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Is Business as Mission Mixing Oil and Water?

By Bob Kuhlman - Remember the experiment you did as a kid in school, pouring a cup of oil into a bottle of water? No matter what you did, the oil sank below the water. They just don’t mix. Shake the bottle all you want, turn it upside down. Within a moment, the water’s back on top and the oil’s on the bottom.

At first glance you might think mixing business and missions would have the same result. After all, the goal of missions is to get people into heaven. And the goal of business is to make money. It looks like the only way they fit is when the business person gives money to the missionary to save souls! Obvious realities. Natural conclusion. Right? Well, let’s take a harder look at this.

When I took the job as president of Integra, lots of people started asking me what Integra does. My standard response was that we do mission work by helping people start businesses. I’d always get a blank stare when I gave that answer. So I set out to educate myself a bit more so I could give a better answer. Since I was going to be president of an organization that did business as missions it made sense that I should know a thing or two about it and be able to explain it.
When I started digging I discovered that quite a few people are talking about business as mission these days. It’s a topic at missions conferences and in magazine articles. A few books have even been written on the subject. Reviewing printed information, along with sitting face to face with some of Integra’s 90 staff who actually work in the field of business as missions, I began to get a clearer picture about how this is all done on a practical level.

One of the leading proponents of the concept of business as missions is Ken Eldred, who has released a dynamic and thought-provoking book entitled God is at Work. The double meaning of the title captures Eldred’s perspective succinctly. And in his mind, business and missions are more like Ovaltine and milk than oil and water.

I heartily commend God is at Work to you as a good read on the subject. Simply stated, as Ken says, “Kingdom business is a for-profit business venture designed to facilitate God’s transformation of people and nations.” Eldred doesn’t just think business and missions go side by side. He’d say that they’re two parts of a whole.

What could possibly be more natural than a Christian in business doing business like a Christian? And as that happens, so does ministry. As a “businessman” Eldred wants to help Christians in business see their work as an uninterrupted extension of their walk. The book is full of helpful illustrations and principles about how to do just that. There’s a connection between business and missions on a practical level, and leveraging that connection will help spread the Gospel, transform nations, and change lives. Business becomes the tool for ministering to those with real needs, both economical and spiritual.

This perspective rests soundly on the notion that God cares about people’s spiritual, social, and economic transformation. Work in the business world is both a ministry and a calling. Making a profit is a sign of useful service that addresses poverty as a social disease. Ken goes on to say that a Kingdom approach to business is missions. The objective is to foster sustainable companies that support the mission of the local church and provide jobs and financial resources.
By growing a successful business, Christian entrepreneurs can influence the business culture and practices of other companies, which in turn fosters a ministry to nations. This is a big vision! But one that is firmly grounded in the Scriptures.

Kingdom business professionals are ideally suited to teach the Gospel by word and deed. By speaking truth and living out their faith in the workplace, they are able to lead many to Christ. They consider their work in business as ministry. Kingdom business is missions. Does this make sense to you? I hope so. Integra’s staff are mentors and financiers of Kingdom business working in Central and Eastern Europe. We provide the necessary funding and consulting aspiring business owners need to succeed, and help them start businesses and create jobs in a Christ-like way.

Bob Kuhlman is the president of Integra Ventures, a Business as Mission organization that provides training and loans for aspiring entrepreneurs in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. More than 70 staff work in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia, providing business training seminars, one-on-one mentoring, and counsel on marketing, sales, inventory management, and finance.

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posted by Justin Forman | 4.28.2009 - 8:00 AM

2 Comments:

Just a slight correction...I'm not sure what type of oil you use, but all oil I know of is less dense than water and will end up on top.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 7:11 PM  

Great article! I heartily agree! It is time for believers to recognize the "all of life" of the Kingdom. Jesus did not call us to "oil and water", but to advancing His Kingdom through all that we do. Being Kingdom minded as a businessman means much more than my making money to help others advance the Kingdom.
commented by Anonymous Carl Jenks, 1:50 AM  

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