This is a story of a Business as Mission (BAM) practitioner on the field using business as a mechanism for planting the church in areas of the world where you can’t do that with traditional missionary methods. In order to protect the work being done we will not be sharing their names or specific locations for their protection.
“You may be a businessman or,” he raises an eyebrow and smiles, “possibly CIA, but you’d make an excellent missionary. And I use that word with the highest regard.” He finishes his remarks with sarcasm. “Most I’ve known I couldn’t respect.”
He is distinguished, tall, a Cambridge educated upper-class Indian, independently wealthy. He could live anywhere in the world but he chooses to live in his birth land. And he is strangely drawn to this t-shirt-and-jeans-clad American, serving him a cappuccino, someone who he can’t quite figure out.
Both the Indian and the American are friends of mine, although I know each of them from very different contexts. We’re standing in a colorful crowd of art aficionados. The Indian has come as an art collector who appreciates the opportunity to rub shoulders with people of similar background and interest.
The American has come at the invitation of the curator of the show. His café is known as the best local coffee shop where all the baked goods are homemade and delicious. The art festival curator is certain that her guests and delegates will enjoy the café’s menu. In response, the café staff has built and manned a first-class coffee stand.
The hostess has also asked the American, as part of the program, to interview two artists who are working in sustainable arts. He’s earned a name for himself as a man who is committed to his community whether through re-cycling, sustainable business practices, compassion to those who are disadvantaged, bettering the lives of his employees, or just beautifying the surroundings. He leads the interview with expertise and authenticity. There is something wonderfully hopeful and grace-filled in his words. I’m not the only one who notices.
A children’s Sunday School song niggles my brain.
“Hide it under a bushel, no, I’m going to let it shine. Hide it under a bushel, no, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.”
That old song is taken from Jesus’ words, recorded in Matthew 5:14-15.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” (NKJV)
There are some who might say that doing business as mission is hiding our light under a bushel-basket. But in India, the bushel-basket is the very word “missionary” and everything that word connotes in a post-colonial nation coming into its own on the world stage.
Anything that smacks of “missions” or “missionary” is regarded with disdain and, at times, outright hatred. In this kind of political and religious climate how do we make our Lord’s final command to make disciples of all nations, the first and central priority of our lives? (Matthew 28:19,20, Mark 16:15)
We will not allow our message to be hi-jacked by those who misunderstand our vocabulary.
We will not hide the truth in western style church buildings with stained glass and steeples.
We will not relegate our obedience to traditional, historical methods of evangelism.
We will not be tied to titles like missionary.
We will learn languages and employ vocabulary that can be understood by those to whom Jesus has sent us.
We will come out from behind the pulpit and invite strangers to pull up a chair to our table.
We will serve coffee to customers who are becoming regulars, and friends who are becoming disciples.
We will be joyful in being known as followers of Christ and we’ll be the real deal.