Business as Mission: An Expression of Biblical Integrity

by Mike Baer

The word “integrity” has been bandied about so much over the last decade or so that it has practically become meaningless. Politicians are described in their self-serving advertisements as men or women of “integrity.” We like the word. It’s right up there with “tolerant”—another empty term. In fact, who could argue with someone who was tolerant and had integrity. He or she would be a postmodern super hero.

Unfortunately, we don’t think about words much any more. We don’t dwell on what they mean. As a result, we lose the richness and power of a great concept. So, in this article, I want to spend a few moments unpacking two dimensions of integrity, especially in the context of Business as Mission.

Integrity and Ethics

When I first began teaching business in the Former Soviet Union twenty years ago, the first hurdle I had to overcome was establishing that business was legitimate in the first place. Most people viewed business as inherently corrupt and dishonest. Today’s America has very much the same opinion. And why not? We hear constant news flashes of another scandal in Apple’s China factory or fraud in CitiGroup’s financial products or theft on Wall Street, or…ad nauseum.  It is erroneous to confuse business with the business person. The person is corrupt but business is not. Nevertheless, few think that deeply and so they condemn all things business as dark, greedy and devilish.

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Are You Really a Second-Class Christian?

By Dave Kahle

For much of my Christian life, I’ve struggled with a difficult and painful image of myself: I was a second-class Christian. No one ever said that to me in so many words, but a certain belief permeates our Christian culture so deeply that few Christians would ever question it:

Real ministry is defined by the time you spend in the official efforts of the church to evangelize the lost and edify the saved. This is the work that God is interested in, that He considers most important, special, and significant.

By accepting this false belief, our fruitfulness is hindered by shrinking and distorting our views of what we and our businesses can be. As a result, millions of Christians, like myself, lead lives that are far less productive than God wants. And hundreds of thousands of businesses are hampered in achieving their full potential. And that means that the Church’s influence and impact is light years away from that which it could be.

Here are some ways this belief is expressed in Christian culture:

A client recently told me that one of his salespeople left the company to go into full-time ministry. The implication was that the former employee merely ‘made a living’ when they worked for my client; now they did ‘real’ ministry – that work that is only in the context of the church.

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Consequences of the Business as Money-Giver Mentality

By Dave Kahle

“Our business should just make money so that we can give it away” – that’s the message our contemporary evangelical culture teaches us. Those who look for a higher purpose in their business may find this message easy to accept but is this message actually short-sighted and missing the mark on all God has for Christian owned businesses?

There are books written advocating that the sole purpose of a business is to make money to fund religion. What if God has a much larger and full purpose for business? It is easy to conclude from the Biblical theme of giving that the sole purpose of our businesses is to give. And besides, it feels good and gives great CSR standing in the community! With so much support for the idea, it’s no wonder that most Christian business people believe it.

But is our perspective skewed?

Could it be that this giving paradigm, that feels good and seems reasonable, is actually hindering our growth and thwarting the growth of the Kingdom?

If we could unleash the potential of Christian owned and influenced businesses to see themselves as powerful entities in the Kingdom with multiple bottom lines (Social, Spiritual, Economic, and Environmental) as opposed to merely a Kingdom check-book, we could turn the world upside down. Here are some consequences of the short-sighted view of the Business as money-giver paradigm.

Consequences of the business as money giver paradigm

Consequence #1:  It elevates money to the highest priority in business.

By stating that the purpose of a business is to make money so that you can give it away, money is elevated to the highest priority in business. Now, all of the other purposes of a business — to provide community, to develop future leaders, to bless communities, to demonstrate the fullness of Christ, etc. (find the full list in The Good Book on Business) — slide down the scale and become subservient to the quest to make money. While a business should make money, that is not its highest calling. A business only achieves its potential when it steps out of the money-is-everything mentality.

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Are Our Beliefs Stunting Our Businesses?

By Dave Kahle

“For my whole life, I was led to believe that we were the richest country on earth. Now, I see that we are the poorest. It’s like my whole life has been wasted.”

This comment comes from John, the 80-year old father of one of our Albanian foster children, who was visiting the USA and our home for the first time in his life. He had lived his whole life under the communist government of Albania – one of the most oppressive in the world — and was now venturing out of the country for the first time. We couldn’t help but feel for him. He had been led to believe a lie, and that belief shaped his actions and his attitudes, and organized his life. Now, at an age where there was little to be done about it, he regretted his life lived in accordance with a belief that turned out to be false.

While not nearly as poignant and heart-breaking as John’s experience, we all allow the same thing – false beliefs – to impact our thinking and therefore, our businesses and our lives.

