April 2018 | Volume 13 | Issue 4 |
…And Then God Created Businesspeople:
An interview with Greg Fritz on why honoring businesspeople will change missions
Greg Fritz has a long history of serving global Kingdom work, first as the founder/director of Caleb Project and then vice president of Partners International. Currently with Anda Leadership, he coaches young entrepreneurs in emerging markets, and he also serves as director of DOVE Medical Missions. In addition, Greg is an entrepreneur with several business ventures on the go. Postings recently interviewed Greg, who lives with his wife Nancy in Lititz, PA, about Kingdom professionals.
I would like us to break down the differentiation between people who are serving God in a capacity we describe as “full-time Christian work,” and the people who are serving God in the marketplace. Pastors and missionaries may generate their income in a different way from those in the marketplace. But we are all significant in the role that God has called us to. We need to celebrate whatever that role is. The more traditional BAM definition describes it as people who create wealth, and I like that. Wealth creators in the marketplace are extremely important, but I think they are the least recognized and least celebrated in the local church. They are overlooked or viewed as merely a source of money. But that misses their great potential contribution.
Last weekend I was at a retreat and began talking to a businessman. I was wearing my “hat” of businessman, not missions leader, which gave me credibility. Like many others I meet, this man was struggling and needed someone to help him process his frustrations. I asked some open-ended questions and helped him find the vocabulary to articulate how he felt. Although he is an elder, he lamented that his church doesn’t value him as a businessman. And he has no one in the church who cares enough about his struggles to listen to him process his challenges.
Businesspeople intuitively understand important basic principles that churches often get wrong: planning, budgeting, accounting, the value exchange that takes place in business all the time. Whether we like it or not, money is important. It’s the basic transaction that makes the world work. If businesspeople who understand how money works were put in appropriate roles in church structures, I think the implications would be dramatic.
In the local church, BAM workers are often overlooked or viewed as merely a source of money. But that misses their great potential contribution.
When Western businesspeople go to Africa and look at poverty, they see an entirely different potential solution than others do. Too often we give people stuff, and that is never sustainable. But businesspeople understand that we need to teach and enable communities to create wealth, to create products and services. And that is sustainable. It works.
God has given me the opportunity to serve entrepreneurs in the emerging marketplaces of the world. I come alongside people who aren’t going anywhere. They live and work in their own context and culture, mostly in the developing world, or what I call emerging marketplaces. In those places there is a lot of potential and a huge need for wealth creation. We are on the cusp of breakout, particularly in Africa. People can look at Africa as poor and backward, but there is huge potential to make leapfrog advances. And we need people with a business mentality and expertise to help bring it to reality.
I think it goes back to the fact that we haven’t chosen to honor the people in our churches who are in business roles. It’s not difficult, but many church leaders haven’t really thought about it. It’s not so much that they are opposed but just ignorant. When I talk to pastors about this, they aren’t deliberately trying to shut down businesspeople. They just haven’t thought about the need to honor them and bring them into the church’s function as more than just donors. Sometimes it’s a lack of language. When pastors are able to start expressing value for businesspeople, change will come.
I travel overseas and sit with businesspeople to listen to and affirm them. I encourage them to do good which is usually already on their heart to do, but it has never been affirmed. For example, many businesspeople overseas wrestle with not taking bribes. I can sit down with a businessperson and help them wrestle with that. I don’t give the answers but provide a place to talk and express frustration. The conversation can help someone come to the place where they can trust God with the outcome of doing the right thing.
These conversations are also effective with people of other faiths such as Jews and Muslims. If we sit down and wrestle with how to do business well, it builds bridges into their lives. Encouraging them as businesspeople opens them to the gospel.
Fortunately, change comes at the local level. I would encourage them to find ways to work for change within their sphere of influence. How can they be a sounding board for businesspeople? How can they engage marketplace people and learn from their perspective?
As the director of DOVE Medical Missions, I was recently in Kenya leading a team running a medical clinic. All of the medical care and medications we provided throughout the week were totally free. I felt uncomfortable. How much dignity were we stealing from these people by not allowing them to participate in some way for the service they were receiving? I started probing that question with some of the national leaders and there was a lot of agreement. On the last day of the clinic, a lady showed up with a chicken to pay for her medical visit. I was so happy to receive that chicken because that exchange of goods for a service meant we hadn’t stolen her dignity. It validated all I had been feeling.
Good business principles are God’s principles. There’s something out of whack if our missions is all about me giving to you. The solution to poverty is not handouts but helping people to create wealth. The people who can help us reshape this aspect of missions biblically are businesspeople. But we need to build new structures for those kinds of people to engage because they don’t fit the structures we have for pastors and missionaries.
Businesspeople are problem solvers. So, if we stir them up to create solutions in global contexts, they can do it. That’s what God made them to do! I don’t have all the answers, but it’s essential that we begin these conversations.
Businesspeople from Calvary Bible Church in Kalamazoo, MI, have assisted Asian entrepreneurs to develop businesses including a small retail shop, an IT training center, and a goat herd.
Save the Date
Interchange Conference | May 16 and 17 | Wayne, PA
Greg will lead a workshop on “Kingdom Professionals: How Your Church Can Better Support Them” at our Interchange Conference.