Around the world, from the middle of New York City to the side alleyways of Addis Ababa, businesses operate and bring goods and services to people who need and want their products. But strangely, across the globe, the perspective of the business person is not one of a great servant to society. In fact, in many parts of the world surveys show that businessmen are viewed as greedy, unconcerned about workers and customers, and sadly, in much of the world – corrupt. This of course is nothing new – the scriptures give us warnings about accurate scales and the containers for measuring the dry materials and liquids (Leviticus 19:36, Proverbs 11:1;16:11;20:23, Hos 12:7, Amos 8:5, Mic 6:11).
From the beginning of time, those who are at the heart of economic activity have often been viewed as exploitative rather than bearers of goodness, righteousness, and hope. Even in large parts of the formerly Christianized West, Christians themselves see the pursuit of wealth as going against the intentions of God. The view is that profit comes from some way of gaming the system, and thus signals the damaging of one of the parties. It can, perversely, make in the initial period, the idea of incarnating the Gospel through business a more difficult, a more challenging way to enter into the society as a bearer of the Gospel.
Realizing these challenges there is a lot that must be done, beyond the scouting for the establishment of a start-up business in the setting you have chosen. First, it is essential to determine how people in your chosen location view business, profit, and outside organizations in general. Becoming aware of the business/profit related challenges before you is essential in determining whether a business enterprise is the proper venue for incarnating the Gospel. If the calling you have received is to a particular people and place, and they view business and profit-making as deeply troubling, it may make sense to establish a social rather than business enterprise (school, medical facility, etc.). If the call to do business remains clear, regardless of their current feelings and experiences of business, then the next steps are essential.
While it is true that there is almost nowhere in the world that would not benefit economically, socially, and spiritually from the planting of a missional business enterprise, realizing the barriers to being perceived as a blessing are vital. Our desire over the next years and even decades are for this community to recognize your business as an expression of the Kingdom of God, and not just another attempt to build our own financial kingdom on the foundation of their community and its people and environment. (Part 2 to come in August)
- GEN Desk Author
GEN Desk Commentary –
What do you feel needs to happen be part of a business to effectively incarnate the gospel?