The Hard Part

Trollstigen (the Troll's Ladder) mountain road, Rauma, Reinheimen National Park, Norway

I wonder sometimes what kind of work I’d be qualified for if I couldn’t be a missionary anymore. Speaking Chinese might open up some doors. But I think the occupation that I’d be most qualified for would be one of those guys on Shark Tank that listen to inventors and entrepreneurs pitch their investment proposals. At least, I seem to find myself in a similar position a lot. As a missionary, I have sat through countless breathless explanations of some new scheme (and plenty not nearly as new) for missions involvement.

Ours is an age of unprecedented creativity in the name of missions. More things are happening under the rubric of missions than ever before. That could very well mean that our generation is determined to do whatever it takes to drive the gospel deeper into the territories of darkness. Such determination is definitely part of what’s driving these innovations. But I think something else deserves even more of the credit: a misunderstanding of what the hard part of missions is.

Nearly all of the pitches that I hear are frankly trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist! Everyone knows that missions is challenging, but these innovators are failing to see what the real challenges are. They are building Rube Goldberg machines: unnecessarily elaborate schemes for doing something quite simple. The danger of trying to reinvent the wheel is that it almost certainly will end up less round than when you started. And yet, the pitches are working, and sending agencies, missionary training programs, and missions committees are buying into them wholesale. I am repeatedly taken aback by the percentage of total missions investment (money and manpower) that is now being expended on these innovations.

Here’s three of the non-problems that modern missions innovators are scrambling to solve:

The Access Problem

As priority in recent decades has turned increasingly towards restricted access nations, a wave of creativity has been unleashed to deal with the supposed challenge of gaining access to these places. So missions-loving students are counseled to spend years getting college degrees or certifications that they hope will get them in. Aspiring missionaries search for a plausible ‘cover’ in their target country, whether it’s working as a teacher or starting a coffee shop or some other small business. Missions movers and shakers, on the other hand, who dream of getting teams of people into the country, think much bigger. Their plans for implanting missionaries in a country often involve millions of dollars, thousands of man hours, and currying favor with government bigwigs. And much of this investment is on the front end, before a single unbeliever is ever approached with the gospel. Recently, one such missions innovator shared with me how his group had just invested over a million dollars to buy an international organization with branches in some restricted access nations.

I am happy to report that it is simply not that difficult to get into these places. Unfortunately, this means that the above innovations are tragic distractions, both for missionaries and their agencies. I have racked my brain trying to understand just why it is that people believe there is a need for these things. Perhaps they misunderstand that a ‘closed’ country is one that doesn’t give missionary visas, not a country where foreigners cannot reside. Or maybe they imagine that everything a foreigner does in-country is so scrutinized that, without a good cover story, their position will be threatened.

I can testify from personal experience in China as well as from the experience of close friends in Muslim countries that there is no need for innovation here. It is all too easy to get in and stay in. Get a tourist visa. Enroll in a school as a student. Start a small business that does nothing but bleed money. But if access is your goal, then overhead and complexity are your foe. What we want in all of these places is the most brainless, cost-effective, non-time-consuming plan. Now, if you have a way to get people safely planted in North Korea, please share with the class. But if you have a scheme that will give missionaries cover in China or Tunisia, please know that your creativity is complicating a very simple thing.

The Funding Problem

Someone must have started a rumor that the coffers of western churches are running low. Because a key tenet of modern missions is that if missionaries can think of a way to financially support their work themselves, they should by all means take it. These innovations quite often dovetail with the ones above trying to solve the access problem. One of the plaudits of ‘business as missions’ (a phrase that should never be spoken without air quotes) is that Christians are sent around the world without costing western churches a dime! Today, if you want to be a missionary, you are more likely to be counseled to go to business school than to go to seminary. This concern over financial resources is also seen in mission think tanks’ brainstorming new support models.

Again, this is a misunderstanding. For every guy you meet complaining about how impossible it is to raise funds for missionary ventures, I can introduce you to one who is overwhelmed with the generosity of God’s people giving to his global mission. In fact, I can honestly say that in our years of church-planting, money has never been the hang-up. God has proven faithful through the faithfulness of his people.

