Business As Mission

I’ve been gone for several days. The schedule was packed and my daily habits were upended.

Bev and I went to Colorado Springs to attend a conference where the speakers introduced ways they were using business to further God’s Kingdom. I had no knowledge of YWAM, Emerge, or Sustainable Communities Worldwide until just a couple of weeks ago. Prior to that I had heard of Business as Mission, but knew only a little about that movement. 

I studied the plight of farmers in developing countries for many years. I used to give talks as a representative of Bread for the World in the 80s. But that organization focused on political action. We’ve learned that government aid, indeed most efforts at just giving money, are almost always detrimental to the intended recipients.

For exmple, we can give big lots of shoes to people in an area–and in so doing drive all the local sellers of shoes out of business. By providing temporary help to some people, we cost others their livelihoods.

Often farmers are caught in a cycle of debt to bankers for short term loans such that they are actually the same as indentured servants. Many years ago it was pineapple and sugar. Large companies come in, bribe the local officials. Grow products to ship back to the US and western Europe. The local farmers become the same as slave laborers. Plus they lose their land and can no longer grow their own food. A terrible viscious circle.

Coffee has become the more modern equivalent. There are so many middlemen that the farmer seldom can make a living and often goes hungry for months in a year.

Direct trade coffee (not Fair Trade which may or may not actually help the farmer), cuts out several layers of distribution and offers farmers a sustainable income.

Other presenters told about how they have built businesses in cultures often unfriendly to Christians and had great influence in their communities and even brought many people into knowledge and experience of God.

They build ethical businesses practicing both good business practices and making disciples. The combination wins over local–and sometimes even national–leaders. And it leads to the spiritual development of many.

It was a great conference. We met many successful business people and some mission leaders.

Best of all, it helped to overcome my prejudice against “Christian businessmen.” Every time I have run into one of these guys in my career, I came out on the short end. They broke contracts, didn’t pay me money owed, and showed other unethical or devious behaviours. Here were a group that showed the true example of how to do business and maintain the type of ethics of which Jesus would be proud.

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