After a particularly crazy December, I finally carved out an hour to hole up in the local Starbucks and compose my introductory blog for the GEN Desk explaining Second Story Coffee Roasters, our missional enterprise in Japan. My coffee had arrived, my computer was open, my earbuds were in -- and just a literal moment later, my phone buzzed. A text message, written in Japanese: "Are you at Starbucks?" I looked up, puzzled, mainly because I didn't recognize the Chinese characters of the author's name. How do you read that kanji again? "Yes, I'm in Starbucks. Where are you?" I glanced around for a familiar face as I typed, hoping I might remember the name that went with it.
I didn't need to wait long, because she showed up at my table: a woman I'm slightly acquainted with through my volleyball league. She asked if she could join me, though I was clearly there to work and even said so. Nonetheless, she grabbed her bag and sat down, which is unusually forward for a Japanese person, so I took the hint and closed my computer. This was outlined long ago in our cultural training, right? To let go of expectations and go with what comes? I took the opportunity to practice, and found myself excited to have coffee with a new friend.
She and I talked about the normal things of life: work and children, medical appointments and shopping, daycare, school life, and trips we'd taken. It was essentially an hour of chitchat. The time I had set aside to work had been totally enveloped into conversation with this woman, whose name I would later look up and make a note of so I could actually use it the next time we met. I mentioned the time and we parted ways, she to get groceries and I to pick up kids. I was musing over our meeting in the car, when realized that God had given me my blog post, though I hadn't written a word. That simple conversation about day-to-day life in Japan? That was at the heart of our desire to start a missionally-minded business.
When we worked in traditional ministry with college students, though we had good relationship with the young adults that came to our home, we felt out-of-sync with the culture at large. While everyone else's husbands were at work, mine was available to help. Whenever anyone asked what our job was, they quickly became lost after we tried to explain. We were living our lives in a way that was very different from the people around us. Though we had moved to their country, studied their language, and sent our children to their schools, there was a part of the nominal, everyday chitchat that we just didn't get. We keenly felt the ways in which we could not relate to our Japanese friends and neighbors, from childhood memories to language, skin color, family culture, and even worldview. But we felt that if there was anything we could do to bridge the gap, enabling us to understand the hearts and minds of our friends just a little bit more, we wanted to do it.
This is one of the reasons we have started Second Story Coffee Roasters.
Wife, Mother, Founder, GEN Desk Writer
“Tom, you’re no longer strange to me.”
What in the world did Ivan, my close friend of two years, mean by that?
My wife, our two middle-schoolers, and I had moved into a country that every national who had the chance was fleeing. Food was scarce. Utilities were sporadic. Unemployment was skyrocketing. Corruption was rampant. New criminal gangs were terrorizing the populace as they were fighting each other and carving out their territories.
Our move from the suburbs of America to this collapsing country didn’t seem odd to me. It seemed more like an adventure to make a difference in the world by distributing humanitarian aid and leading bible studies with young adults who had never seen a Bible.
I met Ivan and his wife on our first day in his country. They were both college graduates and were unemployed. I hired them as our language tutors, our interpreters, and our first employees. We shared life with them for hours on end for 5-6 days a week for two years.
The bible studies seemed to be going well. Ivan was translating the materials from English into his native language. Using his artistic ability he also illustrated them with pen and ink drawings. Ivan was a new believer himself so our times in the Word were rich and special for him.
I thought I was really connecting with Ivan, so what was that comment about me, “no longer being strange?”
After our first 18 months in the country, I changed my focus from humanitarian aid to missional enterprise (BAM). As the enterprise grew we were able to employ more and more people. Job creation took the place of humanitarian handouts. Gainful employment restored dignity and removed the stigma of inferiority.
The needs of our enterprise began to create auxiliary enterprises that provided employment for more people. This ripple effect of wealth creation made more sense to Ivan than our previous attempts of propping people up with bailouts.
So why did Ivan think I was strange? When I asked him he gave me two reasons:
He also gave me two reasons why I was no longer strange to him:
It makes me wonder how many others have thought of me as strange when I thought I was just trying to help.
- Missional Entrepreneur, GEN Desk Contributing Writer
Recent notes from Jerry White's presentation on, "A Minimalists Guide to Life at Work."
The bottom line for those who like to know the conclusion first! Our work needs: Calling, Excellence, Competence, Faithfulness (work hard), and Attitude.
The Theology of Work:
From the beginning: "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15 (NIV)
Commands and Limits: "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest, you must rest.” Exodus 34:21 (NIV)
New Testament View: "Make it your ambition to lead a quite life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV)
No work is secular: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
Some specifics: "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked day and night, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy, they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 (NIV)
Pinpricks for Our Thinking:
Dig in for yourself! What does God reveal to you about himself, you, and work?
