How do we multiply and scale the number of fruitful BAM companies around the world? One of our key tasks must be to envision and mobilise a new wave of would-be business as mission practitioners from every country on the planet. Some of those will come from a corporate or small business background, envisioned with a broader perspective on their skills, experiences or companies. Others will come from a non-profit or mission agency context after seeing the need for business as mission firsthand. Still others will be the next generation coming through schools and colleges, growing up with an integrated passion for business and God’s work in the nations.
There are many strategies and models for mobilising and equipping future BAMers. Whatever your strategy, here are 10 things that will help or hinder you:
1. God is at work
Perhaps our most important opportunity is that God is on the move in the global marketplace. God is at work among business people and business people are hungry for this message. Christ-followers in the marketplace around the globe are sensing God’s call to impact the world in and through their vocation. Our message must affirm business professionals and exhort them to use their vocational experience and expertise for God’s Kingdom work. Since we are co-workers with the Holy Spirit in the work of mobilisation, prayer must be considered vital work in the BAM community. We cannot have fruitful advocacy and mobilisation without this partnership between our efforts and God’s work in people’s lives. This is not another program for us to deliver, but a movement of God.
When the message is communicated as ‘this is something that God is up to around the world’, it is much more powerful than ‘this is a program we need to get started in and through our church. – Mobiliser in the USA
2. Engage business people
A high priority is the need to specifically target and communicate with business people of all kinds: those still in education, young professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs, business professionals, those in quarter-life or mid-life transition and retirees. There is power in business people connecting and communicating with other business people. Currently there is a relative lack of business people championing business as mission, especially outside the English-speaking world. There are few resources developed by business professionals, or that are targeted specifically to business professionals. Current practitioners are busy, and often isolated, which leads to a lack of mentors and few with time to tell their story.
If the message of BAM is told well, it is extremely compelling and can draw people in. I think efforts are especially effective when modeled and communicated by a business person who is engaged in BAM and has stories to share about the effectiveness. – Mobiliser in the USA.
3. Engage the Church
Likewise we cannot ignore the vital role of the church in mobilising for business as mission. We need to make sure that pastors and church leaders are understanding and supporting the concept. There is a global army of Christ-followers in the church waiting to be unleashed. We have a greater opportunity to serve and equip churches and church leaders so that they can in turn affirm and release business people in their congregations. As BAM mobilisers we are to be servants to the Body of Christ. Business as mission is often a brand new concept for people. It requires time to unpack and understand, with clear communication and willingness to patiently build up a receptiveness to new mission paradigms.
Getting church leaders to buy into this powerful paradigm shift is one of our limitations. We have a non-reading cultures and so we have to take it to our leaders and unpack it for them to catch it. – Mobiliser in East Africa
4. Tear down the sacred-secular divide
The sacred-secular divide remains a serious hindrance. It is a worldview that is often held unconsciously and that promotes certain activities and vocations as inherently ‘sacred’ or spiritual and thus pleasing to God and worthy of our service – whilst relegating what are considered to be more ‘worldly’ activities and vocations as ‘secular’ or unspiritual. This results in compartmentalism between faith and business, and concludes that service to God primarily happens away from work. Overcoming and breaking down this divide through every means possible remains a high priority. In many local churches around the world there is a negative view of wealth creation and business that needs to be addressed from a biblical basis.
BAM advocacy is limited in success because it is a fairly new paradigm in a context where the church and Christians have for years know the sacred-secular divide, essentially viewing business as outside the realm of the church. We are dealing with a mindset issue that we can fortunately counter with scripture. – Mobiliser in East Africa.
5. Tell a good story
Sharing good stories about strong, successful models is extremely important. There is power in a good story to bring the concept to life. Stories literally light up more areas of the brain than sharing facts alone. Seeing a good model in action will inspire followers, this is especially true as we reach out to a generation for whom tangible experience is of paramount importance. We need to tell more stories, yet it takes time to collect and write up real BAM experiences, and practitioners are often too focused on company survival to be able to document their own story. We need to call out the ‘storytellers’ – the researchers, writers and photographers, among others – to to come alongside practitioners to document and disseminate great stories.
