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Is Business As Mission Disruptive Innovation?

by Larry Sharp

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.1

BAM takes into consideration, the human condition of poverty and pain (both spiritual and physical) with the creation of a profitable business which creates jobs, which in turn creates wealth (a Biblical value stated in Deut. 8:18). It links that with the goal of making followers of Jesus and with the importance of wise use of human and natural resources. In summary, Business as Mission (BAM) at its core has a Quadruple Bottom Line: 1) Profit and Sustainability, 2) Job Creation, 3) Followers of Jesus, 4) Stewardship of Resources.

So how might this be innovative and how might it be disruptive?

First look at some well-known disruptive innovators. Jeff Bezos did not just improve book sales when he started Amazon. He disrupted everything – speedy book deliveries, then other products to become the world’s largest online shopping retailer. His latest disruptive talk: drones and space warehouses. His mantra, “if you are going to invent, you are going to disrupt.”

Looking back a few decades, some of us can remember the advent of the transistor radio. People first thought of them as Japanese junk, with poor quality, but they were portable and teenagers could take them to the beach easily. Gradually the sound improved and the product totally disrupted and made redundant the old cabinet radios.

I remember when a visitor showed up at our school in Brazil in the early 1970s with a portable calculator. Our bookkeeper was using a manual adding machine which did the job but was big, clumsy and noisy. I took the leap of faith and asked to purchase this calculator from the visitor before he left the country. I paid $180.00 for what today can be bought in Wal-Mart for $5.99. Portable calculators were disruptive because they did not just improve on existing technology, they disrupted it by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility and eventually affordability.

Perhaps one of the biggest examples of disruptive innovation is the development of the personal computer, when the big main frames ruled the day in the 1960s-70s. Even the chairman of IBM, Thomas Watson is famously quoted: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” But the personal computer formed a niche market that appeared unattractive and inconsequential at first but eventually the new product completely redefined the computing industry.

Mobile phones – the same story. The idea is that the historic technology and industry concentrates on improving their product while the innovative disruptors focus on the bottom end of the market tapping into new customers with new and different needs. They create new demand and find overlooked customers. Think Blockbuster and Netflix.

Back to the question: Is Business as Mission disruptive innovation? BAM spokesperson Mats Tunehag likens Kingdom Business today to a 21st century reformation. The Protestant Reformation was disruptive in that it focused Jesus followers on simpler easier forms of faith – reading their own scriptures, the priesthood of individual believers and faith over works as the way of salvation, among other things.

So perhaps BAM is disruptive in the following ways:

Business is returned to its rightful place as the only institution which creates wealth in society; it is not government, nor education, nor health care and not the church. All of these, as good and important as they are, consume wealth. Business creates it. And it is ordained by God.2

Business is the modern means ordained by God to address the issue of poverty. It creates wealth through job creation and gives dignity, honor and empowerment to individuals, families and communities. Jesus gave the Great Commandment requiring believers to love God and love their neighbor. Today loving our neighbor is creating a job for him/her and this becomes the modern equivalent of feeding the five thousand, or healing the leper. BAM is what Jesus would do today.3

Business and faith are easily integrated. Business leaders are together with people many hours each week so the principles of faith can be lived out in the marketplace of life. In most cultures, people learn by observing and doing and when it comes to knowing Jesus, one learns by observing a Jesus follower living and acting like Jesus in every life. Dale Losch in his book A Better Way, talks about living and loving like Jesus.

Whereas most of the 20th century became accustomed to outsourcing missional work to the professional clergy, Business as Mission is a reformation. It is the work of all believers in the workplace, not just the clergy, or those paid to be missional with their faith.

BAM is innovative in that it is cost effective. It does not require an endless infusion of charity monies which often become toxic by creating dependency and destabilization. It addresses issues of declining mission funding, and “America first” perspective.

