Business as Missions: Schools of Thought

From what I’ve learned, there are an array of views of what Business As Missions (BAM) really means.
On one end of the spectrum, BAM is seen simply as Christian business people, living their professional lives attempting to reflect Christ, and if given the opportunity, willing to share the gospel with the people they come across in the course of their work.
On the other end of the spectrum, BAM is viewed as Creative Access. Meaning the business is simply a front for traditional missionary activity, and isn’t expected to be successful or influential professionally. It exists only to allow missionaries to gain access to normally closed countries.
Both of these views are flawed — right at the very definition.
Webster’s defines business as “a usually commercial or mercantile activity engaged in as a means of livelihood.” This precludes the business existing as a front for traditional, church-supported missions.
A missionary, as defined by every Christian teacher I’ve heard from in the last couple years, is someone who fulfills both parts of the Great Commission: to go, and to make disciples. (See this article for an explanation of why that definition is important — but no, you are not a “missionary” if you go to church down the street from where you grew up — or even if you run that church.)
In fact, it would seem that Business as Missions bears the burden of the definition of both words. In order to have a successful BAM ministry, one must be successful in business and successful in global evangelism and discipleship. BAM is not the easy way out — rather, its a larger challenge. There are plenty of successful Christian business people. There are plenty of successful Christian missionaries. People who have and can develop skills in both worlds — those seem to be few and far between.
So let me posit my own, hopefully clearer, definition of what BAM is: Business as Missions is the growth and development of successful global business, with the express intent of creating more and better disciples of Jesus through the influence and activity of that business. It is business and it is missions — not one at the expense of, or paying lip service to, the other.
And just so I’m clear, this does not de-value either traditional missions, or traditional Christian business people doing their work ethically and with a moral standard that reflects Christ’s work in their lives. Both of these things are noble, worthwhile, God-honoring pursuits, obedient in their own right, if that’s what an individual’s calling is. But to label something BAM, to me, means a union of these two callings. One that marries two very different worlds, disciplines, support networks, equipping and experiences into something uniquely… His.
How one arrives there… well, that’s a longer story that I don’t know how to write yet.

Individual Results Report FY10

Today was bonus day. I was up at 5 in the morning, unable to sleep with excitement… and then with frustration and consternation. With my new job, my pay is exactly the same as my last job, but I get a bonus annually based on performance. I performed well last year, was promoted, and told to expect what, on paper, was a very nice bonus. In actuality, I got half of a nice bonus — the government helped themselves to the other half.
We were anticipating a 25% chunk going to the True North Strong and Free, and had exciting plans to pay off all our debt, replace some aging appliances, and maybe go out for a nice dinner. But with 44% of our bonus going to fund our inept and ineffectual politicians, I had to spend a few hours re-thinking our plans this morning. There will be no new appliances this year, and we’ll have to work hard until December, continuing not only our normal discipline, but the extra-lean efforts we’ve been working with all summer, to finish off the debt.
Still, I shouldn’t complain. We went to Asia, we have no credit card balances, we paid for a term of Seminary for me (turns out Bible college isn’t cheap!), and we put a chunk of money into the SUV that we own, to hopefully ensure we have no car payment or repair issues for at least another year. I saved some significant money by handling some of the work myself, and with parts from an auto-wrecker, and after a thorough cleaning, including shampooing the 3 year old baby stains out of the carpet, it feels, smells and cruises like a much newer ride.
The whole extra-harsh-self-discipline thing carrying on another 4 months is… tiring. My accountant/wife runs a tight ship. But its our desire to have financial stewardship and availability that is pleasing to the God who provides all our needs, so we will smile while we tough it out with our squeaky tank of a car, the microwave that you probably shouldn’t stand too close to when its on, and the 5.1 surround sound system with only 4.0 working speakers (who needs that whole right channel anyway?) We have it better than the vast majority of the rest of the world, and after-all, we have friends who have sacrificed a heck of a lot more than that for a cause much greater than their own comfort.
We remain blessed beyond what we deserve. And although we won’t be springing for a sitter tonite, if the kids ever fall asleep, we’re gonna crack open a $7 bottle of wine, and celebrate what was a great year at the very great job that God provided for us.


