We have a passion for unreached people groups here at The Stone Table. Three billion people around the world have no adequate witness of the Gospel, and a major portion of our mission investment is aimed at proclaiming Jesus and planting the Church in these unreached places.
One of our key partners is LiveDead, a multi-denominational, multi-national pioneering missions effort that uses business and entrepreneurial development as a church planting mechanism in places where traditional methods just don’t work. We call this BAM (business as mission). On occasion, we will share stories of some of these BAM practitioners. Names and specific locations have been changed or masked to protect all involved.
The following is an interview with a man who has been living with his family in an Islamic context for more than 15 years. Beginning with some trial and error, he has created a business which is successful in many ways.
For convenience sake, let’s call the interviewer Carol and the BAM practitioner John.
CAROL: Can you please give us a description of your business?
JOHN: We run a tourism company that provides cultural tours to high-end English speaking travelers looking to experience our host culture.
CAROL: Great, so you run a tour business! How does this tour business help you interact with your community?
JOHN: We see our business allowing us to interact in the community in a number of ways.
First, it gives us a legitimate reason to be in the country and provides real value to the community. No one wonders why we are there. This provides us a solid foundation for intentional living in our host culture. We are respected and welcomed so it allows us to naturally engage with people in the community.
Second, we provide jobs for local employees which means we can “do life” with them. We share with them, pray with them, etc.
Lastly, we have lots of service providers that we see on a regular basis. We try to share the Gospel with everyone that we do business with. We don’t hide the fact that we run our company on Christian principles.
CAROL: Nice! So you are respected and this gives you opportunities to be heard. You have life-on-life discipleship with your employees, and you get frequent opportunities to share with your service providers. This is excellent. Can you tell me more about the advantages of having local employees?
JOHN: We have several local employees. Although at first glance you might think this means we have more responsibility and need to generate more income, it also gives us real roads into lives and the community. We believe that our employees add legitimacy to our business. I also believe that the authorities are more likely to give you the freedom to stay and work in their country if you are providing jobs to the community. We love providing employment! Yes, it gives us the opportunity for spiritual impact and we also love the social and economic impact it has had on our community.
CAROL: Does your business create access for others?
JOHN: Yes, our business does create access for a number of other like-minded BAM practitioners. One of our values is to try and put boots on the ground. We do not just take warm bodies but instead try to find the right people for the job. We look for people with a passion for Jesus, a desire to reach the nations, a heart for hard work and people who understand the vision of real business.
CAROL: I like how one successful business or BAM can actually pave the way for others to spring up! Are there any other advantages you see to your tour company as a BAM?
JOHN: I love our tour business because it can be done from anywhere in the world. We are not tied to brick and mortar…so when we have travel, we can still work. Our business is also very profitable and generates real income. This is a good thing. It is more sustainable. I love providing jobs and income for local people. One other advantage is that we can grow and reproduce our business around the world.
CAROL: Thanks so much for this insight into your life and work. In closing, what would you share with others who are considering BAM? Would you recommend this to others? Why or why not?
JOHN: I absolutely would recommend BAM to others with a few cautions. Make sure you are really ready to work hard and do what it takes to build a strong, 3-fold identity. The 3 folds are:
- Make sure you are committed to the spiritual side of things. No compromise…bold for Jesus.
- Make sure you are ready to engage in the culture…learning the language and getting in the community.
- Make sure you are willing to invest time, energy and resources in the business. We are not just looking for 20 hrs per week.
I would not recommend BAM to people who are just looking to get a visa. If your only motivation is for a visa, your business will most likely be substandard, or worse, considered fake by the host culture, and we do not want to deceive those we have come to love.