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Business in Brick Lane: Reinventing Church in Multicultural London

“I’ve had more significant conversations in this coffee shop in one week, than a whole year working in a church building,” tells Paul Unsworth. “We need new models of church where people can have a sense of belonging regardless of what they believe.”  In a busy, multicultural and popular street in East London, this Baptist pastor is re-inventing church. He and his team started a commercial coffee shop – as a church. They learned some keys on the way.

The coffee shop opened its doors June 2012 in Brick Lane. In this area twenty thousand people come to visit the shops and market on a regular Sunday. Many kinds of faiths are shared, but Christians are hardly to be found. While walking here one Sunday, Paul knew, ‘We have to be here, among these crowds’. They named the coffee shop Kahaila, which is a word play with the Hebrew word Kahila, meaning community, and the word Chaim/hai, what is connected with ‘life’. These words represent their purpose of bringing life to the very centre of the community: to plant a church as a café. Paul, “Traditional churches work well for Christians, but we want to explore how we model a church that engages people outside the church. Those kind of people who see church like they do a red telephone box – an amazing building that’s part of our heritage. They don’t want these telephone boxes removed and love to see it standing somewhere in a street, but they will never use it. They look at church the same way: they love the architecture and the fact that it is part of British culture, but it’s not for them.”

No business, no mission

The whole coffee shop endeavour did cost a lot of money and effort. Over a hundred thousand pounds were invested; partly donated and partly borrowed. This meant that they had to run the business well in order to raise an income, and to attract clients. Their aim was to become one of the best coffee shops in London and they seem to be well on their way: nearly four times as much profit was made as initially anticipated. But what’s more: people are finding them and recommending Kahaila on internet for their good coffee, food, service and atmosphere. While regularly adding the comment online: ‘Oh, and these guys are Christians’. Read more

The Viking Spirit: BAM In and From the Nordic Region

We share 4 short excerpts of BAM stories both in and from the Nordic region. For the full case studies, see the BAM Global Think Tank report on BAM In and From the Nordic Region.

BAM In the Nordic Region

Hans Nielsen Hauge: Changing a nation 200 years ago

We might call Hans Nielsen Hauge the first social entrepreneur in the Nordic countries. Indeed it would also be true to say that he carried the values of business as mission as he clearly had a huge impact on individuals and society in financial, social and spiritual aspects.

As a serial entrepreneur he started as many as 30 companies in Norway within a period of 4 years in 1800-1804 – that is almost one company every second month. Busy man! These companies were not micro enterprises but rather larger scale industries such as factories, mills, ship yards, mines and printing presses.

Hauge traveled – mostly by foot – throughout most of Norway, from Tromso in the north to Denmark in the south. He held countless revival meetings, often after church services. In addition to his religious work, he offered practical advice, encouraging such things as settlements in Northern Norway and helping people start businesses.

As a social entrepreneur Hauge wasn’t motivated by becoming rich and did not pay dividends to shareholders. He was rather motivated to serve society. He plowed money back into the business and then turned operations and ownership over to others and moved on. His followers started many other industries in turn and in a period of extreme economic crisis, when almost all the prosperous timber barons and iron works owners went bankrupt because of the Napoleonic wars, he showed a way to prosperity for anyone with initiative. This led to a new rise in Norwegian economics some years after the independence in 1814. In this matter Hauge was but one of several contributors, but he was one of the most influential. He was especially influential in the way he combined economics and Christian morals: modesty, honesty and hard work, among others. Read more

Laboring in the Dark: BAM in Iran

Iran is an extremely hostile environment for any endeavor that is not instigated and controlled by the Islamic Government and its sympathizers. This creates significant challenges for the Christian Community to create and operate businesses that promote Biblical values. In addition, due to the xenophobia of the Islamic Government and the imposition of International Sanctions, it is very difficult for the larger world wide Christian Community to provide any assistance or support.

Internally, the Christian Community is viewed as a threat to the Islamic Government and to openly identify oneself as part of that community is to invite persecution and potential death. Thus any identification of individuals or businesses as being an expression of the Christian Community is extremely dangerous and invites opposition.

