Second in Command

by Larry Sharp

Business as Mission (BAM) narratives oftentimes focus on the founder or the entrepreneur credited with the initial startup leadership; and rightly so; but sometimes the real reason for success may rest with the #2 or #3 person. Sometimes key success factors can be traced to the “second in command”.

Since graduating with a business degree in 1968, I have had more than one opportunity to lead an organization both in Brazil and in Pennsylvania, but most of my life in management has been as the #2 guy – in Alaska managing a fish plant; in Brazil; and as VP of operations and business partnerships for Crossworld for 19 years. What is positive about being second in command?

1. Flexibility in use of abilities.

My years as the second guy gave me an opportunity to maximize my skills, giftedness and interests. Oftentimes the CEO is required to do things because of his/her position which are not aligned with skills and interests. I observed my bosses consumed with fund raising, capital development, spontaneous thinking, or public speaking, all of which were not appealing to me. The scriptures are clear that God creates all people differently and when it comes to a Kingdom business, employees contribute best when in positions that maximize their God-given wiring and experiences.  Read more

Flying Fish: Lessons I Learned from a Risk Taker

by Larry Sharp

I was recently driving through Tucson, Arizona and decided to go out of my way and visit the famed airplane graveyard in the desert. Hundreds of planes are parked there because it is a safe, dry place. Many will never fly again but many are still very useful; it is just that there is no market for them.

The scene reminded me of my mother-in-law who was the first person I met who was a true entrepreneur, one characteristic of which is having a high tolerance for taking risks. I had taken a job in a fish processing plant which she owned. I quickly learned the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of fish processing in Alaska and the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of working with a risk taker.

First a little background on the salmon industry in Alaska. The salmon return to their streams to spawn on a God-given cycle and they return at different times throughout the summer. So when they come to Cook Inlet, the fishermen are ready for the summer’s catch; similarly when they come to Bristol Bay, or to the Copper River area or to the Yukon River. The trick is that no one knows when that time is.

The net result of all this is that the processing plants (such as the one we operated) have a feast or famine situation. There are either so many fish we can’t keep up processing 24/7; or we are sitting around waiting for the fish, paying stand-by crews to do nothing.

An innovator comes up with a novel workable idea; and the entrepreneur makes it happen.  Read more

Excerpt from Wealth Creation and the Stewardship of Creation

Intentional Stewardship

Along with the spiritual, financial, and social bottom line, the environmental bottom line is an integral measure of a God-centered successful business. The subject of this series is wealth creation for holistic transformation. The work of wealth creators includes sharing the Good News of salvation through Jesus, improving the financial wellbeing of society and the staff within their companies, providing the dignity of work and the stability that ensues from meaningful long term employment, developing a society where we love each other as we love ourselves, and providing the clean energy, water, air and land on which we live. The wealth creator acknowledges this inextricably linked web of relationship with Christ, society and creation.

Environmental stewardship, then, is not an add-on. It is not part of a marketing plan to ‘look good’. It is a God-given command to steward his creation. By affirming one’s business and passion for wealth creation as an important part of the business ecology and an instrument in meeting the cultural mandate, creation will be restored and opportunities for wealth creation will be seen. Each business run by wealth creators has a specialty, a God-gift, and points of excellence that can be applied to a pressing environmental issue. A transportation company can work on innovative fuel efficiency and improve transportation of needed medicines. A restaurant can source its food stocks with care,[i] and reduce food waste by supporting the food bank with excess, then composting the rest. An office can install passive cooling, energy efficient lighting and provide incentives to reduce commuting or increase the use of less polluting transport for their employees. Companies have the advantage of scale and resources to do much good quickly. Environmental discipline is financial discipline (conservation of resources), social discipline (respect of local communities and the resources under their stewardship), and spiritual discipline (obeying God’s commandment to steward the earth). The bottom lines are integral and are split into four for convenience, but not in practice. A company is not truly profitable until it affects a positive return in each bottom line. Stewardship is intentional and requires discipline to carry it out. Sustainable living is to ‘aim for a full, just and responsible enjoyment of the amazing gifts that our generous God has provided for us.’[ii] Read more