I think the source of this misunderstanding is a little easier to diagnose. Many churches are strapped financially. So are many of the large denominational mission boards. So it’s easy to imagine that it would be difficult to send many additional missionaries. To the many young people (and parents!) with such fears that I meet, I offer the following comforts. First, these churches and agencies are not your only recourse to support. In fact, I would strongly urge them not be sent through a large denominational board. There are plenty of churches and individuals that are willing to give sacrificially to invest in global missions. Second, there is wonderful training out there that will teach you to build a core of supporters. One of the reasons that you want to believe that fundraising is impossible is that you’re afraid of it. And third, let’s call it what it is. Pride revolts against the idea of relying on anyone, even God’s people, for anything, even God’s work.

The Conversion Problem

Another conundrum that missions strategists have focused their efforts on is the difficulty of winning converts. Certain populations, including many in the fields described above as ‘restricted access nations,’ are notoriously resistant to evangelism. Add to this the modern fascination with virality and movements, and we end up with this premise: if people are rejecting the gospel, then we’re not sharing it well enough. What ensues are endless discussions about what way is the best way to share the gospel with unbelievers. Innovations pop out of these discussions like babies in a TLC show.

One such innovation has been dubbed the ‘insider movement.’ Some missionaries in Muslim contexts are proposing fresh approaches to conversion. Baptized ‘converts’ are encouraged to continue labeling themselves as Muslims, continue going to the mosque, and disclose in a limited way their commitment to following Christ. I believe the most commonly identified advantages of this scheme are: 1) lowering the cost for a Muslim to make an initial commitment to Christ and 2) minimizing severance with the convert’s community, facilitating future evangelism. (this is, by the way, a great example of how easy it is to manufacture a movement; it simply requires figuring out what you can make happen large-scale, then change your definition of ‘success’ to that!) Of course, it does seem that there is one giant disadvantage to the scheme, namely, that it seeks conversions in almost the exact opposite way that Jesus and the apostles did!

In the end, Christians believe that only God can save a sinner. Our job then is clearly to proclaim, not to produce converts. Thus, the metric that we must concern ourselves with is not ‘conversions-per-proclamation’ but ‘proclamations-per-unbeliever.’ Worrying about how to increase conversions is above your pay grade. Our job is to maximize proclamation. And I can attest that missionaries who have made that their concern have not had a ‘conversion problem’! For example, my teammates in Muslim North Africa have put mountains of work into sharing the gospel with as many people as possible, without lowering the call to identification with Christ. Surprise! Even in a low-fruit-yield kind of context like that, they have seen many conversions. The conversion problem is really an evangelism problem. The best way to share the gospel with unbelievers is quickly, clearly, bravely, audibly, and extensively.

Which brings us to the real hard part.

What is really hard in missions? Where should we channel our energies? I won’t linger here, as this post is really more about what the hard part isn’t. But it seems that we can divide Paul the Apostle’s missionary actions into two sorts: evangelism and edification. And that only makes sense, right? After all, this is the part of the work that God empowers us to do! We don’t scheme to make the hearts of sinners responsive to God’s word. That’s the Spirit’s prerogative. Our part is to give the Word to all men. To unbelievers, we announce the life-giving Word about Christ’s work on their behalf (our work – evangelism). Out of those unbelievers, some respond in faith to that Word (the Spirit’s work – conversion). And to those believers, we teach how the Word of Christ now shapes their lives (our work – edification). In these areas, creativity is welcome and needed. Thus, an innovative way to create opportunities for sharing the gospel is wonderful. An innovative way to maximize your discipleship investment is also a great idea. Ironically, I think one of the main reasons behind all the creativity discussed in this post is an unwillingness to deal with the real hard part, this uphill slog of evangelism and edification. It’s much more appealing to imagine that you’re busy solving ‘the real problem’ and never take a step up the hill.

I’ll be honest. Over the past week, I have seen some of these innovations up close, and I am profoundly disturbed. I saw how few church-planters were sent by a large mission board. I saw a church flailing in their own creativity, unable to do anything productive with all their passion for missions. And I saw men who are investing huge resources (not least their own lives) into a long shot, their fascination with bigness precluding them from doing anything that is properly ‘ministry.’ And I am grieved; grieved for the young men who might have been church-planters, grieved for the unbelievers who might have heard the gospel, and grieved for the churches who have been robbed of their investment in the Great Commission.

What we need today in missions is far less creativity and innovation and far more willingness to make the lifelong climb up the mountain of evangelism and edification.

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14 Comments on “The Hard Part”

  1. wagardner July 16, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    good stuff

    Austin Gardner Vision Baptist Church Alpharetta, GA Every Verse, Every Nation

  2. Stephen Benefield July 16, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    Spot on! Not many blog posts make me want to shout “amen!!!” But this one did.