In the area of economic activity, any enterprise of significant value is controlled and managed by the Islamic Government and is subject to its Islamic rules and regulations. Thus, to create and operate a significant business enterprise that is not owned and operated by a supporter of the Islamic Government and its values is nearly impossible.

However, despite the challenges of doing business in such a hostile environment, there are business examples to learn from. The BAM in Iran report shares a summary of findings from a survey of 25 businesses in Iran. Many of these business are smaller in scale and tend to stay under the radar. Read more

Business as Mission in Turkey: Opportunities and Challenges

Turkey is a country that defies easy classification. A famous (and cynical) British diplomat long ago said “Turkey is a country of enormous as yet unfulfilled potential. It always has been. It always will be.” As the country lurches toward authoritarianism this seem depressingly accurate. But while the challenges that underlie these observations call for sober reflection, they are also reminders of the need for BAM and for a clear and credible witness for the Kingdom in this remarkable and complex society.

Turkey is now the world’s 16th or 17th largest economy. It has grown enormously in the last 20 years and its trade with Europe, Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East are all significant. Turkey manufactures white goods, automobiles, textiles, glass and F16 engines and fighter jets. Turkish construction companies dominate throughout the Caucuses and Middle East and European trade shows now feature many Turkish brands and joint ventures. 

Turks generally view their country as an emerging powerhouse and have designed regulations accordingly. They want foreign investment, but they want it on their terms. The regulations for foreign investment here are designed around multi-million euro investments and intentionally build barriers for small scale foreign companies – see the Invest in Turkey website for the official guide for foreign investors. This is a great challenge for BAM by foreigners. Small scale startups are possible but difficult. Unfortunately, the current political and economic climate also makes large scale investments much more risky than they were just two years ago. So proceed with caution. Read more

Muslim Village Transformed Through Prayer, Business People and Owls

It was warm and humid. One may say almost too hot for a Swede. But the story that emerged was more than cool.

I listened to the mayor of a small Muslim village. We sat outside his house, drank tea and nibbled on fruit, nuts and sweets. He was enthusiastic and composed. As a devout Muslim he had come to appreciate Christian business people in a way that surprised him. There is a long and sometimes violent history of severe distrust and tension between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia.

The village used to be quite poor. Rats ate 40 percent of the crops every year. These creatures also spread disease. Collaboration for irrigation was non-existent. There was a lack of entrepreneurial spirit and seemingly no-one thought about praying for a difference.

But some good friends and colleagues of mine visited the mayor and his village. They are Christian business people, they wanted to help and they wanted to build bridges across a religious divide.

At first the mayor declined. Why did business people come, and not charity workers or government people? On top of that, these people were Christians – not Muslims. But one Christian businesswoman suggested that they at least could pray. She said that prayers make a difference; yes God can make a difference. It was agreed. Something happened and it became a turning point. The mayor invited them to come back and they did. Read more

Growing a Kingdom-Minded Business Community in Indonesia

Kingdom Business Community (KBC) is a network for Christian business people in Indonesia. Describing itself as a marketplace ministry movement with ‘business as mission’ concerns, it is one of the largest networks of mission-focused business people in the world.

KBC began in 2005 with six business friends from the same church who dreamed of catalyzing transformation on a national level through the practice of business. Ten years later, KBC has trained thousands of business people and hosts 30 training camps each year in five different regions around the country.

Kingdom Business Community adalah pelayanan marketplace di Indonesia yang aktif dan telah memiliki lebih dari 5.500 alumni beserta jaringannya dan memfokuskan pada pertumbuhan pemimpin usaha (GLORY LEADERS) serta membangun perusahaan yang didorong oleh tujuan yang baik.

KBC didirikan pada 14 Januari 2005, dipelopori oleh 10 pasang suami istri yang pada saat itu sedang menangani acara “Business As Mission” di Jakarta Sejak itu KBC terus berkembang hingga 6 kota (Jakarta, Surabaya, Semarang, Bali, Bandung dan Jogyakarta) dengan lebih dari 200 fasilitator dan mentor yang mendukung secara penuh kegerakan KBC.

