can get involved in Business as Mission!
Over the past years of working in a BAM role, we have seen many people come and go. We have seen some hit the ground and thrive! We have seen some hanging in there…not really thriving but striving! And then, we have seen those who are just plain surviving! All of these are wonderful people…called by God to go take the news to the nations…and all of them with different levels of “success.”
Whether people are thriving, striving or surviving, all BAM people are faced with a few key issues and their response to these issues dictates their “success” in their new life.
Kid Issues – Residency / Identity Issues – Team Issues
One question that I am asked on a regular basis is, “I am very interested in Business as Mission, how can I get involved?” I love to hear that question because it means that the Lord is prompting another heart to reach the nations. I can think of a few ways that someone can get involved in Business as Mission, they are:
Invest your time & expertise
The first way that you can get involved is to offer your time or expertise to a kingdom business that is already running or just starting. Over the past few years the number of BAM owners has started to grow, however, many of them are not businessmen or have very little business experience. We desperately need experts in different areas of business to coach, mentor or even work alongside these young business entrepreneurs. How can you get connected with a BAM opportunity? I can think of a few ways: 1) Get involved in a Kingdom Business Network like the OpenNetwork 2)Check out a website like BAMMatch.com 3) Contact a mission organization to see if they have any current needs.
There is one practice that I believe is vital for every BAM entrepreneur: To evaluate your life to make sure you are keeping the “main thing” the “main thing.” One of the biggest criticism of those doing BAM is that they get more focused on making dollars than on making disciples.
Do you want to make millions?
The very nature of business is that it should be a profit making entity. It should be your desire to do real business which means to make money. Generating a million dollars in sales would be amazing, however is that the main goal? We do want to make millions, however, I believe it is millions of something else.
Raising capital can be a killer for new companies!
Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to work with a few new “Business as Mission” startup companies. These companies have developed excellent business plans but then they hit a roadblock.
Where in the world are they going to raise the capital finances for their new business venture?
As I sit and talk with future BAM entrepreneurs, one of the questions I get asked often is, “What is the hardest part about BAM?” The question is a good one…with a number of answers that I have experienced over the past few years.
Balance – Stepping out the Front Door – Comparison
Balance – A juggling act
One thing that can be very difficult is learning to balance your life. For those who dive into a tentmaking ministry whole-heartedly, you will find many pulls on your life. From business responsibility to family to team to discipleship…learning to listen to the Holy Spirit is vital.
The question of “who is a BAM person?” is a very different question from “what is BAM?” You can go here to answer that question. To help answer the question of who is a BAM person, the Lausanne Movement provides an accurate picture. In 1989, the Lausanne II Congress outlined 9 considerations defining a BAM person. These 9 considerations are as follows:
- A BAM person is CALLED TO MINISTER;
- A BAM person focuses on RELIGIOUS MINISTRY;
- A BAM person possesses a SECULAR IDENTITY;
- A BAM person is INTENTIONAL;
- A BAM person possesses strategic and tactical TRAINING;
- A BAM person is CROSS-CULTURAL;
- A BAM person resides in a CLOSED COUNTRY;
- A BAM person possesses a RESIDENT VISA;
- A BAM person’s business is a primary SOURCE OF SALARY;
Recently I have been involved in a startup company that has gotten off to a pretty slow start. The business idea looks good, the market gap is there, the finances are in place, and we have some good people. However, the business still seems to be limping along. I began to ponder the reasons behind this and I came up with a single word: CHAMPION! This new business did not have a champion.
There are many characteristics of a champion but I am going to highlight 2 key ones today. A champion requires EXCELLENCE and DEDICATION for what he does.
How do we use our time more effectively for the Lord?
I was talking with one of my business partners the other day and we got onto the topic of intentionality. The topic came up during our conversation on how do we use our office hours more effectively for the Lord. The answer may not be an easy one, but we both agreed that we had to be more intentional in the way we live out our lives.
Fear can cripple a BAMers ministry! A few things to consider
Over the past years, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of churches and share of the work the Lord has called us to do. Sometimes I feel like there is a misconception that a Business as Mission people are superhuman…the reality is that we are human! As part of our humanity, we have fears – phobia!
The fear of failure
One fear that you may face during your life as a Business as Mission is the fear of failure. What happens if my business fails and I have to go home? What happens if no one listens to me and the gospel is rejected?
As I think back to some of the most effective BAM people that I know, one word comes to mind: PASSION. Each of these people demonstrate passion in a number of areas in their lives. Do you have passion today?
Passion for Jesus
Passion for the lost
Passion to proclaim
Passion for prayer
Passion is key to an effective tentmaking life!
From personal experience, one of the dangers of many BAM people is PRIDE. Pride is such an ugly thing yet many of us struggle with it on a regular basis. Satan wants us to begin to think that we are good enough in our own strength and that we don’t need the power of God. We want man’s approval so we begin to forsake the life of humility and turn to a life of pride.
The other day I met with a new friend who started to share a little of his life as a brother. He was born and raised in a restricted access nation as a Muslim. When he was a young man, he decided to give his life to follow Jesus. Over the next 20 years, he was thrown in jail, harassed, and persecuted because of his faith. At the end of it all, he was still standing firm as a follower of Jesus. PERSECUTION is a reality for many of us working in closed countries as BAM people.
Persecution – Are you really willing & ready?
We all say that we have counted the cost of serving Jesus, but have we really? I know that in the past I have made the comment, “If it means I need to go through persecution in order to share with others about Jesus…bring it on.” But did I really know what it means to be persecuted for Jesus? Was I really ready to stand up and count the cost for being a Christian?
A number of years ago I was waiting at the airport for some friends to come and I met up with a Christian worker from another city. As we were talking, I asked if he had any advice for a new worker like myself. His answer was something that made a real impact on me! “My wife and I have made a decision to never say anything negative about the country or culture we live in,” was his response. What a challenge to many of us; focusing on the POSTIVE.
Look for the good! – Attitudes catch!
Are you a sprinter, a walker or one keeping the pace?
Another one of the keys to a successful long-term BAM ministry is setting a good PACE. From my experience, you can set a pace that is too fast, but you can also set a pace that is too slow! The goal is to find the pace that is right for your family and calling of the Lord.
Have you ever watched young kids run a long-distance race? I remember watching a group of little kids take off on a fairly long race…2 laps around the field. There were those who started off at a full sprint, as fast as they could go. They lead the pack for about 100 meters and then ran out of steam. There were others who had no real motivation to be in the race, so they decided they would just walk for the entire 2 laps. Those who did the best were the ones who set a good pace and were able to keep it for the entire race.
Although this story above applies to running, we can also make some correlation with your life as a BAM person. Over the past few years, I have seen all three types of people and pace in their work. There is the sprinter, the walker and those keeping the pace.
Over the years, we have made it a habit of praying over and through the new houses that we rent. We call the entire team together and we spend time worshiping and praying for cleansing. One of the requests that we lay before the Lord is that the house would be a place of PEACE. The same for our offices or any other location where we will be spending a significant amount of time.
The Prince of Peace, Jesus, is what has changed us.
“Christian Witness vs Professional Identity”
Over the past 10 years of living in the Arab world, I have talked with a lot of “Kingdom Entrepreneurs” who struggle with the idea of balancing business and ministry. They wonder how much time they should invest into their business and how much time into proclamation. Do you struggle with those same questions? Those are great questions to wrestle through, but today I would like to ask you to look at it from a slightly different angle. How are you perceived by your host culture?
This past week at our international gathering that pastor was talking about “counting the cost” for Christ. He specifically was looking at “taking up your cross and following Jesus.” Jesus paid an amazing PRICE when he purchased our lives by His blood on the cross. Are we willing to pay the price to serve Him?
Price of Going
Price of Comfort
Price of Privacy
Price of Persecution
One of the characteristics that we have seen in successful BAM people is PERSEVERANCE. As I have mentioned before, life working as a BAM person is full of struggles and spiritual battles. Satan is looking to knock you out of the game. It is not easy and many people quickly pack it up and head home.
How do you develop perseverance?
As I have watched people come and go over the years, I have started to ask myself this question. I am not sure there is a simple answer, however, I have developed one that works for me. Perseverance is a choice! Once you know that God has called you to do a certain task, you set your eyes on Jesus and start to do it. You make a choice to continue to push forward until He calls you to something else. This is perseverance.
