7 Reasons Tentmaking Businesses Fail and How to Overcome Them: Lessons Learned in Business as Mission

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The list of elements included is by no means exhaustive and considering the extent of issues subordinate to these twelve quickly reveals an intense complexity in the overall scheme of undertaking BAM initiatives. The general lack of awareness of BAM can be easily documented anecdotally by speaking with a wide range of marketplace Christians, their pastors, and missionaries.

transforming business – transforming lives

This is likely due to BAM, as a formal proposition, having risen into the view of mission agencies and missiologists in just the past decade or two. Actual BAM work has been going on for centuries, as many cite the Apostle Paul, the tentmaker, as the first self-proclaimed bi-vocational a misnomer missions practitioner. Domestic U. The cultural bent among U.

Marketplace Christians sent as BAM practitioners will require preparation and training, not the least for working cross-culturally but also in areas such as contextually appropriate business modeling and technologies. Indigenous BAM practitioners may require extensive education in business development and practices. Both groups need to be recruited as awareness of needs and opportunities for BAM are defined in a broad range of locations.

Each location targeted for BAM initiatives presents a unique set of circumstances involving local cultural, the needs and opportunities within the community, assessing available and missing resources, and understanding the local and national business climate, especially in relationship to local, regional, and national governance.

This requires well planned and executed strategies to optimize the success of both the businesses created and the ministerial aims of the mission agency and the local church. Deployment and coordination concerns not just to the effective ministry of particular marketplace expertise but also to the wide variety of BAM experiences and lessons learned. Sending marketplace Christians into the mission field, whether for short or long term assignments, should be well-documented such that a clearinghouse could provide vital data to enhance and expedite other BAM initiatives.

Information and expertise could then be more effectively matched and deployed as the various assessments surrounding each new BAM initiative are completed. The church is a divine enterprise and its ministry outreach to the world requires organizational development and information management no less so than any other charitable or commercial endeavor.

Sadly, many church and mission agencies neglect understanding the finer points of organizational development.

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Lacking adequate knowledge leads to marginal success, especially when coupled with limited capacities to anticipate and handle those complexities. This is an area in particular the church can learn from the highly motivated business world to maximize the penetration and impact of BAM initiatives. Filed under Faith in the Marketplace. David, this is a great start. Is there an area that is of particular interest or that you have significant background in? By the way, a friend of mine, Neal Johnson, has recently written a pretty comprehensive and academic book on Business as Mission.

I wonder if his work might be a resource for you as you move forward? Hey, Jim. I have drafted a set of three research proposals and questions surrounding preparatory stages for BAM. The three pertain to 1 the recruitment, selection, and training of indigenous BAM practitioners, 2 the cross-cultural preparation of recruited domestic U. Christians to invite participation either directly through missions activity or indirectly by financial support.

Jim — I think financial participation can take two related but distinct tracks.


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One is donated funds that can be pooled for investment in BAM projects. The second is direct investment as co-owners, at least in the beginning of projects. Ownership can then be transferred over time, either as a reward system to the indigenous operator or bought out by that operator.

A third possibility is that not-for-profits can raise donated funds to start for-profit enterprises which can be win-win, that is, they support the work of indigenes in various places by being importing or wholesaling companies and the income from these companies can help fund further work of the not-for-profit. Stock ownership in for-profit enterprises by the not-for-profit functions just like stock ownership via endowments which are common among many traditional not-for-profit institutions like churches and universities.

I am about nine years into the research on BAM and the integration of Christian faith and economics. It has certainly been an interesting journey so far. I am looking forward to it as I have read and own most other relevant works by the likes of Corbett and Fikkert, Rundle and Steffen, Yamamori and Eldred, Baer, Bradshaw, Bussau and Mask, and on down the line. I even read the one I wrote!

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I am extremely interested in your research, this area and the books to which you refer. I, too, believe the church in the US is like the country in other areas, such as the news, very egocentric. Here are some titles and links that I would recommend. It should talk you longer than you have to investigate all of these thoroughly.


