The Emerging Role of Business in Missions


Steve Rundle and Tom Steffen

InterVarsity Press, 2003, 204 pp.  ISBN 0-8308-3227-0


Rundle and Steffen are professors at Biola University.  Rundle is professor of economics.  Steffen is professor of intercultural studies and author of several books on missions.  Based on five years of studying and visiting for-profit companies that have a missional purpose, the book consists of principles and examples of business as a means of ministry and a means of supporting ministry in other cultures. 


The first part deals with a) missions concepts, b) the economic, historical and theological context of business as missions, and c) an introduction to starting and governing a Great Commission Company (GCC).  The second part describes several models in operation.  This is a new, growing, complex, and mind-boggling arena, full of possibilities, opportunities, and pitfalls.  See the end of these notes for additional resources.


Part One.  Principles of Great Commission Companies

“Globalization did not catch God by surprise, nor is it out of his control.”  (6)


“Moreover, we believe that this redemptive plan, which is the central message of the Bible, is the intended purpose of the whole church, not merely those in professional ministry.” (6)


“Combining business and missions is not easy, and it creates a tension that does not exist when the activities are pursued separately.  But the fact that it is difficult is not a valid reason for not trying.” (7)


“This book is for the countless Christian men and women in business who want to do more than watch the game of missions.  ...they want to be on the playing field.”  “The purpose of this book is to show how it is not only possible today, but also necessary for business professionals—and companies owned by Christians—to become more actively involved in missions.  Our main focus will be on companies that are bringing the healing message of the gospel to the least-developed and least-evangelized parts of the world.”   “...27 percent of the world’s population—some 1.6 billion people—still have no idea who Jesus Christ is or why his death and resurrection matter.,  Furthermore, they will likely never encounter a single follow of Jesus....” (13-14)


“Large parts of the world are suffering, unreached and off-limits to professional Christian workers.” “Business, on the other hand, has a remarkable capacity to touch virtually every person on the face of this planet.” “Business provides such a context for long-term holistic outreach.” (16)


“Large foreign-owned companies can also have a spiritual impact that many missionaries envy for the simple reason that people spend so much more time at work than they do in traditional ministry contexts.  Evangelism and discipleship can be integrated into natural workday situations rather than forced to compete with a host of after-work alternatives.”  “Corporate profits can be used to support other ministry outside the company.”  (16)


Business may be one of the most strategic career choices a missions-minded Christian can make in the twenty-first century. (20)


“What all companies have in common is a highly specific purpose and a highly intentional way they go about achieving that purpose.” (20)


“One model that has little to commend it is the ‘missionary in disguise’ approach.  ...this ‘ends justifying the means’ approach to ministry is dishonest and a poor witness.’” (22)  “People who appear to have hidden agendas are naturally hard to trust.” (24)


“We have found that the most effective GCCs are in fact quite open about their faith and even have a reputation for evangelistic work.  What keeps them from being persecuted or expelled?  The value added.  Without exception the most secure business ‘platform’ is the profitable, job-creating, tax-paying company.” (23)


The purpose of a GCC is “to bring good news in word and deed to the neediest parts of the world.” (25)


What is mission(s)?  Satan’s damage, quoting Bryant Myers, proved very broad, very holistic.  God’s redemptive plan is also holistic, extending not just to individuals but also to the whole of society, its institutions and even to creation itself (see Rom 8:19-23; Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:19-20).  The term mission (or missio Dei) refers to this singular, all-encompassing plan of reconciliation.” (27)  “The specific activities of the church have traditionally been referred to either as ‘missions’ (plural) or ‘’ministry,’ depending on whether geographical, linguistic or cultural barriers are crossed.  Outreach efforts among people of similar language and culture are usually referred to as ‘ministry,’ and the term missionary has traditionally been applied to those doing crosscultural ministry, that is, ‘missions.’ (28)


“Missions presents a different set of challenges and requires a different kind of preparation than near-neighbor ministry.  If everyone is a missionary, the term quickly loses its practical usefulness.” (29)  “Finally, calling all Christians ‘missionaries’ is problematic....  This book uses the label kingdom professional. (34)


“Assumption 3: Authentic missions meets real physical needs, but never stops there.  Making a person healthier or more prosperous in this life will never compensate for eternal separation from God.” (35-6)


“Assumption 4: Authentic missions aims to draw people into the family of God, but never stops there.  The second half of the Great Commission—‘teaching them to obey everything I have commanded’—is sometimes overlooked by evangelicals.” “Authentic missions seamlessly integrates spiritual and physical ministry.” (36) 


“Kingdom professionals recognize the intrinsic value of work; that work itself is an integral part of God’s holistic, redemptive plan for the world.  But they take their calling a step further, seeking to make the most of their God-given opportunities to impact the people around them and measuring success according to their contribution to what God is doing.” (37)


A GCC [Great Commission Company] is “a socially responsible, income-producing business managed by kingdom professionals and created for the specific purpose of glorifying God and promoting the growth and multiplication of local churches in the least-evangelized and least-developed parts of the world.” (41)


“Some companies work very closely with missions organizations, even going so far as to have a contractual relationship.”  We call these alliances.” (43)  “A facilitative GCC...sees its role largely as providing logistical support for those on the field.”  “On the other hand, a pioneering GCC is more directly involved in the actual ministry activities.” (43)


