The Beehive Involves Everyone

Around 1876, Ellen White had a remarkable dream about a comprehensive approach to ministry in and around San Francisco which came to fruition almost three decades later.

Although that area includes today’s Silicon Valley, the nature of these “start-ups” was very different back then. It was all about natural health care, innovative culinary cuisine, and social & spiritual impact. These business owners were striving to solve the world’s most pressing problems and showing everyone, in a practical way, that God is love. Ellen White called this network of missional ventures a beehive.[1]

Not just pastors, but every member of the faith community was involved. Some were helping the poor, caring for the sick, or finding homes for orphans and jobs for the unemployed. Others were running vegetarian restaurants, health food stores, treatment centers, health-care facilities, schools, and daycares. They helped exhausted immigrants who came to the great ports of Northern California by ship. They had centers all over the city, especially in the city center on Market Street. Adventists became known for their benevolence in San Francisco.

With this continually positive influence of unselfish acts and genuine kindness toward all classes of society, they won their trust and generated so much interest that people wanted to know more about the values that made them live such a happy and kind lifestyle. So, when pastors came to conduct meetings in the Bay Area, the response of the people that came to hear what Adventists had to say was overwhelming. The message was shared in a very effective way. Isn’t that beautiful?

This beehive model stood for a collaborative entrepreneurial approach to ministry, involving all talents in the service of God and humanity.

New York City As an Example

Actually, the Bay Area wasn’t the only beehive location. Ellen White encouraged church leaders to take this concept of comprehensive ministry and apply it to New York City, in order to allow it to become a symbol of what needs to be done in every city of the world. And do you know how they were supposed to reach this city? Through missional entrepreneurship.[2] One vegetarian restaurant wasn’t enough. She called for a chain of restaurants—a franchise of sorts—to reach that vast city! Also, clinics, sanitariums and hospitals, health food manufacturing businesses, and cooking classes were needed! It had to be sustainable and effective. She predicted an unprecedented movement, if they would but listen to her and implement the beehive model.[3]

But We Neglected This Work

Before she died in 1915, Ellen White must have been quite disappointed regarding the slow adoption of this work. During the last 20 years of her life, she had repeated over and over again that the beehive model—sustainable missional entrepreneurship—needed to be done properly and taken to other cities in North America and beyond.

But most churches focused on traditional, short-term evangelistic efforts with quick results. They sent out flyers, asked people to distribute them in their free time, and organized meetings. Few would get baptized. Then, the work would lay waste again for months or years until a subsequent campaign was organized. It wasn’t sustainable or effective, and it didn’t have a long-term influence on the city.

The cofounder of our church stayed persistent. She wrote letters, published articles, and appealed to General Conference presidents to focus on mission work through entrepreneurship.[4] Entire books were written or compiled on different missional business models that could be used to reach people.[5] Under her guidance, the first college to train lay people to become missional entrepreneurs was started called Madison College. She urged them to involve all church members instead of just counting on pastors alone. So many Adventists were just talking, and not working.[6] God couldn’t pour out His Spirit.

Nine years before her death, she picked up that beehive dream again. She said, “Let’s work the cities!” and referred to missional entrepreneurship.[7] “The work of God in this earth can never be finished” until the church members get involved and unite their efforts with ministers and church officers.[8] And in 1910, she said a decided change from past methods needed to happen

Let’s Pick It Back Up

It’s been over a hundred years. But now is the time. A recent study from the University of Phoenix noticed that 63% of young people under 30 want to start their own businesses, if they haven’t already. And studies show that they would rather forego increased wages in order to work in a place where they can live out their values and combine their passion with their profession. Now is the time. We are called to be busy bees for God’s kingdom and serve the people in our cities with creativity, love, and integrity.

And that’s why we founded Hyve. Our vision is to establish a beehive network of Adventist business ventures in every city of the world. We want to bring the forgotten dream back to life and finish what had been started in San Francisco and New York so long ago.

Imagine having a beehive in your city. Adventist-owned restaurants, clinics, mechanic shops, accounting firms, bakeries, farmers, designers, developers, plumbers, painters, music stores, employment agencies—you name it. All working together to reach the city with the good news of Christ’s soon return! You are called to play a part in this great movement!

“To everyone who becomes a partaker of His grace the Lord appoints a work for others. Individually we are to stand in our lot and place, saying, ‘Here am I; send me.’ Isaiah 6:8. Upon the minister of the word, the missionary nurse, the Christian physician, the individual Christian, whether he be merchant or farmer, professional man or mechanic—the responsibility rests upon all. It is our work to reveal to men the gospel of their salvation. Every enterprise in which we engage should be a means to this end.”[9]

[1] Ellen G. White, “Note of Travel—No. 3: The Judgments of God on Our Cities,” Review and Herald 83, no. 27 (1906): 8.

[2] See Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1902), 54, 55. Ellen White makes it clear that there is a need to reach the city, and one vegetarian restaurant wasn’t enough. They needed to do a franchise and open treatment centers and cooking schools too. Other cities like San Diego are mentioned here as well.

[3] For more details, read her letter from 1909 entitled “Brethren” (June 9, 1909). “When the cities are worked as God would have them [the beehive model], the result will be the setting in operation of a mighty movement such as we have not yet witnessed. God calls for self-sacrificing men, converted to the truth, to let their light shine forth in clear, distinct rays.”

[4] For a better understanding of what happened in the years 1909 and 1910, we recommend Arthur L. White’s biography on Ellen White: The Later Elmshaven Years: 1905-1915, vol. 6 (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1982), 219–230.

[5] A few examples are publications like Health Food Ministry, Medical Ministry, and Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7.

[6] This is taken from The Review and Herald, July 21, 1896, p. 449, 450. She entitled her article “Why the Lord Waits,” and urged us to consecrate ourselves fully to God. Then our faith will be shown in works, and we will reach the cities.

[7] In 1906, her “Notes of Travel–No. 3” were published in The Review and Herald on July 5. The urgency in these paragraphs is unparalleled.

[8] Ellen G. White, Testimonies of the Church, vol. 9 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1909), 116.

[9] Ellen G. White, Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), 148.

Jesse Zwiker

Jesse Zwiker, born in Switzerland, started his career as a missionary in Honduras at the age of 19 co-founding VIDA International. There, he recognized the power of entrepreneurship in the context of ministry and then went on to found several ventures in the for-profit and non-profit sector, including Crosslingo. He is the president of Hyve, a global Adventist community of missional entrepreneurs, where he shares his passion for combining faith and entrepreneurship. He lives in Chattanooga, USA together with his beautiful wife and two children.