The connection between God's mission and the notion of business is not new. There have been plenty of articles and books written about how God has used business for His purposes since the time of Christ.
So why a new initiative?
Answer: Because it was felt that there was a gap in the UK in knowledge and action.
In 2015-2016, a group of people with backgrounds in business (CEOs), churches (ministers and network leads) and mission agencies (directors) met together with three questions in mind:
Mission is someone intentionally crossing barriers (eg cultures) to serve God's purposes. When we talk about God' purposes, at the centre is the task He has given His people: to show His love and character, most clearly demonstrated through the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ's name (Luke 24:47). We also show His love and character in discipling each other, addressing injustice, alleviating poverty and caring for our world.
- How can mission through business be defined? (What is mission? What is business?). Is it "worth" doing?
- Are there gaps in the UK in responding to the opportunity we are seeing?
- How can those gaps be addressed?
Business is the exchange of goods or services, usually for money. Business-people are those who self-identify in that category. This can include all business professions (eg marketing, operations, HR, administration, accountancy, management, directors etc) and those in the trades (eg plumbers, carpenters, tentmakers!!).
Behind all this is an urgency that says that the first time that someone knows about Jesus and God's wonderful redemption should not be when they die and face him as king of kings.
Specifically, we affirm that business can be used by God for His purposes. When done wisely, it helps people cross barriers (cultures) with integrity. It enables relationships between those who know Jesus, and those who have never had the opportunity to hear about Him. It also creates opportunity and jobs, which alleviate poverty and help address injustice. It is worth doing.
From a UK perspective, we recognised that this reality is sporadically heard. Great resources exist for mission and business, but are niche and only accessed by a few. Churches are not always intentional in discipling and equipping business people in the congregations. The pathways for getting involved are often invisible, and not seen as viable options.
We also recognised that there was a gap for a distinctively evangelical (gospel proclaiming, Christ centred) missional initiative. There are some superb organisations doing social entrepreneurship, addressing injustice, and alleviating poverty. There is less work in showing opportunities for business people to proclaim the Kingdom and make disciples, in telling the stories, and in providing resources to help people be equipped. How many business people are being discipled in their local church with a view to intentionally sharing and showing the gospel across cultures? Whilst we want to be sensitive to our contexts and cultures, it is starting to feel as though our message and purpose are defined by that culture as much as by our Almighty Father God.
Actions were developed to address the gaps. It was agreed that collaborating could lead to the greatest effectiveness. Thus, a new initiative was born, serving churches, business and agencies. People are seconded into the initiative, and it acts as a resourcing point to:
a) tell stories
b) share opportunities to get involved ("pathways")
c) develop resources to help business-people be prepared, discipled and equipped
There are also plans to set up mentoring and coaching networks, and possibly provide funding and financing options for missional businesses across the globe.
It is not a sending agency or the local church (though we are all part of His body and the worldwide church). This initiative exists to serve those already doing excellent work, catalysing the involvement of business people.
We encourage you to pray with us as you read this, that God uses this to bring glory to His name, and that we have all knowledge and spiritual discernment in using the gifts, skills and resources he's given us.