This past week in formation group we had a special guest for 'Global Christian Week.' Tim Taylor, founder and director of Coffee Ambassadors came to present a new model for doing missions that he considers the future of missions, that is business as missions.
What is business as missions? Business as missions is starting for profit businesses that are not first and foremost concerned about making money. They aim to reflect Christ in the way they do business, specifically they do business ethically and with the goal of having a positive impact on the lives of all who they come in contact with and ultimately building relationships through which they can share the gospel. Perhaps it would be easiest to explain through the example of what Tim is doing in Coffee Ambassadors.
Coffee is the number two traded commodity in the world. Typically, coffee is bought from farmers in the developing world for a low price, traded several times along the way, and then purchased by coffee roasters. Each individual along the way takes some profit. What Coffee Ambassadors does is to go in and work directly with the farmers (called 'direct trade' which is different than fair trade, but for the sake of space I won't get into that here) and pays them much higher prices for their coffee. They can do this since the middle man is out of the way. They also work with the farmers on ways to improve their coffee so that they can charge a higher price for it. Through this, they help local farmers by paying them more, which in turn helps local economies. At the same time, they are building relationships with these farmers through which they can share the gospel. As an aside, 73% of unreached people groups reside in areas that grow coffee.
What do you think of this form of missions? I like it because it focuses on the whole picture. It's not just about saving souls, it redeems the entire man. It helps people regain a sense of dignity that is often lost through the unethical way trade is often done, which I believe comes full circle and is a powerful testimony to the work of Christ in our lives. What do you think? What do you see as some of the advantages and drawbacks of this approach?