The paper below was written while I was in seminary for a class with Dr. Howard Snyder, author of dozens of scholarly books. The body of text is perhaps a bit longer (about 6400 words) than I would normally post online and some material (particularly on BAM and its models) may prove old hat for some. However, as a voice for understanding the theological, doctrinal, and spiritual aspects of pursuing business as mission, I felt that the issues of the interactions of godly stewardship, Christian ethics, and, especially, economics some here might find relevant. The table of contents, end notes, and bibliography are included (but not counted in the word count). The text is as it was originally presented for credit in 2005 except the correction of two dates in the text that had been in error.
I certainly welcome any feedback. – Dave
[Download this paper as a .pdf file here.]
Social, Economic and Environmental Stewardship as Means of Grace
David B. Doty
May 10, 2005
Social, Economic and Environmental Stewardship as Means of Grace
C. Holistic Mission
A. As Means of Grace
B. Economic Development
1. Microeconomic Development
2. Small-to-Medium Enterprise
3. Overseas Private Equity
4. Ministry Funding
a. Indirect Facilitation
b. Direct Facilitation
5. Fair Trade
C. Marketplace Ministries
2. Discipleship Ministries
3. Skills Development and Training
a. Leadership Development
b. Management Training
c. Technical Training
4. Witness by Word and Deed
a. To Vendors
b. To Customers
c. To Employees
d. To Employers
e. To Community
f. To Industry
D. Personal Response (Calling)
Social, Economic and Environmental Stewardship as Means of Grace
This project has been essentially exploratory in examining stewardship practices as both theological and missiological exercises. It offers a briefly outline and cites examples of the myriad ways in which Christian stewardship serves as means of God’s grace for the church and world through economic, social and environmental activity. A holistic approach, integrating the spiritual and the temporal, is assumed. Holism is often a contentious position in the church but finds substantial support both Biblically and historically and is, since the Lausanne Conference of 1974, re-emerging in evangelicalism.
For the purpose of contextualization, this discussion acknowledges the relevance of globalization in an emerging postmodern world. A cursory look at globalization, postmodernity and holistic mission will provide some framework for the discussion.
I address stewardship as means of grace for the sake of clarifying my meaning. Specific forms of stewardship have been divided into three major sections. Economic Development focuses on those models and activities having the most direct economic impact including micro-lending, commercial enterprise, ministry support and economic justice. The examination of Marketplace Ministries includes issues of tentmaking, business ethics, skills development, and witness. Finally, Personal Response addresses professional calling, volunteerism, activism and politics.
I do not present a theology of economics, work or stewardship but have chosen to focus on models of stewardship to demonstrate my thesis. Due to the integrative (organic) nature of our lives as Christians, a fluidness results that would allows that some topics here could have as easily have been considered under headings other than the one to which it was assigned.
In a variety of ways, globalization has created circumstances favorable to the witness of the Christian faith and the redemptive and reconciliatory mission of God. On the other hand, quite a lot of focus has been put on the extensive harm done by misdirected financiers, especially those favoring the West and Japan, through the auspices of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO). But even in the midst of destabilized global economics, growth has reduced the percentage of world population living in poverty by as much as twenty percent and by fifty percent or more in both China and India in the last quarter century. This affords more indigenous people the opportunity to begin looking beyond their day-to-day survival to a deeper meaning of existence by opening more avenues for financial security and, thereby, creative self-fulfillment. However, while percentages have decreased, the reader must also recognize the real number of persons living in poverty (using the World Bank standard of $1 US per day) has increased, due to population growth, to approximately 1.3 billion with that many (or more) additional living on less than $2 US per day.
This expansion of wealth has caused economic and migratory convulsions as the rural poor in many countries have moved to the city in search of new jobs created by the decentralization (from the West) of manufacturing, technology, information and financial industries. Urbanization has become a focal point as the majority of the world population now lives in the city. By the year 2030, the United Nations forecasts that more than 60 percent will be urbanized. This has created unrest, overwhelming poverty in some global cities, reactionary advocacy (especially during economic summits such as in Seattle in 1999) and represents a growing opportunity for Christian missionaries to serve the worlds poor. A psychological advantage is present as well, in that, as studies in rites of passage have demonstrated, people at points of liminality are most open to the introduction of new ideas and ways of life. The Gospel is often well received in times of tumultuous change.
In the overview, suffering for some has intensified as global economists, politicians and transnational corporations aggressively seek sustained profitability, political strength and economic stability. Globalization, by virtue of the increased volatility of money movement and the penetration of information dissemination into ever more remote and underdeveloped areas, has opened many doors for Christ to serve and reach the world through the church.
The cultural epoch at hand is not yet clearly definable but transitional dynamics suggest an emerging global, postmodern culture overarching all of the industrialized world and many developing nations. This postmodern era, beginning roughly in the mid-to-late twentieth century, features the deconstruction of the conventional wisdom of modernity, outdated and failed economic and governmental institutions (primarily communistic in both cases), and embraces an increasingly ethereal view of reality. No dominant themes, like exploration, colonialism and scientific discovery in the modern era, have arisen. Doubt hovers over many common institutions (education, politics, science, marriage, religion, etc.), casting suspicion on any proclaiming singular truths.
For lack of a more balanced or clearer modus operandi, or simply as a point of resignation in the face of lacking any other relevant moral compass, it appears much of the world has turned to economic development and is banking on the growth of wealth to answer its problems.
In contrast, sociological deconstructionism largely emanated from Western academia and increasingly questioned the idealism of capitalism itself (though the more modern anti-capitalistic arguments were obviously pre-dated by the likes of Lenin and Marx). Now, some academics and political factions, faced with the failure of communism and the extensive inhumane effects of capitalism, are questioning the meaning and means of “progress” and the “advancement” of the human race.
As mentioned, in the eyes of postmodern thinkers, most institutions are suspect and have apparently failed the utopian quest. This includes the Western church (embracing prosperity theology in many quarters) other mainstream religions, fraternal orders (which are graying and dying), careers, and even wealth itself, as many find no significant personal fulfillment after more than five decades of substantial economic growth. Freudian psychology and science-at-large have also failed to deliver the Enlightenment promise of solving the riddles of the universe. Many scientists, professionals, business people and clerics have resigned themselves to relative philosophical and moral defeat as the prevailing culture challenges the viability, and even the legitimacy, of their disciplines.
In light of this growing distrust of authority, no single voice leads or satisfies the gnawing questions of time and life. Postmodernity is emerging as a mixed bag of selfishness struggling against a nagging realization that there must be something more. Sadly, in the West, the church has not done well in recent decades. It has demonstrated little spiritual or emotional advantage as it experiences divorce, financial and sexual scandal, and too often the same moral degradation as the surrounding culture. Many evangelicals, Western Catholic orders and Protestant denominations have shown only struggling signs of life in the last century. Coincidentally, as this cultural release of reason has taken place, Pentecostalism and the charismatic church has exploded in Central and South America, Asia, Africa and to a lesser degree in the United States.
C. Holistic Mission
The term “holism” has fallen into disfavor with evangelical Christians due to its New Age connotations. However, holistic mission is essentially focused on recognizing the inseparability of the spiritual and temporal life (the Greek holos, used Biblically to address the well being of the whole person) and addressing both in witnessing outreach (the Latin missio). Mission must be understood not primarily as the efforts of human agency but as the misso Dei, as God working out the reconciliation of all creation to Himself. Holism in mission refers to addressing the needs of whole persons as they dwell in a fallen world, seeking to heal both the person and their environment (natural and institutional). Holistic mission addresses quality of life issues conjoined with proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, thus ministering by both Word and deed.
The most common reflections of a holistic approach are on issues of direct economic impact through the alleviation of poverty by charitable funding and development, the introduction of basic educational and healthcare facilitation, the delivery of food and potable water, the implementation of systems of just government and the building of infrastructure. All of this can be encapsulated as community development.
But holistic mission extends beyond these to address greater issues of social justice and overarching environmental issues like fair trade, gun control, reproductive rights, global warming and so on. This calls for Christians, as light to the world, to draw on the wisdom and strength of God to innovate solutions by active participation in commerce, politics, volunteerism and activism.
Ultimately, all these efforts must be carried out in obedience to God and subordinate to the proclamation of the Gospel (euaggelion) of His Kingdom. The Bible addresses social welfare extensively as a primary concern of God and the care-taking duty of God’s people. It is the church’s place to recognize the needs of a wounded world and be intentional in bringing hope and healing as witness of a loving God.
A. As Means of Grace
In John Wesley’s Sermon 16: The Means of Grace, he states his understanding of “means of grace” to be “outward signs, words or actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men, preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace.” Additionally, Wesley reiterates the common view that a sacrament is “an outward sign of inward grace, and a means whereby we receive the same.”
Setting aside the Roman Catholic-endued efficaciousness of sacraments, as Wesley was willing to do, allows a broadened view of what is sacramental and thereby “an outward sign of an inward grace” already completed within us. I would distinguish between the typically recognized liturgical Sacraments (recognized by the use of the capital “S”) from that which is generally sacramental. One definition of sacrament is “[s]omething considered to have sacred significance; a spiritual symbol or bond.” That which is sacred has been dedicated or set apart for worship.
The most obvious Sacraments as means of grace are Baptism, the Eucharist and marriage as their symbolism demonstrates the acts of Christ for the life of the church and the world. It does not take much “stretch” to recognize the sacramental (sacred) nature of the Bible and it as a means of grace (the “outward” documentation of the “inward” relationship between God and His people) offering insight into the character, works and favor of God for humanity through the stories of Israel, Jesus and the early church. The revelation of God within the stories of the Bible, the establishment of the Kingdom of God, the sacrifice on the Cross, Christ’s resurrection, and the open invitation to enter into His Kingdom are made known through the Bible as a prevenient act of grace to the world and church.
Less understood and likely only recognized informally as forms of grace are the ministering relationships between Christians and the outreach of the church to the local and global community. That is to say, the community and function of the church are effective means of grace. We must recognize, as Cynthia Moe-Lobeda does in Healing a Broken World (2002), that moral agency is not the result of “the grateful response of the justified.” Rather, Moe-Lobeda argues that God is the impetus for the just actions of the church by the power and presence of the indwelling presence of Christ in persons. Thus the knowledge of Christ and His grace is made available to the world through the church and its inspired ministries.
