Breaking Down the Sacred-Secular Divide

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material first published on the Third Path Blog, as part of a series, reposted with kind permission.

What is the Sacred-Secular Divide?

You don’t have to go very far today to hear some reference to the ‘sacred-secular divide’ or the ‘sacred-secular dichotomy.’ It’s in all the books, blogs, conferences – and occasionally in a sermon. And it’s always in a negative connotation.

So what exactly is the sacred-secular divide? In one sense, it’s impossible to define. It’s a kind of culture, a nuance, an entirely too subtle way of looking at life, vocation and ministry. It’s a shadow that covers many other aspects of our lives. It seems innocuous, but it’s not. The divide is a false dichotomy, a false worldview, an infection in the minds of Jesus’ followers that has done incalculable damage to the cause of the Church.

However, we can at least approximate the meaning of the divide in this way. It is a view of life built on a separation or distinction between those things, people and places someone believes to be sacred (holy and of God) and those believed to be secular (worldly and not of God). Certain callings are holy (missionary, pastor) and others are secular, i.e. of the world and therefore unholy (business, medicine, construction, etc). Certain places are sacred as well—church buildings, graveyards, seminaries while others are secular—my house, your house, schools, and athletic stadiums. I know you might like the sentiment, but a candle lit in a church building is no more holy or special to God than a candle on my 2 year old grandson’s birthday cake. Caution: if that statement offends you, then you are living in the divide. In short, it is all about distinctions and separations and classes and castes. Read more

What is the Sacred-Secular Divide? 3 Short Videos

The sacred-secular divide is an unbiblical way of thinking about the world that pervades the modern church globally. It deeply affects the way we think about business and work and is one of the most frequently mentioned barriers to understanding and engagement in business as mission. In the coming weeks we will hear stories and teaching that will help to break down the sacred-secular divide. These three short videos, each just a few minutes long, will help answer the question, What is the Sacred-Secular Divide?

Mark Greene: Imagine – London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

The sacred-secular divide is the pervasive belief that some things are really important to God, and that other things aren’t… 

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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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Foundation: An Act of Worship

by Mike Baer

Like Business as Mission, the term Business as Worship has many meanings. As I listen to speakers and read current writing it seems that these fall rather easily into two major thought buckets:

  1. Business or Work as an Act of Worship
  2. Business or Work as an Act of Spreading the Worship of God

These are by no means mutually exclusive nor are they contradictory. In fact, both are wonderfully true and accurate. They are simply looking at the near term versus the eternal.

An Act of Worship

The core idea here is that worship, the act and attitude of ascribing worth to God and of prostrating ourselves, literally and figuratively, is not at all limited to what happens in a church building on Sunday morning. Singing, praying, listening to the Word of God and giving are all recognized forms of worship. But what about loving others and serving others? Or providing for our families and generating income for employees? What about honest labor? Accurate scales? Are not all of these also acts of worship? Indeed, when we speak of work as worship we are building on the Biblical truth that all of life, every single bit of living is meant to be done from a heart of submission to God and affection for Christ and our fellow man. All of life, except for sin, is in fact worship.

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Foundations: BAM 101

by Mike Baer

So what exactly is Business as Mission? In its original intent (I was one of the first to use the term, so I can say this!) it meant that business—my job, my company, my skills—can and should be deliberately connected to what God is doing in the world, i.e. His mission. Nothing more. Nothing less.

What BAM is Not

 Over the past 25 years the term Business a Mission and the concept has been adulterated and abused. For some it has come to mean:

  • Ethical Business—simply being honest in a Christian sort of way
  • Business as Visa—setting up fake or quasi-fake businesses in the effort to secure an entry visa for missionary work in a restricted access country
  • Poverty Alleviation—programs to help the poor make a better living
  • Business Justification—making business OK or more valuable to God by somehow doing it overseas (I write as an American)

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Beliefs on Wealth Creation

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we head into winter we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Editor’s Pick” for August to December 2017.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global

Wealth Creation is Rooted in God

The Bible makes a bold claim, namely, that wealth creation is rooted in God the creator. He is the ultimate source of all wealth. Genesis 1:1 declares, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ And Genesis 2:1 notes that the creation of the heavens and the earth was completed on the sixth day. ‘God saw all that He had made, and it was very good’ (Gen 1:31a). The word in Hebrew that is translated ‘very good’ is closely related to shalom which is normally translated as ‘peace’, but also means completeness or wholeness, wholeness of the individual person, wholeness of human interactions with one another and wholeness of relationship between humankind and all creation.

