Eight years ago, Lori Chambers was working as a bank executive in Birmingham and wondering how her faith in Christ fit in with her job. When she mentioned her questions to a friend at church, he extended an invitation that changed her life.
He urged her to attend a local meeting of some two dozen Christian professionals who convened periodically to discuss the integration of business and faith in Christ. Known as Business as Mission, the group was part of a global movement focused on “the multiple bottom lines of economic, social, environmental and spiritual outcomes,” according to the movement’s website. Each local Business as Mission group is autonomous, though the umbrella organization Business as Mission Global convenes an annual online summit. This year’s is slated for April 27.
Through her participation in Business as Mission, Chambers found herself within a stream of Christians who see business as more than a way to turn profit. It’s a means of advancing God’s agenda in the world.
Business as Mission participants are not “storing up mammon for the sake of storing up mammon,” said Chambers, now a development officer with Hope International, an organization that helps people rise from poverty through business loans among other avenues. “God has asked me to steward financial resources and to do it with excellence.”
Business as Mission participants in several cities across the country host annual events known as The Lions Den, where Christian entrepreneurs present business ideas with potential Christian impact to investors looking for Christ-honoring ventures. The first Lions Den occurred in Birmingham 10 years ago, with similar events launched over the following decade in Dallas, Tampa, Portland and the Silicon Valley. Lions Den events have led to millions of dollars in funding for Christian business ventures.
Despite this success, the notion of business as mission is not without critics. Some see it as an oxymoron to claim capitalism advances God’s purposes for the world. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont released a book in February titled “It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism,” which argues unfettered business ventures are to blame for many of America’s problems. Within Christian circles, the Institute for Christian Socialism claims “the socialism of the Gospel is irreconcilable with capitalism.”
Amid such anti-business sentiment, some have wondered whether Christians can indeed advance God’s Kingdom through business.
Business-minded believers across the world have joined Chambers in answering with an emphatic yes. Among them is John Walsh, an independent film producer in Franklin, Tennessee, who recently produced the movie “Jesus Revolution.” Formerly, he served as chief operating officer for Christian filmmakers Jon and Andy Erwin, who produced “I Can Only Imagine” and “October Baby” among other movies.
Christian businesspeople have multiple avenues for gospel impact, Walsh said, including ministering to employees, using profits for philanthropy and producing products so excellent that they open doors to speak about Jesus.
“You can do something so excellent — like Chick-fil-A or In-N-Out Burger — that people just rave about it, and then they want to know who these people are and why they do it,” Walsh said. “That’s such an impact.”
Chris Chancey utilized business to advance missions when he founded Amplio Recruiting, an Atlanta-based staffing agency that helps international refugees find jobs in America. The company aims to ask each client how they can pray for that person’s family. After a client finds employment, Amplio tries to get invited into the client’s home to share the gospel.
Though Amplio doesn’t track the number of people to profess faith through their efforts, men and women have come to a saving knowledge of Christ through their ministry.
Some business owners may pursue “money at all costs,” Chancey said, but “there are still some businesses and ways of operating that would be more of an ethical approach — a win/win engagement.”
In such a business, profit can indicate success at impacting lives, said Chancey, who sold Amplio in 2021 but remains involved as a consultant.
“The original intent and expectation of business” includes “a component of improving the lives of the people connected to that business in some capacity,” Chancey said. “Capital was a byproduct of that. Capital is the outcome of serving the customer well.”
Chancey now resides in Jacksonville, Florida, and continues to participate in Business as Mission, including regular attendance at Dallas and Birmingham Lion’s Den events. He and fellow Christian businesspeople refuse to believe capitalism is inherently evil. They have seen too many lives impacted for good.
Dan Stafford, event manager for the Birmingham Lions Den, said utilizing business as mission can even open doors for the gospel in places closed to traditional churches and ministries.
Many Christians “think they have to go into missions or ministry” to make an impact for Christ, Stafford said. “But we want them to also look at going into Business as Mission.” They “can work in their area of expertise and impact the Kingdom at the same time. It’s a different way to spread the gospel because in a lot of countries, you can’t have traditional missions agencies and churches.”