  3. Becca July 17, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You made a lot of really interesting and helpful points. Our job is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, God will take care of the rest.

  4. Rob Robideau July 17, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    Innovation doesn’t require a “problem” to be useful and helpful. While I am against innovation that is contrary to scripture, if new ideas can save time and money and allow missionaries to focus on evangelism and edification, I am for it.

    I serve in Nepal where access may not fit your definition of a problem, but it can definitely use innovation. Student visas, research visas, and business visas all require varying degrees of financial and time investment. Being creative and innovative when you approach the access issue can save huge amounts of time and money over the long-term. Throwing gobs of money at the problem is not the same as innovation. Innovation is finding an obscure government regulation loophole that allows you to live on the field at a fraction of the cost of other options that other missionaries are using. Innovation is being creative in order to best use the resources that God has given us.

    Concerning the funding “non-problem”, you speak derisively of a missionary using the support of his own business, yet most of the missions giving through local churches comes in some way or another from a business of some sort. Who is to say that “self”-support from a business is not relying on God and God’s people? With the failure rate of new business ventures, this may actually be the bigger step of faith. What about situations where the missionary doesn’t find fund-raising to be “impossible” but rather, simply believes that a self-supporting business will be a more efficient use of his resources?

    In the end, I’m personally not throwing big bucks at an access “problem” or trying to start a business because I had trouble raising money the traditional way. I just want missionaries and the churches behind them to be open to non-traditional means of access and funding. If reinventing the wheel makes the wheel “less round” and wastes God’s resources or goes against Biblical principles, stop it, but I have seen plenty of innovation in these areas that has lead to missionaries being able to put more time and effort into the ministry work that God has called them to.

    • Jake July 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      Hey Rob – thanks for the comment. I probably should have been more clear – I join you in celebrating strategy, innovation, and creativity when the aim is to aid missionaries’ evangelism and edification efforts, or when the aim is to free them to do more of that. I like to think that our approach to staying in China was pretty creative (just renewing tourist visas), at least it seemed to strike many to be so. The one part of my post I would reference to show that I really agree with you would be where I say that what we want is the access solution that is the most brainless (meaning, least troublesome), cost-effective, and least time-consuming. That may very well be starting a small business in many countries. I should have said it better, but I most definitely am expressing disapproval of those methods that are troublesome, expensive, and time-consuming WHEN a better solution is passed over (usually because of ignorance). One of the main points I want to drive home is that these solutions are almost always best found by individuals figuring it out on the ground, not by western mission agencies.
      The business as missions is a huge issue that really deserves a more in-depth treatment, but surely we all must recognize that there is a very real difference from the money coming from my business and the money coming from a church member’s business back home! Namely, that I wasn’t the one who had to earn it! I certainly don’t think there’s anything ‘dirty’ about money that comes from business. But I do think there is something very wasteful in a missionary spending many hours of his week working a job. I readily grant that it is certainly possible for someone to work a job and rely on God. But I don’t think there’s really any possibility of debating whether or not large numbers of people shirk from fundraising because they don’t want to rely on others.
      Like I said, business as missions is a large topic deserving of its own discussion, but you make the best point about it that I can think of when you say most start-ups fail. If most new businesses fail, and it’s far from easy to be an effective missionary, why on earth would we think it wiser for a missionary to take both of those challenges upon themselves if there was another way? You may very well know of some missionaries that have built successful businesses AND healthy ministries, but again, I don’t think there’s any serious doubt that the vast majority of these endeavors collapse on one end or the other. And I for one would rather it crash on one end than the other!
      Thanks for your comment, Rob, and for giving me a chance to clarify. I thank God for your faithfulness serving in Nepal! And for your commitment to helping missionaries put more time and effort into ministry – I join you in that desire!

      • Rob Robideau July 17, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

        Thanks for your response! It sounds like we are on the same page and basically looking to make sure that missions resources(time and $) are used in the most efficient and effective manner possible. As a first-time reader of this blog(the link showed up in my facebook feed), I crafted my response with this assumption in the back of my mind.

        My comment about a church member’s business and missionary’s business is not to say that they are the same in every way, but that God uses them both to support his work. God can use people to support a missionary’s business just as He can use people to send funds directly. Businesses absolutely rely on the patronage of others much like other more traditional fundraising models. Yes, it still has to pass the test of whether or not it is an efficient use of time, but considering the time, money, and effort that is often invested in the traditional fundraising model, it is relatively easy to make the case that a business can provide more efficient funding both up front and in the long run.

