by Jo Plummer
This year marks around 20 years since the term ‘Business as Mission’ was first used and discussed amongst a growing group of like-minded people around the world. Of course, there were pioneer BAM models before that time, not to mention the fact that business and mission have been integrated in many different ways since Paul the Apostle made tents! However, for this modern iteration, the cohesion and an international conversation around this concept really started around 20 years ago.
I like to think of this pioneer generation and what has followed as ‘BAM 1.0’. It is amazing to reflect on all God has done in our global community in the past couple of decades! Now, as we look forward to the future, we want to explore the theme of ‘BAM 2.0’ for a new series of posts on The BAM Review blog. In the coming months, we’ll discover where we’ve got to and the issues we still face for the future.
To prepare for this series, we asked 20 leaders who have been engaged in business as mission for between 10 and 35 years to tell us what they believe are the most pressing issues we must address if the BAM movement is to be even more fruitful for the next 20 years… and beyond! While this isn’t a scientific survey across the entire BAM community, it does represent wisdom from a collection of leaders who have served long in our movement.
Here are the 10 overarching issues that were identified by these leaders, in no particular order:
1. Solving Real Global Problems
We need to look at real-world problems and address them with a greater number of scalable businesses, for greater kingdom impact. This is our WHY! God has called us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, to free the oppressed, care for our world and love our neighbour.
We must strategically look at the issues/problems to solve where it is most strategically needed and that require us to work more together to build truly scalable businesses to meet them. – H
It is imperative that business focus on the remaining 9% of the world’s population living in extreme poverty. They will be the hardest to reach. The least, the lost, the most marginalized, the ones who can easily be forgotten. – D
2. Breaking the Sacred-Secular Divide
A great challenge still before us is for the global Church to more fully embrace a biblical view of business, work and vocation. This paradigm shift is essential so that business people feel affirmed and released to take their part in God’s mission to the world. Churches are our key partners, and the business people in church pews represent a massive untapped resource. We need to continue to patiently educate and equip in every arena possible.
A pressing issue is the inability of the western Church, particularly in North America and western Europe, to reject the sacred-secular divide and bring all professions, especially business persons into the Great Commission. This bifurcated thinking and acting is holding up significant progress in reaching the world in a holistic way. – L
3. Truly Integrated Business as Mission
We need to continue to clearly define and measure what success looks like for BAM companies. How are we excellent at both business and mission, together? How can we keep multiple goals of BAM companies in tension? Which metrics will adequately reflect those diverse goals?
As I evaluate struggling BAM companies, two headings that I am seeing is ministry oriented without enough business success to sustain itself, or too much business without enough ministry success. By ministry success I mean activities that flow from actually experiencing things that can’t be explained without God’s presence in the situation. We have made great strides over the past 10 or 20 years, but it seems to me we need to keep pushing the two ends of the spectrum toward true integration. – B
We need systems and processes to plan and operate on quadruple bottom lines – social, spiritual, environmental and financial – and especially instruments to measure QBL impact – M
4. Being both Global and Local
Even whilst we spread this vision broadly, we need a depth and contextualisation in each region and language – both for BAM resources and BAM in practice. Although there are many great regional BAM initiatives, a lack of resources in many languages will continue to hinder us. BAMers from the ‘Global South’ represent a great wave of future practitioners; and will need resources and models that fit them.
The vision needs to continue to be a global vision, but the practice of BAM has to be regionalized or localized to address issues that are contextual to the place and culture. – J
5. Connecting a Movement
How do we continue to build community and connections for more fruitful collaboration? Creating ways for all parts of the BAM ecosystem to make contact, do deals, share resources, partner on new initiatives and learn fruitful practices will be essential for the rapid multiplication and growth of BAM companies and supporting entities.
We need greater ease of connection with others working in the space. I am imagining an interactive map where you can see by region who is working in BAM, what they are doing and in which part of the BAM ecosystem, and how to contact them. – C
6. Human Capital Flow
Human resources can be one of the most limiting factors for any company, and especially when you factor in the special challenges of BAM companies. How can we effectively recruit, train and successfully launch more and more people with both adequate professional skills and a willingness to obey Jesus’ call to make disciples?
“People, people, people”. Good people, competent people, enough people, godly people, disciple-making people! We need labourers for the harvest – it has always been thus, and will always be thus. The good news is, it’s His Harvest! – P
We need more business builders. There are many businesses out there that need more help in various areas. – M
7. Financial Capital Flow
A second area of resource gap that was identified is the issue of financial capital for BAM companies. Some felt the issue was a lack of investors, some a lack of investable BAM businesses, or ‘deal flow’. What was agreed is that adequately financing BAM is an issue that must be addressed for the future.
We have a funding bottleneck. There is no lack of evangelical funds available on the sidelines; but start up capital, and even mezzanine capital, is hard to come by. – L
We need more capital investment firms focused on business among unreached people groups. – M
8. More Mentors
Increasing the rigour of BAM companies through effective mentoring and coaching was mentioned multiple times in our survey. Support, care, accountability and mentorship were seen as crucial elements for the longevity and success of BAM practitioners – and therefore the companies they lead.
How can we better support those who have established BAM companies? Focusing resources on companies that have reached some threshold of success would help avoid dissipating our resources on ill-conceived startups or trying rescue companies that are fatally flawed from a business perspective. – T
We need experienced mentors who are committed to discipling and nurturing their people not just ‘checking’ on them. – P
9. Succession Planning
Continuing on from the issues of human capital flow and resourcing mentioned above, a related issue is succession planning. First of all, we need to reduce BAMer attrition by providing great support to current practitioners. Secondly, we need to ensure the companies themselves can be long-lived by making sure there is a plan for the continuity of the business.
How do we help the generational transfer and succession planning for BAM businesses? If the BAM business are to continue with spiritual impact how do we find the next generation of owners, directors, managers and technologists? – T
As Jesus put it, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ Jn. 15:5. Sin will destroy BAM companies; whereas repentance and rest is our salvation, and quietness and trust is our strength (Is. 30:15). We need to cultivate a prayer movement for the BAM movement and continue to provide accountability and support for BAM practitioners so that a flourishing prayer life is the foundation for each flourishing BAM business.
We need to see what the Lord is doing and join him in that. Prayer, keeping our relationship with the Lord absolutely at the centre of all things, will be the the most essential thing for fruitfulness – J
I think there are huge areas of spiritual warfare in BAM with greed, mammon, pride all mixed together into the temptations we face. I sometimes wonder what all this looks like in the spiritual realm! – R
>> Read Part 2: Reasons to Celebrate! Growth of BAM Over the Last 20 Years
The BAM 2.0 Series
Over the coming months we will go into greater depth on each of these key issues.
In March we will continue with our introduction to the series, looking at how far we’ve come and some of our ‘big hairy audacious goals’ for the future.
In April we’ll take a deep dive into our ‘Why’ – what are some of the pressing global issues that BAM can address, including poverty, unreached people, the refugee crisis and human trafficking.
In May we’ll look at some limiting issues such as the sacred-secular divide, our definition of success, our geographical depth and our connectedness; issues that we must overcome for future growth.
In June we’ll look at resource gaps to overcome, including human capital, financial capital, mentoring, prayer and continuity planning.
Compiled by Jo Plummer, with thanks to the BAM leaders who shared their perspectives.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.