The goodness of his creation is celebrated in Psalm 104, which provides a kind of mind map of creation starting with God (vv. 1-4), then moving to the earth (vv. 5-9), provision of productive resources (vv. 10-13), relationship between man and creation (vv. 14-26), relationship between created beings and God (vv. 27-30), and acknowledgment of God the Creator (vv. 31-34).

God created humanity ‘in our image, according to our likeness’ (Gen 1:26a) and delegated to humanity a co-creation role. In Genesis 1:28 this role is specified as to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the earth’ (see also Ps 8:6-8). In doing so, God did not transfer ownership (see Ps 50: 10-12).

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Don’t Lose Your Way: The Importance of the Business Development Process

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we head into winter we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Staff Pick” for August to December 2017.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

How can BAM companies avoid losing their way? On the one hand, many BAM startups lose momentum, fail to break even, or simply get aborted. On the other hand, some BAM companies that reach financial success find themselves in danger of losing sight of the non-financial goals and objectives that led them to start their BAM venture in the first place. Although there are as many different reasons for BAM failure as there are struggling, closed, or misdirected BAM companies, I believe there is a common antidote to keep companies from getting off track: an ongoing rigorous business development process.

What happens to a company in the absence of an ongoing rigorous business development process? It then becomes a challenge to grow or lead the business forward in a way consistent with its BAM vision, goals, and objectives. This is often the result of two common business development failures:

1. The leader failed to articulate a sustainable BAM vision and robust strategy to begin with.

2. The leader failed to execute against the strategy and has not been held accountable to it.

The good news for BAM practitioners is that there are plenty of resources available to help with the first challenge – and putting together the right team and structures can help overcome the second. Read more

Crucial Questions for BAM Startups

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we head into winter we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Most Popular Post” for August to December 2017.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

Perhaps you are a Christian professional interested in starting a Business as Mission (BAM) company, and want some guidance on next steps in pursuing that dream. There is much to learn from those who have gone before you in the BAM space. Here is a list of questions you will want to consider as your pursue starting a BAM business:

Entrepreneurial Drive

In order to start a new company, you need at least one individual that has the vision for a new product or service that meets a true felt need for a specific target market.

  • Are you an entrepreneur, and if so, do you have a team of people to partner with?
  • If you are person who enjoys keeping a business running, do you know a BAM entrepreneur that you can come alongside?
Spiritual Objectives

BAM companies are differentiated from other social enterprises in that they also prioritize spiritual objectives. If you have goals to honor and reflect Christ in the workplace, you will need leadership that is committed to those goals and has the ability to carry them out. To start a truly spiritually strong company, consider the following:  Read more

Story: Giving a Choice to Trafficked Women through Business

By Guest Author

I am an accidental entrepreneur. I did not originally go about seeking to use business as the tool for transformation. My only goal or tentative hope was to find a way for women in India’s growing sex trade to a way to find freedom in whatever way possible.

I first entered one of the largest red light districts in India in 2002 and after making first contact with the girls and women in the red light area, I spent a lot of time listening, waiting, and waiting and WAITING. For far too long, I felt powerless to make any actual impact.

I began to care deeply about the women I met in red light area.

I met Rupa and Jiya and listened to their stories, saw through their hard eyes to broken hearts and broken dreams, saw that they were moms and sisters and daughters. I saw and I heard that there were no options for them once they had found themselves in the sex trade through trafficking and trickery. They had aged out of rescue and now they were culturally marginalized as spoiled women, social outcasts and often the primary breadwinners for multigenerational families.

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Business Solutions to Human Trafficking

By Mats Tunehag, with input from Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag

In the 1700’s the slave trade was widely accepted and legal. It was, in fact, a backbone of the economy of the British Empire. It was a big, organized and transnational business.

William Wilberforce and the Clapham group decided to fight this evil trade. They chose to attack the systemic issue – the legality of slave trade and slavery. To that end they organized a decades long campaign focusing on justice, aiming at a root cause. They worked politically to change unjust and ungodly laws that permitted the dehumanizing trade.

They could have chosen an easier route of awareness campaigns and a boycott of sugar from plantations in Jamaica, but they knew such initiatives in themselves would not free the slaves or bring about lasting change. The feel good factor may have been higher, but the long-term outcomes would have been meager.

Charity and justice

Today the slave trade and slavery are illegal, but not dead. Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and it is a lucrative and evil business. Just like Wilberforce and his colleagues, we need to ask what the systemic issue is today – and we need to go beyond charitable actions to fight for justice.

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