– Gen Desk Director
Adam, University of Wyoming Navigator Campus Director, wanted to help his students get rid of the “cookie-cutter” thinking of what it takes to reach the nations. “Students want an adventure and we all want our lives to matter.”
Adam’s thinking on why he wanted the University of Wyoming to host the missional enterprise Entrepreneurial Readiness Workshop:
We believed it would bolster the idea among our students that they are uniquely gifted to reach any context where God places them. We hope our students leave campus feeling confident they can see God use their lives in the workplace and neighborhood just as much as He did on campus.
NavMissions designed the ERW around the integrated life—where God’s design and calling for each of us meets. We believe there needs to be a destruction of the sacred-secular divide and fresh building of the integrated laborer, especially in the unreached "9-5 Window" (the workplace).
The ERW promotes a vision for new mission frontiers for those who don't feel led into a pure gift-income role. One goal of the ERW is to see if anyone fits the mold of an international cross-cultural laborer. But the vision is much broader than international service and we hope to see many people starting or influencing businesses here in our NavCities with a focus beyond a financial bottom line. Kingdom values expressed through the triple bottom line will create a missional enterprise context for our calling in the U.S. and around the world.
My hope is that any campus that is seeing a noticeable growth in God's heart for the nations would consider hosting an ERW. I believe it is my job as a Campus Director to introduce our graduating students to more networks and passionate people then myself. If all they know after four years is what "Adam" thinks about ministry, missions and the Lord, then I have failed.
The ERW is adaptable for campuses, military bases, churches, mission organizations, and NavCities. If you would like to partner in hosting an ERW, please email NavMissions at email@example.com.
The next ERW is September 30, 2016 in Colorado Springs. Get info and register at gendesk.org/erw.
– GEN Desk Director
By JACK BENJAMIN
I will never forget the moment 24-years ago when Aldo Berndt, the Latin America Regional Director at that time and a man for whom I have deep respect, made this stunning comment:
“It is cruel to talk about the Great Commission in two-thirds of the world.”
“How could that be?” I thought to myself. “The Great Commission is the reason my wife and I just moved to Colombia with our three young children!”
After Aldo’s bold statement, he saw my distress. So with a gentle smile, Aldo went on to clarify. When fully funded gift-income missionaries launch a new work with the hope of reproducing and sending out laborers, those new laborers often don’t have the funding capacity or time to replicate what the missionary had modeled.
The consequence is that future generations of laborers may become discouraged and end up giving the work of the ministry to the “full-time” workers.
“If we want to see nations reached for Christ,” Aldo went on to say, “we must offer the majority of people a different model, one that is more realistic and replicable in their context.”
Since that time, Navigators in Latin America have been taking strategic initiatives in response to the challenge that their Regional Director articulated. For example, Jimmy Payton had started a leather goods manufacturing and export business in Bogotá, named Tenazcol. Employees, customers and suppliers—all those relating in some way with Tenazcol—saw that this business was different. They heard the Gospel message and saw it in action. Many were irresistibly drawn to Christ and followed Him.
The daily opportunity for Jimmy to work side-by-side with his staff proved to be an ideal arrangement for life-on-life discipleship. Some of those employees were discipled well and have gone on to lead the next generation in Colombia.
A decade later, Jimmy and Roberto Blauth (from Brazil), who were serving in Aguascalientes, Mexico, began a construction business called Casas Mas that provided low-cost homes to the community. As with Tenazcol, Casas Mas became a place where life-on-life discipleship and the Scriptures combined with God’s Spirit to make Jesus real to many.
It wasn’t long before a vibrant community of faith grew up in Aguascalientes and, energized by Casas Mas, contributed significantly to a new generation of laborers in Mexico. The word spread and a number of emerging laborers from around Latin America chose to intern in Casas Mas and serve in the Aguascalientes work as part of their ministry training. Today most of them are laboring fruitfully around the region.
In recent years, a group of Navigator alumni who are successful Mexican professionals, including a former Casas Mas general manager, have come together to launch a new generation of missional enterprises like Tenazcol and Casas Mas. United by this passion, they provide mentoring, subject matter expertise, whole-life discipling and funding to aspiring missional entrepreneurs—people who can serve as Gospel pioneers in other nations.
The Navigators have been involved with missional enterprises for more than three decades. Each of the seven regions in the Worldwide Partnership has missional enterprise initiatives as part of their overall strategy to advance the Navigator calling. Such enterprises help not only to gain access to closed or hard-to-reach places, but also to establish credibility with the local community in which they are operating.
Please pray that God will continue to lead our leaders to work together to start and sustain missional enterprises that truly fulfill our calling.
You can watch a short video about Jimmy and Roberto in Aguascalientes below.
Jack Benjamin is director of the Global Enterprise Network for our Worldwide Partnership.
“We were called here to serve.” Many overseas missionaries and domestic missionaries have used this phrase to explain where and why they are serving in a specific region or vocation. As powerful as this phrase is, it can also be a hidden challenge for missional entrepreneurs to confront.
