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Who are “the Called”? Mission, Commission, and Accountability

What seems to be happening apart from the efforts of local churches and Christian universities is a groundswell of activity from laypeople that want to make a difference in the place where God has called them. If the Christian university and the local church cannot find ways to help them define and do that, then they will begin to find ways to do those things themselves.

Business as Mission

One such effort is called “Business as Mission” (hereafter referred to as BAM). While it has become a buzzword among religious missions programs led by missiologists, Christian business people themselves have taken on the task of defining BAM differently. In examining this phenomenon, I am indebted to the excellent work of C. Neal Johnson.32 His book begins with a very revealing interview:

The idea (of BAM) is … simple: It assumes that the main players in overseas kingdom work are not trained cross-cultural missionaries or NGO professionals, but laypeople who take their current expertise (whether it is teaching, plumbing, electronics, or so forth) and use it to serve people in other nations … I view the church as an army of missionaries sitting in the pews. My job is to utilize them … Some people talk about “business as mission,” how we’re going to use business to do mission work. That’s an insult to the businessman [sic], because to him business is his mission. His mission is the kingdom of God.33

Johnson is careful to distinguish in his book his understanding of BAM from those of others who develop a business to get into countries where they could not enter as Christian missionaries. Sometimes those “businesses” are shams, only “covers” for covert missionary activity. Sometimes businesses claim to be “Christian” in the hope of profiting from church people patronizing their business; they are hoping to exploit the Christian part of “Christian” business.

At a conference at Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2004, made up of sixty-eight BAM activists from twenty-eight countries, Johnson described how difficult it was to come up with a definition of BAM.34 The participants managed at the conference to find some key characteristics with which they could agree.35 Johnson’s own definition reads:

BAM is broadly defined as a for-profit commercial business venture that is Christian led, intentionally devoted to being used as an instrument of God’s mission (missio Dei) to the world, and is operated in a cross-cultural environment, either domestic or international.36

Johnson is insistent that BAM should be understood as involving legitimate for-profit business enterprises, not missions’ organizations or charities disguised as businesses.

While the participants in the conference might have quibbled about proper definitions of BAM, what is important to me about this whole process is that it was lay led with a clear desire to fulfill God’s mission as business people. It was an effort from the grassroots to define mission clearly in terms of a secular business enterprise with the goal of “the greater glory of God.”37 Johnson’s book is full of insights and success stories from various business enterprises established around the world. This is an amazing resource for lay businesspeople who feel called individually to be the best businessperson and/or have the best business for the glory of God. Interestingly, Johnson speaks about call and spiritual formation in very similar ways to the ones I have articulated in this book.38 Pastors and local churches will find a rich mine of material as they attempt to help their lay businesspeople find their callings in their communities.

Efforts similar to BAM in relation to other professions might spring up from the grassroots. It would be exciting to see Public School Teaching as Mission (PSTM), Law as Mission (LAM), Medicine as Mission (MAM—not just doctors or nurses going on short-term missions’ trips but serving their communities “for the glory of God”), Factory Work as Mission (FWM), Government Work as Mission (GWM), etc. Rather than consider such professions as necessary evils in our society or places that are thought to be hopelessly corrupt (lawyers, government workers, and public schools are especially singled out for complaint), the pastor and laypeople can pray that God will call people to those places in society where they might be salt and light there. In addition, pastors and laypeople can pledge to make every effort to equip the called ones and intercede in prayer for them.

It is important in my plan that lay ministers become integrated into the fabric of the local church in regard to the callings as lay ministers. However, it would also be good for local churches to sponsor in their church building groups such as BAM and any others that might spring up spontaneously. Again, it is important that such groups not be isolated from the life of the local church and its mission; however, it is also good for them to be able to meet regularly to “talk shop” about their professions, their callings.

If the formation of BAM is any indication, perhaps this is a new wind of the Spirit blowing on the hearts of laypeople. If the role of the laity has been obscured in the local church,39 which reduces the laity to passivity,40 then the Spirit, free and unrestrained by human control, must descend upon open hearts willing to be called to serve God in places often relegated to and dismissed as worldly, fleshly, and devilish. The laity is working and living in places the institutional church may not enter by law or by social custom. I think laypeople are beginning to listen to what the Spirit might be saying that is different from what they might be hearing in their churches. They just might be hearing God’s call to these places.

It is the daring and provocative preaching of Pentecostal ministers in the past who have insisted that the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled, restricted, or restrained. The Spirit is alive and well and working in ways that cannot be thwarted by institutions, social customs, or even well established traditions. Indeed, pioneers of the modern Pentecostal movement railed against those very obstacles at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, might there be a new outpouring of the Spirit that blesses lay ministries?

