In 2006, Jeff Whittle left the construction company he was working for in Charlotte, North Carolina to start Ecclesia, a construction company that builds and remodels churches. From the outset, he was challenged by a pastor friend to give a corporate tithe on the company’s profits, a concept he wrestled to implement.
Nine years later, though, Ecclesia not only builds churches but also uses its tithe to build Christian community at home and overseas. At home, Ecclesia donates to the local food shelf and has a chaplain on staff for the subcontractors and construction site workers. Overseas, Ecclesia host trips to Guatemala where workers are building a retreat center for children. This is putting missions at the heart of business.
John Haley, Jeff’s partner at Ecclesia, had a passion to put missions at the heart of another business—Niteo Tours. An entrepreneur and businessman, John wanted to create a tour company that would support Christian believers and ministries around the globe. His reasoning behind the idea was simple. People vacation all the time, so why not give them the opportunity to “invest” their vacation dollars in Christian-owned businesses, hotels, restaurants, or guides in the countries visited?
After considerable prayer and research, John and his business partner, Kjell Garborg, launched this company, Niteo Tours. Niteo now offers tours in Italy and Guatemala and is developing tours for 2016 in Vietnam, Thailand, and Belize. Cultural adventures, expert guides, great hotels and service are now being combined to serve as tools to support God’s work around the world. This is putting missions at the heart of business.
Both Ecclesia and Niteo Tours are examples of what’s known as business as missions. Business as missions means excelling equally at both missions and business. Without a solid business strategy, a business flounders leaving little opportunity for outreach and missions. Without a spiritual plan-of-action though, the spiritual impact of a company is too often sidelined. Both support and complement each other.
What to consider if you want to put missions into the heart of your business:
- Realize that a business doesn’t have to be religious in nature to be a business-as-mission. According to John Haley, owner of Niteo Tours and Ecclesia, the key question is, What is the ultimate goal of your business? Once you’ve resolved that the goal is to serve the Lord, you’re well on your way to having a business-as-mission.
- Evaluate the spiritual aspect of your business. Ask, “What kind of spiritual impact does my business have? How does that compare with the spiritual impact God wants my business to have?”
- Ask God how he wants to use your business and do what he says. What you sell, how you sell it, and why you sell it completely change when you realize that your business belongs to God.
- Find someone who has incorporated missions into business and ask them questions. What has worked? What hasn’t worked?
- Look to partner with someone who is already doing missions. Jeff Whittle, owner of Ecclesia, found that rather than begin a new outreach in Guatemala, it made more sense to partner with Pastor David who was already working with children.
- Remember God has probably already called you to put missions into the heart of your business. If he has gifted you as a business person and given you a business, then make sure you’re using those gifts for him. Realizing God has “called” you may not be a call to sell your business and go into ministry but rather to use the gifts God has already given you right in your business.
Listening to God’s Voice
Jeff was initially challenged by a local pastor to tithe Ecclesia‘s profits. The unique idea of a corporate tithe tumbled around in Jeff’s mind but he set it aside wondering, How does that work and how am I going to make it happen?
Around the same time Jeff was starting Ecclesia, he and his wife, Kim, flew to Guatemala City to adopt their daughter Isabella. One evening they took a taxi to a local market and in that maze of one million people ran into Pastor David, a Guatemalan pastor they’d met previously in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Pastor David invited them to see the feeding program his church runs for children. As Jeff watched children being fed he heard God say, “This is what I want you to do with your tithe.” Jeff was overcome by God’s Spirit and he knew he had to to respond. Today building a retreat center for these Guatemalan children is just one of the many projects he and Ecclesia have taken on.