Monday, August 19, 2013

A Slight Shift in Focus

I have alluded a bit over the past couple of months that there may be a slight shift in focus to my work in Kenya.  That shift has now solidified into a picture of sorts, which I would like to share with you.  I'm excited about the shift and about the potential that it holds.

As you know, I ran a pilot project in Kitale during February-May of this year.  This pilot project, along with two other concurrent projects, went very well.  In fact, they went better than expected, with the reception of the church being very positive, and the response of the business members more positive than I had seen in the many classes run in West Africa.  I believe that this positive response was in large part due to the affirmation of the church and interaction from the pastor.  In other words, the Church was not just the venue but an important determinant in the success of the business owners embracing their role as Marketplace Ministers. 

The Business as Mission Congress in Thailand then affirmed that there is a good understanding and a growing field of resources relating to why Business as Mission is important, but the resources as to "how" to do this work in a way that bears relevance in a Marketplace, a city, or a nation are difficult to find, if they even exist.  And that is pretty typical for a new movement.  Movements typically start with why it should be, and then later comes how to do it.

While many organizations or individuals working with Business as Mission focus on individual businesses, the calling of the Lausanne Commission in 2004 was to first call the Church, and then release the business owners.  This is the wording from that document:
  • We call upon the Church world wide to identify, affirm, pray for, commission and release business people and entrepreneurs to exercise their gifts and calling as business people in the world - among all peoples and  to the ends of the earth. 
  • We call upon business people globally to receive this affirmation and to consider how their gifts and  experience might be used to help meet the world's most pressing spiritual and physical needs through Business as Mission.
What I find interesting in this language is that the recommendation for business owners is to "receive this affirmation" and move into Business as Mission (BAM).  The affirmation needs to come from the Church who is being called upon to "identify, affirm, pray for, commission and release" these business people.  There is an order here: first the church affirms, then the business owners go out.  Yet, most BAM groups are not addressing the Church.  There is much complaining about the Church, in that the Church does not affirm business people or sees business people as less holy, or only wants business people for their money.  Yet, the Church is not being challenged, taught, or addressed.  When I proposed a shift to my work a year ago to engage the Church more in BAM and directly involve them in this work, I was told by a number of people that it would be foolish to do this.  I was told that the Church is too difficult to work with, too bureaucratic, too desiring of power, and that it will not be successful.   

I am happy to see that this is not the case.  The churches and pastors that I have worked with thus far have been excited about BAM and have recognized how it can build not only their church, but can reclaim the Marketplace that Jesus has already redeemed.

So what is the shift you are asking?  (In other words, get to the point, Renita!)  Because of the lack of "how" to do BAM and because of the skepticism regarding working with the Church, ICM has challenged me to go deeper with three pilot projects that will last 12-18 months (rather than my earlier proposal of 12 cities in two years, which would have been very light touches or surface approaches).  The goal will be to do this with an eye on research, developing a baseline of the businesses, churches, communities and Marketplace, run the pilot program, and compare results many months later to see whether we can prove that the Church is a relevant vehicle for Business as Mission.

ICM has partnered with Partners Worldwide on this project.  The work will still begin in the Seminary, with on-going classes in Business as Mission being taught, but will then proceed to three churches in three different cities, from three different denominations.  The Partners Worldwide model of training, mentoring, access to capital and advocacy will then be rolled out in the church, and the ensuing months will be working with the church to provide ongoing discipling, training, and supporting of the Marketplace Ministers.

Jeff Bloem
Because this project is much more research based, with a high demand on interviewing and gathering of data, I have hired an intern by the name of Jeff Bloem, to be a research assistant with me in Kenya for the next year.  Jeff is a recent graduate from Calvin College with a degree in Economics and International Development.  He spent a semester in Ghana doing some research with my former colleagues and friends at Hopeline Institute.  He has to raise 100% of his support, so please pray along with us for the provision of his funding.  Additionally, I would like to hire a Kenyan to work alongside us in this work.  One of the shifts has been to see that this work is not about Kenya alone, but will hopefully have a global application.  However, as the research is happening in Kenya, it will be important for a Kenyan to join the work, both to weigh in as to cultural issues that are inherent to Kenya, as well as to carry the work on once the research project has ended.

I'm excited about being involved in such a research project and pray that we may find a solution that allows for churches in the future to engage their business persons and have an impact on the Marketplace and nations, impacting systems.

Some people have asked me how they can join in this work.  So glad you asked!  
  1. There is a need for prayer partners for 150 businesses as we like to have a one-on-one relationship with people to pray individually for the needs of each business.  
  2. There is a need for mentors who will be able to use their gifts and talents to impact a high-level business (types of skills needed:  marketing, book-keeping or accounting, strategic planning, technology, management, personnel, and specific skills relating to quality control and manufacturing).   
  3. Maybe you have a specific business expertise and are willing to come to teach a group of businesses for a week.  
  4. Maybe you are interested in investing some money in a business in the form of a loan at a low interest rate to help build capacity in a local business.  
  5. I am also building a team to surround this work in prayer over the next 18 months as we get into the project.  
  6. Many of you have joined me by giving financially (I am about 85% of the way there in terms of pledges!  Praise God!) and that is an ongoing need. 
If you are interested in more information on any of these, please email me at  

The following video was done by Right Now Ministries, on Work as Worship.  It is very well done and captures the essence of what we are trying to do.  Enjoy!