Missionaries have been using businesses in the field to support their ministries for generations. These businesses have often been inefficient, struggle financially, and lack the proper expertise to make a significant impact for Christ.
It is time for Christian businesspeople to invest their gifts, knowledge, time, and capital in one of the greatest untapped opportunities to spread the gospel around our globe in the twenty-first century—Business for Transformation (B4T).
What Is Business for Transformation?
Business for Transformation (B4T) has been called by numerous names over the years, such as great commission companies, entrepreneurial missions, marketplace missions, or business as mission (BAM).
Regardless of your preferred name, the fundamental goal is building a sustainable, profitable, and reproducible enterprise with a clear kingdom focus.
These small- to medium-sized for-profit businesses are typically established or expanded by mission-minded individuals in developing countries (but should be established in cities or low-income communities in America as well). A B4T effort provides an effective platform to:
- Provide employment to low-income or unemployed individuals, helping to lift them from poverty.
- Develop valuable, in-demand business skills for workers who have had limited opportunities.
- Use profits from the business to build loving and caring relationships, share the gospel of Christ, begin Bible groups, plant churches, and transform lives.
- Make or provide products or services, such as clean water filters, which meet real needs and enrich the lives of individuals.
- Build a for-profit enterprise that demonstrates ethical and an effective stewardship of God’s resources.
- Involve experienced businesspeople in utilizing their spiritual gifts for kingdom work.
For years, business leaders have only been asked to give and/or pray for missions. Today the B4T movement is seeking to mobilize experienced businessmen and businesswomen to provide kingdom-focused expertise in areas such as:
- Financial consulting: Analyzing performance measures and business operations
- Strategic planning: Evaluating the vision, purpose, and future of the company
- CEO coaching: Assisting and mentoring company management in best business practices
- Board and staff training: Sharing executive, legal, or operational knowledge
- Entrepreneur and start-up advising: Helping create and implement business models
The opportunities to deploy business expertise and capital are unlimited today, especially when you consider that small- and medium-sized for-profit businesses are the backbone of most economies, creating value, increasing wealth, and causing social transformation.
Challenges to Helping Communities Flourish
A B4T not only has the opportunity to transform communities economically, socially, and environmentally, but can shape and transform lives for eternity.
The task before us is great and will not be easy. Several challenges still need to be overcome to see the B4T movement gain momentum and begin to help people and communities flourish.
Here are just a few of the challenges I have seen:
- The sacred/secular mindset: Many cultures still view business and ministry in dual or separate spheres, when God sees them as one. Thus, they view businesses as greedy and unethical entities.
- Debt-equity issues: Who and how best to fund B4T companies; access to capital and loans (microlenders?). How much debt should a Christian business hold? What kind of return do stockholders expect? I also suggest a B4T adopt a more comprehensive goal of maximizing “long-term stakeholders” value for their business.
- The for-profit or for-charity balance: B4T managers tend to permit unprofitable practices to continue because of the social good. Striking the proper balance is crucial. The business must thrive, not just survive, for long-term spiritual, social, and economic transformation.
The B4T movement may be one of the greatest vehicles in the twenty-first century to spread the gospel, lift people out of poverty, and build stronger and more stables communities around our world.
The challenges will be great, but the outcomes will be even greater. I am praying that many men and women in business will be moved by the Lord to better steward and deploy their knowledge, skills, and experience to advance the work of Christ through a B4T for such as time as this.
Here are several websites you can visit to learn more about mobilizing businesses for Christ:
Editor’s note: Learn more about effective, market-based approaches to poverty alleviation in For the Least of These: A Biblical Response to Poverty.
On “Flashback Friday” we publish some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was first published on June 18, 2015.
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