A few years ago, I read The Poisonwood Bible, a fictional story about a missionary family who left Georgia for the African bush in the late 1950s. The patriarch was the stereotype of a typical southern Evangelical obsessed with converting the tribal heathens to Jesus at all costs, including his own family. It was ultimately a sad tale, and I found myself internally distancing my missiology from this scorned empirical approach.
I think there are a lot of believers that rightly want to run from that maligned caricature, who want to prove to the world that is not what Christianity is all about. But human nature being what it is, our instinct to course correct often leads us to create a sliding scale. And in an attempt to rebalance, we often end up throwing out something vital.
Let me say something that might be a bit controversial in the 21st Century West where even some believers have begun to question the moral merits of evangelism:
The Great Commission does not say “Go and do good things among all nations.”
As a huge proponent of faith and work, the sacredness of the marketplace, and Business as Mission, I’m thrilled to see the holistic gospel taking root today. The Gospel redeems all things, including the work of our hands. Through Christ, the Kingdom of God takes root as a redeeming and resurrecting force in every sphere of our global society. Where the true reign of Jesus begins to spread, good things undoubtedly happen.
But as believers, our objective is not just to spread “good” in this world. It’s to proclaim Jesus. The Great Commission mandate is to preach the Good News (Mark 16:15) and make disciples among all nations (Matthew 28:19).
Social entrepreneurship is taking root in all aspects of society. Creative people, both inside and outside of the faith, are beginning to reawaken to the powerful effect the marketplace can have on the social fabric of society. This “common grace” is beautiful and God-honoring in so many ways.
But what makes us different? What takes us deeper than the world is capable of going? What cuts to the root and truly brings life?
As Jesus went from town to town, he healed people and fed people – he addressed the very real physical struggles and issues they faced living in a world broken by sin – but He also “proclaimed the Kingdom.” He did good and preached the Good News. We must do the same.
Business As Mission
As Business as Mission continues to explode around the globe, let’s not allow our missiology to be diluted by a catch-all definition of The Great Commission. Business as mission is more than just “doing good.” BAM most certainly does really good things – it revitalizes neighborhoods, meets economic needs, provides local jobs, raises the standard of living, brings health and dignity to communities – but it cannot, it must not, be fully defined by its social impact alone.
Yes, we must embody the Gospel, but we also must proclaim it! Jesus doesn’t just want to stabilize this life, He is the resurrection and the life! Are we leading people toward Jesus or just trying to help them live better lives? The Kingdom is not a trade-off. Don’t exchange one for the other.
Do good AND proclaim Jesus.