Today Business as Mission and related means such as Tentmaking4 are disrupting the market. They have the potential (as the little guy at the bottom of the market) to replace the multi trillion dollar aid industry, and make the traditional mission professional mission groups redundant in much of the world.

Business as Mission is making the product (Quadruple Bottom Line) simple, accessible, convenient and affordable. It is not just improving on what has been done in the past; it is disrupting things in modern times by returning to an old order of “faith without works is dead”, creating wealth and promoting dignified sustainability. In one sense it is an ancient idea; but because it has been largely lost, it may be considered innovative, and certainly disruptive.

 

1   – See more at: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/?gclid=CMTS6OL_8dECFQaVfgodUtoILw#sthash.CKUPSk41.dpu/

2 Deut.8:18 “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

3 https://www.youtube.com/user/povertycure

4 Tentmaking is mission done in accordance with the model of the apostle Paul. He was a tentmaker by profession, and made a living through his work when he was on his mission journeys (Acts 18:3, 1 Cor 9). Today the ‘tentmaking’ label is used to describe everyone who seeks to serve God in other cultures through his or her profession. It includes business people, professionals, and students bringing the “Good News” onwards to new places. https://www.lausanne.org/networks/issues/tentmaking

 

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. 

 

 

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.

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

Building Prayer Into the Foundation of Your Business

By Dave Kahle

One of the characteristics that distinguish a biblical business from its competitors is the degree to which the executives of biblical businesses embed prayer into the fabric of the business.

This is an uncomfortable thought to many Christian business people, who have been led to believe that prayer has no place in the business world. That idea may simplify their positions and absolve them, at least in their minds, of responsibility. However, there is no support for it in Scripture, nor in the practices of successful contemporary biblical businesses. Both of those sources overwhelmingly support the case for an active, intentional and disciplined approach to prayer in business. Read more

A Powerful Role: How Business Fights Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the biggest travesties in our world today. Countless nonprofits, law enforcement units, and governments are taking a stand to address this global humanitarian crisis. Yet, where does business fit into the bigger picture? If you are a business person with a heart to do something to fight human trafficking, you can actually play a much bigger role than you may think.

Not For Sale: “Business Can Change the Tide Against Modern Slavery”

You might have heard of Not For Sale as a frontrunner nonprofit in the fight against human trafficking. What you probably don’t know is that in recent years, cofounder and president, David Batstone, has shifted their focus primarily towards business initiatives and job creation, rather than on humanitarian aid and rehabilitation. Not for Sale sees their contribution in the fight against human trafficking as preventing exploitation before it even happens, and believes business is a powerful tool in that process. Not for Sale partners with businesses to bring trafficking prevention to a whole new level. Their conviction:

“The responsibility to end modern slavery requires us to use our heads, as well as our hearts. We must use our courage to ask a new question, ‘How do you stop this before it happens in the first place?’…We believe business can change the tide against modern slavery because we’ve proven it with our own sweat, tears, and capital. We test our ideas, and help others do what works.”  Read more

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

Bad Math: Why Be a Business Professional?

by João Mordomo

Why be a business professional (or any other type of professional) when you can be a “Great Commission professional”? Here’s my first bit of math: “Great Commission = to make disciples of all peoples” (see Matt. 28:19-20.)

Many of us have been taught bad math. We’ve learned two formulas in particular whose conclusions can lead to confusion and a lack of clarity about what God wants to do in and through us. Here’s what I mean. We’ve learned that “Great Commission = clergy” and “Business professional = laity”.  

The almost inevitable result of this bad math is to think that the people who hold real value in God’s eyes are the clergy, the full-time religious workers. After all, we are told, they are all about “the Lord’s work,” and they “give up so much” to serve Him in “full-time ministry.”

The flip-side of our conclusion is that, sure, laypeople have some value, but it’s more about the money they make (that they then give as tithes and offerings) or the abilities they have (“hey, would you be interested in teaching a Sunday school class?”).

