Building a Strong Professional Identity
    About Lesson

    Professional Identity broken into 12 components where each “missionary” should work to be strong in:

    Legitimate Job:

    In the most basic terms, your professional identity is defined by your job. One of the first questions you will be asked is “What do you do?” Your answer to this question should be simple. Your professional identity should be based on a legitimate occupation. Whether you work for an NGO, own a business, teach at a school or are a pastor, your profession should be real. We are not simply looking for perceived jobs to portray a false façade to neighbors or to the government. We need to do what we say we do.

    Welcomed:

    There is nothing worse than starting a business that hinders your ability to build relationships. It is very important to consider your business idea or profession to make sure that it is actually wanted and welcomed by the host culture. Is your profession offensive in any way? Are you seen as a threat to other businesses? Doors will be opened before you if the community sees you as providing unique value to its people.

    Appropriate Workplace:

    Many of us come from countries where working from home is considered ideal. Is that true of your host culture? Having a workplace that is consistent with your identity is important. As you consider your place of work, you may want to try to look at through the eyes of your local friends. Does the location of your office make sense? Is the quality of your furniture and decorations consistent with your identity? Creating a professional work environment will definitely help in the eyes of your local clients. It will also help you to work effectively and efficiently while you are out of the home.

    Integrity:

    The Bible says that they will know we are Christians by our love. For BAM, I would say, “They will know you are a Kingdom company by your integrity.” Integrity should be a core value for any Kingdom business. This will be reflected in the way you pay your taxes, follow the business laws of the land and how your treat clients, employees and partners. As Christian business owners we should do everything in our power to keep our businesses legal and full of integrity. Our witness is damaged when we offer to pay bribes or intentionally hide income to lower taxes. When we take care of employees who need maternity leave or are in the hospital, we reveal that we honestly do value people because we follow Jesus.

    Thrusts You into the Community:

    The perfect profession in BAM is one that demands that you engage with the local community. We often say, “Business is ministry.” This is a true statement unless you have a job that never puts you in contact with your host culture. Not all jobs are created equal when it comes to engaging the lost. It is true that some professions require more computer or office time. In those cases, you will need to look for strategic opportunities that will allow you to interact with the community.

    Blesses Locals:

    One of the concepts that I love about BAM, and even more about B4T (Business for Transformation) is the idea of blessing the local community. First and foremost, we want to bless them with the message of Jesus. We also want to bless them by providing jobs, developing the community and giving back to our host culture. In some cases, the message of Jesus will be refused at first. Over years of blessing the community with employment and increased dignity, the walls begin to come down and doors open for the gospel message. Christian businesses should be blessing businesses.

    Solid Work Ethic:

    The Bible is very clear that we should be committed to working hard. Can this be said about you? Kingdom businesses need people who are not afraid to work. We should realize that work is a gift from the Lord and he expects us to work with all of our hearts. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” This implies that when you are at work, you should be giving it your best. This does not mean that you need to work 24 hours a day, but it does mean that during your workday, you should work. We would rather someone with a little experience and good work ethic any day over someone with extreme talent who is lazy.

    Models Work and Ministry:

    Most “missional entrepreneurs” seem to have this notion that if they can work 20 hours per week, they will have plenty of time for the “real thing.” Have you ever heard this? Our concern with this concept is that we wonder what we are modeling to the local Christian community. Most of them will have to work full time to feed their families. We need to model what it means to do work and ministry at the same time. They must see that they can be ministers of the gospel both during their official workday and also after work hours. Unfortunately, we have modeled an unrealistic, irreproducible model to our local brothers and sisters.

    Remember what Paul says in 2 Thess. 3:7-9, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.”

    Profitable:

    By the pure definition of the word “business,” you should be looking to generate a profit. Although our first thought may be financial profit, in BAM we realize that there can be multiple kinds of bottom lines. In some circles, they refer to the triple bottom line for BAM. This means that they want their businesses to have financial, spiritual and social impact. We do want our professions to be “profitable,” and surely we mean more than just monetarily. Businesses will have varying degrees of impact spiritually, socially, and financially, but most businesses should be generate all three types of profit.

    Sustainable:

    Any successful business should also be sustainable. Businesses should continue to grow and survive year after year. Perhaps it is easier to give an example of a non-sustainable business. Many years ago I talked with a man who was running an “import/export” business. I asked him how business was going and he told me that he had just shipped $5000 worth of merchandise back to his home country. I thought to myself, “That is great!” He explained to me how the local government required a certain amount of activity each year, so he had met the quota through this transaction. I was shocked when he told me that all of the goods were sitting in his garage back home with no one to buy it. Is this a sustainable business? There is no way that he could continue this model over the long-term. We want our professional identities to be focused on the long-term.

    No Duplicity:

    Is what you are telling your local friends about your identity consistent with what you are actually doing? Whether in your profession or your witness, it is important that your message is true and consistent with your life. A Christian lives in obedience to Christ. A business owner runs a business. A teacher teaches. We are not looking to deceive our host culture. Adjusting your life to be perceived as something you aren’t is dishonest. Your Christian testimony will be damaged if your local friends accuse you of lying. They may also question the gospel message you have been sharing. We are looking to be bold proclaimers of Jesus who also truly run businesses, teach at schools or work with NGOs.

    Persistent Improvement:

    A common practice in many professions is required professional development. This should be a core practice in any BAM practitioner’s life. We should continually strive to develop and improve in our professionalism. We’re not saying that you need to leave your country to get an MBA or other degree, but you should be constantly learning. Whether you are improving in marketing, customer service or basic bookkeeping, each small step forward will have impact in the long run. I know many people who set aside 20 – 30 minutes every day for language improvement, physical exercise and Biblical growth, so why not set aside time daily to grow in your profession?

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