Flipped Upside Down

An M3 Journey

This edition of M3 Weekly is the latest installment in our series called M3 Journeys, highlighting the experiences of various missional enterprise practitioners. This week, we feature our interview with Pete1, who together with a team of expats and locals, leads a hospitality business in the developing world among people groups unreached by the gospel of Jesus.

The first part of our interview is included below, describing how Pete and his wife, along with others from the U.S., began their missional enterprise journey and the blessings they have experienced using that approach. The transcript has been edited for clarity.

M3 Weekly: Thanks so much for being willing to share your story! We’d love to start by hearing how God led you to where you are, and particularly how he led you to the approach of missional enterprise or business-as-mission.

Pete: It’s a great question. I’ll share the story, but the quick answer is that we kind of backed into it if you will – it wasn’t intentional in the beginning.

My wife and I, along with friends from our University, really felt the call of the Lord to go to unreached peoples of the world. We did some survey trips and it just happened that the first connection we made took us to the region where we are now. We surveyed the region and got to see several places with gospel works in existence as well as places where there was no one.

We found this specific people group that would be described as both unreached and unengaged; no one was working there. We determined to go there, but the next questions were, “How do we get there; what do we do; how do we get in?”

We had seen a number of people who were doing business in other places and most were fake businesses, or very minimal – just enough to get a visa so that they could get in and stay in. Originally, that was our plan. But God, in his sovereign way orchestrated a number of things that influenced our thinking, which came together when we met with a particular group who challenged us. They said, “We hear you talking about business, but the way you’re talking about it is purely a means to an end. It’s not something that’s real, that’s trying to be authentic. It’s just a charade, just a mask.”

They really challenged us: do what you say you’re going to do and do it to the best of your ability, and realize that’s going to be the best example, the best witness for Christ that you can have. They introduced us to the term Business As Mission. This was over twenty years ago, and we had never heard that term before. This was less than a year before we left for the field, and our whole world got flipped upside down. We only had a very generic business plan that was nothing more than just trying to get a business legally established. But we felt really burdened by the Lord to take all this to heart and it totally revolutionized what we were thinking. So, we rewrote our business plan and realized we needed to raise a lot of money. Originally we didn’t think we were going to need that but now that we were doing a real business, we knew we were going to need it. So, it just changed everything. But we knew that it was God leading us down that path.

A Huge Enhancement

M3 Weekly: We will talk about challenges later, but for now, can you tell us what you have discovered to be some of the advantages of the missional enterprise approach in your work among unengaged and unreached people?

Pete: There are certainly plenty of advantages. But first, let me just make an important point. When we were doing language study, we interacted with a wider group of people from different organizations doing different types of ministry, so we got to see a broad range of things that people were doing. I do think it’s important to understand that missional enterprise is one way to do things. It’s not the only way. It’s one way. So we saw people doing more traditional types of ministry, and people doing NGO work, for instance, that I think were really good things.

Engaging the Lost

One of the things we noticed was that, for our friends who were doing more traditional types of cross-cultural work, one of their big struggles was just meeting people. How do I get out and meet the people I’m trying to reach?

Now, maybe for those doing theological training in a theology school or for others working in a Christian school, it’s not so hard to be right there with those that you are serving. But for those trying to reach the lost, that was a struggle for them. What am I going to do today to get out and be with people? That took up a lot of their time and energy just trying to figure out how to get to be with the people.

For us, that was never a challenge. We never had a shortage of people who were around us on a daily basis, like our staff and our neighbors. We interacted so easily with our neighbors because they understood who we were: “You’re the business guy who owns that business over there; we see your office, we’ve met your staff, and we know who you are.” It was the same with vendors and government officials we interacted with. I think that this has continued to be a huge advantage in the sense that you’re with the lost all the time.

The Triple Bottom Line

I think another component that we really enjoy and that we really see the benefit of is the holistic nature of what missional enterprise can be. I use the word “can” because I know that not every enterprise may be able to do this, but our enterprise is able to look at a lot of different areas in which we can have influence or see transformation. Obviously, we want to be a real business, which means we have profitability, and there’s hopefully some sort of financial impact within the broader community from paying taxes and paying employees.

We’ve also wanted to have a very positive social impact, to be helping communities around us in a lot of different ways. We’ve seen a lot of opportunities for that, whether that’s helping with educational needs, some limited medical things we’ve been able to do, providing personal finance training, pre-marital counseling that some of our staff have done for single people and marriage type things that are encouraging families to grow as husbands and wives and raising their children. So those have been great opportunities to have an impact in that way.

Environmentally, we want to have a positive environmental impact as well. Being in an area with a lot of islands and a lot of fishermen, we’re able to do things that not only are good for the environment but I think are also quite good for some of the local industries.

And obviously, we want to have a spiritual impact. And I think what we’ve seen over the years is that people are much more interested in what we have to share about spiritual things when they see our interaction across a broad range of areas of life. So, that holistic nature, I think, enhances the message of the Gospel. I don’t want to say that it’s a requirement, but I think it’s a huge enhancement to what God’s calling us to do.

In future M3 Weekly articles, we’ll continue hearing about the experience of Pete and his teammates, including the challenges they’ve faced, and advice they have for those in the earlier stages of their missional enterprise journeys.

Verse(s) of the Week:

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 (ESV)

Let’s ask God to show us ways, large or small, that we can become the people we need to be as we relate to people for the sake of the gospel.

1 Not his real name.

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