The Mission Of Business
Seventy-five-year-old Ken Crowell strolls along his massive, machinery-strewn assembly lines, chatting with blue-smocked, smiling workers who hail from Israel's Tiberias region. More than 300 Arabs, Jews, and Christians work tidily together to produce antennas for wireless technology used by Motorola and Samsung. Some employees have been with Crowell's company, Galtronics Inc., for more than 20 years. They find substantial incomes and benefits, subsidized all-you-can-eat buffet lunches, and often, salvation through Christ.
With more than one billion antennas sold and a 400-member church started by his company, Crowell has now opened plants in China (400 workers) and South Korea (40 engineers) that are "trying to duplicate" the Israel model. "They are managed by believers who know the vision of the company," says Crowell. "The future is very good because everything is headed toward wireless."
The company's vision statement is displayed over its factory entrance: "COMMIT THY WAYS TO THE LORD, TRUST ALSO IN HIM, AND HE SHALL BRING IT TO PASS" (Psalm 37:5). By the 1990s, Galtronics had become the largest employer in northern Israel. Crowell describes his vision when he started the company in 1978: "The calling was first to go to an area where there was little or no Christian witness, to give employment to believers and nonbelievers in a safe working environment, and to support the building of a local church."
Today, gospel-oriented, free-market businesses like Galtronics are exploding worldwide as part of a growing movement to generate both temporal and eternal riches. When Crowell pioneered his work, he thought he was simply following God down a sometimes foggy but hopeful path of combining commerce with Christian witness. Now, some say Business as Mission (BAM) is the next great wave of evangelization.
More than Christian Capitalism
The phenomenon has many labels: "kingdom business," "kingdom companies," "for-profit missions," "marketplace missions," and "Great Commission companies," to name a few. But observers agree the movement is already huge and growing quickly. BAM "is the big trend now, and everyone wants to say they're doing it," says Steve Rundle, associate professor of economics at Biola University. Rundle authored Great Commission Companies (2003) and has an upcoming book, An Overview of Business as Mission, written with fellow BAM scholar Neal Johnson.
BAM practitioners use business ventures not only to make a financial profit, but to act as an avenue for the gospel. They administer their companies like any Christian running a business: ethically, honestly, and with concern for the business's neighbors. Yes, they exist to provide jobs and services and to make profits. But BAM companies are more than examples of Christian capitalism. The business itself is a means to spread the gospel and to plant churches. BAM companies increasingly have a global flavor, creating jobs in developing countries (unlike traditional aid or missions work) and making disciples who carry the gospel to the larger, hard-to-reach community.
The BAM model affirms that business is a Christian calling; that free-market profit is rooted in the cultural mandate; and that rightly done, "kingdom businesses" offer economic, social, and spiritual help to employees, customers, and nations. Big start-ups are often financed by wealthy Christians who expect financial rewards and ministry results. Small start-ups, called microenterprises, use small loans to achieve more modest ministry and profit goals. Some efforts, like Yeager Kenya Group, Inc., fall somewhere in between.