The Bible furthers the discussion as Isaiah (58:6-8) reveals that our actions are our witness by deed, and our “light” will shine forth through these acts of social justice (“fasting” for the oppressed, bound, naked and hungry). Jesus reiterates the same notion of our light shining (Matthew 5:14-16) forth from our good works, glorifying God the Father.
These passages are further illuminated by James’ (1:22ff and 2:14-26) argument that Christian being and doing (Christ’s commands), in activities such as caring for widows and orphans, are inseparable, as faith without works is dead. Also, in Ephesians (2:10) we learn we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Finally, let us add Paul’s statement in Ephesians (3:2) of having been given the stewardship of God’s grace. Though this may be focused more overtly on preaching from the Scriptures (witness by Word), it could easily be extrapolated to include our witness by deed.
Further, the promise made to Abraham that his seed (the Christ) would be a blessing to all nations (Genesis 22:18) and the God-given ability to acquire wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18) to affirm God’s covenant, point to acting on issues of social and economic justice as paramount for the laos of God. This is God actively loving and serving the church and world as we participate in His Kingdom here and now. These inextricably mate the spiritual and temporal with the intention of witnessing of God, His character and mission to His glory. The world encounters the salvific love and sanctifying power of God’s grace in the holistic wedding of the just and righteous activity (deed) and the proclamation (Word) of His people.
B. Economic Development
There are several models and approaches for intentional Christian stewardship in economic development. Here I examine five: microeconomic development, small-to-medium enterprise, overseas private equity, ministry funding and fair trade. Each of these, when executed or orchestrated, must include an intentional proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A good general overview of business as mission can be found in the Introduction to On Kingdom Business (2003) by Tetsunao (Ted) Yamamori and Kenneth Eldred.
1. Microeconomic Development (MED)
A wide variety of Christian and secular non-government organizations (NGO’s) are attempting to alleviate poverty in the starkest situations. Many are practicing in both rural and urban settings in the developing world, offering microfinancing (also called microlending) to help initiate home-based businesses that can stabilize the day-to-day cash flow of the most desperate households. These borrowers are largely ineligible for commercial loans as banks see little profit, especially as offset by a correspondingly high cost of administration. Many of these programs are supplemental to grassroots, informal credit unions that tend to operate as either Accumulating Savings and Credit Associations (ASCA’a) and Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCA’s) in which the poor can borrow but also save for large expense events such as purchasing a goat or to pay the bride price for the wedding of a daughter.
The most widely recognized and successful microlending institution has been a secular effort. Like some informal credit unions among the poor, Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, started in 1976, outgrew its informal status. Grameen has loaned more than $4 billion to date and has a 98% repayment rate. Like most microcredit institutions, Grameen relies on peer group pressure and support to ensure high repayment rates. The Bank has more than three million customers, 95% of whom are women and most are illiterate. They control 92% of the stock in the Bank. Grameen now supports more than 115 microlending organizations around the world, having made more than $500 million in loans to various endeavors. Loans have included funding for “phone ladies” equipped with cellular telephones in rural villages. These entrepreneurs can upcharge for time usage and are often the only access to telecommunications for the entire village or rural area. Other programs have included loans to promote fish farming that have lifted more than 4,000 farmers out of poverty. 
While Grameen serves as a “best practice” model, hundreds of Christian NGO’s are following the same model on a lesser scale, working through the local church and evangelizing through the loan officers or monitors and using peer pressure to uphold repayment rates. One of the more prominent is the Mennonite Economic Development Association (MEDA). MEDA has been active in economic development for more than fifty years and offers the Sarona Fund, an investment fund in which philanthropists can receive a guaranteed annual return of 2.75% while providing funds to expand MEDA’s microlending efforts. 
Other programs include Fallu in Zimbabwe, a $7 million effort with more than 30,000 loans to date. This was begun by Food for the Hungry in 1991 and then spun off unto itself. World Vision and Opportunity International conduct two other widely recognized programs.
Microloans in MED are typically less than $1,000 and are not meant to lift an entrepreneur’s household into an emerging middle class. Rather, the objective is stabilize the day-to-day income of those suffering abject poverty and running the risk of losing access to food on any given day (reducing “vulnerability”). These business folk tend to be street vendors and cottage industry operators with production and sales taking place within the local informal economy.
The living witness of capital being made available to help them help themselves makes the love of Christ known to the recipients of the loan funds. The Christian lenders also recruit loan managers from the local church to assess new loan applications and follow up on the repayment of outstanding loans. As relationships grow between these loan officers and the customers of the lending institution, opportunities to share the Gospel are sought and many are led to Christ.
2. Small-to-Medium Enterprise (SME)
The classification criteria for SME development initiatives presented here and for Overseas Private Equity (OPE) in the next section were provided by Ted Yamamori during a class he taught as a visiting professor at Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Kentucky) in January, 2005. SME and OPE are working categories used by numerous organizations.
It is commonly recognized that small-to-medium enterprises create the vast majority of new jobs and this holds true in the developing world (40-80%). The function of Christian ministry or NGO involvement in SME operations, like MED, tends to be credit oriented. Growth capital is often lacking in developing markets, especially for those operators hovering between the informal and formal markets. Though some commercial loans may be available, that availability is severely limited.