Read more

The Final Frontier? BAM in Mongolia

Mongolia is seen as the “Final Frontier” for many people. It stirs up images of the horse herds that still run free across her open steppes. From the harsh arid climate of the Gobi Desert in the south, to the pristine lakes in the frozen north that border Russia’s Siberia, the climate has forged a hardy, resilient people who work hard, play hard, and practice a survivalist hospitality.

Into this climate, Mongolia in 1990 opened her borders to doing business and trade with the rest of the world. Freedom of religion was written into her new constitution. A free market economy emerged. People were asking for the tools to cope with a new and growing economy. From 2000 to 2012, Mongolia’s resource-rich countryside has fueled what is now reported to be one of the fastest growing economies of Asia.

Into this setting business as mission entrepreneurs are finding opportunities to work with Mongolians to help them build their country on the solid foundations of faith and the hope that does not disappoint. BAM workers seek to close the gap between rich and poor; to disciple Mongolia’s young population with values which will encourage them not to buy into the despotism of capitalism, but that will build a sustainable future.

Introduction to Mongolia

Mongolia is the little known country with the big influence. It became most well-known in history in the 1200s because of Genghis Khan (Chingis, as pronounced by most Mongolians). He was the ruler who united the tribes and conquered much of Asia, ruling the largest empire the world has ever known. His grandson Kublai Khan met Marco Polo and the West was introduced to this powerful nation.

Later the Chinese would take back not only their country from the Mongols, but Mongolia as well. In the 1920s Russia helped liberate Mongolia from Chinese rule. For the next 70 years Mongolia and the Soviet Union had strong political, economic and social ties. Read more

BAM is Global: Around the World in 40 Days

We are starting a new series on The BAM Review blog: Around the World in 40 Days!

BAM is a global phenomenon. No one network or organisation can claim that they started it or they are leading it. Rather God is on the move around the world, calling men and women from all continents to start businesses for His Kingdom purposes. To highlight just some of what He is doing, and emphasise that business as mission is a global movement, we will take a tour around the BAM world for the next six weeks or so. We hope you enjoy the trip!

To kick off this series, below is a repost of an interview we did with Mats Tunehag, first published in January 2015, taking a look at the global BAM movement.

Business as Mission: The Global Movement Today

An interview with Mats Tunehag

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. Read more

How the Sacred-Secular Divide Influences Attitudes to Business in Asia and Australia

We asked people engaged with BAM around the world to share how they see the sacred-secular divide affecting thinking in the Church in their country – and how this influences engagement of Christians the business sphere.

Perspectives from Asia and Australia

Rod St.Hill – Australia

The sacred-secular divide is alive and well in Australia. A common complaint from Christians business people is, ‘My pastor does not understand me’. Pastors rarely visit their business people at their place of work. There is anecdotal evidence that perhaps 40% of Christians in business are not engaged in their local church because they don’t see church as being relevant to them. Christians in business often feel that the church has a somewhat cynical attitude toward them – ‘You make the profit and hand it over to the church’ as if that will somehow sanctify it. There are also Christians who show hardly any evidence of Christian belief in their business practices.

Yet all is not doom and gloom. There is growing interest in ministries such as Kingdom Investors, founded by businessman Dave Hodgson, who is encouraging business owners to be connected with, and supportive of, their local church and to infuse their businesses with Kingdom principles. Last February, the Global Marketplace Exchange, pioneered by Pastor Sean Morris and Peter Kentley was launched with a consultative meeting near Melbourne. Some 170 leaders from ten ‘domains’, including church and business, gathered to begin working together to transform our nation. In addition there are now at least four Christian university-level institutions that offer degrees that integrate faith and business. There is much to be done to break down the sacred-secular divide, but there are positive signs that God’s people are moving as they are in other nations. Read more

European Economic Summit Declaration

By Mats Tunehag

EES Declaration 2015How can we connect Sunday and Monday? How can our faith inform our actions in the marketplace? What are key building blocks in economics and business as we pursue a society built on justice and mercy?

These were key issues addressed by 175 people from 26 nations gathered at the European Economic Summit, EES, in Amsterdam in September 2014. Important observations and suggestions emerged through the pre-consultations, keynote addresses, small group discussions and prayer. These findings were summarized in the EES Declaration. Albeit a particular focus is on Europe, the lessons learned are valid and can be very valuable for other contexts as well. Read more

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