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Why We Need the Term Business as Mission, But Maybe Not Forever!

I hope very few people will talk about Business as Mission (BAM) in the future. The term is like scaffolding; it is needed for a season as we build a new paradigm and praxis: businesses that glorify God and bring about holistic transformation of people and societies.

The term BAM has its merits in clarification of the concept. The term has been helpful in the affirmation of business people and the mobilization of resources. But the term is not important – the concept and the applications are.

Many Terms, Similar Concepts

In the general business world, there are also several terms for businesses that aim at multiple bottom-lines serving multiple stakeholders. Some examples are social enterprise, creative capitalism, conscious capitalism, corporate social responsibility, and inclusive business. Different terms, but very similar concept.

Some people dislike the term BAM or question its usefulness. Other phrases are used, such as business for transformation, Kingdom companies, missional business or business as integral calling.

Even this article highlights a limitation regarding terminology: it is in English. There are about 6,000 other languages in the world.  Read more

Business as Mission and the Three Mandates

We know that businesses can fail and hurt people (Enron) and harm nature (BP). But it is equally true that we all depend on businesses, and that they can do good. The woman in Proverbs 31 was an astute businesswoman whose ventures served individuals and her community.

The Quakers practiced a kind of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) long before academics developed the term. Their motto was ‘spiritual & solvent’. They served God and people in and through business.

Even Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations and sometimes called the “father of capitalism”, said that business should operate within a framework of fair play, justice and rule of law, and that businesses exist to serve the general welfare.

The computer pioneer Dave Packard said: “Many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. While this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being. People get together and exist as a company so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately – they make a contribution to society.” Read more

A Restaurant with a Mission: Excerpt from ‘BAM Global Movement’

“Through working in my business, I’m experiencing more of God,” says Faouzi Chihabi. “I have my faith in my head and heart, but now it’s also flowing through my hands.” Faouzi studied theology to become a minister, and then worked on issues concerning vulnerable youth for both the Dutch and European governments. Presently, he owns the trattoria Borgo d’Aneto. On the riverside in Rotterdam, his former work experience and his faith merge in this restaurant-with-a-mission.

The latte macchiato is poured carefully. The Italian bun is crisp; not too soft and not too hard. The plate nicely decorated with fresh vegetables. Faouzi trains his crew to keep an eye on the customer. In every area of this restaurant, they pursue a high-quality standard.

Borgo d’Aneto is an approved apprenticeship for youth “at risk” who attend special schools offering vocational training. Faouzi reacts strongly to the assumption that it is an extra challenge to maintain high quality with these young people working in his restaurant. “These boys and girls might have a low IQ, but it’s the biggest misconception that they are not socially adept. They are actually very sensitive and intuitive.” He sees them flourish in his restaurant, although sometimes a meal ends up in the trash. “As a business we cannot afford to put something on the table that doesn’t meet a good standard. When a plate is thrown in the trash, these youngsters might feel they themselves landed there, but they learn through failure to continue, despite a setback. They realize their contribution matters, and that realization causes growth.”  Read more