The Beehive

You might be wondering what Ellen White and honey bees have in common. Let me explain…

Oakland & San Francisco in the 1870s

Around 1876, visionary Ellen White had a remarkable dream about startups 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 ventures 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 in a sustainable way and showing to everyone in a practical way that God is love. Ellen White called this network of missional ventures a beehive.

Many church members were involved in helping the poor, caring for the sick, finding homes for orphans and jobs for the unemployed. They were running vegetarian restaurants, health food stores, treatment centers, health care facilities, schools and day-cares. They helped exhausted immigrants who came to the great ports of Northern California by ship. They had centers of influence all over the city, especially in the city center on Market Street. Adventists became known for their benevolence in San Francisco.

With this penetrating and continual influence of kindness towards all classes of society, they generated so much interest that people wanted to know more about their values and beliefs. So when evangelists came to conduct meetings in the Bay Area, thousands of people would come and hear what Adventists had to say. 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 told church leaders that they needed to focus on New York City. And do you know how they were supposed to reach this city? Through missional entrepreneurship.¹ 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. She writes, “When the cities are worked as God would have them, the result will be the setting in operation of a mighty movement such as we have not yet witnessed.²

But we neglected this work.

Before she died in 1915, Ellen White must have been quite disappointed. 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 & beyond.

But most churches focussed on traditional, short-term evangelism. They sent out flyers, asked people to distribute them in their free time, and organized camp meetings to baptize a few here and there. And then we would go quiet again for some time until someone wanted to do another campaign. It wasn’t sustainable or effective, and it didn’t have a long-term influence on the city.

The co-founder of our church stayed persistent. She wrote letters, published articles and appealed to General Conference presidents to focus on mission work through entrepreneurship.³ Entire books were written or compiled on different enterprises models that could be used to reach people.⁴ 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. So many Adventists were just talking, and not working.⁵ 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.⁶ If the church members didn’t work together with ministers, the work would never be finished. And in 1910, she said a decided change from past methods needed to happen.⁷ In other words: hundreds of thousands of people would die if we didn’t change our paradigm of work.

Let's pick it back up.

It’s been over a hundred years. But now is the time. 50% of young people want to start their own businesses. 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 missional 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! It is not too late to make it happen.

Join the movement.

Connect with hundreds of other Adventists, showcase your missional business and join our thriving community. Our vision is to create a “beehive” network in every city of the world — and we need your help.

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  1. See Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, chapter 11 – subsection “New York City” (7T54). 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. For a better understanding of what happened in the years 1909 and 1910, we recommend Arthur White’s biography on Ellen White: The Later Elmshaven Years: 1905-1915 (vol. 6), chapter 18 “America’s Cities — The Great Unworked Field“.
  4. A few examples are publications like Health Food Ministry, Medical Ministry, and Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7.
  5. This is taken from The Review & Herald, July 21, 1896. 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.
  6. In 1906, her “Notes of Travel” were published in The Review & Herald on July 5. The urgency in these paragraphs is unparalleled.
  7. First published in Testimonies of the Church, vol. 9 (1909). “Plans for Enlarging Our Laboring Forces” on pages 116-117.