The Mormons Own Coca-Cola

…or is it Pepsi?

Surly you’ve heard this rumor repeated as evidence the the widespread and subversive influence on American culture. It was repeated to me recently during a conversation about missionary businessmen. Several church leaders were talking with a young man who is starting an internet research company so that he and his family could live wherever God sent them without having to raise support or look for a job. A noble concept, for a businessman. As soon as he’s up and running, I’ll post a link to this entrepreneur’s website.

The church leaders were intrigued. The idea of developing a business that would make money while fulfilling the Great Commission seemed like the silver bullet to “getting the job done.”

That got me thinking. If the rumor that Mormons own Coke was actually true, how awesome would that be for, you know, the Mormons? A single share of the Coca-Cola Company is worth over a billion U.S. dollars. That would buy enough white shirts, black ties, name tags, and bicycles to put pubescent Latter-Day Saints elders in every city in the world (with enough left over to keep their families in trampolines and special underwear).

The biggest problem in missions today isn’t a lack of willing workers. In this economy, any eight-year seminarian would jump at the chance of a full-ride to missionary superstardom. Nevermind what the Bible says, the problem isn’t people, it’s money.

Missions would be a lot easier of the churches didn’t hold the purse strings. Churches who get no say in what happens on the field, or even who is sent, but are expected to bankroll every initiative missionaries want to push– clearly, they are the problem. If churches are too stingy to fund strategic requests (church planting among some people groups require a Range Rover), I say we go Silicon Valley on them.

Why not start a business (or network of businesses) that would support the work around the world? Something that would fund missionaries while allowing them the flexibility to travel, plant churches, and disciple nationals. A legitimate business that would secure access into closed places and help develop community in positive ways without requiring them to do any actual work. Something like Google, but without all of the programming; like Coke, but without the overhead. Like Amway, but respectable and not so predatory.

Insurance comes to mind.

Why don’t we own anything that might help fund our missionary ventures? Why don’t regular old missionaries get in on the business-as-mission game? Banking, for example, would be an obvious choice. Or stocks– shares of Google, Apple, or even The Clapper, would buy a lot of plane tickets and ship a lot of peanut butter (everyone knows that Skippy is the key to retention of field personnel).

The answer is simple: most missionaries on the field today (and nearly all of the students coming out of the seminaries) are not business people. Many are talking about business as mission. It’s a great way to show businesspeople that what they do can have kingdom value. Whether it’s coffee shops, agricultural irrigation specialists, or pharmaceutical consultants, we need more businesspeople on mission. Folks who run and own companies naturally think strategically. They tend to be very good at networking (business often depends on it), and, except for the occasional used-car salesman or investment banker, they understand the need for a good work ethic.

Missionaries, not so much.

“Start a business” is not the answer to decreased giving, a right relationship to the sending church is.

4 thoughts on “The Mormons Own Coca-Cola

  1. our agency has some experience with the tent maker model, and what we have found is an inevitable decision needs to be made by 5he missionary:

    do i make money or disciples?

    unfortunately all too often, money wins.

    what we need is to live out the many members one body idea put forth by paul. we need to have missionaries, pastors, teachers working along side business people willing to put their profits to use by Christ. the ones in the field DEPEND on others who understand its GOD’s money anyway!

  2. Maybe the real issue is that we’re too busy trying to find that “silver bullet” and discount the cultural variation in how ministry in the Kingdom looks.

    Running a business in America has enough challenges; running it in a foreign country would be tougher (I say this as an American-business-owning missionary). If your skill set is business, that’s great, but don’t make all missionaries fit into the business model if that’s not what they previously understood.

    The other problem is fellow Christians’ worldly attitudes about business. As we prepared to go into the mission field, we had serious suggestion from other Christians that we were missing business/networking opportunities if we left the States. “Why not stay, build the business up, and give money to other missionaries in your mission field?” They were right about missing opportunities; our business has not grown as much since we’re out of the country, but it is still supporting us part-way.

    –C. Holland

  3. I try and get this blog into as many virtual hands as possible. Today’s post was no exception. Great post.

    I understand what El Chupacabra is saying. But I think we don’t ever need to choose one over the other (money vs. disciples.) Are business men going to spend more time on the business than a full time vocational Christian? Sure. But following Christ is more than just making disciples. I mean . . . it’s a huge freaking part of it, of course. Maybe my theology is off here, but I think God is glorified when a business man runs an ethically sound company, treats his employees well and obey’s God in his business dealings, JUST AS MUCH as when a missionary is blessed with the opportunity to disciple 3 new believers, ever 6 months. The business man may only make 4-5 disciples over the course of his life time, but he’s worshiping God with how he stewards what God has given him.

    Does that make sense? I’m soooo not a theologian and I was a horrible missionary so I could be way off.

  4. This is a great idea, but not just on a missionary funding level, but also on the individual pastoral level.

    I used to be a pastor, and was tired of always having to go on my knees to the elders to put food on my table for my wife and kids. They had the “pastors should be poor” mentality.

    So I found a job “outside the church” to pay my bills and am now working to plant a church where I don’t get paid by the church.

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