Ben started pre-school on Wednesday! He was excited to wear his back-pack (“packpack”) from Grandma — until it occured to him that he might have to wear it the whole time he was there. Fortunately he had his very own hook to hang it on, so that made it OK.
He calls his teacher “the big teacher with the big head” which probably isn’t ideal, but at least he likes her. The group isn’t overly large, nor is their “teaching” overly ambitious. But it gives him another opportunity to learn to get along with others, and have somewhat of a more structured morning. Many pre-schools and pre-kindergartens in the area have gone to full days, which we are not in favour of. This arrangement is two half-days a week, which gives Abi a little more special time with mommy (or daddy, on occasion) and gives Ben a good start.
The pre-school is a co-op, so Nic has to help out once or twice a month, and there’ll be a Christmas fundraiser we’ll have to take part in. For September it works with my work schedule for Abi to stay with me while Nic is “teaching” — beyond that we may have to come up with another solution.
My own school is already a little intimidating. My classroom schedule this semester will only be two (very full) Saturdays between now and Christmas, with the rest done online, or via homework. Six hours of homework a week is the estimate! Class hasn’t even started yet, and I’m already deluged with e-mails and frightened by my very large textbooks. Hopefully I’m not in over my head here — I’m only taking one course a semester!
Lots more of Ben’s “first day of school” pics on the sidebar/Flickr/Facebook.

Mission to the World

When I was in ninth grade, my family lived in Kandern, Germany. If you Bing for pictures of it online, I think you’ll find that its a most picturesque little European village, nestled in the Black Forest. Its the home of a missionary boarding school, where my parents served for a year.
Adjusting to high school is a big challenge. Adjusting to a high school in another country, full of kids from around the world who weren’t entirely sure what their own cultural identity was… well that was an even bigger challenge. We had all the dynamics and politics and social games that kids in North America deal with in school, and we were never entirely sure where home was. In truth, “home” remains a concept that is fleeting in definition for me. Isn’t this whole planet home?
But, much like life at home, good friends made all the difference. Aside from my posse of trouble-making 9th grade boys, I was befriended by a 12th grade girl named Lisa, who shared my love of literature, and somewhat melodramatic view of the world. Lisa’s dad died half-way through the school year, having served most his adult life on the missions field. It was not something high school kids knew how to handle.
At the end of the year, Lisa left for college in the States, and the Wise family returned to Canada. If not for Facebook, despite its issues, I may never have seen her again. It’s 15 years later, and Lisa is now Elizabeth, married to a pastor, Sam, they have 3 girls — one a new born — and they are, themselves, headed to the missions field. Part of the process of going involves raising support, and this summer they loaded their whole family into a borrowed van and have spent the past 5 weeks on the road, visiting churches and small groups and anyone who might be willing to partner with them in bringing the Good News to a very dark and needy corner of Great Britain. Along the way, they managed to swing by our home for a visit.

Nicole thought it was a little unusual to have a family we had never met come and stay with us overnight. I remember that as being pretty normal. It turns out that we had a really nice time. We had two families packed around our little patio table on the back deck, the food was good, the kids were adorable, and the conversation was wonderful. Sam and I shared some professional background, and we talked late into the night about theology and ministry and missions and missionary kids…
And I was reminded yet again that all of God’s kids are familly. Whether Presbyterians from the deep American South, or slightly liberal Baptists from Ontario, businessmen discipling tribespeople in Africa, or Asian believers from the underground church sending missionaries to Muslim countries, we’re all His. And for those who have never met their brothers and sisters outside of the country where they grew up, I grieve for them that they might never, in this life, understand just how big and diverse and amazing and loved the body of Christ is…

Changes in Plans

The VUE is paid off, and it turns out we really like not having a car payment. Yes, we dislike driving our creaking old tank of a vehicle, but not as much as we dislike being slaves to the bank. So we’re going to keep it. Its still road worthy, and when my bonus gets paid out we’ll put a little money into some of its more pressing problems, but we’ve decided there might be some better things to do with the sizeable monthly expenditure going into vehicles.
Speaking of which, I’m about to be debt free for the first time in over 10 years! We can hardly wait.
Now that college is all paid off, I think I’ll… go do some more college.
Just down the road from us is a world class Bible College and Seminary, and some friends of ours challenged us to pursue some formal equipping. This is the third time I’ve applied there — both other times God closed the door. This time it looks like its swinging open — despite a minor roadblock due to my previous educational experience. But God handled that, so for the next 4 years or so, it seems I’ll be working on a 1 year Seminary certificate in Theological studies…
The only other thing we’ve got spinning is our long awaited kitchen renovation. Its likely to be a year-long project, cause we’re looking at about a $5000 budget, and we’re not willing to dip back into debt to do it.
Being a grown-up is actually a lot of work.