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Really! Work is Worship

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up another great year we will be highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past six months. Below is the “Editor’s Pick” for July to December 2016.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Patrick Lai

The Hebrew word “avodah” (ah-vod-ah) is translated in the English Bible for both work and worship. A better English translation when referring to work is service. God receives work as worship done unto Him. Put simply: work is worship. The similarity between the two clarifies that in God’s eyes our work is worship in that it is not done for our own benefit, but rather as an offering to Him. This means the workplace is God’s place. We are to interact with God and talk about God in our workplace just as we do at church or at home. The workplace is a place of worship where we may express the compassion of Christ in word and deed.

In building a theology of work we need to begin with God’s Word and God’s words.  The Hebrew word avodah is central to understanding God’s view of work and worship. This noun עבדה (avodah), occurs 145 times, making this word group a substantial theme in the Old Testament. The root verb עבד (avad) occurs 289 times in the Bible, mostly in the qal form. This does not include the substantive form, עבד (eved), which occurs an additional 780 times in the Old Testament.  The עבד word group is translated throughout the English Old Testament in three main ways: Read more

Why Do BAMers Give Up & Go Home? The Top 4 Reasons for BAM Attrition

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up another great year we will be highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past six months. Below is the “Staff Pick” for July to December 2016.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

We asked seven BAM mentors to share the reasons for BAMer attrition that they most commonly see. By attrition we mean negative factors that erode a BAMers ability to stay in their job and thus cause them to leave their location or their company – these could be gradual or cataclysmic.

Here are the top four factors the BAM mentors shared and some observations about each one:

1. Commercial failure

As expected, the most commonly cited factor was commercial failure. This covered a very broad area, but there were two strong themes within this category: money and market.

“Money” included both inadequate capitalisation and lack of financial control leading to cashflow problems. “Market” included lack of adequate business planning to determine whether there is a market for the product or service, and lack of ability to pivot to changes in the market.

Sometimes it’s a failure to do suitable and effective research and planning. Is there a need for the product or service? Simple as that. – DS

I’ve got a couple of businesses that are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and I think it’s problematic. And, in these instances, because they aren’t the type of owners who are the typical risk takers, they don’t make decisions to change their business model easily. – NH Read more

4 Real Threats to the Spiritual Health of a BAMer

Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. – Philippians 2:15-16 (The Message)

I love how The Message renders this exhortation from Paul in Philippians. The more traditional ‘shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life’ is brought to life as an encouragement to be a breath of fresh air to people, showing them what good living is in relationship with the living God.

What a reminder and challenge for each follower of Christ that our own relationship with the Lord is central to our mission! For how can we be a breath of fresh air to others and help people glimpse the living God if we are not experiencing that vital life and connection in our own lives? But we live in the real world with real businesses to run. How can we be ‘light-giving’ when we are under great stress, dealing with the pressures and realities of running a company, often in hostile or difficult circumstances?

This is the question that we put to 12 BAM practitioners. We asked them about the greatest challenges to nurturing or maintaining their spiritual health as a BAMer. We also asked them what had been their most useful habits, practices or resources for nurturing spiritual health. Read more

Why Do BAMers Give Up & Go Home? The Top 4 Reasons for BAM Attrition

We asked seven BAM mentors to share the reasons for BAMer attrition that they most commonly see. By attrition we mean negative factors that erode a BAMers ability to stay in their job and thus cause them to leave their location or their company – these could be gradual or cataclysmic.

Here are the top four factors the BAM mentors shared and some observations about each one:

1. Commercial failure

As expected, the most commonly cited factor was commercial failure. This covered a very broad area, but there were two strong themes within this category: money and market.

“Money” included both inadequate capitalisation and lack of financial control leading to cashflow problems. “Market” included lack of adequate business planning to determine whether there is a market for the product or service, and lack of ability to pivot to changes in the market.

Sometimes it’s a failure to do suitable and effective research and planning. Is there a need for the product or service? Simple as that. – DS

I’ve got a couple of businesses that are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and I think it’s problematic. And, in these instances, because they aren’t the type of owners who are the typical risk takers, they don’t make decisions to change their business model easily. – NH Read more

7 Things We Have Learned in 10 Years of BAM Consulting

by Larry Sharp and Gary Willett

IBEC Ventures was incorporated in 2006 as a consulting group to provide consulting services primarily to Business as Mission startups in areas where there is high unemployment, great injustice and where there a few followers of Jesus.

IBEC’s Purpose: IBEC helps build sustainable businesses through consultative expertise that changes lives and transforms communities.

IBEC’s Vision: We envision an increasing number of small-medium sustainable Kingdom businesses with our special emphasis on areas that are both economically impoverished and spiritually unreached.

