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Business As Mission

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Dr. Ross O’Brien is the Director of Business as Mission here at DBU. He sat down and talked with us about DBU’s Business as Mission program and how this new movement is taking off as one of the strategies evangelical Christians use to spread the Gospel throughout the world. 

What do you do at DBU?

I primarily teach management and entrepreneurship courses here on campus. I started the entrepreneurship major, and I am the Director of the Center for Business as Mission. We have undergraduate classes in Business as Mission, as well as a graduate program. Our program does travel-study as well, and I oversee that.”

IMG 5235What is Business as Mission? What would you like students who are interested in this program to know about it?

“Business as Mission (BAM) is the use of business to communicate the Gospel. This is not a new concept; it was introduced in the New Testament. Lydia was a business woman who was able to support the work of the church. Paul was a tentmaker and was able to support himself as he planted churches. There are examples throughout the church’s history of people using their vocations to minister to people and engage their culture to communicate the Gospel and make disciples. However, BAM is a new movement in that it has really gained momentum in the past twenty to thirty years. Because it is new as a movement and there are a lot of different people involved, there are many definitions used to describe Business as Mission. A pure definition would be that Business as Mission is “Real business [for profit], viable, sustainable and profitable businesses; with a Kingdom of God purpose, perspective, and impact; leading to the transformation of people and societies spiritually, economically, and socially— to the greater glory of God (Mats Tunehag).” This is especially applicable to businesses in countries that are hard to reach with the Gospel; however, there are businesses here in Dallas that are Kingdom-minded as well. Missions, by definition, crosses a border, be it geographic, cultural, or linguistic. BAM is crossing a border with the Gospel within a context of sustainable business.

“Often these businesses have some type of social component, such as social justice. For example, Freeset ( is a company from New Zealand working in Kolkata, India. This company realized that there are over 10,000 women trapped in the sex trade in the red light district of Kolkata. This business not only offers employment to at risk women through making items like shirts and bags, but also provides education for the women who have never learned to read and write. For women with small children, daycare services are provided. The purpose of this business is to share the Gospel with these women so that they can come to know Christ.

IMG 5243“Another example of BAM is a resort in the Riau Islands of Indonesia. The resort gives the people who visit their resort the opportunity to become connected with social projects happening in the community. The people who run the resort are believers, and they make an effort to share the Gospel with the community as well as the visitors who stay at the resort.

“Most BAM businesses are simply businesses rather than social justice organizations. One example of this is a company in China that has 25 businesses throughout the country. There is no social agenda behind their company, but they are a Kingdom-minded company that employs hundreds of people who make good products that are beneficial to society. It gives these employees a safe place to work that pays a reasonable wage. They also have Bible-studies in the factory and share the Gospel with their employees.

“All of these businesses are very different, but their common purpose is to share the Gospel and make disciples within the communities that they are based in. Business as Mission has really taken off as a movement, and I think there are several reasons for that, some good and some not so good. Back in the eighties, mission organizations started recognizing that many countries are either completely closed to missionaries or that the people are closed off to hearing the Gospel. Because of this they began to send missionaries as “businesses,” but they weren’t really doing business. They had good intentions, but there was not a lot of integrity in it.

Another factor that contributed to the development of BAM is the breakdown of the “sacred-secular divide.” It used to be that the church viewed vocational ministry as a calling from God, but not other career paths. Today most Christians recognize that God calls people to all professions: teachers, lawyers, and business men and women. Because of this realization within the church, business people are starting to realize that they have unique opportunities to holistically carry out the Gospel. The products that they make that can help further the Kingdom of God, and the way they treat their employees can exhibit Christ. Their bookkeeping shows integrity.”

Why do you do what you do?

“My parents were missionaries to Indonesia when I was born, and we returned to the U.S. when I was seven. After that I felt called to missions, and in 1993-1994 my wife and I were missionaries to Indonesia. However, God closed the doors for us to be missionaries after that, and for a while I worked in sales. I learned about business from that job, and then I started my own business. Each step along the way God was preparing and equipping me for where He has me now. The outcome of that is that I have the coolest job. I love teaching at DBU. The students here make my job great.”

Do you have anything else that you would like students to know about the Business as Mission program?

 “I love students to come by and talk to me, regardless of their interests or major. I especially enjoy talking to International students. I have lived overseas, so I understand what it’s like to come to another country and have to move so far away and learn a new language and culture. I also want all of our students to find ways that God has equipped them to impact the Kingdom of God with their particular interests and in their field of study.”

Thank you, Dr. O’Brien, for sharing your passion for Business as Mission and for everything you do here at DBU!


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