One thing that I have learned over the years is that BAM is not an easy task – it is fulfilling and wonderful, but full of PRESSURE. I am not sure if you can truly be prepared for the life of pressure that you will have doing God’s work, such as…
Pressure of Time
“You are stupid,” is what my best friend told me a few years back. His comment was not directed at me as a person, but more towards my principle of paying my taxes. In the country where I worked, it was common practice to work “under the table” or “in the black!” No one declared their full income! I had decided early on that I would be a businessman of PRINCIPLE…so I declared and paid full taxes.
Proclaiming comes naturally out of a desire to have a business run on Biblical principles.
Over the past few years, I have become more and more convinced that as BAM business owners we must be PROFESSIONAL. Whether you are in business, education, medicine or any other humanitarian work, I believe it is key to develop a strong professional identity.
Professionalism should be something that we all shoot for!
As you begin to think about your BAM ministry, you will want to make sure that you lay a solid foundation. PREPARATION is one way that you begin to create a foundation that will last a lifetime. We should take a lesson from the Boy Scout’s motto, “Be prepared.”
Who do you say that you are? – Who do others think you are?
As part of your preparation for your BAM ministry, you will want to clearly think through what your PROFILE (identity) is going to be. I strongly believe that developing a strong professional identity is a key building block for any effective long-term tentmaker.
We have talked about prayer, power, and presence…foundational for an effective tentmaking ministry; however, perhaps one of the simplest, yet most overlooked “P” is PROCLAMATION. As Peter say, “We need to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have”!
Biggest criticism against “BAM”
Probably the main criticism that I hear towards people who are doing BAM or tentmaking is that they get so focused on doing business, they lose focus of the ministry. The “M” part of BAM is crucial – our lives should be always proclaiming Christ.
But how can we do that better?
We have discussed the first two important “P’s” of tentmaking which are foundational for a fruitful ministry…prayer and power…both vital. In my experience, the next most important “P” is PRESENCE. When I use the word presence, I am talking about physically being near the people you are trying to reach and being available to them…sharing your very lives with them.
Starting with the foundation of Prayer, the next “P” that is vital to any BAM person’s life is POWER. I am not talking about super human strength, but the power of God. Over the past 10 years of living in the Arab world, one thing I have learned:
Without the power of God moving, we are unable to accomplish anything!
As you begin to develop your Tentmaking Church Planting (CP) efforts and strategy, there are a number of vitals “P” words that you should remember. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing a few of these “P” words that have had serious impact on my ministry.
Now I am sure that many of you are thinking, this is obvious! As Christians, prayer is part of my life and part of my strategy. Let me ask you a question: How much time do you specifically spend in prayer for the lost, your country, your friends, & for God to move mightily around you?
The reality – Who does the work?
Think about the reality of working for the Lord. We are just HIS vessels looking to be obedient to what he has asked us to do. The “battle is not against flesh and blood”… “The God of this age has blinded their minds”… The “Cross is a stumbling block”… Their “minds are veiled”… UNLESS the Holy Spirit begins to work in someone’s life and soften their heart, NOTHING will happen. This is where I believe prayer plays a huge role.
A BUZZ word – “CP”
One of the comments that many traditional missions people make concerning BAM is that it can sometimes lose the focus of CHURCH PLANTING – or as many of us abbreviate it “CP”. This should always be a concern no matter what type of activities we are involved. Medical Missions without proclamation is just curing sickness! Education for knowledge purpose make well-studied people but no outreach. We need to always be asking ourselves if the work we are doing is helping to further the Kingdom of God. We are one body and many parts…we all have different roles and gifts…but all working together to build the Lord’s Kingdom.
Over the years, I have realized that it can be easy to get distracted from your original PURPOSE for becoming a BAM entrepreneur. When most of us start out, we have been called by God to reach the nations for Jesus. We are focused, driven and ready to do anything for the gospel of Jesus. We call this “keeping the main thing the main thing”.
Purpose – Remember to keep the main thing the main thing!
I have met a number of American business men who are looking to get involved in the tentmaking arena. They were excited to use their gifts and skills for the Lord, but quickly ran into a major hurdle. They were prepared for business in an English speaking country but were not able to communicate in the new country.