Excerpt from Wealth Creation and Justice

Righteous Business

Justice. Righteousness. Scripture often treats these as synonyms. Yet each is distinct. To be just means one has avoided breaking the law, and has fulfilled the law. It conveys an absence of culpability. Righteousness, by contrast, implies a larger, fuller standard of behavior. It subsumes justice, but adds the love-motivated behaviors that represent the very heart of God’s kingdom. Righteousness is a higher standard than justice, applicable to those with ‘ears to hear’. We see this distinction play out quite clearly in Scripture’s guidance to business people.

The Bible has quite serious things to say to employers regarding just compensation of workers. God frequently and emphatically condemns businesspeople who take advantage of their workers, particularly through exploitive compensation:

‘Why have we fasted’, they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers (Isa 58:3, NIV; emphasis added).

Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty (James 5:4, NIV; emphasis added).

Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts’ (Mal 3:5, ESV; emphasis added). Read more

Excerpt from Wealth Creation within Global Cultural Perspectives

Kingdom Values Trump Mere Cultural Values

All the participants and all the case studies used in this paper show a very strong adherence to the supremacy of Kingdom values over culture. Biblical wealth creation demanded, even in challenging cross-cultural situations, that whenever a cultural value came into conflict with a cultural norm, then the cultural norm must bow. Biblical values were transcendent and universal.

Unsurprisingly, empirical research by secular sources has echoed this insistence on the reality of universal values. Rushworth Kidder’s research with the Institute for Global Ethics, for instance, shows five core values shared universally: honesty (or truth or integrity), responsibility, respect, fairness, and compassion.[i]

Amongst the practitioners we interviewed,[ii] the most commonly noted biblical values relevant to the task of wealth creation were the following:

Integrity

The issue of ‘corruption’ is frequently mentioned as a chief concern. Its reality was clear, and numerous business leaders expressed their determination to fight it, even at the cost of significantly endangering the official permissions necessary for their projects. Encouragingly, despite the risks, there were numerous testimonies of the eventual success of these same projects. Moreover, their stance for integrity earned them the added advantage of the good reputation, both for their businesses and the God they represented. Read more

Want to Change the World? Make Disciples

by Joyce Ahn

In response to millennials being labelled noncommittal, cynical, entitled, slacktivists, Grant Skeldon started Initiative Network in order to shift the culture of Dallas by training millennials to be Christ-loving, city-changing, church-investing, disciple-making local missionaries. Initiative has impacted thousands of young leaders from over 540 different churches across the greater Dallas region.

Grant spoke at the 2017 BAM Conference in Dallas. Here are some key insights he shared about the importance of discipleship. This is a summary of Grant’s talk. 

The Missing Key: DISCIPLESHIP!

Jesus himself focused a majority of his three years in ministry closely investing in the lives of the twelve disciples. If my friend was on his deathbed, I would listen closely for what he asked me to do. The same is true for when I look at Jesus’ life. Some of his parting words to us before ascending to heaven were to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES! Yet as I travel and speak, when I ask, “How many of you are getting discipled?” or “How many of you are discipling?” many Christians I meet are not making disciples. However, this can change. As more and more of the older generation is discipling the young generations, amazing things are happening!

Bridging the Generational Gap

I encourage all seasoned leaders to invest in the lives of young people. There are many millennials making choices you might not understand or agree with. Yet what millennials are missing is relationships with godly, wise leaders who can help them build their character and live out all that they are meant to be. You might be making a difference as you serve in your ministry, but whose life are you deeply investing in? Without committed discipling relationships, it’s very hard for you to influence the next generation. Read more

Team BAM: Legacy & Looking Ahead

By Joyce Ahn

The following is a summary of a lecture given by Mats Tunehag at the BAM Conference 2017 in Dallas, TX. Mats is a widely-known scholar focused on BAM and developing research and materials for BAMers globally.

