Over the last few years, I have been involved in several discussions about how to encourage people to use their gifts in service for God. Inevitably, the conversations turn to Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 about the types and roles of spiritual gifts in the kingdom. More often then not, these discussions take place in the context of how these gifts can be used to build up an individual church. I believe that this inadvertently makes the Gospel too small and overlooks Jesus’ own stated mission of coming to build the kingdom of God.
After 10 years in urban business as mission, one area that excites me the most about building faith ventures is the enthusiasm such an approach unleashes in Christ-following business people. It opens a whole new realm of service for particular followers of Christ in the church whose gifts and talents have sometimes felt unneeded by the local church.
My recent participation in Partners Worldwide’s annual gathering in early October reiterated this point. Keynote speaker Lloyd Reeb, author of From Success to Significance, shared about his own journey of discovery as a successful real estate developer wanting to use his skills for the kingdom. At one point he sent his resume to numerous Christian ministry organizations hoping to find a position of direct service. Not one organization called him back.
He pressed one of them for details as to why they weren’t responding. The person admitted that didn’t know how to use a former real estate developer in its organization. The reality is that most traditional Christian organizations only see successful business people as targets for financial donations. This short-sightedness leaves behind the potential benefits of these individuals’ technical and business talents.
Partners Worldwide understands this cry from the heart of Christian entrepreneurs and has used it to build an innovative global networking and business as mission mentoring organization. Partners connect North American businesspeople with high-impact third-world entrepreneurs. These mentoring collaborations help build successful businesses in the developing world while allowing North American business people the opportunity to use their gifts and abilities directly for the kingdom. It’s a model that was before its time 15 years ago when Partners introduced it, but now has become one of the most successful business as mission initiatives with much practical expertise to offer other BAM organizations.
I’ve recently shared about how Belay Enterprises has a big goal of wanting to create 100 urban businesses in the next 5 years. We’ve been guilty in the past of trying to incubate these businesses by ourselves. The reality is that the only way to reach such a goal is by empowering other Christ-following entrepreneurs to pursue urban business as mission development. The Partners model has much to teach us.