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18 July 2013

The business of mission

The business of mission

Recently there is a renewed interest in what is now being termed 'business as mission' and the potential it offers to shape the world for good and for God.

As a businessman myself I am hugely excited to see more Christians engaging in business to combat poverty, provide dignity of labour and be a light for Christ in the marketplace.

One story that deeply resonates with me is of a couple who felt called by God to help women working in a red light district in South Asia. In obedience they set up a business, which today makes bags for an international market, employing approximately 150 women that have moved from slavery to freedom – and the women know that it is Jesus that has set them free. Imagine how the world could be changed if Christian businesses like this sprang up all around Britain and the world.

When I first became a Christian I deemed business and the drive for profit to be quintessentially 'evil'. But then I found out about the Quakers. Never more than one per cent of the population, they used commerce to spearhead many social reforms and impact large numbers for Christ.

The Church should be engaging with business as well as political and social spheres.

In a world increasingly divided along religious lines, commerce is one thing that we share through its globalised cross-border markets. Is it not high time that the Church embraced business, both as a means of mission here in Britain and abroad, and as an area that could teach us much?

Let's start with the concept of partnership. Some of the most effective business leaders are those that identify common goals and form partnerships to achieve them. Such partnerships may bring new people in to existing businesses or begin joint ventures with other organisations, possibly even merging two businesses into one.

As churches, we are called to be united as one body with one primary cause – to make Christ known. Businesses unite for profit – surely we can unite to win people to Christ? Wouldn't this be a great picture of the body?

Churches can also learn from how good business leaders are interacting with their employees. They take time to find out their skills and aspirations, then help them to develop these to fulfil their potential. I am struck by the number of church leaders that don't seem to really know their congregations. Churches can get to know people's, giftings, passions and how they can be released – not just to rope them into serving – but to support them in their God-given vocations to be more effective for Christ in their spheres of influence.

In the 1945 report Towards the Conversion of England it says: "'We are convinced that England will never be converted until the laity use the opportunities for evangelism daily afforded by their various occupations, crafts and professions."

In a fractured, suspicious world it is business that bridges the gaps. The Church can start releasing believers to cross those gaps and take opportunities. To build the kingdom through business is the business of mission.

Manoj Raithatha– national co-ordinator of South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance and co-author of Building the Kingdom through Business: A Mission Strategy for the 21st Century World

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