SME funding needs usually range from $5,000 to $100,000,  loaned at prevailing market lending rates for periods of three to five years. The issue of charging interest and factors for determining rates are of special concern for Christian efforts aimed at both compassion and sustainability.  Repayment rates tend to be around 90%. SME’s, many emerging from microenterprise status, are often good equity investments that can take the business to the next level, such as expansion to export to global markets or growing in size and viability to gain access to additional funding through commercial credit or conventional equity funding.
Viv Grigg offers two examples of SME’s in his book, Companion to the Poor (1990). He cites the need for jobs for Christians in the slums of Manila to draw workers away from idleness and regression into alcohol abuse. One example he gives is of a small furniture manufacturer who buys cheap lumber and makes cheap furniture. It does not require much imagination to think that this operation could be expanded to manufacture for export markets and employ substantially more people with a round or two of affordable loans or a little equity investment. Grigg also sees the potential for light manufacturing at the expense of little more than a small welder to start a welding and fabrication shop.
While a great deal of focus is being put on developing nations, the SME market is also ripe in the re-development of American neighborhoods and rural towns. John Perkins addresses domestic inner city redevelopment in Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together and Doing It Right (2002). Perkins’ organization, the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), operates programs through alliances with local church and para-church ministries. This helps keep an evangelical focus and accountable oversight in place while raising the quality of life for predominantly ethnic neighborhoods. Many of the CCDA’s efforts are centered on SME’s that can facilitate job training as well as providing income.
There is likely a place and opportunity in the American investment market (especially among Christians) for a fund specifically designed to partner with businesses emerging from the informal sector both domestically and abroad. As many economies of the world continue dramatic growth, SME’s could serve as a means of ministry funding (see Facilitation below) and a place for professional volunteerism (see Marketplace Ministries: Skills Development and Training, and Personal Response: Volunteerism below).
3. Overseas Private Equity (OPE)
Again, this classification is offered by Ted Yamamori and Scott McFarlane (Christianity Today) who have a particular focus on economic development in Two-Third World countries. However, this model could also be applied domestically in economically depressed areas, both inner city and rural, such as Appalachia. These companies are typically incorporated and require from $50,000 to $1 million or more in equity investment. Following a written business plan that includes an exit strategy for investors, they can typically qualify for commercial loans after the start up phase. The distinction between these and secular endeavors is these companies also have a ministry plan.
The plan with many of these companies is to provide jobs and economic growth while standing as a witness to vendors, customers, employees, government officials and the surrounding communities by their business practices in conducting fair trade, fair treatment, acting with integrity and supporting community development. Most will (and should) nurture a close relationship with the local church, where present, to ensure accountability and to overcome any possible perceived conflicts of ministry. Again, Perkins and CCDA offer glimpses of effective domestic application of such practices.
These endeavors are still rare internationally but they are proving to be a useful evangelization tool in the 10/40 window. Due to an unfavorable political climate in several developing and Islamic countries, conventional Christian missions and evangelization cannot be carried out overtly. Many of the governments, however, all but ignore the religious implications these companies may have if they bring a promise of economic growth and greater access to international markets.
Ted Yamamori explains a “preparatory approach” to evangelism for such locations wherein results are often measured in a few converts during lengthy introductory periods. By this approach, employers, tentmakers (see below), students and so on can take part in a limited access country discreetly building relationships and protecting converts until they are able to safely make their conversion known. Evangelization is carried out through the establishment of long term relationships with the constituencies named above. The compelling factor is the difference in ethic demonstrated by the owners and managers of these companies. That living witness, as loving and caring toward indigenous people and communities and responsible business management, opens the door for the discussions of why.
Most of these companies tend to operate under the radar of publicity about their ministries and goals due to the sensitivity of their political situation. They are typically under scrutiny as some missionaries have entered these countries under the false pretense of doing business and have used that front to immediately proselytize the local populous. It is little wonder that local government and workers are suspicious of those who would practice deceit to spread a Gospel of Truth.
4. Ministry Funding
A broader discussion of the role of commercial enterprise is necessary as a great deal of the economic impact of business on Christianity is carried out in the day-to-day routine of our Euro-American work lives. Tithes, offerings and sacrificial giving in the local church are most consistently a direct result of employment wages or retirement funding put in place during one’s career years.
However, here I limit the discussion to the more intentional direct and indirect facilitative efforts taking place to underwrite the funding needs of a myriad of mission efforts worldwide. For a general treatment on facilitating companies, see Steve Rundle and Tom Steffen’s Great Commission Companies: The Emerging Roles of Business in Missions.
a. Indirect Facilitation
For the sake of discussion, I would include private professional practices (of law, medicine, accounting, counseling, etc.) as entrepreneurial and functionally operating as small businesses unto themselves. They are commercial endeavors producing cash flow streams and providing for the livelihood of their independent operators. Many business owners and professional practitioners are engaged in philanthropic giving to Christian churches, para-church and missions organizations and other secular charitable organizations. Many do so not simply by making spontaneous donations but as on the ongoing and intentional exercise of economic ministry. Individuals and foundations, many private or family controlled, contributed more than 85% of charitable giving in the United States in 2003. Much of those donations were destined for use in expanding the Kingdom of God or secular efforts aimed at education, community development, environmentalism, recreational development and so on. Most small foundations have relatively narrow foci in the types of projects they will fund. Some have established recipients to whom they contribute on a consistent basis and level. Others may only fund limited-term projects or perhaps practice some blend of the two approaches.
