Mats Tunehag has been speaking, writing and convening on business as mission for nearly 20 years. When he visited The BAM Review office recently, we asked him a few questions about the business as mission movement.
Mats, what have you seen changing in business as mission in the last 15-20 years?
We are seeing a reawakening of what it means to be a Christian in business in our day and age. There has been remarkable growth of people getting engaged in doing business for God and the common good. If we take a 15 year time span, there are things we have today that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Now, we have a greater common understanding globally of this idea that we call ‘business as mission’. There are significant common denominators in our understanding, even though terminology may vary from group to group.
15 years ago when you mentioned business as mission, there were many questions about ‘What is that?’, ‘Is this something we want to get involved in?’. Today you can travel to almost any country and bump into people who have heard of, or are talking about, or practicing, business as mission. That is one of the major changes globally.
Another change in the last 15 years, is that we now see an unprecedented global connectedness of people involved in business as mission (BAM). There are now many more people involved in the ‘BAM ecosystem’ around the world; not just business owners, and other business professions, but those that provide support services. There is a growing recognition that businesses are needed for holistic impact, by mission agencies, churches, academics, and others who are connecting in. So now there isn’t just individual expressions of business as mission around the world, but a global movement. People are working together, and having a broader impact, and that is a significant change.
What’s ahead? What do you see as some of the big opportunities for the BAM movement for the future?
We need to acknowledge that businesses can provide solutions some of the most serious issues globally. Even more so, BAM businesses have a unique contribution to make as we are trying to address some of the dire problems that we find around the world. For example, according to some statistics, there is a 1.8 billion job deficit globally, that is rising, especially among young people in the Arab world and Asia. One of the biggest challenges we are facing is unemployment, underemployment and the lack of jobs with dignity. This is beyond just job creation, the Mafia also creates jobs, so does the sex industry! This is about creating jobs, with human dignity, that honor God and are good for people and society.
Many countries are facing enormous environmental challenges and we know that through technological innovations, there are solutions that can be commercialized to address such problems.
Another global issue is the endemic corruption that keeps people and nations in poverty. Business as mission is also about doing ‘business as justice’! That means – like the Old Testament prophets before us – we take a stand against bribes, labour exploitation and cheating customers and suppliers on products, services or payments. How can we shape our businesses, and connect our businesses, to create momentum for fighting corruption?
We need to keep increasing that connectedness that I was talking about earlier, and build a critical mass of Christians in the marketplace that are involved in business as mission – regardless of what they call it or what terms they use, or what business or industry they are in.
What do you think is holding us back?
A major challenge we encounter again and again is the issue of worldview. Business as mission is not a technique, it’s a worldview centered around following Jesus in to the marketplace.
This worldview, shaped by the Bible, includes seeing wealth creation as something good and seeing creativity in business as being something that is helpful for people and society. It involves affirming, equipping and deploying business people into service as they do business unto God and for the common good.
The sacred-secular divide is deeply entrenched in our churches and in our thinking as Christians all around the world. So we can’t just do a minor tweak in our business techniques. No, there is a need to completely align our thinking with the Bible’s view on work and business.
What are you particularly excited about at the moment?
That this is actually a global movement! This is bigger than any organization or person or business or conference. A movement means that there is a growth that is beyond any one person’s control. If we think about the a global charismatic movement that emerged in the 1970‘s, for instance, there were some significant leaders and initiatives, but you could never find out where the headquarters of the charismatic movement was! There was no number to call!
The same is happening with business as mission now. God is at work and people around the world are embracing Biblical truths and running with it. There is a great variety of things happening from place to place and industry to industry; and while there is common vision and purpose, you can’t point to the center. It is a true movement and that is so exciting to me.
Mats Tunehag in conversation with Jo Plummer, Editor of The BAM Review