For the past 30 years, I have served as a sales consultant, trainer, and speaker. I have worked with at least 459 businesses and served thousands of others in seminars and speaking engagements. In all of this experience in the trenches, I’ve made some observations about what it takes to build a successful, thriving business – and what hinders the growth of those businesses who have the potential for great things, but languish in mediocrity.

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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.

 

When I lived in Pennsylvania, I was part of a mid-sized church and a member of the missions committee. We organized a week-long conference each year and many of the 70+ missionary units were in attendance. A special speaker was always invited. One year on the first night, the pastor got up to introduce the mission speaker like this. “It is a privilege to have Mike Sullivan share with us this week. He trained as a Biochemical engineer and worked in that industry for six years until God called him to a higher calling. He then served in Indonesia and is now president of Mission XYZ. Welcome Mike.”

Of course, people clapped in appreciation for Mr. Sullivan and his response to God’s call. I did not clap and I have changed the names and places because of the unbiblical nature of the introduction.

The truth:  Religious “ministry” is not a higher calling but God wants all believers to use their God-given capacities for His glory and that is their highest calling. There is no spiritual hierarchy.

 

I was invited to give a full-day Saturday seminar in a nearby church. About 40 people attended including the pastor. He listened carefully but did not contribute to the discussion opportunities. Shortly after I arrived home, I received a phone call. Pastor Dave invited me to come to his study on Monday morning. I welcomed the opportunity to talk further on these topics.

I was not long in his office when Pastor Dave stated cogently and clearly that he did not believe I was doing the right thing and the Great Commission was not given to business people and laymen. He said God called special people for the role of apostles and missionaries and the spread of the Gospel was their “calling”.

I left that office discouraged and saddened, until later in the day when business people started to call me inviting me to share with other groups and to talk about how they could get involved.

The truth:  The Great Commission was given to all believers and is not the purview of the clergy class.

 

When I am asked to be part of a training weekend or series of seminars in a church, I prefer if the senior pastor is in attendance and if that is impossible at least one of his associates should be there. One time when I inquired about the pastor’s whereabouts after we had discussed his coming, the missions pastor said that the senior pastor declared to him that “BAM is just a fad and it will soon pass”, and will not be attending.

The truth:  This pastor is the precise person that needed to attend because BAM is not a fad, it the re-discovery of how the gospel spread in the first century, where the everyday believer lived his relationship with Jesus in the marketplace of life, for the glory of God.

 

It was the Sunday for dedicating the new missionaries who were heading to Central Asia. The couple gave a few words and several people came forward to lay hands on the young missionaries. The pastor concluded with his prayer of dedication with a clear reference to these special people who were “called to full time ministry”. In talking later with people in the church I realized that all of God’s people in that church were not expected to be in ministry. The unbiblical sacred-secular dichotomy was alive and well.

The truth:  There is no full-time ministry and part-time ministry. Everything we do in every aspect of life is full-time living like Jesus, being and making disciples.

 

I am convinced that the foundational principles for Business as Mission are rooted in the truths of God’s word and his purposes for the peoples of the world. Without accurate theology and raison d’etre, we will lack the enduring substance for real change in how the “mission of God” is accomplished in the world.

 

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. 

 

 

Not the Typical Strategic Plan: Creating Plan for Performance Part 2

by Bill Cousineau

In Part 1 – A Planning Process for Breakthrough Performance, we discussed the issues of traditional strategic planning. We summarized it by saying that in too many instances, the polished business plan is nothing more than a highly thought-out collection of concepts and ideals, tied together by wishful thinking. None of which result in customers flying through their doors with money in hand, nor in an organization that is united, focused and intentional in its execution.

By contrast, the Strategic Action Plan describes how an organization defines success and how it intends to create value for its stakeholders, customers, and team members. The critical distinction is that this is a living document that does not sit on the shelf collecting dust. This document is used to not only guide priorities and decisions, but it is a plan that is measured, tracked, monitored, and discussed regularly.

Before you begin to create the Strategic Action Plan there are critical prerequisites and five steps in the process:

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Not the Typical Strategic Plan: Planning for Performance Part 1

by Bill Cousineau

Some years ago I worked at an Aerospace company. At one offsite location, a man by the name of Dave Hanna coined the phrase, “Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results they are getting!” That phrase has always stuck in my mind. Think about it: As leaders in business we may find ourselves plateaued or under-achieving our organizational goals. These times call for us to look deeply at every aspect of our business and leadership to determine why the desired results are yet unattained.

