License plates in Brazil are a combination of three letters and four numbers. For decades, the license plates in my state, Paraná, have begun with “A”. Recently, however, the increasing number of vehicles on the road has pushed us into unchartered territory. All new plates begin with, you guessed it, “B”. The current system allows the plates in our state to range from AAA 0001 to BEZ 9999. In the past couple of weeks, I couldn’t help but notice an increasing number of new cars on the road whose plates begin with “BAM”. At first it was just one or two, but now it’s increasingly common to see BAM plates everyday. As of the last week of May, there were at least 2779 of them!
There seems to be a parallel with “business as mission” BAM as well. Blame it on innovation theory if you want, but the fact is that BAM is finally, and noticeably, gaining a foothold here in the world’s fifth largest country. We’ve moved from the innovation phase to the early adopter phase, and this is evidenced in numerous ways. Just a few of the BAM developments we are now seeing on the road to spiritual, social and economic transformation include:
The concept of BAM first showed up on the Brazilian church’s radar at the 3rd Brazilian Congress on Missions (CBM), in 2001, in the form of a 15 minute overview given by a global BAM statesman. The first BAM event in Brazil was held a year later, in Curitiba, with a few dozen people (and the same statesman). Then every year or two another event would take place, in addition to the seminars offered at the 5th, 6th and 7th CBMs in 2008, 2011 and 2014. In just the past two years, however, we’ve seen events take place not only in Curitiba, but also in other major cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Porto Alegre, Vitoria, and others — and these have been larger and tackling a more diverse range of BAM issues. Several international networks such as Lausanne, BAM Global and Open B4T (as well as several marketplace ministry and tentmaking networks), have been instrumental in helping develop “BAM Brazil” in many of these locations.
At the 6th CBM in 2011, the Brazilian Association of Cross-Cultural Missions (AMTB) drove the BAM cause forward by starting a new network called Professionals and Enterprises in Mission (PEM), which revamped an older tentmaking group (thus “professionals”) and infused it with a BAM vision (hence “enterprises”), recognizing the importance of both business professionals and businesses themselves, in God’s global cause. Additionally, in several of the cities where BAM events have taken place, networks have been formed, sometimes sparked by missionaries and mission agencies, and increasingly started by business professionals. And, not surprisingly, there are multiple BAM and BAMish groups to be found within Facebook and WhatsApp territory. All of the networks I’m referring to here hold to at least a loose definition of BAM and are seeking to engage, invigorate and mobilize the Brazilian church in its fullness to identify and equip new BAMers. They also aim to create ecosystems that incubate and accelerate new BAM businesses in and from Brazil.
BAM Businesses in Brazil
Several groups in Brazil — some driven initially by the B of BAM and some by the M, but all with the same BAM roadmap — have begun developing BAM businesses within Brazil for two primary reasons:
First is the recognition that Brazil, while having one of the largest evangelical populations in the world, is nonetheless only superficially evangelized, and there are numerous underevangelized and marginalized segments of society. These include ethnic groups (indigenous tribes, Roma, immigrants and refugees), plus regional groups, such as Amazon river dwellers (ribeirinhos) or residents of the northeastern backcountry (sertanejos). The underevangelized are also among both the poorest of the poor and the richest of the richest. Brazil suffers from numerous socio-economic problems resulting in both a poverty level that is well above average for a middle-income country, and an income disparity that is among the most pronounced in the world. This is exacerbated by the current economic and political crisis that has led to the largest number ever of unemployed Brazilians, at over 10 million. BAM is increasingly understood by the church to be a vehicle of spiritual, social and economic blessing within and for the sake of Brazil.
The second reason that BAM is being developed within Brazil is for the sake of the nations, i.e. so that “the ends of the earth” may also be blessed. Several leading mission agencies and other groups have for the past few years been developing BAM businesses in Brazil in order to create ecosystems and prepare practitioners to be sent to the nations. These groups often develop BAM businesses in fields that are distinctly Brazilian, such as coffee and football (soccer).
BAM Businesses from Brazil
Whether or not they first develop BAM businesses in Brazil, a growing number of Christian business owners and mission agencies are now committed to BAM from Brazil, to the least-reached peoples and most restrictive countries of the world. These include not only coffee and football-related businesses, but also ones related to education, tourism, technology and other activities and professions. One example of a pioneering BAM business that is “BAM in Brazil first, but on the road to becoming BAM from Brazil”, is a culinary social network startup. Think Instagram for recipes. While it is functioning exclusively in Portuguese right now (with users not only from Brazil, but also countries such as Portugal, Angola and Mozambique) and operates out of Brazil, soon it will expand into other languages and countries. The company’s owners are committed to BAM goals related to job creation, economic stimulation and church planting among unreached peoples around the globe.
I love journeys, but I should point out that the Brazilian BAM journey has not been without its potholes in the road. There have been small potholes, such as some groups using the “BAM” nomenclature when in reality they mean “BFM”: “business for mission”. And there has been one pothole that has left a major dent in Brazilian BAM, I call it “MFB”: “mission for business”. One well-meaning group, in its enthusiasm for BAM and its desire to develop at least one viable BAM business, has been training some of its missionary candidates in its for-profit business, but not paying them (which is, as you may have already surmised, illegal) and they’ve been using the so-called administrative fees from the donations that the missionaries work so hard to raise, to financially sustain the for-profit business! (And that is using the term “for-profit” very loosely!)
All-in-all, BAM in Brazil is heading down the right road. There is noticeably more of it, it is picking up speed, and at the same time it is trying to avoid the potholes!
Dr. João Mordomo is co-founder and president of CCI-Brasil, a global church planting movement among unreached peoples. João serves variously as owner, managing director and board member of several BAM companies, and serves in several BAM leadership roles including at COMIBAM, BAM Global and Lausanne.