Saturday, November 24, 2007

Business and Missions....

I recently ran across the following article discussing different models for business as mission: (Dr. Tokar if you have some time I would appreciate your thoughts on some possible helpful models for integrating business and mission)

"What if business is a God- created strategy to reach those in other countries who have never heard the truth? Sometimes God reveals His will by removing all other options. Such is often the case with business. Missionaries who feel called to ministries in other countries learn that they cannot go to those countries without doing business. They frequently begin by thinking of the businesses as “platforms,” excuses to receive visas, but soon learn that the more authentic they can be in their businesses, the more transparent and effective they can be in their ministries.

There are several principles I have observed in effective BAM.

The business is the ministry and it is sacred; it is not an excuse to do ministry, but a way to live among people with a common goal of producing products and services to glorify God. It provides the opportunity to expose people to the kingdom of heaven in real time and to do it with transparency and integrity.

Profits ensure sustainability and credibility. Without profits, a business cannot exist, and if it does continue to exist, people may wonder who is funding it. Profits also produce jobs and tax revenue that can be enjoyed by the host country.

Models

Many of us have several years of business experience. We catch a vision for the world and are anxious to know what to do. Here is a principle of life: God prepares us perfectly for what He has next for us. Every experience and every job up until this point has been preparation for the next assignment.

As you consider these things, it might be helpful to read about four models of business that are being used successfully in closed-access countries today. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but simply four models that are working. Two of them, the factory and the outsourcing, require a market for products outside the host country. The other two, franchise and micro-economic development, depend on sales within the host country. Opportunities abound for Westerners to start such businesses or to be major parts.

The Factory

There are a number of these in operation that are pure business as mission models. Most often the products are produced overseas and marketed in the United States. Having a good market for the products produced is critical to the factory being profitable and sustainable. It is helpful to have a niche market, a specialized product that does not have a great deal of competition. Some examples of goods produced are painted furniture, teak outdoor furniture, glass products, leather goods, lamps, and accessories. Keys to this model working well are low labor costs in the sourced country and bypassing middlemen as products go to market in the United States. In this model, we have seen many employees, suppliers, and customers come to Christ. In addition, when the factory becomes a transformational influence on the community—meeting needs, taking care of beggars and orphans—it gains great favor with government authorities.

Outsourcing

In this model, the worldwide labor market is tapped by providing services in a host country that are useful and cost-effective due to labor rates. Some examples are computer-aided design work for architectural firms, software development, and the production of agricultural products like sun-dried tomatoes.

The Franchise

In this model, the goods are sold in-country and, frequently, many are employed. In one version of this model, believers are employed, providing them income and influence as they interact with customers. It is a scalable model that has the potential to employ thousands of people who can begin franchises, often with very small investments. Ideas include: convenient copy kiosks, sales of books, small restaurants, or other goods or services that are needed. Managers provide the spiritual and business mentoring.

Micro-enterprise Development

There are two typical BAM models of this. In one case, micro loans are provided to believers to support them, give them a reason to relocate to unreached places, and integrate them into society very quickly. In another model, a believer becomes the project administrator, making loans and mentoring a group of unbelievers —meeting economic needs while building close relationships. Successful programs include carefully selecting participants for micro-enterprises that meet unmet needs and providing these participants with ongoing mentoring relationships.
So how has God been preparing you? Next steps: read more about some of these models and visit some field operations to explore more."


(HT: Business As Mission Network)

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