        While I don’t doubt that there are large numbers of people avoiding the traditional model of fundraising because they don’t want to rely on others, I have NEVER met anyone that has told me that this is the case. Sure, it’s not something that people want to broadcast: “Hey, by the way, my pride is leading me toward starting a business so that I don’t have to rely on other people,” but I have heard many people offer up very valid reasons for eschewing the traditional fundraising model in favor of a business to support the ministry work. In any case, this pride is a heart issue and is not confined to those that are trying to innovate when it comes to missions funding. On the other hand, I have heard many missionaries on deputation complaining about having to rely on others for funding. Yes, the heart of pride is a problem, but not necessarily the model that it might have led a missionary to. God can use a drunk’s alcohol problem to highlight his own inadequacies and bring him to the gospel. Surely He can use the pride in a man’s heart to direct him to a more efficient and more Biblical funding model.

        Concerning the failure rate of businesses being a reason to avoid them, the traditional missions funding model has an similarly high failure rate. I know that statistics are never exact or perfect, but I have read that 43% of missionaries will not complete deputation and I don’t think that that number takes into consideration those that manage to complete their education, but never start raising funds because of the horror stories that they have heard. There is also the fact that a failed business is often recovered from while failing on deputation often results in a missionary never serving on the missionfield.

        “…why on earth would we think it wiser for a missionary to take both of those challenges upon themselves if there was another way?” Because missionaries have to find some sort of viable funding model, and when compared to that “other way”(the traditional model of fundraising), sometimes starting a business can appear to be the simpler, easier, and better option.

        Maybe I hang in the “wrong” circles, but I have seen many missionaries(and pastors for that matter) with healthy ministries and supporting businesses. Most often it is some sort of a hybrid support system. Yes, I have seen a missionary’s businesses fail, but I have also seen more missionaries have to leave their foreign ministry because of failures of the traditional funding model.

        I am not trying to advocate that business is the best way for everyone to fund mission work, but I do believe it is an oft-overlooked, viable option that is at least comparable to the current funding model. You don’t do the conversation justice when you use the statements like “large numbers of people shirk from fundraising because they don’t want to rely on others” to ascribe impure motives to the whole bunch and discredit the concept in general without actually addressing it’s merits or shortcomings.

        Your blog has been added to my rss reader and I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. By the way, I am in absolute agreement with you on your third and ,in my opinion, most important point in the article.

  5. Cory McTague July 21, 2014 at 1:42 am #

    Dear Brother,
    I have been a missionary in Kathmandu, Nepal for the past 5 years.

    I agree with your article 100%. Thank you. It was an encouragement.

    Philippians 4:17 “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
    We must remember when discussing the funding of missions that it is about God, not us. Finances for missions goes deeper than a missionary being able supply his needs. It is not about “a gift”, but about “fruit.” While the Apostle Paul did make tents, it spoken of far less than missions giving and the benefits of faith it supplies the givers. Raising support the “traditional” way gives believers an opportunity to participate in the harvest by reaping fruit for eternity in a way that “making tents” can never do. Missions is not about us or our needs, it is about Christ. Granted, it takes faith to run a successful business. But whose faith? Not the faith of thousands in America willing to participate by faith. Only that of the businessman. Christ is most honored by the participation of many by faith, after all without faith it is impossible to please Him.

    Tent making is not wrong. The Apostle Paul made tents out of the necessity of the carnal Corinthian believers not speaking evil of him accepting offerings. He did it for the ministry’s sake. Not his need’s sake, the spirituality of carnal, baby believers.

    As when Christ steadfastly set his face to Jerusalem to do the Father’s will, and some attempted to detain him, so often time Satan seeks to detain or distract servants of God from “keeping the main thing the main thing.”

    The point of the article, in my opinion, is not the wrongness of businesses in world missions, but that we must be vigilant we are not deceived into doing an unnecessary good thing in place of expending ourselves for the best and eternal thing.

    Is that not the reason we surrendered to missions in the first place?

    • Rob Robideau July 21, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      Bro. Cory,

      While we all agree on the main premise that “we must be vigilant we are not deceived into doing an unnecessary good thing in place of expending ourselves for the best and eternal thing”, the reason I happened to jump up on the soapbox is because I have seen instances where the “traditional”(read: deputation) funding model was that unnecessary good thing that was being done in place of expending the time and effort for the best and eternal thing.