As an employee of the seminary advancement department of one of the largest theological seminaries in the United States, I have been witness to substantial sums of money given to the institution by private individuals, both in cash and as stock gift transfers. Often the stock gifts are equity shares in companies largely owned or participated in as a principal by the donor. By intentionally giving to the seminary, these donors are contributing to the ongoing theological education of pastors and leaders for the church for several decades to come. The number of such individuals is enormous in the Western nations and the amount of money staggering as nearly forty percent of all philanthropic giving is to religious organizations.
b. Direct Facilitation
A growing facet of funding for Christian mission is the direct facilitation model. These are businesses established (or ultimately converted) for the express purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God by direct participation in a particular ministry and its financial provision.
One of the best known examples is Pura Vida Coffee. Started by a former Microsoft employee and a missionary, Pura Vida is dually located with offices in Seattle and the Caribbean. Its intent is to conduct fair trade with local coffee growers while funneling profits back into ministry to the indigenous at-risk children and families in Costa Rica.
Another such company is U.S. Plastics. Founded by Stanley Tam in 1936, the stock of the company was eventually transferred to a family foundation to facilitate charitable giving.Ultimately, ownership was transferred to OMS International and, as of 1969, was contributing more than $1.5 million annually to that organization’s international missions budget.
The above types of enterprises are discussed under many labels including venture philanthropy, Kingdom commerce, Great Commission companies, Kingdom entrepreneurship, holistic business, Kingdom companies, entrepreneurial tentmaking and business as mission.
5. Fair Trade
Another aspect of conducting God’s business as economic development is fair trade. This is not fair trade as negotiated between nations through the likes of the World Trade Organization. Rather, defined in different ways, fair trade initiatives primarily focus on paying fair (living) wages at least equal to the countries’ minimum wage in developing countries. While some organizations place this as their focus, including Equal Exchange and Global Exchange, some efforts, like the Fair Trade Federation, expand their concerns to include cooperative workplaces, consumer education, environmental sustainability, financial and technical support, cultural protection and public accountability.
C. Marketplace Ministries
Stewardship extends beyond material wealth. It also includes the gifts, talents and provisions God has given each person. Specifically, Ephesians 4 speaks of the gifting and use of spiritual gifts for the building up the body of Christ, His church. Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25 implies culpability on the part of the believer in using our available resources wisely and justly. Our participation in the marketplace is a major focus of our life is. It is important that we recognize how, as stewards of God’s grace, we should be conscious of and intentional about the outworking of our Christianity in our workplace and business practices.
The term tentmaking is in reference to the skilled labor practiced by the Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus), along with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2-3), as a means of self-support during the years of his itinerant ministry to the early church. The application in the workplace today is of those Christian professional employees intentional about carrying out ministry on the job.
Many of these are foreign nationals willing to take cross-cultural assignments with transnational companies in limited access countries as employees or entrepreneurs for the ultimate purpose of evangelization. However, there are many taking on this title in domestic companies as well, witnessing to co-workers and holding daily or weekly prayer meetings and Bible studies.
Due to their overt witness, many tentmakers are involved in online discussions on workplace ethics in general and the ethics of workplace ministry like Scruples.net. This includes open discussion forums as well as materials on spirituality in the workplace, a small business forum, business and mission, ethics in business, enterprise and community development and ministry in the marketplace. Christianity Today also has a portion of their web site committed to workplace ministry.
2. Discipleship Ministries
There are a number of web-based marketplace ministries popping up as the church begins to recognize the need for theological education among the non-professional church practitioners (as opposed to theologically trained professional ministers or para-church administrators). Additionally, more and more churchgoers are questioning their roles and applying Christian ethics in the workplace. The outworking of Christian ethic as witness in the workplace is examined below (see Witness by Word and Deed below).
Discipleship ministries, like Connecting Business Men to Christ (CBMC), intent on “present[ing] Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord to business and professional men and…develop[ing] Christian business and professional men to carry out the Great Commission,” and the Greater Orlando Leadership Forum (GOLF), are just two examples of numerous organizations attempting to help Christians in the marketplace align their career and their faith in significant ways. GOLF assembles business employees from the Orlando, Florida area in a nine-month course that includes nationally and internationally recognized guest speakers to speak about leadership from a Christian perspective.
Some of this would seem to be the result of more people recognizing the seven day-a-week calling of Christian living resulting in them bringing more and more areas of life under the scrutiny of their Christian “profession.” A good example of this is the rise of organizations dealing with Christian stewardship in handling wealth God’s way. Two examples include The Gathering, a “safe haven” for those who have accumulated substantial wealth and give $250,000 or more annually. Similarly, Generous Giving is also aimed at ministry to the wealthy to inform Christian philanthropy.Neither organization receives charitable donations from their “clientele,” having been started by others that recognize the frenetic clamor for donations at the door of the rich.