“A central part of our thesis is that globalization is a part of God’s plan to integrate the entire body of Christ into his global plan (mission).” (47)


“As many as 40 percent of Western business professional who are given foreign assignments return early, and many of those who stay suffer from a range of problems including depression, marital problems and alcoholism.” (58)


“The World Bank’s definition of poverty—which takes into account only the income necessary to sustain a human life—currently stands at $395 per year, or $1.08 per day (commonly reported as one dollar per day).  Using a more generous figure of two dollars per day, nearly half of the world’s population, or 2.8 billion people, lives in poverty.” (69)


Of the $270 billion donated each year to Christian churches and ministries, only 0.02% ($54 million) goes to fund work being done in the least-evangelized countries. (citing the World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001, via  Mission Frontiers, September 2001, p. 11)


“The startup process begins with some feasibility research, fundraising and recruitment, followed by more fundraising, more research and more recruitment.  In other words, it is an iterative process whereby steps are continually revisited and refined.  The goal will be to create a business plan and a ‘Great Commission plan’ that provide answers to the questions investors and other stakeholders will ask.” (77)


Steps: (quoting from p. 78)

·        Evaluate the business opportunity.

·        Evaluate the missions opportunity.

·        Assemble a management team.

·        Build an advisory network.

·        Develop a business plan.

·        Develop a Great Commission plan.


“Without something that clearly distinguishes the company’s product or service from others, the company’s long-term prospects are not good.”  “A company’s long-term survival requires a continual process of innovation and improving service.” (80)


“Investors tend to scrutinize a for-profit opportunity much more rigorously than they will a donation.” (81)


“The more serious entrepreneurs should have a clearly identifiable plan for growing the company and for producing a 25- to 50-percent annualized return for the investor.” (82) 


“As with financial value, GCCs that have the most significant missional value are those that address a relatively unmet need.” (82)


“What location or people group will benefit the most from this type of company?”  “What can this company do that other Christian organizations in the area cannot?”  “Where will the resources for ministry-related activities come from?”  (82-84)


The best business plans illuminate the people, the opportunity, the context, the risk, and the reward.  (92)


There are both external and internal challenges.  Chapter 9 focuses on the internal, such as identifying stakeholders (those who have an interest in the GCC success) and their contributions, and ownership and governance.  Stakeholders include the owners, management team, home churches, mission agencies, advisers, indigenous church (if one exists) and local community.  (96-7)


“The truth is, no matter how determined a person is to treat the business and ministry as an integrated whole, the intentionality of a GCC implies that, from time to time, tough choices will need to be made between the business and the ministry.” (100)


“In theory, corporations are managed in the owners’ (the stockholders) best interest, with the board of directors keeping the upper-level management team honest and accountable.  In practice this oversight and accountability can break down....” (101)


Part Two.  Great Commission Companies in Practice.

Each company is unique and reflects a slightly different vision.  “Far more important than the business itself is the people behind the business—their personal spiritual development, their prior experiences in ministry and business, and so on.”  (107)


“...quality is usually the first and most important problem foreign companies must solve when they locate a factory in a developing country.”  (114)


“Many kingdom professionals have found that there is no better place to start the discipling process than in this area.” (114)


“Put everything in writing.  If an agreement is not in writing, says Burkett, there is a 100 percent chance of a disagreement.”  (132)


“Character alone is no substitute for a professional skill set.  A commitment to professionalism requires, well, professionals.” (133)


“If you don’t know who you’re serving in your business, you will end up serving the business.” (141)


“Christians today earn about one-quarter of all the income in the world.  Thus, any effort to correct the ills of our current system must begin with a look at how we acquire this income and how we use it.  ...Unfortunately, you could go to many churches for a month of Sundays and not hear this message of stewardship.  More than likely you would hear the principle of stewardship limited to call to put more in the offering plate.” (p. 193, quoting Larry Reed)


“We believe that the trends in church giving toward more local, visible ministries reflects a desire to see and participate more directly in the ministry of the church.  Christians are not losing interest in the poorest and the least reached so much as they are failing to see a connection between their current circumstances and those of people in other parts of the world.”  “...there is potentially no limit to the resources—human and financial—that will be unleashed once business professionals see the connection between their gifts, their current occupation and the mission of the church.”  (193-94)


The missions paradigm is in transition and great ambiguities go with transition. (194)


The Business Professional Network (BPN) ( assists Christian entrepreneurs in the developing world by linking them with ‘business development groups’ in the West. (194)


Evangelistic Commerce (EC) ( seeks to link Christian-owned companies with missionary efforts in the developing world.  Both these groups host seminars and vision trips.  (194)


Common themes uncovered by research:

·        Everyone makes mistakes.

·        The most effective GCCs are managed by teams.

·        The most effective GCCs work in partnership with established churches, ministries and agencies.

·        The most successful GCCs are treated as real businesses.

·        The most effective kingdom professionals have a long history of ministry and missions involvement.

·        Fierce spiritual opposition is a certainty.

·        Accountability at the individual and corporate level is essential.  (195)


Appendix lists selected resources, including:

Kingdom Business, David Befus

On Kingdom Business, Tetsunao Yamamori