“What advice would you give a young man like me?”
This question came to me following a talk I gave last week at a Business as Mission conference in the Midwest. I had just spoken to a group of 25 young professionals and a recent graduate of a state agricultural university came up to me and gave a little background of his training and his work with a major agricultural trading company. He explained his love of agriculture and wondered how he could use his skill set and his passion for business to make Jesus known.
My ideas can be summed up in five easy to remember ‘P’ steps:
Each of us is uniquely created with a God-given wiring which includes our personality, interests, gifts, experiences and heart. The first step then for each of us is to understand this and have others validate it. My young friend knew he was wired for agricultural business and he told me, “I want to live my life for God and am willing to do whatever He would have me to do.” Great start! He understands WHO he is.
The next step is to understand God’s ultimate purpose – He wants all peoples to worship Him. A well-known attorney once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the law was. Jesus responded, “Love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He added another which is the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40). Later on Jesus reminded His followers to help others come to follow Him too (Matthew 28:19).
Now the question is how to bring all of this together with integrity and ensure we are living the integrated life with our profession. People must see God in the way we are living our life in the marketplace. What we are on the inside is the same as how we act on the outside. Most of us are not called to leave the marketplace – but to fulfill our wiring in ways to accomplish God’s purposes. Loving God! Loving our neighbor! Bringing others to follow him! This is the WHY for life.
For those of us in business, we love God by living honestly and with excellence; we can love our neighbor by creating jobs; we can show others how to follow Jesus by living our lives with kingdom values. That is our purpose – we need to start now where we are – and then that becomes a transferable model to all places on earth. This short video helps demonstrate this: http://vimeo.com/73684887
This next step builds on the first one – WHO we are – and asks “WHAT do I have to contribute in the marketplace?” We are all producing members of society. Every business has a product which is offered to the customer. Every individual brings his/her ability to produce something which the business and the marketplace needs.
My friend has discovered that he has the ability to trade agricultural commodities for the benefit of his large trading firm but also to the benefit of the ultimate consumer. He has a key part in the business transactional process. He understands what he brings to the marketplace. He sees the big picture – from the farmer in the field planting his grain to the ultimate vision, the end product – feeding the hungry of the world. In short this third ‘P’ requires a clear understanding of how we fit in the grand scheme of ultimate purpose.
Most successful endeavors require a plan – the strategic understanding of HOW to achieve the purpose of the business and person. In terms of the next steps described here, a plan could involve:
- Keeping current on our profession being excellent in everything.
- Doing all we can to understand our part in Business as Mission by reading websites like www.businessasmission.com; www.understandbam.com; www.agoraenterprises.org; www.thirdpathinitiative.com; www.ibecventures.com.
- Reading books like The Integrated Life, Ken Eldred; God is at Work, Ken Eldred; Globalization, Bob Roberts; Business as Mission, Mike Baer.
- Taking a trip to a kingdom business in a foreign country to see for yourself how it works and seek to contribute to company needs. Check out the videos on IBEC’s website.
- Being an advocate for an integrated life in your company, community and church by promoting seminars and a NewVo Business (www.newvobusiness.com) chapter.
- Attending a BAM conference. Contact: email@example.com for some ideas.
- Get involved in some place in the world.
The final step is a natural progression from the Plan – i.e. get involved. That does not necessarily mean you move to some faraway place. Take some small steps first. It can involve connecting with an overseas business, explaining your expertise and offering to be a consultant, a coach or a Subject Matter Expert. For example our friend with experience, interest and training in the agricultural sector may want to connect with an agriculture business in Asia – helping with trading/marketing their product. The place of involvement depends on the opportunities at the moment, the individual’s interests, the timing, and willingness to take the next step. This is the WHERE of involvement. IBEC Ventures can help with these connections.
By following these five “easy” sequential steps one will find that they are not easy in the sense that challenges and hurdles will surface; but the rewards in the end will be without equal. We will be living our lives in missional, integrated ways – all the while bringing “love” to the needy and Jesus to the unreached.
Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures