Public Square

Helping Churches Support Business and Transform Communities in West Africa

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At IFWE we’re always looking for real-life examples of the integration of faith and work. What does it mean practically, day-by-day, to glorify God through our work and bring about flourishing? International Christian Ministries (ICM), through its Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) ministry, is doing just that by growing businesses and equipping churches to provide spiritual support to business owners. We recently spoke with Renita Reed of ICM about their work in Africa.

IFWE: What is the concept behind DLM’s church-based Business as Mission (BAM) program?

Renita Reed (RR): Since 2001, there have been many initiatives in and through the business as mission movement globally. Much of this work is done through nonprofits and has been theoretical, focusing on the theology of work. Some BAM work has been practical, working directly with businesses to help them develop a quadruple bottom line—addressing economic, social, environmental, and spiritual needs through their business.

The church-based Business as Mission program (or Discipling Marketplace Leaders) grew out of seeing the need for business people to have ongoing discipleship from the church to resist the business-as-usual pressures of the world. Also, when business as mission is church-based, pastors preach about it and incorporate the call to be the church very practically in our jobs.

IFWE: Who has most influenced the philosophy of the program—author, leader, ministry, etc.—and how?

RR: The business people of West Africa have most influenced the ministry, as well as the pastors of Kenya. It was through the work of business development in West Africa and feedback from business owners that ICM saw the need for ongoing discipleship and church engagement. When we began this work in Kenya, pastors at Africa Theological Seminary helped form and shape the message as they heard and were challenged by it. Several key pastors in Kenya, led by the Holy Spirit, have implemented BAM in creative and unique ways.

IFWE: Why is ICM focusing on Africa with its programs?

RR: ICM began in Kenya and grew to the surrounding countries, so it is natural that thirty years later our work continues mainly in Africa. We believe that the dichotomy between the “sacred” and the “secular” is a global issue, not one related to just Africa. So, we are taking DML where God is opening doors, which includes Central America. The message and methods are appropriate everywhere, including North America.

IFWE: The first step in the church-based Business as Mission program appears to be training pastors. Why do you need to start here?

RR: Prior to becoming the international coordinator of the DML ministry, I was involved in business development through a Christian NGO in Africa. I personally saw and experienced the frustration from the lack of support, equipping, and prayer for business owners from the church. According to Ephesians 4:12, the purpose of the church is to equip people for the works of service (ministry). We are discipled in our personal relationship with God; we are often discipled in our marital relationship, as well as how to be good parents. But very few churches seem to disciple people in how to be the church in their place of work. DML does that through church-based Business as Mission—by encouraging and equipping pastors first, discipleship of those in the marketplace becomes a natural part of what the church does.

IFWE: What are the two or three key ideas that help pastors understand the value of business?

RR: There are a number of paradigm shifts that we see pastors and church leaders make in our time together. The first shift is to understand that the purpose of the church is not only what happens in the four walls of the church building. Too often, pastors and church leaders expend more efforts to get people into church, rather than equipping people to be the church outside of it. The second major shift is for pastors to get a broader understanding of Genesis 1:28—that being “fruitful” and “multiplying” involves taking the resources of this earth and being creative (fruitful) and replicating (multiplying) for the flourishing of all people. After these shifts, we look at how God used business people to fulfill his purposes throughout the Old and New Testaments. This gives pastors a deeper appreciation for business people as God’s ambassadors to the community.

IFWE: You seem to be saying the thinking of the church has to change. What has been the problem in the church in general and in Africa specifically?

RR: A very apparent need is correcting the dichotomy between the sacred and the secular that is evident in the global church, and the tension that exists between pastors and those involved in the marketplace. We use the example that the church often acts like a cruise ship, where people come solely to get blessed and get good food, fellowship, and healing—rather than a warship where people are equipped for battle, receive their orders, and are encouraged and prayed over for the fight. Pastors and marketplace Christians need to work together to help the church be effective on a much wider and broader scale.

The church in Africa has these same issues. In some ways, the African church is even more critical of business. Inequality and corruption seem to be more overt in the marketplace in parts of Africa than in other parts of the world. A church that is ministering to and equipping those in the marketplace will ultimately help resolve these starker systemic issues.

IFWE: What message do you have for IFWE readers (primarily in the States) learning about your program—how might you encourage or exhort us?

RR: Believers want to understand how their daily lives make a difference. If the church is to be a change agent, it must shift from being a subculture to being a kingdom counter-culture. Many pastors and church leaders need a major shift in understanding to better equip their congregations for serving the purposes of God in their community. But pastors and leaders also need practical tools for equipping people to live like Jesus as they fulfill their calling in their work. The church is the vehicle God gave us and it is the natural gathering place for people seeking God. The Business as Mission movement can and should embrace the church as the change agent Jesus created it to be.

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