Foundation: Expanding into Hard Places

by Mike Baer

I don’t want to bury the lead so here it is: BAM is one of the most strategic ways to engage the worlds unreached people groups and that focus should dominate the movement.

Now, in the spirit of fairness, I am for BAM everywhere and believe that all Christians in all callings should be directly and deliberately connecting all of their lives (including their careers) to God’s eternal purpose. To me, this is the sine qua non of true BAM and certainly means more than just doing business among UPGs. It means doing business to the glory of God and with a free conscience wherever He has placed us.

Yet, how can we look at the world and the billions who live in the hardest to reach places, the people groups with no viable Gospel witness or church and not recognize the priority of UPGs. 25 years after the birth of the modern Business as Mission movement in Central Asia, the overwhelming majority of BAM enterprises are among the reached countries.

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Is Business As Mission Disruptive Innovation?

by Larry Sharp

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.1

BAM takes into consideration, the human condition of poverty and pain (both spiritual and physical) with the creation of a profitable business which creates jobs, which in turn creates wealth (a Biblical value stated in Deut. 8:18). It links that with the goal of making followers of Jesus and with the importance of wise use of human and natural resources. In summary, Business as Mission (BAM) at its core has a Quadruple Bottom Line: 1) Profit and Sustainability, 2) Job Creation, 3) Followers of Jesus, 4) Stewardship of Resources.

So how might this be innovative and how might it be disruptive?

First look at some well-known disruptive innovators. Jeff Bezos did not just improve book sales when he started Amazon. He disrupted everything – speedy book deliveries, then other products to become the world’s largest online shopping retailer. His latest disruptive talk: drones and space warehouses. His mantra, “if you are going to invent, you are going to disrupt.”

Looking back a few decades, some of us can remember the advent of the transistor radio. People first thought of them as Japanese junk, with poor quality, but they were portable and teenagers could take them to the beach easily. Gradually the sound improved and the product totally disrupted and made redundant the old cabinet radios.

I remember when a visitor showed up at our school in Brazil in the early 1970s with a portable calculator. Our bookkeeper was using a manual adding machine which did the job but was big, clumsy and noisy. I took the leap of faith and asked to purchase this calculator from the visitor before he left the country. I paid $180.00 for what today can be bought in Wal-Mart for $5.99. Portable calculators were disruptive because they did not just improve on existing technology, they disrupted it by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility and eventually affordability.

Perhaps one of the biggest examples of disruptive innovation is the development of the personal computer, when the big main frames ruled the day in the 1960s-70s. Even the chairman of IBM, Thomas Watson is famously quoted: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” But the personal computer formed a niche market that appeared unattractive and inconsequential at first but eventually the new product completely redefined the computing industry.

Mobile phones – the same story. The idea is that the historic technology and industry concentrates on improving their product while the innovative disruptors focus on the bottom end of the market tapping into new customers with new and different needs. They create new demand and find overlooked customers. Think Blockbuster and Netflix.

Back to the question: Is Business as Mission disruptive innovation? BAM spokesperson Mats Tunehag likens Kingdom Business today to a 21st century reformation. The Protestant Reformation was disruptive in that it focused Jesus followers on simpler easier forms of faith – reading their own scriptures, the priesthood of individual believers and faith over works as the way of salvation, among other things.

So perhaps BAM is disruptive in the following ways:

Business is returned to its rightful place as the only institution which creates wealth in society; it is not government, nor education, nor health care and not the church. All of these, as good and important as they are, consume wealth. Business creates it. And it is ordained by God.2

Business is the modern means ordained by God to address the issue of poverty. It creates wealth through job creation and gives dignity, honor and empowerment to individuals, families and communities. Jesus gave the Great Commandment requiring believers to love God and love their neighbor. Today loving our neighbor is creating a job for him/her and this becomes the modern equivalent of feeding the five thousand, or healing the leper. BAM is what Jesus would do today.3

Business and faith are easily integrated. Business leaders are together with people many hours each week so the principles of faith can be lived out in the marketplace of life. In most cultures, people learn by observing and doing and when it comes to knowing Jesus, one learns by observing a Jesus follower living and acting like Jesus in every life. Dale Losch in his book A Better Way, talks about living and loving like Jesus.

Whereas most of the 20th century became accustomed to outsourcing missional work to the professional clergy, Business as Mission is a reformation. It is the work of all believers in the workplace, not just the clergy, or those paid to be missional with their faith.

BAM is innovative in that it is cost effective. It does not require an endless infusion of charity monies which often become toxic by creating dependency and destabilization. It addresses issues of declining mission funding, and “America first” perspective.

Today Business as Mission and related means such as Tentmaking4 are disrupting the market. They have the potential (as the little guy at the bottom of the market) to replace the multi trillion dollar aid industry, and make the traditional mission professional mission groups redundant in much of the world.

Business as Mission is making the product (Quadruple Bottom Line) simple, accessible, convenient and affordable. It is not just improving on what has been done in the past; it is disrupting things in modern times by returning to an old order of “faith without works is dead”, creating wealth and promoting dignified sustainability. In one sense it is an ancient idea; but because it has been largely lost, it may be considered innovative, and certainly disruptive.

