I recently read Great Commission Companies: The Emerging Role of Business in Missions by Steve Rundle and Tom Steffen. Both authors serve on faculty at Biola University in California and have studied for-profits companies established with a missions purpose.
The authors begin by describing how many Christians view vocational callings, an idea that businessmen are at the bottom of the ladder, and then come teachers and doctors, then pastors, and finally missionaries. This vocational hierarchy implies that the truly spiritual businessmen should abandon his secular employment and seek to serve God as a missionary or in some other church related role. The authors then set out to refute this paradigm by showing how God is using people from the business world to fulfill the Great Commission.
The authors define a Great Commission Company (or GCC) as “a socially responsible, income-producing business managed by kingdom professionals and created for the specific purpose glorifying God and promoting the growth and multiplication of local churches in the least-evangelized and least-developed parts of the world.” They then explain how business touches the whole world and often kingdom professionals can work among those who would not respond to a traditional missionary.
They classify GCCs as either facilitative, meaning that their main purpose is to support the ministry of others, and pioneering, being those GCCs involved in direct ministry. The second part of the book gives in-depth descriptions of five GCCs with the personal testimonies of the entrepreneurs and the challenges of the GCC, both from a business and ministry perspective.
I found this book to be a good introduction into the field commonly called ‘Business as Mission’ or BAM. The examples cited are a reminder that both business and ministry are difficult work as the ministries described are not stories of success on the scale we might expect. There is a lot of energy and thought in the direction of BAM in recent years. Perhaps this is next big thing in missions. The biggest question may be how BAMers will relate to traditional missionaries, churches, and missions agencies. While I see validity in the model of missionary activity put forth in this book, I also think that we need to think more about this and blend it with a more entry-level “working/living overseas” approach. I have to ask myself if the current model of missionaries supported financially by those in the home country will continue to be the dominant model of missionary activity throughout the next century.