Back in 2017, The Stone Table partnered with four Indiana churches to underwrite the start-up costs of a small portfolio of BAM Consulting (Business as Mission) projects around the world. One of the most impactful (and let’s face it, most fun) is a CrossFit Gym in Alexandria, Egypt. The Crossfit craze is not limited to the West as people in all cultures are looking for innovative ways to stay in shape. CrossFit turns the traditional workout on its head by adding out-of-the-box exercise routines to a key ingredient: relational community. This makes it the perfect BAM Consulting model.
The Alexandria CrossFit gym adds real value to the local neighborhood by meeting a market need and providing income-producing jobs for locals, all while giving our teams the ability to build genuine relationships and have gospel-centered conversations with the local people. As a bonus, it’s financially self-sustaining!
Over the past few years, this CrossFit gym has continued to be one of our favorite missions investments. It’s successfully planted a church in an area of the world where church planting is illegal. The project had been so successful, both economically and missionally, that we jumped at the opportunity to do it again a couple of years later!
Below is a first-hand letter from a missionary team on the ground in another “creative access” country. Even though this is from a few years ago, this will give you a first-hand perspective on what it’s like to use business to take the Gospel to the unreached areas of the world. (Names and locations have been changed to protect the work that is happening there).
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” –3 John 1:2 (NIV)
A New Platform
In 2016, I started talking with leadership about my professional identity. Unfortunately, I don’t pass as a student anymore, so I needed to grab hold of a new professional identity [for our missions work here in this country]. Leadership guided me and gave me a few options, and the one that immediately hit home with me was CrossFit. Who doesn’t want to do clean & jerks, thrusters, or complete a hero workout called Murph? Good stuff!
Jump ahead to January 2017 and I meet Matthew, a BAM Consulting worker who had been living there for more than five years. Little did I know that God had already ordained our meeting.
This is how God works:
- I am from Ohio, and so is Matthew. In fact, I know his home church and his pastor very well.
- Prior to moving our family here, I passed the CrossFit level-1 certification course. Matthew [was passing his] at the same time.
- As Ohio natives, we are both Ohio State Buckeye fans. That’s very important!
Yes, God knows what He’s doing. We met in a small café and started to dream about opening a CrossFit gym one day. Eighteen months later, after a lot of business planning, we secured a location, began remodeling, and opened a CrossFit gym a few months later.
Maybe some of you are asking that question, and I have answers!
First, I love it. I enjoy working out and it also serves as a great [platform] for me and our family [to be here]. Second, CrossFit is allowing me and Matthew to build solid relationships with the [local] people, both men,and women, that take CrossFit classes. Third, (and this is the BIG reason), since we have good relationships with those taking classes, they get to hear the Gospel message. And one day soon God is going to use the gym to be a catalyst for church planting.
Let me share one story with you about how this is working:
J* has been attending our classes for a few months and knows that Matthew and I are Christians. Both Matthew and I have shared Jesus with him. During Ramadan, we were only having one class at 5:00 pm, that way guys can work out before their families breaking [their] fast together.
On the fourth day of Ramadan, after an intense workout, J* walked out of the gym with me. As we walked towards the car, I was anticipating our normal talk about life and then a quick goodbye so he could get home to break the fast with his family. J* had other plans. He asked me about Jesus. Then he asked me about the church. Then about life after death. Then about [lots of other things].
For two hours he asked me questions and the Holy Spirit guided me. I gave him an Injil (Bible) and we will be studying it together. God is using the gym as a tool to spread the Gospel message. Pray with me that J* and the others at the gym would have an encounter with Jesus, the Son of God.
Why is BAM Consulting so important today within your community and in your culture?
BAM Consulting is a great fit in our context. We can’t enter our country on a religious visa, so BAM provides us the means to enter and remain in our country. BAM has provided us a stronger visa as opposed to NGO work. For example, we have been able to secure 10-year visas, where NGOs must apply every year for a single-year visa.
BAM Consulting also provides us a strong identity for the community. People understand most of our team as teachers, which is a highly valued occupation in our country. When they see us learning language and culture they know that those are necessary components of foreigners running a business. When we identify ourselves as Christians, they have no problem acknowledging that because they know we are here for legitimate reasons.
Why did you choose your business model and how has it impacted the community?
- Prayer – We prayed and felt like this was the door God was opening.
- Skills – We looked at what skills we had and found them to line up well.
- Strong Identity – How would we be seen by local people, would it make sense to them.
- Job Creation – Could we create jobs for locals?
- Real Work – Was the model going to be something we were actually doing or were we going to fake it.
- Appropriate Time Investment – We wanted something that did not demand 8-10hours
- Appropriate Financial Investment – We didn’t want to have to rob a bank to get this started, could we make it profitable within a couple of
- Relationship Catalyst – Would this work help us meet lots of adults.
- Seed Sowing – Could we use the work as a catalyst for sharing the truth.
We love leveraging business and entrepreneurship to fulfill The Great Commission! Opportunities like this are exploding in multiple forms all over the world. BAM Consulting is a powerful strategy for the Gospel around the globe today.
If you’re interested in investing in projects like these with your dollars (or your lives), let us know! We can help you connect the dots. Business and entrepreneurship is a powerful force for The Great Commission. Get on board!