When a business really takes this key statement to heart, they begin to peel back the layers of their company and come to reveal the deficiencies in their strategic planning process. My experience has shown that as leaders examine their planning process, they realize they do not have consistency of purpose. Their organizations tends to work as silos, optimizing their individual silo at the expense of the larger organization.  How can this happen?  No matter how much time Executive Teams spend preparing for and conducting their Strategic Planning session, their plans fail to achieve the desired results.

In Part 1 of this article, we will discuss the difference between traditional strategic plans and developing plans that engage the organization for breakthrough performance.

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6 Reasons Why Your Vision May be Failing (And What to Do About It)

by Chris Cloud

Since there are many excellent articles on Vision Casting out there, I have decided to come at this from a different angle. My question is: Where is a vision likely to fall off the rails? I’d argue that most individuals, and most organizations, are not guided by a clear vision.

I have been a part of a few organizations that nailed it, and a few that could have achieved so much more if they had a clear vision and steered towards it. I’ve also consulted with dozens of companies regarding their brand and strategy, and inevitably vision comes up as one of the most powerful elements of growth and impact.

Without a vision, the people perish. – Proverbs 29:18

Here are some simple observations on where a vision commonly goes off the rails, and what to do about it. Note: I believe a clear vision is just as transformative, and sadly, just as rare for an individual as it is for a group or organization. So even if you aren’t leading a company, this is for you.

Where do Visions Fail?

Lack of Clarity: “What exactly is our vision?” It’s either too complicated, or it’s too ambiguous. Keep it simple enough for a 4th grader to understand. Poor vision: “we’re going to be big and successful one day”. What does that even mean? Strong vision, “We’re going to put all of the world’s information online.” (Google’s vision). It’s clear. It’s stupid simple, though it’s not easy by any stretch. It’s ambitious, almost pretentious, but it’s compelling. It conjures up visceral imagery. The old explorers were great at this. For example, Ernest Shackleton’s vision was, “To accomplish the first crossing of the Antarctic continent.”  Read more

Spiritual Relationships, Courage and Your Next Big Business Decision

By Dave Kahle

I’m facing a big business decision – whether to invest a significant portion of my retirement funds into a new venture whose financial success is hardly assured. At the same time, last week I worked with a friend who is faced with a very similar decision, whether to invest a big portion of his wealth into a new venture.

Of course, I’m going to use all the analytical tools I have accumulated over the years. We’ll create a best and worst case proforma, do all the due diligence we can on the potential revenue and costs, attempt to identify the potential risks and put in place strategies to mitigate them. All this will make the decision a bit more clear and make us feel a bit better, or worse, about the decision. I’ll recommend my friend do the same.

Unfortunately, none of this worldly effort will uncover the answer to the ultimate question: Is this what God wants us to do? If the answer is a clear and unambiguous “YES,” then all the analytics and due diligence won’t matter. And, if the answer is a definite “NO,” then all the numbers we created will prove to be inconsequential.

Acquiring that “clear and unambiguous yes” is the first challenge. There are a number of excellent books written on the subject of discerning God’s will for your life, and for the big decisions within it. We’ll save a detailed exposition of that for a later post.

Probably the most important element of discerning God’s will in your life is your personal relationship with Him. If you have lived long enough and struggled mightily enough to have entered into something approaching a conversational relationship with Him, then you’ll be secure in the direction you get from Him. If he truly is the senior partner in your business, then you should know Him well enough not to have to guess at his direction.

In a very real and tangible sense, the closer your relationship with Him the more secure you can be in the direction he points you, and the decisions that you must make along the way. Building an ever-growing relationship with God is, then, a mature and wise business strategy.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #7: Personal Courage

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #7: Personal Courage

In this series, I have argued that the following character traits are important for a business leader:

An unquenchable work ethic

An ability and propensity to learn

A continuous quest for MORE

Unwavering self-control,

Rock-solid integrity, and

A Pervasive sense of humility.

To that list, I am adding the seventh and final: personal courage.

I don’t mean to imply that this is the full portrait of a successful business leader. There are dozens of other attributes that will enhance his or her’s ability to work with others and be successful. But, these seven traits mark the essence of a business leader’s character: Without a significant dose of each, his/her career will be somewhat stunted and fall short of the heights to which it could reach.

Understanding Courage

The Oxford Dictionary defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens one. Wikipedia adds this:

Courage (also called bravery or valour) is the choice and willingness to confront agony pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. Physical courage is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, death or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, discouragement, or personal loss.

While few business leaders face threats that call for physical courage, they need moral courage to accomplish anything of substance.

Starting a business enterprise almost always requires the entrepreneur or leader to face personal loss. Typically, it is the income associated with the job they are leaving to start a business, and often they must use their homes as collateral to acquire that first business loan. The prospect of personal loss is very real, lingering just over the horizon.  Read more