  • Excuse Me, College Is Now: How to Be a Success in School and in Life.
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Let me know any questions or thoughts that you have. I love to talk about the integration of our faith and economics, and especially BAM. David, this is excellent. I wonder if you can take these three and narrow them down even more. As you know, you want your thesis statement or question to be laser sharp, with the ability to add new knowledge to the body of existing knowledge in the area you are considering.

I like the marketing approach. It is somewhat evangelistic in nature, partnering with the Holy Spirit to examine ways to reach Christians with the vision.

Can these two revenue models effectively work together in a successful business model? Sounds like you have a solid background for this research. Like you, I have been involved with BAM for many years. I look forward to reading your research…. Using business as a witness and a tool to reach people, help people, and expand the Kingdom is a great mission. Personally, my heart is for reaching business people here in the US, creating business people in the US, and, thereby, bringing Christ into US business.

So, is your research directed to less economically developed areas or even highly developed like the US? Typically, they expressed admiration for the American way. True, though, we must be aware that there is more than one right way, especially in consideration of culture.

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Jim — I, too, recognize deep needs domestically as well as in foreign, developing economies. My focus for a dissertation seems to be moving more toward communications models marketing BAM which will be relevant to both. That will likely come as a result of the research, or at least be deeply informed by it.

David: You are investigating an interesting research topic. I have never thought of the concept of business as mission. I thought I saw something in either your original post or one of the replies about St. Is BAM following that path?

The Kingdom Economy

My son has two seminary classmates were were called to a tent-making ministry in inter-city Kansas City, KS. Their work is partially funded by a local congregation and the rest of their funding comes from part-time employment in the neighborhoods they minister to. Is that something you have in mind? I think there are others that do not get as much recognition that should probably be included as well. I also appreciate your comments about domestic inner city. Most U. David, am thankful for your work and desire to define and work through the difficulties of BAM.

Have been involved with business that supports missions and spreading the gospel for over 10 years, it is difficult and the hardest obtacle to overcome is the church that still looks as doing missions the same way, do not see the need for business as mission, instead, they think the two should be seperated when really, the two should partner hand in hand. Communication to the local church is crucial, they need to understand but often do not, until we truly HAVE to have business as missions, a term by the way I do not use much in my work because of the mixed thoughts it can bring, it will not be used.

I partner with mission organizations but the last thing you want is a missionary, who is looking at BAM as a way to instantly bring in capital or a mision organization that thinks that way. Look forward to following your research and appreciate your efforts. Thanks, Mark. As I interact with the responses here I find myself moving more and more toward the communications issue to and within the domestic U.

I think we have three critical issues to communicate: 1 foundational marketplace theology, 2 awareness of needs and potential, and 3 opportunities for participation including going to offer expertise and supporting financially. So are many of the large denominational mission boards. To the many young people and parents! First, these churches and agencies are not your only recourse to support. In fact, I would strongly urge them not be sent through a large denominational board.

There are plenty of churches and individuals that are willing to give sacrificially to invest in global missions. Second, there is wonderful training out there that will teach you to build a core of supporters. Another conundrum that missions strategists have focused their efforts on is the difficulty of winning converts. What ensues are endless discussions about what way is the best way to share the gospel with unbelievers. Innovations pop out of these discussions like babies in a TLC show.

Of course, it does seem that there is one giant disadvantage to the scheme, namely, that it seeks conversions in almost the exact opposite way that Jesus and the apostles did! In the end, Christians believe that only God can save a sinner. Our job then is clearly to proclaim, not to produce converts. Our job is to maximize proclamation.

Tentmaking in Today's Global Environment.

For example, my teammates in Muslim North Africa have put mountains of work into sharing the gospel with as many people as possible, without lowering the call to identification with Christ. Even in a low-fruit-yield kind of context like that, they have seen many conversions. The conversion problem is really an evangelism problem. The best way to share the gospel with unbelievers is quickly, clearly, bravely, audibly, and extensively.