3. Skills Development and Job Training
Another aspect of stewardship is in the sharing of specific skill sets and knowledge. This often occurs by intention through mission and marketplace ministry efforts. Some skills are hard to come by. One should share their skill (giftedness, talents and specialized training) by direct use (see Personal Response below), by training others, or both. Obviously some skills do not transfer easily or well without extensive prerequisite training, such as the disciplines of medicine and engineering. Other skills and abilities can and should be shared for the sake of helping those in need.
a. Leadership Development
Perhaps most prevalent, beyond Bible study, is the push by missions organizations to bring leadership training to the church and developing world. Leadership theory and practice can be quantified well enough to help others better organize their (economic) development efforts and improve their self-governance. Though the argument of leadership by nature versus nurture continues in the academic environment, the study of leadership over the past century and a half has helped create teachable systems for use in new church plants and improving the effectiveness of those already in existence. Resources like Ted Engstrom’s The Making of a Christian Leader (1976), J. Robert Clinton’s The Making of a Leader (1988) and Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda (2001) are representative of the best available writings in Christian leadership development.
Many mission agencies and para-church organizations offer leadership development training to church leaders. These include missions groups and ministries of every size, both international and domestic, focused on marketplace outreach, counseling, training and para-church administration. Some examples include GO InterNational, located in Wilmore, Kentucky which provides speakers to pastors’ leadership development conferences around the world, Asbury Theological Seminary (also in Wilmore) which offers a Master’s degree in Christian Leadership, and GOLF, mentioned above.
b. Management Training
Less available is training designed for the church in management theory, systems and practice but will likely become increasingly important as parachurch ministries and business as mission efforts blossom. Having been in business, I can see how basic administrative skills, budgeting, time management and human resources are issues lacking serious attention in many ministry efforts. Performance in these disciplines will impact the witness of Christian endeavors in positive or negative ways, depending on our diligence in anticipating managerial needs and execution. Even pastors should be required to engage a minimum amount of managerial training so as to be capable of administering their charges. An excellent resource for anyone in a leadership, administrative or management position is Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources (8th edition, 2001) by Paul Hershey, Kenneth H. Blanchard and Dewey E. Johnson.
Fortunately, ministries like John Perkin’s Christian Community Development Association understand that economic development includes people development. Skills training, including management, is an essential part of their program for revitalizing depressed inner city areas. The church, and especially business owners and professionals, should seek to emulate or work alongside existing government programs including the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) located in every major metropolitan area and the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE).
c. Technical Training
In addition to the need for leadership development and managerial skills training, increasing knowledge is invaluable in developing economic situations. The church has access to technical expertise in literally every known field including accounting, engineering, manufacturing, import / export, agriculture, marketing, medicine, law, education and so on. That expertise must be stewarded to benefit the world. Often, technical expertise in a very limited number of fields (construction, farming, etc.) is all that are recruited for short-term mission trips. The church needs organizations that can recruit and pay teachers in more complex fields to ensure adequate development in areas of need. Often this could draw on the pool of Christians retiring in various technical fields to serve one-year assignments in foreign places. Vice versa, more Christian academies could be established outside the United States to help alleviate costs and, just as many students come to American universities from industrialized nations now, students could be brought from other developing areas to accommodate the greatest impact. One secular effort that could serve as a model is Peace Corp, which offers technical training, primarily in agriculture and land use, through a sponsored and voluntary effort. A Christian entity could work in this manner to help entrepreneurs gain expertise for marketing, product development, etc.
4. Witness by Word and Deed
Throughout the examples cited above it is expected that Christian entrepreneurs and professionals will be open and honest about their faith. This may require some caution initially in limited access countries. However, over time, the real witness to our profession of faith is our proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the sharing of His salvific and redemptive agenda for all creation. This must be carried out in both word and deed. Scripture informs our notions of righteous living that needs to be included here as a vital element of our stewardship. What we say may give context but how we behave tells who we are and what we truly believe. Our living witness proclaims the Gospel in the marketplace.
a. To Vendors
The relationship any Christian company has with its vendors (just as with all relationships) should first be grounded in integrity. James 5:12b exhorts us: “Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.” This translates to being honest about ordering mistakes, paying invoices promptly and fully, and not trying to renegotiate prices, deliveries or payment schedules after agreements have been reached. If there is any example that all of those we are in relationship should be able to expect from us, it is consistency. We serve a God who never changes. We should be steadfast in our business practices so when a problem does occur, vendors know it is an honest mistake on our part or a real product, delivery or pricing error on their part. By our integrity, being consistent and fair, vendors will see the justness of God and be more comfortable in negotiating with us in good faith.
b. To Customers
Just as with our vendors, integrity and consistency are the starting point of our customer relationships. Proverbs 11:1 tells us that “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.” As well, service above and beyond the norm and a willingness to give a little more to the customer should be our hallmark. As Christians, we can afford to be and are called to be generous. 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (paraphrased) points out that “…the rich in this world…are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous…” Our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and blesses us out of His abundance. There is no economic shortfall in the Kingdom of God. With all these relationships, genuine friendship and concern for the well being of the other should be always evident as we are reminded in Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
c. To Employees
We should always be willing to pay a fair and living wage price for products and services. Though the master-slave relationship is not a direct equivalent to the employer-employee relationship, it is often the closest analogy we find in Scripture. Colossians 4:1, then, exhorts “[Employers], treat your [employees] justly and fairly, knowing that you also have [One for whom you work] in heaven.”