      While I can only speak for myself on this, I don’t believe that I was called to travel around the US to various churches to “give believers an opportunity to participate in the harvest by reaping fruit for eternity”. Is it a good thing? Yes. Is it a necessary thing or the best thing? Not always.

      The traditional funding model does not have a monopoly on allowing believers to participate in missions work through giving. A missionary that uses business to support the ministry does NOT remove the opportunity for believers to give and be a part of the harvest. The best examples that I have seen of missionaries using business to support the ministry all have a hybrid support model and by no means would they turn down direct financial support. 🙂

      Note that when Paul turned to tent-making, he could have traveled to other churches to raise money, but he chose to stay close to the work that God had for him. He used business to do that.

      My problem is not with missionaries accepting money from churches and allowing them to partner with them, but with missionaries that are distracted from their main calling by the “traditional” funding model that requires them to travel far and wide seeking those funds.

      My point is that the “traditional” funding model is often not the best use of a missionary’s finite personal resources.

      • Jake July 21, 2014 at 10:48 am #

        Rob, again I appreciate your thoughtful interaction. You have certainly given me a desire to write something more comprehensive about this subject. One of the reasons that I do not speak as strongly as I feel in this article about raising support is that I am aware that many readers are not from a background where the ‘traditional’ model is traveling and raising funds from churches. But my model is, and it sounds like you’re coming from the same background.

        I won’t go in depth here, as again it merits its own discussion, but let me express some doubts and questions to round this out…

        1. If you’ve never met anyone who avoids fundraising because they don’t want to ask others for money, then you have had, I think, a very unique experience.

        2. The idea of a sustainable business is enticing until we ask where the ‘venture capital’ is coming from. I know different models have different answers to that question, but when you speak of a ‘hybrid’ model, it at least sounds like one of the models where church missions money ends up funding (at least partially) a business.

        3. If someone can’t raise money on deputation (and I can multiply examples), it is a near certainty that the problem is lack of work. In which case, I am not troubled to hear that 43% don’t complete. If anything, I fear deputation is too easy. Even if other people really do have a finance problem, deputation people don’t.

        4. Business can be easy. But how easy? Numbers are needed. How much money are you making, and how many hours a week is it taking you (and the other successful examples you know) to make it? It is difficult to imagine the numbers coming close to those of deputation.

        5. Business models of support may be a lot of things, but ‘oft-overlooked’ it is not. Almost every Christian establishment of higher education with a missionary training program has made it an emphasis. I was in an interview with a missionary candidate at a church a week or so ago where the mission director asked the candidate if he had considered a business-as-missions model. It’s everywhere. In fact, the vast majority of the Chinese missionary force could fall into some category of the business model (a hybrid model, actually).

        6. I think we all need to articulate what our goal is for a missionary. What are we hoping his efforts will achieve? This will surely influence our selection of a support model.

        Again, deputation is our ‘traditional’, so it’s somewhat trendy to cast aspersions on it, but to those outside our circles, deputation (once they understand it) is tantalizing. I don’t think we see how good we’ve got it.

  6. Jaded August 29, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    Great article! I read this as someone who has been a “tent-maker” in a completely closed country, someone who has started and run a business in the U.S., and as a missionary on full and mixed support. With that experience behind me, I still felt I was too inexperienced to start a business in China, or likely any third-world country.

    The numbers of business failures in commerce friendly USA alone are alarming, especially coffee shops, a common platform in BAM. However, as with most third-world countries, in China the deck is heavily stacked against foreign businesses, especially small ones. That multiplies the already slim chance of success by a much large factor. Then you add simple misunderstandings in culture, language, and markets that are inevitable in any business that goes overseas and the outlook is even worse. Finally, and most tragic, missionaries with zero to little business experience are convinced that they should be the ones starting these businesses. They make simple mistakes, one on top of the other.

    When you add all of these obstacles up, you see what I saw in my small circles (around a dozen or so BAM efforts). I watched well over a million, maybe closer to 2 million dollars flushed down the BAM toilet in every way imaginable. It left the missionaries very discouraged and the locals dazed and confused. The extremely few businesses considered successful were actually running in the red for years until funds dried up. Of course, not one single business I am aware of actually paid back the principle investment, which is the definition of success in the real world.