But that’s not what the Bible teaches! Look at what Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:9, and then get ready to jump for joy (out of your plush leather executive chair, or off of your factory floor, or… well, you get my point!)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9

Did you read it? If you are not jumping for joy already, maybe I can help. Read more

5 Ways to Nurture Spiritual Health: Tips from BAM Practitioners

In Part 1 we shared 4 Real Threats to the Spiritual Health of a BAMer: insights from 12 BAM practitioners on challenges they’d experienced to their spiritual well-being. In Part 2 below, find out how these BAMers actively nurture their relationship with the Lord.

1. Find a routine that works for you

All of the BAMers mentioned daily or weekly routines, disciplines and resources that best enabled them to talk to the Lord, to understand His word and to worship Him. Disciplines and tools such as setting aside time for prayer at a certain time, scripture reading plans, scripture meditation, devotional materials, prayer lists, contemplation, and so on, are all helpful. Consistency and knowing what works for you in a particular season are important keys.

Ask yourself:

  • What is my spiritual temperament? How do I best worship and relate to God?
  • What is God doing in this season of my life and what spiritual disciplines or tools will enhance that?
  • Where can I create space in my daily, weekly, monthly and annual routine to strengthen my relationship with the Lord and my spiritual health?

I give God the firstfruits of my time: Whenever I’m at my peak, I give that time to God. I’m a morning person, so I always start the day with him, giving him my best and exclusive focus. No social media, emails, etc to set my mind off into the world, but stilling practices including silence, solitude, reflection and prayer. I follow a plan for reading the Bible. It sounds a little basic, but by sticking to a plan, it means I have a healthy scaffold from which my relationship with God is developed and sustained. – Liam, Australia Read more

Sabbath Rest and Celebration in the Life of a BAM Practitioner

by Bill J.

In Hebrews 4 we read, “So then there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works.”

Sabbatical rest here is not the same as observing the Sabbath. They are different words in the text. The Sabbath is a day of the week set aside on which to not work. The Sabbath rest seems to be an experience we could have everyday, not one day a week. We enter into God’s rest by “resting from our own works.” So what in the world does that mean?

This Sabbath rest or in Greek ‘sabbatismos’ is defined by Strong’s concordance as “(figuratively) the repose of Christianity (as a type of heaven): — rest.” This sounds like what you would expect our experience to be if “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” actually happened! In the presence of the Lord we could cease from our own labors because he is here with us.

For anyone running a business this sounds absolutely crazy. We probably are busier than we have ever been. Telling us to rest from our works can feel very irresponsible. And so, most us plug on ahead at full speed. Or to avoid burn out, we slow down and the business fails to develop into a profitable organization. Read more

Is Your Work and Life in Balance? The BAM Balancing Act

by Patrick Lai

Ideally, every BAMer or B4Ter wants a perfect work-life balance. But as you’ve probably already experienced, this mythical balance is rarely achievable. Striving for balance can lead to more ‘stress over being stressed’ than work itself.

To help you manage the work-life balance debate, tune out the opinions of others and start checking in with what the Lord is saying to you. Ultimately it’s up to you to figure out what balance works best for your own situation, but if you need some help finding that equilibrium point, there are others who have gone before you who can help.

Starting Out

When you are first starting you’re your job overseas or your business, you may need to abandon any idea of balance. That’s a serious statement that warrants strong consideration before moving into the B4T/BAM world. You will need to get family, friends, loved ones and especially your leaders on board with your full-court push and be prepared for some backlash at the drive you’ll need to settle into your job or to get your business going.

In starting out, the work-life balance you achieve may be more like 90/10 than 50/50. Know your own contentment level. Strive to understand what that balance is for you personally and be prepared to make the commitment act upon your decision.

Evaluation and Adjustment

As you settle into your job, that balance will change and you’ll be able to invest more time at things and with people away from the office. So recognize that the fulcrum of balance will be a sliding point on the bar of life. Read more

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