BAM is not a new concept. In fact, we stand upon a rich legacy of professionals who sought to glorify God through their business.  We see entrepreneurs in the scripture and throughout history. We stand at a crossroads as we look at how the BAM movement has progressed, and where things are headed.

Here are some trends I have observed in recent years:

Faith and business are more integrated than ever before. We see more and more believers who understand the importance of integrating our faith into how we run our businesses all throughout the week. It’s becoming more natural for people to say “Of course God has called me to business” and seek ways to invite him into their values and company culture. It’s exciting to see the growing numbers of BAM companies in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and an increasing number of BAM materials in dozens of languages. Read more

Dream Big and Move Forward! 6 Tips for Impact from a Modern Abolitionist

by Joyce Ahn

David Batstone is a human rights activist and co-founder of Not For Sale, an organization that provides human trafficking survivors and at-risk individuals with tools for long-term self-sufficiency through work-readiness skills and job placements. David is also the cofounder of REBBL, a health-drink company, and senior managing partner of ‘Just Business,’ an international investment group that incubates social enterprises.  

In his final keynote speech at the BAM Conference 2017, David shared 6 tips for business people who want to make a major impact on society:

  1. Fearlessly Pursue Your Passion

Don’t get stuck asking,“What’s the next step?” or “What does God want me to do?” Instead, start taking steps based off of what you know and the opportunities right in front of you. Reflect on the gifts and calling that God has given you. What’s the burning passion in your heart? Rather than getting stuck pursuing someone else’s dream for your life, take ownership of your vision and do something about it!

  1. Look Back Before You Look Forward

You might find this surprising, but we often can see God’s path for us most clearly not when we look forward, but as we look behind us. As you look at your past, you will start to see how all the seemingly unconnected parts fit together and how even your mistakes played a role in shaping the bigger picture. Read more

Putting the Enterprise in Social Enterprise

by Rudy Carrasco

Landscaping. Coffee shops. Handyman services. Training kitchens. Snow removal. Housing for single mothers.

Across the United States, church and business leaders are responding to needs in their communities through social enterprise. Social enterprise addresses a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach. Many social enterprises mix earned revenue with cash donations to cover their costs—but a growing number of organizations seek to operate profitable business as they pursue shalom.

Shalom—the just conditions in which “nothing is missing, nothing is broken”—is the vision of Grand Rapids, Mich. based Building Bridges Professional Services. Building Bridges started in 2007 to employ young adults facing barriers to employment. They provide landscaping, lawn care, property maintenance, snow removal, and more. Their vision of shalom includes the flourishing of young people who have aged out of the foster care system and have few people or resources to lean on as a safety net.

In 2017, Building Bridges began the process of converting from a nonprofit to an L3C for-profit structure. “To do social enterprise well,” says Nate Beene, CEO of Building Bridges, “you have to closely integrate your social purpose and financial health.”

With support from Partners Worldwide volunteers, Nate and his team began strengthening the business-side of their operations four years ago. “Our budget wasn’t best suited for our industry,” Beene says. “We worked on account codes, breaking down expenses, and allocating costs like vendor repairs and vehicle use.”  Read more

Hyma Brings Shalom

by Ellie Hutchison

Her hand moves rhythmically, hovering in constant motion above the red earth. She draws in rice flour. A trail of white left in her wake, forming geometric swirls, arches, circles, and loops. Her kolam is elaborate, yet simple. Beautiful, but precise.

Each morning, millions of women in India rise and draw kolams on the ground outside their home. Yet their primary purpose is not decoration. Historically, they have been a sign of invitation and welcome. Made of rice flour, they are an offering to ants and other small organisms so they don’t have to walk too far for a meal.

In this way, a kolam embodies our call to care for the vulnerable among us. It is a humble effort to create a welcoming community of harmonious co-existence.

Like most people in Tirunelveli, a city in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, kolams were a familiar presence in Hyma’s childhood. They marked her path from home to school and back again. Her eyes would bounce from one to the next as she walked, careful not to smear the intricate designs with her footsteps. Read more