 

1   – See more at: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/?gclid=CMTS6OL_8dECFQaVfgodUtoILw#sthash.CKUPSk41.dpu/

2 Deut.8:18 “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

3 https://www.youtube.com/user/povertycure

4 Tentmaking is mission done in accordance with the model of the apostle Paul. He was a tentmaker by profession, and made a living through his work when he was on his mission journeys (Acts 18:3, 1 Cor 9). Today the ‘tentmaking’ label is used to describe everyone who seeks to serve God in other cultures through his or her profession. It includes business people, professionals, and students bringing the “Good News” onwards to new places. https://www.lausanne.org/networks/issues/tentmaking

 

Larry Sharp is the Founder and current Director of Strategic Training and Partnerships of a Business for Transformation (BAM, B4t) consulting firm, International Business and Education Consultants (www.ibecventures.com). Larry served 21 years in Brazil and then 20 years as Crossworld VP of Operations and as Vice President of Business Partnerships. He is currently a VP Emeritus and consultant with Crossworld. Since 2007 he has devoted energies toward Business as Mission (BAM) and currently is a consultant on BAM and education themes. Larry travels within North America speaking and teaching in conferences, colleges and churches on themes related to Business As Mission (BAM, B4t) and missions.  His travels abroad relate to BAM, crisis preparation and management, and team building. 

 

 

Damaging Beliefs About Work and Missional Calling

by Larry Sharp

In recent years I have taken notice of what pastors have stated on topics related to Business as Mission (BAM), the theology of work and the Great Commission. Here are some comments which give me particular concern and have caused me to wonder how typical they are or if they are part of the cause for the slow growth in the BAM movement.

I was part of a workshop at a BAM conference designed for pastors with about 30 in attendance. At one point after much had been presented and then discussed by the group, one pastor remarked that he was not in agreement with some things because “after all work was a result of the fall of man.” I was shocked, and wondered how long it had been since he read the book of Genesis.

The truth:  God is a God of work demonstrated in the creation of all things, and then He gave a job description to the earth’s first human inhabitants.

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7 Fruitful Practices for BAM and Church Planting

BAM companies are usually very diverse, each business with its own unique features. However, through research into real experiences of BAM and Church Planting, some shared commonalities emerged in the following fruitful practices:

1. Contact

Make sure that the business provides regular contact with the focus people.

Intentionally create a business that provides regular contact with those with whom you are hoping to share the gospel – whether they are employees, customers, suppliers or others. A bakery business owner estimates that they have a chance to meet an average of 100 people a day. Christ can be made known to staff, suppliers, and customers through business activities. One employer who hires local women who come from difficult home lives seeks to help those women achieve a greater quality of life. Another BAM company provides business opportunities and income for local Christian leaders, encouraging them to stay and carry on the church planting work rather than moving away for employment to support their families. An agricultural business enables local Christians to do church planting work by training them in an egg production business. In this model they also help the trainees set up the businesses which provides contacts for them, as well as an income. This agriculture business also provides church planting training to the locals as part of their strategy.

Although the business is usually the context in which contacts are made and relationships started, several BAM practitioners (BAMers) mentioned that conversations about spiritual matters typically take place outside of the workplace. However, in other cases BAMers reported that these conversations start naturally through a shared work environment. Read more

Business and the Body: Burgers, Burma and Keeping Connected

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up a great year we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Staff Pick” for the fall of 2015.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

From the rooftops you can see it. The personality of the land shifts as the row of buildings stretches towards the river shore. There is a gap there, the space for the river that marks the border, and on the opposite shore the skyline is again lifted by buildings. The buildings on either side of the border hide secrets behind their darkened windows and signs. These are the real stories behind the international headlines about war and human trafficking, about refugees fleeing persecution. The stories are reflected on faces around town – the people that have ended their journey at this border town where the river divides Burma from Thailand.

Set into the curve of the river on the Thai side is a small city, unremarkable by Asian standards. Bustling with local Thais, NGO and aid workers, adventure-seeking tourists, and the quieter but prominent refugee community; the unspoken undercurrent is ‘we’re all here, hoping for the best, and doing the best we can.’ It’s a promising setting, ready to receive the incoming ‘Friendship Highway’, which is said will unify these Asian countries with trade partnerships and tourism. New buildings and malls dotting the cityscape are the first evidence of a hoped-for economic boom. The new road is not all good news. It will also provide a thoroughfare for the darker trade of humans, vulnerable to poverty and traffickers. Read more

Life Encounters Life: The Integration of Business and Mission

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up a great year we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Editor’s Pick” for the fall of 2015.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

We interviewed a ‘practitioner of integration’ who over the last 16 years has tightly integrated business and mission together among an unreached people group in Asia.

Can you tell us a bit about how and why you got started with business as mission?