I would pray that the Spirit would continue to call and send committed laypeople to the most confounding places of North American society: public schools, political arenas, the legal profession, and the establishment media. Hopefully, pastors and local churches will begin to recognize where the Spirit is working and will join in affirming and commissioning these laypeople rather than resisting this work and insisting on only conventional paths of Christian ministry. The wind of the Spirit is blowing and no one can control the direction.




Next Issue:

Chapter Five from Steven M. Fettke, God’s Empowered People: A Pentecostal Theology of the Laity (Wipf & Stock 2011), “Forming a Community of the Spirit: Hospitality, Fellowship, and Nurture.”



1 Walter Brueggemann, Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 19-20.
2 The General Council of the Assemblies of God. “Our 16 Fundamental Truths,” lines 1-11.
3 See W. Rodman MacIlvaine, III. “How Churches Become Missional” Bibliothecra Sacra 167 (April-June), 231.
4 Peter Althouse in a book review of Invading Secular Space appearing in The Pneuma Review 11:4 (Fall 2008), 60-61.
5 Jey J. Kanagaraj. “The Involvement of the Laity in the Ministry of the Church.” Journal of Evangelical Review of Theology 21/4 (1997), 327.
6 Anthony D. Palma, “Who is a Minister?” Advance (1979), 13.
7 Victor Paul Furnish, “Theology and Ministry in the Pauline Letters,” in A Biblical Basis for Ministry, Earl Shelp and Ronald Sunderland, eds. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1981), 131.
8 James C. Fenhagen, Mutual Ministry (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1977), 101.
9 Ibid., 103.
10Ibid., 99ff.
11 Hendrik Kraemer, Theology of the Laity (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 139-140.
12 Fenhagen, Ibid., 102.
13 Robert C. Worley, A Gathering of Strangers (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1984), 38.
14 Fenhagen, Ibid., 101.
15 Ibid., 106.
16 Ibid., 105.
17 Richard R. Brohom, “How Can You Believe You’re a Minister When the Church Keeps Telling You You’re Not?” The Laity in Ministry (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1984), 25.
18 Carolyn MacDougal, “Ministry in Work Setting: A Personal Study,” The Laity in Ministry (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1984), 51-52.
19 Celia A. Hahn, Lay Voices in an Open Church (Washington, D.C.: The Alban Institute, 1985), 17.
20 Fenhagen, Ibid., 109.
21 Ibid. 107.
22 See Mary Elizabeth Moore, “Commissioning the People of God: Called to Be a Community in Mission” Journal of Quarterly Review 23:4 (2003), 399-411. This article comes from the United Methodist Church tradition, but it makes a strong case from John Wesley’s ministry that he practiced the commissioning of lay preachers, class leaders, deacons, elders, and superintendents. “Wesley did not see ordained roles as distinct but defined them in relation to the ministry of the body…The ministry of all Christians was thus central to the words and practices of the early Wesleyan movement” (401).
23 Jim Stockard, “Commissioning the Ministries of the Laity: How It Works and Why It Isn’t Being Done,” in The Laity in Ministry (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1984), 72-75.
24 Ibid., 72.
25 Ibid., 73.
26 Fenhagen, Ibid., 107.
27 Ibid.
28 Furnish, Ibid., 133.
29 Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996): 43; (emphasis mine).
30 Ibid., 42.
31 Ibid., 43; (emphasis mine).
32 C. Neal Johnson, Business as Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2009).
33 Ibid., 24 Bob Roberts, Jr., as interviewed by Mark Galli.
34 Ibid., 28.
35 Ibid., 29.
36 Ibid., 28.
37 Ibid., 29.
38 Ibid., 193-213.

39 Miroslov Volf. After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 227.

40 Frank Macchia, “The Struggle for the Spirit in the Church: The Gifts of the Spirit and the Kingdom of God in Pentecostal Perspective,” Theology and Worship Tidings 10 (2000), 16-17.


This chapter is from Steven M. Fettke, God’s Empowered People: A Pentecostal Theology of the Laity (Wipf & Stock 2011). Used with permission.


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Category: Fall 2011, Ministry

About the Author: Steven M. Fettke, M.Div. (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Th.M., D.Min. (Columbia Theological Seminary), is Professor of Religion at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He was awarded the Delta Alpha Distinguished Educator Award by the Alliance for Assemblies of God Higher Education in 2009. He is the author of Messages to a Nation in Crisis: An Introduction to the Prophecy of Jeremiah (1982).

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