A big weakness is that the main group of people talking about BAM are those with expertise in mission instead of business. The breakthrough will come when one or two Argentinian brothers or sisters in business do BAM. We have to pray we’ll have at least one who can share their experience. – Mobiliser in Argentina
6. Multiply BAM mobilisation resources
There are growing number of people and resources involved in BAM mobilisation. Despite this, a great weakness remains lack of voices and champions, along with lack of resources focused on mobilisation, recruiting and equipping in general. More on-ramps and opportunities for those interested in exploring BAM are needed. There is, in short, a huge resource gap in this area. Long-time BAM advocate Mats Tunehag notes, “In my 15 plus years of doing BAM globally, I have never see such a hunger for BAM advocacy. Demand is high, but I am not sure the supply side is an equal match.” A particular weakness is a lack of permeation into different language groups apart from English, in most other languages there are very few resources. The concept needs to transition to becoming ‘indigenous’ in more parts of the world.
There still a lack of literature in Chinese about BAM, not to mention comprehensive, theologically sound, theoretically correct and practical ones! – Mobiliser in Hong Kong and China
7. Pursue partnerships
Business as mission is a movement that is growing globally. At the same time there is rapid growth and innovation in the collaborative technologies available to us. The result is a growing opportunity for networking and collaboration, one that is currently being underutilized. Current communication and mobilisation efforts are often disjointed, with a limited reach. The following areas could be a focus for future bridge building: Practitioner to practitioner connections – practitioners learning from one another and collaborating; mission to business connections – building greater connections between the mission and business community; and mobiliser to mobiliser connections – greater synergy and less resource fragmentation between those working in BAM media, communications and mobilisation.
I work with Campus Crusade in Asia and we are equipping hundreds of young professionals going out into the marketplace. However, I don’t have firsthand experience of running a BAM company. I need partners, but partners are limited. – Mission worker from Hong Kong
8. The message is powerful and welcome
The message of integration between faith and work and its application in business as mission resonates strongly with many. There are a growing number of influential voices calling the body of Christ to embrace their call to business and live it out locally and globally. Business as mission has an entrepreneurial vibe which makes it even more attractive to many business people. Contemporary Christians often care deeply about issues of both social injustice and unreached peoples. The potential holistic impact of BAM is relevant and captivating, especially when contrasted with pressing global issues, such as extreme poverty, slavery, and unengaged people groups.
In the context of Latin America, many people realize that the Euro-American way of dong missions for the past 200 years does not often work here, for lack of vision and lack of resources. So when BAM is described and promoted, many people immediately react with, “Yes! That’s it, that’s what we should be doing”. It captivates. – Mobiliser in Latin America and the USA.
9. Patiently overcome misconceptions
Despite the fact that BAM is a maturing concept in many parts of the world, and is clearly a message that resonates, there is a strong need for greater depth and clarity. Mobilisers from around the world report the tendency for the BAM message to become confused with other messages. We need to keep our messages clear and simple, consistently communicating the unique selling points of business as mission. Notorious failures, ill-equipped practitioners and poorly executed business models are a threat to mobilisation efforts since they damage the credibility of business as mission. Other threats to the reputation of BAM include confusion with other models or messages, such as the prosperity gospel. Business as mission is a new concept to many that must be patiently unpacked and creatively illustrated.
If not explained properly BAM can be mistaken for the prosperity gospel as we talk about focusing on wealth and job creation among other areas. – Mobiliser in East Africa
10. The world is primed for business
A great opportunity before us is the global context for business today. There are changing attitudes in the world towards business and many are questioning the role of business in society. Entrepreneurship, particularly social entrepreneurship, is in vogue and there is an explosion of dialogue and action around enterprise solutions to poverty, ethical business, social enterprises, benefit corporations, impact investing and on and on. The world is open for business and there is a growing middle class in many societies that will change the economic landscape around the globe. Al Caperna, entrepreneur and Director of Call2Business challenged:
This transformation of the global marketplace is happening. And we as Christians in the marketplace can ignore it, watch it, or lead it. I, for one, want to lead it. How about you? – Al Caperna, CEO, CMC Group
This post was adapted from original material written for the BAM Global Think Tank Issue Report on Advocacy and Mobilisation.
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.