So what have we learned in these last ten years? We have made significant mistakes to be sure; and we have seen some successes, but recently three of us senior leaders considered the question of what we have learned. Here are some of those lessons:

1. Business as mission should be fully integrated

We have learned that this is not business as usual, and this is not missions as usual. BAM is a based in a theology of a ‘worker God’ who created man to be a worker and a creator (Gen 1-2). He also created mankind with various ‘wirings’ and gifts and many are business people with abilities to create wealth (Deut 8:18), as an act of worship and as their unique ministry. Business is a high and holy calling and those gifted to serve the kingdom of God in this way are ministers, fulfilling their spiritual calling. Read more

Really! Work is Worship

by Patrick Lai

The Hebrew word “avodah” (ah-vod-ah) is translated in the English Bible for both work and worship. A better English translation when referring to work is service. God receives work as worship done unto Him. Put simply: work is worship. The similarity between the two clarifies that in God’s eyes our work is worship in that it is not done for our own benefit, but rather as an offering to Him. This means the workplace is God’s place. We are to interact with God and talk about God in our workplace just as we do at church or at home. The workplace is a place of worship where we may express the compassion of Christ in word and deed.

In building a theology of work we need to begin with God’s Word and God’s words.  The Hebrew word avodah is central to understanding God’s view of work and worship. This noun עבדה (avodah), occurs 145 times, making this word group a substantial theme in the Old Testament. The root verb עבד (avad) occurs 289 times in the Bible, mostly in the qal form. This does not include the substantive form, עבד (eved), which occurs an additional 780 times in the Old Testament.  The עבד word group is translated throughout the English Old Testament in three main ways: Read more

Education and Identity: Managing Connections to Christian Networks

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

How do you manage your associations with Christians and Christian networks – both national and international – in light of security concerns? My ideal is to maintain my relationships with churches and Christian organisations (and indeed receive vital support/services from these); and I want to be well connected into the local church. However, I am concerned about how those connections may endanger my business. How have you managed both the relational side and other more formal associations you have with organisations or churches?

~ Feeling Cautious

Dear Cautious,

I personally believe that there are two key areas that you need to focus on as you consider your associations with Christians and Christian networks while working in a hostile environment. You should concentrate on education and building a strong identity.

Ever since we moved into a restricted access country, we have been working on educating all of the different parties involved in our lives. Most of our sending churches had only dealt with traditional missionary models, so we had to talk with them about:

  • How they communicate with us in email
  • What they could post about us online
  • How they should refer to us during their services.

During the first few years, we had to be vigilant about what they were writing in their online bulletins and websites. Over time, they have come to understand the seriousness of their actions. One simple way to make your point clear is to share real life stories of people who have been questioned because of “church mistakes.” Read more

Pragmatic and Prophetic: Managing Connections to Christian Networks

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

How do you manage your associations with Christians and Christian networks – both national and international – in light of security concerns? My ideal is to maintain my relationships with churches and Christian organisations (and indeed receive vital support/services from these); and I want to be well connected into the local church. However, I am concerned about how those connections may endanger my business. How have you managed both the relational side and other more formal associations you have with organisations or churches?

~ Feeling Cautious

Dear Cautious,

This is first and fundamentally a theological-missiological issue, secondly a relational issue, and thirdly a risk-related issue. Let’s tackle the question in this order.

By “theological-missiological” I mean that the question takes us to the core issues of spiritual warfare, identity with the Kingdom of God, and the often overlooked and neglected matter of suffering for the sake of righteousness, in fulfilment of God’s purposes. The point is that, ultimately, our security is not our concern! We are engaged in a spiritual warfare, in which the advance of the Kingdom of God is often painfully slow and subject to setbacks, and that suffering, even to the point of shedding blood, let alone expulsion, is the New Testament norm. It’s commonplace, but profoundly erroneous, to assume that because we are doing something as value-added as business, we have therefore some sort of iron-clad guarantee that we’ll be exempt from the same tests, trials and trauma of any other missional effort.

By “relational” I mean that our being blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ by definition implies a willingness to be associated with this community, to take pride in our shared identity, and to find meaningful ways to engage with other Christians. Our businesses should not be seen by the host country as discriminatory (i.e. don’t hire all Christians!) or a cover for activities that may be illegal at worst, or at least misunderstood (i.e. avoid associations with certain styles of activities or messaging that can be counter-productive). But we should resist any fear or shame in being identified with the local and global Christian community which shares the Name of Jesus, just to protect our business – which, while important, is of secondary importance to the Body of Christ. Read more

The Power of Planning and Marketing: 7 Reasons Tentmaking Businesses Fail [Book Excerpt]

Poor Planning Paralyzes

It was a couple years back when an individual who was interested in starting a business in our city approached me. As we sat down he pulled out a few pieces of paper, which contained his business idea. He had translated the business idea into a couple of other languages for others to read it. After glancing over the proposal, I had a couple of questions come into my mind. Who is your target market? How will you make money on this idea? 

I was surprised at his answer! He said that he had done some market research and interviewed some of the people who might be interested in his product. They told him that there was no real market for his product. They said it was not needed or really wanted at this time. 

He then said something I will never forget:

“But I decided to move forward anyway with the idea.” 

All he had done for planning was to ask a few people. The people had told him that there was not a need for his product. However, he was still moving forward with the idea. Where was the business plan? This idea was doomed for failure. 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