As well, employers should remain aware that they are watched and, according to Proverbs 14:25, a “truthful witness saves lives….” While such a notion may be more appropriately attributable to legal proceedings, here it serves as an analogous parallel of the idea that those living transformed lives model an appealing goodness in the Christ of peace, integrity, compassion and joy and thereby draw others toward Him.
d. To Employers
Employees are a marketplace factor that cannot be ignored. Their attitudes and performance directly affect the viability of their employers. Again, the master-slave model from Scriptures gives a rich view of how Christian employees should consider their employers and temper their work ethic. Ephesians 6:5 is a clear statement for the employed: “Slaves, obey your earthly [employers] with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”
e. To Community
Often, because strong cash flow allows businesses to be generous, the Christian entrepreneur has the opportunity to fulfill Jesus’ exhortation from the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:14-16 records Him saying, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Business operators often have the opportunity to assist the local community by supporting youth sport leagues, underwriting educational scholarships or offering their expertise in issues of governance and development. Positive and uplifting community involvement as an outworking of Christ’s love for all people serves as an avenue of evangelism, especially as a living witness to God’s prevenient grace to all when applied across the lines of nationality, ethnicity and religious adherence.
f. To Industry
The broadest influence of a Christian businessperson may prove to be as a practitioner in a particular industry. Many industries are experiencing a shrinking world due to the sophistication of advancing telecommunications. A small manufacturer who innovates, demonstrating the uncanny wisdom of one who pursues God’s leading, can make a name for themselves internationally in short order. Proverbs 3:35 tells us that “[t]he wise will inherit honor…” and they will be sought out by others who desire to emulate their success. The marketplace recognizes, as Proverbs 10:14 says,“[w]ise men lay up knowledge…” and many hope they will share it.
D. Personal Response (Calling)
Individual and collective calling, beyond that to come to Christ, varies widely. In the marketplace and community, calling typically manifests in four main areas: careers, volunteerism, activism and governance. Many activities in these areas are interwoven with economic, social and environmental justice and so represent areas in which Christians legitimately are expected to steward the assets of their minds, wealth, communities and natural environment.
Obviously career choice can be clearly related to economic justice. As the “To Employers” section above shows, employees have obligations to be diligent in their work. This not only favors their employers’ financial well being but acts as a demonstration to co-workers as to how self-sacrificial love acts in an environment that often harbors ill will toward wealth and controlling power. The employee willing to suffer persecution or injustice for their godly submission to authority is a powerful witness to both co-workers and employers.
Careers can also optimize the gifts and talents God has given to an individual or community. One’s abilities in mathematics might incline her toward an engineering career. One’s compassion and soothing character might lead to his career in medicine. Careers often bring out the very best in those in tune with God’s will for their personal growth and call. Communities (and here “churches” would qualify though other definitions of communities could apply) may find a propensity toward a particular discipline demonstrated through an abundance of a given talent within the community or access to a particular natural resource. Too often these apparent opportunities are missed as individuals and communities do not look to God for guidance and they flounder in frustration and spiritual poverty.
Many Christians can impact society through the effective stewardship of their time and talents by volunteering in economic and social ministries. Some examples include Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers / Big Sisters, city beautification efforts, reading and literacy programs, nursing home visitation, prison ministries and so on.
Those with developed skills in business and administration can serve on the boards of charitable organizations or as counselors in economic development efforts like CCDA. (I serve on the board of Tess’ International Handicraft Shop in downtown Wilmore, Kentucky.) Medical personnel have opportunities through programs like Doctors without Borders.
The prospect of volunteerism for doing good is limitless. There is no end to the things that can be done to improve the quality of life for someone somewhere. Christians should find no lack of work…after work.
Activism is an arena not unlike politics as Christians should be active in a plethora of issues of social justice. While some may be called to careers in activism, many organizations can use volunteers to effectively compel social change. Many folk involved in secular charitable and social efforts have been ostracized by the church. A strong witness of Christ’s love could be demonstrated by Christians coming alongside and supporting Greenpeace, being more publicly vocal about domestic violence, advocating for HIV/AIDS research, and so on. The cause of Christ could gain immeasurably if the church were to take ownership of many issues that are increasingly important to the entire human race.
Like activism, some practitioners in governance may be called to fill such positions. But there are many elected and appointed voluntary positions that effect society at-large. Those who are willing to step up to pursue justice in these arenas without undue proselytizing could be a strong witness to the love of Christ for school boards, communities, states and nations, and even organizations like the United Nations, NATO and the European Union.
Globalization has opened many borders and doors to Christian interaction with increasing numbers of people groups and cultures around the world. Postmodernity is characterized by the deconstruction of non-working models, including misguided economic and governmental systems (especially communism). And the Western evangelical church finds itself re-examining its role in the mission of God.