It has been proven that the most effective Christian workers are those who speak the local language. In our experience, tentmakers who did not learn the language in the first 2 – 3 years, will never learn the language.
A person may think he does not have the right expertise, the right education, or the right training to “be” an entrepreneur. Many people make assumptions about what is required to start a small business: lots of money, an MBA, or an invention. These things may be helpful and probably would not hurt. However, money, stuff, or degrees do not make an entrepreneur.
There are two relatively recent articles from the Wall Street Journal that dealt with this issue. In the first article, entitled “How to Raise an Entrepreneur,” the author, Barbara Haislip contended that an entrepreneur can be successful if he is adventurous, dependable and stable, observant, a team player, and leads by example.
In the second article, Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, argues that “Real” entrepreneurship education will occur if a person does the following…
Patrick Lai, in his book Tentmaking: The Life and Work of Business as Missions, describes 5 different categories of Tentmakers: T1 – T5. So what about the T1 model? What are the pros and cons of this type of tentmaker?
A T1 tentmaker is basically someone who happens to work for a secular company and gets a job placement overseas in a closed country. Their motivation for taking this job was not based on church planting or strategic missional thought. The company in which they worked, sent them on this mission.
Purpose & Accountability
Start Off Well!
I sat with a friend today who told me about some of the problems he was having with the authorities. He was denied permission to operate his business! He told me how they had not given him the reason but he was suspicious it was “religious” in nature. As I began to dig deeper, it was clear that he had not set up a “legitimate” identity and the authorities were suspicious and denying him a work permit.
So how do you be legit?
As I have pondered this question over the years, I believe there are 3 things that help you set up a legitimate professional identity: PROFILE, PROFESSIONAL & PRESENCE!
While sitting with some future “bammers,” one of them asked me what I considered to be the makeup of the good Kingdom Entrepreneur. I gave them the typical response but as I thought more about it, I have come up with some traits and characteristics of a good “long-term Christian Business Person.”
Passion for Christ and the Nations!
What about skills or training?
Tenacity & Perseverance
Humility – Life of a Learner
Patrick Lai, in his book, “Tentmaking,” helpfully describes five types of tentmakers. Using a scale from T1 – T5, Mr. Lai clearly lays out the different kinds of tentmakers
- The T1 tentmaker is a Christian who is employed abroad in the course of his career without any initial commitment to cross-cultural evangelism or church planting.
- The T2 tentmaker is a Christian who has an evangelistic motivation so he seeks out training that qualifies him to work for foreign or national firms in closed countries.
- The T3 tentmaker is a Christian who derives income from church support back home plus business income in the closed country (either through owning a business or working a part-time job).
- The T4 tentmaker is a Christian who lives and works as a missionary but has a non-missionary identity (usually working for a non-governmental organization).
- Lastly, the T5 tentmaker is a Christian who creates a shell company to provide access to a country but does little actual work in that secular identity.
While sitting with some future “tentmakers,” one of them asked me what I considered to be the makeup of the good BAM Entrepreneur. I gave them the typical response but as I thought more about it, I have come up with some traits and characteristics of a good “long-term BAM person.”
Passion for Christ and the Nations!
What about skills or training?
Tenacity & Perseverance
Humility – Life of a Learner
Identity – Relationships – Proclamation
Our family comes from a line of Christians working abroad! I was talking with my mother the other day and she commented on how different things are now from when they lived overseas. Actually, the main difference is that they worked in a very open country as traditional “m-workers” and we are living in a closed country as Christian business people. I asked myself, “Has missions changed?” My quick response is “Of course!” In reality, “missions” has not changed…the church still has the same mandate to go into the entire world and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet something is different…the places that are left to be reached are not receptive of the gospel or traditional “m-workers” who bring this good news. Because of this, the need for “tentmakers” has taken the front stage. Although our “tentmaking” business allows us to enter our country of residence, more than that, it gives us an identity, thrusts us into relationships, and gives us boldness to proclaim.
If we reclaim BAM as a God honoring endeavor and approach as “working for the Lord,” I believe that it will open up the tightly locked doors for the Kingdom of God.