    Even worse, the would be entrepreneurs had no time for spreading the Gospel. A guy with one of the more “successful” businesses admitted that had he known how much work it was to run a business, and how much time it took away from ministry, he wouldn’t have started it in the first place. It is extremely, extremely rare to find a business that doesn’t require full or even more than full-time work, hard work. That is especially true in the first few years of any business.

    In my view, BAM has about a 1 in 1000 chance of succeeding in real world terms. Even if it does to one degree or another, there will be very little if any time for ministry, other than providing a few jobs, which has it’s own set of pitfalls. BAM is just far to high a price to pay for a few visas or for “legitimacy.” Legitimacy is highly overrated.

    Now you might think that the umpteen hundreds of millions thrown down the BAM black hole could have gone to better uses supporting traditional missionaries. However, that is not completely true. I believe very little of that money would have ever been available to traditional missionaries. My BAM friends didn’t spend a lot of time raising money in churches. They raised money in boardrooms. While I was home talking to churches and friends, they were visiting Christian businesses. They didn’t talk missionese, they spoke businessese. With that language they could raise 100,000 in a few weeks, or more! In some cases, it was especially easy with the promise of the principle being returned with interest!

    Raising money has never been a problem for my BAM friends, at least for the first few years of a project. After a decade of bleeding money, funds begin to get scarce, though. Yet, there always seems to be another Christian business lining up because they think they can have their cake and eat it too, give to missions and get the money back or at least sustain a work that they won’t have to continue funding in the future. It seems like such a wise, economic investment in the Kingdom. It is presented as the most missions bang for the BAM buck. It is tailor made to appeal to Christian businessmen and women. However, real success stories are exceedingly, exceedingly, rare if the truth be told in full.

    My advice is to go the traditional route. Yes, it may be challenging to raise support and get a visa, but you learn to trust the Lord through all that. Growing faith is important to your work anyway. You’ll have the most important thing, time with the Lord, and you’ll have plenty of time for ministry too. Even with all the headaches, raising support and dealing with visa issues are far easier than dealing with 4 separate tax offices and figuring out how justify bribing the local officials (or spend an extra six months in red tape, plus higher “fines” for not bribing them), to name only a small fraction of the problems you’ll face with a business, all in a different language!

    If you don’t want to go the traditional route, get the appropriate education and find a job in the country you are called to. Let them pay you to be there. The hours of a tent-maker are usually pretty good and certainly better than the hours required to start a legitimate business. You have instant access to the population in most cases. Tuition is a far better investment than BAM because you have a degree afterwards instead of thin air.

    If you insist on starting a business, here are three recommendations. First start and run a business in your home country. No Bible or business degree can teach you what you’ll learn when you have to run your own business. If you think that is too hard, remember it will be 10 times harder in a third-world country.

    Second, use your own money. Fund at least part of the BAM effort yourself. If you are so gungho about your BAM idea, you should also be confident enough to invest in it, even if you have to put it on a credit card. If you are not so sure about risking your own money or credit, then you shouldn’t be risking other people’s money, in particular the church’s money! If you don’t have skin in the game, you will be inclined to make even more bad decisions. If all you have to lose is a few awkward moments with your investor once a month on Skype, you won’t really be focused enough or desperate enough to do what it takes to succeed.

    Third, have a profit motive. Too often BAM efforts are started with ministry convenience in mind. The market doesn’t work that way. You just can’t start a coffee shop for students (located in student areas) when your price for a cup of coffee exceed their food budget for 2 days. Your extensive market research and pricing models should decide your location, pricing, and the type of business you start. If any business is to succeed, profit and paying back the principle have to be foremost in mind, NOT ministry. Ministry will always be secondary if you want to succeed, always secondary.

    Although BAM is a fantastic way to get Christian businesses involved in “missions” of some sort, and it is a great way to raise lot’s and lot’s of money, in my experience it has proven to be a wrecking ball for the lives and ministries of my missionary and local friends on the field. I would only recommend BAM efforts for the most experienced of business people, and even then, I wouldn’t. I’ve seen plenty of wildly successful businesses in the U.S. crash and burn trying to enter China, Google to name just one.

    Again, great article and very needed in today’s “creative” missions environment.

  7. Bonnee February 18, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

    And I am grieved; grieved for the young men who might have been church-planters, grieved for the unbelievers who might have heard the gospel, and grieved for the churches who have been robbed of their investment in the Great Commission.

    What we need today in missions is far less creativity and innovation and far more willingness to make the lifelong climb up the mountain of evangelism and edification.



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