Many evangelicals now recognize they have moved to far to the right to avoid the accusation of liberal (church) social “agendizing,” that is, promoting and performing works of salvation. In response, especially from the Lausanne Conference of 1974 forward, some have moved back toward a middle ground. They are embracing social, economic and environmental issues, not as works of salvation but, as calling to an appropriate response to the love of God. Rather than a singular focus on personal salvation, these folk now embrace a holistic mission approach. This incorporates spiritual and pragmatic ministry to the world by demonstrating the love of God through serving people and proclaiming a Kingdom Gospel nested in the God / man Jesus.
My preference is to gather all those areas of concern – typically categorized separately as social, economic and environmental justice – within the scope of economics as it is rooted in the Greek oikonomia, which, according to the Louw-Nida lexicon (46.1) means “to manage and provide for a household – ‘to manage a household, to run a household, to be in charge of a household.” Just as Adam was given charge to keep the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), we are given charge, as agents of the ever increasing government of the Christ (Isaiah 9:7), over the whole earth, to have dominion over it, to rule as appointed managers as the “earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). We are the oikonomos, the appointed stewards of God.
If we are to be good stewards, we must honor the head of the house, demonstrating His character and will toward all, whether family, friends, strangers, foreigner or enemy. But we most especially must show kindness as the Christ condescended to give grace to all the earth. Paul reminds in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” And Paul exhorts us, in 1 Peter 4:10-11, that “[a]s each has received a gift, [they should] employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
So it would seem that our acts of obedience in ministry to the church and the world are the acts of the love of Christ. This is the outworking of the condescension of God to participate through the agency of the church by the power of the Holy Spirit to work continually toward the culmination of His Kingdom at Christ’s return.
The range of activities in commercial and social realms that provide evidence of God’s love for the world include direct economic impact (including microeconomic development, second round financing, the creation of jobs by placing factories in developing economies and funding church outreach and parachurch compassion ministries), marketplace initiatives (including professional “tentmaking,” practicing Christian ethics in the workplace, sharing knowledge, and conducting skills training, resulting in witness to a variety of constituencies) and personal involvement (including career choices, volunteerism, activism and politics). All of these demonstrate an expectation of the stewardship of wealth, time and talents.
In the end, what we do demonstrates what we believe and who we are in Christ. By the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we are working out that we have been endued with the light of Christ. Therefore, as Jesus commanded (Matthew 5:16), “[l]et your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” and, according to 1 Peter 2:12, we must “[m]aintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
The acts of our faith (outward signs), as we are called to steward possession and will, and being compelled by His indwelling spirit (inward work), will draw others to the goodness of Christ. We know that we continue to be transformed by obedience (the gracious efficaciousness of sacrament) and the world is ministered to by God’s prevenient grace.
 Jagdish Bhagwati, In Defense of Globalization (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 65.
 Anup Sha, “Causes of Poverty: Poverty Facts and Stats” (February 18, 2005). Accessed April 7, 2005; available at http://www.glolbalissues.org/TradeRelated/Facts.asp.
 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Population Division, “Urban and Rural Areas 2003.” Accessed April 28, 2005; available from http://www.un.org/ esa/population/publications/wup2003/2003UrbanRural2003_Web.xls.
 Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 2003), 3.
 . For a brief comparison of modernity and postmodernity, see: Larry J. Solomon, What is Postmodernism? (2003). Accessed April 7, 2005; available at http://music.research.home.att.net/ postmod.htm.
 Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 7-8 and 61-77.
 Ted Yamamori, “Christian Health Care and Holistic Mission,” International Journal of Frontier Missions, 18:2 (Summer, 2001), 99-100.
 William Morris, ed., The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1978), p. 1141.
 Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda, Healing a Broken World: Globalization and God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2002), 166.
 Ted Yamamori and Kenneth A. Eldred, On Kingdom Business: Transforming Missions Through Entrepreneurial Strategies (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 19-27.
 David Bussau and Russell Mask, Christian Microenterprise Development: An Introduction (Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2003), 21.
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 David Bussau, “Reflections on Christian Microenterprise Development” (Pasig City, Philippines: Christian Transformation Resource Center – CTRC, no date). Accessed April 30, 2005; available athttp://www.ctrc-cmed.org/e-lib_2.asp?id=109.
 Bussau and Mask, 53-62.
 Ibid, 65-78.
 See also: Scott McFarlane, “Six Ways to Get Involved in the `Business as Missions’ Movement,” Christianity Today, no date [magazine online]. Accessed December 3, 2004; available athttp://www.christianitytoday.com/ workplace/articles/issue11-businessasmissions.html.
 The Washington Workshop, “SMEs: Employment, Innovation and Growth” (Washington: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development – OECD, 1996), 24-25. Available at http://www.oecd.org/ dataoecd/10/60/2090756.pdf.
 Bussau and Mask, 49-51.
 Viv Grigg, Companion to the Poor (Monrovia, CA: MARC Publications, 1990), 150.
 John M. Perkins, Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together & Doing It Right (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 164.
 Ibid., 169-171.
 Ted Yamamori and Kenneth A. Eldred, 273.
 Ted Yamamori, Penetrating Missions’ Final Frontier: A New Strategy for Unreached Peoples (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 92-93.
 Steve Rundle and Tom Steffen, Great Commission Companies: The Emerging Role Of Business in Missions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 22-24.
 Ibid., 125-162.
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