We were trained and sent out into the mission field with the vision of bringing the gospel for the first time to a Muslim people group. The idea of doing business was really birthed out of our experiences during a research trip into the area. The people we are working amongst are relatively poor, uneducated and in a remote area. Few venture down the maze of narrow streets which make up their communities. Those who do, either belong from birth, have family, or have come to do business. Although the initial response of the community towards visitors is always hospitality, underneath the question is brewing, “Who are the newcomers and why have they come?” This was really brought home to us after we spent 7 days in a Police jail on our research trip being questioned about why we were there! Although we started with a more traditional missions and church planting model in mind, we soon realised that there was only one option for a genuine, respectable role in the community and that was to do business. Read more

Life Encounters Life: The Integration of Business and Mission

We interviewed a ‘practitioner of integration’ who over the last 16 years has tightly integrated business and mission together among an unreached people group in Asia.

Can you tell us a bit about how and why you got started with business as mission?

We were trained and sent out into the mission field with the vision of bringing the gospel for the first time to a Muslim people group. The idea of doing business was really birthed out of our experiences during a research trip into the area. The people we are working amongst are relatively poor, uneducated and in a remote area. Few venture down the maze of narrow streets which make up their communities. Those who do, either belong from birth, have family, or have come to do business. Although the initial response of the community towards visitors is always hospitality, underneath the question is brewing, “Who are the newcomers and why have they come?” This was really brought home to us after we spent 7 days in a Police jail on our research trip being questioned about why we were there! Although we started with a more traditional missions and church planting model in mind, we soon realised that there was only one option for a genuine, respectable role in the community and that was to do business. Read more

Business and the Body: Burgers, Burma and Keeping Connected

From the rooftops you can see it. The personality of the land shifts as the row of buildings stretches towards the river shore. There is a gap there, the space for the river that marks the border, and on the opposite shore the skyline is again lifted by buildings. The buildings on either side of the border hide secrets behind their darkened windows and signs. These are the real stories behind the international headlines about war and human trafficking, about refugees fleeing persecution. The stories are reflected on faces around town – the people that have ended their journey at this border town where the river divides Burma from Thailand.

Set into the curve of the river on the Thai side is a small city, unremarkable by Asian standards. Bustling with local Thais, NGO and aid workers, adventure-seeking tourists, and the quieter but prominent refugee community; the unspoken undercurrent is ‘we’re all here, hoping for the best, and doing the best we can.’ It’s a promising setting, ready to receive the incoming ‘Friendship Highway’, which is said will unify these Asian countries with trade partnerships and tourism. New buildings and malls dotting the cityscape are the first evidence of a hoped-for economic boom. The new road is not all good news. It will also provide a thoroughfare for the darker trade of humans, vulnerable to poverty and traffickers. Read more

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Business, Language and Church Planting

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I can see that language acquisition is going to be essential to both business and church planting efforts in my target area, but it is a lot to think about. How have you seen language learning combined with business development and start–up? What has worked? Any other tips for successfully putting together business strategy and church planting strategy?

~ Planning to Plant

Dear Planning,

This is a good question and there are no easy answers. Your approach will depend your goals and your constraints.

Here are a few questions to consider:

1. How do you define business: one where you will be totally supported by your operations or one in which you will still receive outside funding to support your living expenses?

If you are okay with being subsidized through outside funding and able to raise such funding, even if for an initial timeframe, this will allow for more options. One option could be to spend more time learning a language for a period while you do some business-related work. Another benefit if you started a business would be that this support could sustain a period of losses, before profitability is reached. Read more

Lessons From the Edge: Living the Gospel Among Unreached People

Insights from a BAM Practitioner 

This BAM Practitioner has been in business in Asia for 16 years.

Meet your people every day
Your business has to bring you into contact with people. I think this really is the most important thing. If we view the challenge of missions as “how to get a believer together with an unbeliever” then this has to be absolutely central to any BAM model. Access to people is not the end goal, but it means we are able to show the Kingdom and share the King with people. If a business opportunity or role comes up that doesn’t help us be with our people, then we don’t pursue it. It’s surprising how simple, yet easy to miss this can be.

Be respected
That sounds simple, but it’s not so easy in practice! Our lives must be credible to people. Our business must be respectable. Think about what you can do that will make sense to people, what roles or actions will bring understanding and respect. I had a supplier who was supposed to deliver goods, but was late. I had to cut the payment because he was late, and after a long conversation about it, he told me he was going to take me to court. After two weeks he comes back and says, “Well I went to the court and they all told me that you wouldn’t cheat me, so they sent me away.” That place of respectability that we can have in business can be a powerful place to convey the message of the gospel!

Express the Kingdom
We are showing people around the Kingdom, but we also need a safe place where a verbal expression of the gospel can happen. It’s got to be part of what you do. Providing a way for that may change your business model. We’ve changed the way we do production so that clusters of women can do certain jobs in groups in their homes. This is good for productivity, but also for opportunities to share biblical ideas, our stories, and Jesus in countless moments where our Christian staff are sitting with the women and children. This happens in other contexts with the men as well.

Read the full interview with this practitioner