Missional entrepreneurs face the hard test of serving as both business owners and missionaries. So what service comes first, their call to witness or their call to operate as business leaders?
The question of these priorities is a tough, but necessary, topic to address. A fine balance exists in the BAM world as missional entrepreneurs. A business may fail because it is not given proper time and attention. On the other hand, personal relationships may suffer at the expense pursuing a prosperous business.
So what is the answer?
Missional entrepreneurs are blessed with the unique opportunity to influence fellow co-workers and employees. With the guidance of Christ, the workplace is the missions field. Intentionally focusing on business operations, and seeking to serve employees as an involved leader, allows the real Mission to manifest itself into the daily lives of the lost.
A story in Mark L. Russell’s “The Missional Entrepreneur," is told about two small businesses that were both located in the same cultural context, supported by Christian missions, and run by faithful believers. One business excelled, the other failed. What was the difference between the two businesses? One owner became overwhelmed by the need to spread the gospel and run a full-time business, the other intertwined the gospel with daily business operations and devoted his missional efforts to reaching the lost and hurting who came to work at the company.
Discovering the balance between serving in the missions field and running a business is not an easy path to traverse. Have faith in where your heart is being led, and rest in the peace that the One who sent you has gifted you specifically with the desire to meet the needs of His children through the capacity of business. (Romans 8:28)
As you are called to serve as a missional entrepreneur, so His will and glory will be done. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
- GEN Desk Intern
This somewhat cynical yet somewhat honest question still haunts me.
I’m not the only religious professional who’s been asked that question. I recently heard about two vocational Christian workers who were sharing the Gospel with a university student. The university student was ready to receive Christ. Right before he prayed he asked, “If I pray this prayer will you get paid?” In essence he was asking if they worked on commission.
Even the Apostle Paul was accused of lining his pockets by preaching the Gospel. He wrote much of First and Second Corinthians to defend the purity of his motives. In Acts 20:33-34 Paul said, “I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.” In First Thessalonians 2:9 he said, “We worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.”
Paul, the missional entrepreneur, could honestly say, “No one’s paying me to change you. I’ve got a day job.”
However, Paul was not opposed to receiving what we call donor income. In Philippians 4:18 Paul said that he was well supplied by the financial gifts from the church in Philippi.
In some cases he actually sought donor income. Paul asked for financial backing from the believers in Rome (Romans 15:23, 24). Paul, the apostle, needed donor income to pioneer new ministries and was not ashamed to ask for help.
I would submit that Paul used a hybrid funding model. At times he earned his living through his enterprise. At other times he sought gift income.
Bigger than the funding model is Paul’s motivation. He never sought money for himself but for the sake of the Gospel.
- GEN Desk Contributing Writer
GEN Desk Commentary – we want your ideas!
What's the right balance of business income, ministry donations, time to run a business, and ministering to people? What conflicts arise when thinking of these comparisons?
Myth 1: Missional entrepreneurs spend so much of their time working that they don’t have time to minister. This lack of time makes them ineffective in ministry.
Myth 2: Full time missionaries spend all of their time in ministry. This makes them more effective.
Logic tells us that both of these myths should be true. In reality both myths are fraught with problems.
Full time does not mean full time. A survey from years ago showed that full time missionaries on average minister only 22% of the time. Many only 10% of the time. The bulk of their time was spent on the normal tasks of living. This was especially true for those with low income. The less money they had the more time they had to spend on surviving in the host culture. For example standing in line to get a propane bottle filled rather than hiring someone to stand in line for them.
Time invested, by itself, does not determine effectiveness. There is no positive correlation between time and results. We do not live in a closed system controlled by cause and effect. God intervenes to accomplish spiritual results independent of how much time we invest. I remember leading a person to Christ 15 minutes after I met him. I also remember studying the Bible for three years with a person who never came to faith.
Ministry defined. If ministry is restricted to religious activities at a designated place at a specific time then both myths are reinforced. True ministry, however, is heart-to-heart. The Gospel flows from one life to another as believers demonstrate Christ-like character and speak compassionate words of truth. This type of ministry happens at any place at any time.
Enterprise as context. Transforming ministry takes place in the messy circumstances of life. The milieu of the marketplace provides countless opportunities to naturally live out the Gospel in deeds and words. Full time missionaries often need to create their own contexts for ministry. These controlled environments are often viewed as contrived and irrelevant.
Competence counts. Professional knowledge and skill creates credibility and respect. Excellence builds trust. Demonstrated expertise earns the right to be heard. If the person is trustworthy, the message is more likely to be taken seriously.
I’m not saying there is no place for the vocational missionary. I am saying that we cannot assume that just because they are full time they are more effective than missional entrepreneur’s. In many cases missional entrepreneurs are more effective.
Have I dispelled the two myths to your satisfaction? What do you think?
- GEN Desk Contributing Writer