Posts

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. 

 

 

Damaging Beliefs About Work and Missional Calling

by Larry Sharp

In recent years I have taken notice of what pastors have stated on topics related to Business as Mission (BAM), the theology of work and the Great Commission. Here are some comments which give me particular concern and have caused me to wonder how typical they are or if they are part of the cause for the slow growth in the BAM movement.

I was part of a workshop at a BAM conference designed for pastors with about 30 in attendance. At one point after much had been presented and then discussed by the group, one pastor remarked that he was not in agreement with some things because “after all work was a result of the fall of man.” I was shocked, and wondered how long it had been since he read the book of Genesis.

The truth:  God is a God of work demonstrated in the creation of all things, and then He gave a job description to the earth’s first human inhabitants.

 

When I lived in Pennsylvania, I was part of a mid-sized church and a member of the missions committee. We organized a week-long conference each year and many of the 70+ missionary units were in attendance. A special speaker was always invited. One year on the first night, the pastor got up to introduce the mission speaker like this. “It is a privilege to have Mike Sullivan share with us this week. He trained as a Biochemical engineer and worked in that industry for six years until God called him to a higher calling. He then served in Indonesia and is now president of Mission XYZ. Welcome Mike.”

Of course, people clapped in appreciation for Mr. Sullivan and his response to God’s call. I did not clap and I have changed the names and places because of the unbiblical nature of the introduction.

The truth:  Religious “ministry” is not a higher calling but God wants all believers to use their God-given capacities for His glory and that is their highest calling. There is no spiritual hierarchy.

 

I was invited to give a full-day Saturday seminar in a nearby church. About 40 people attended including the pastor. He listened carefully but did not contribute to the discussion opportunities. Shortly after I arrived home, I received a phone call. Pastor Dave invited me to come to his study on Monday morning. I welcomed the opportunity to talk further on these topics.

I was not long in his office when Pastor Dave stated cogently and clearly that he did not believe I was doing the right thing and the Great Commission was not given to business people and laymen. He said God called special people for the role of apostles and missionaries and the spread of the Gospel was their “calling”.

I left that office discouraged and saddened, until later in the day when business people started to call me inviting me to share with other groups and to talk about how they could get involved.

The truth:  The Great Commission was given to all believers and is not the purview of the clergy class.

 

When I am asked to be part of a training weekend or series of seminars in a church, I prefer if the senior pastor is in attendance and if that is impossible at least one of his associates should be there. One time when I inquired about the pastor’s whereabouts after we had discussed his coming, the missions pastor said that the senior pastor declared to him that “BAM is just a fad and it will soon pass”, and will not be attending.

The truth:  This pastor is the precise person that needed to attend because BAM is not a fad, it the re-discovery of how the gospel spread in the first century, where the everyday believer lived his relationship with Jesus in the marketplace of life, for the glory of God.

 

It was the Sunday for dedicating the new missionaries who were heading to Central Asia. The couple gave a few words and several people came forward to lay hands on the young missionaries. The pastor concluded with his prayer of dedication with a clear reference to these special people who were “called to full time ministry”. In talking later with people in the church I realized that all of God’s people in that church were not expected to be in ministry. The unbiblical sacred-secular dichotomy was alive and well.

The truth:  There is no full-time ministry and part-time ministry. Everything we do in every aspect of life is full-time living like Jesus, being and making disciples.

 

I am convinced that the foundational principles for Business as Mission are rooted in the truths of God’s word and his purposes for the peoples of the world. Without accurate theology and raison d’etre, we will lack the enduring substance for real change in how the “mission of God” is accomplished in the world.

 

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. 

 

 

5 Risk Factors Guaranteed to Doom a BAM Business

by Larry Sharp

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Stories from the Frontline

Last year I was leading a seminar in a conference in Arizona, when a local business owner asked the question, “Are there no failed BAM businesses?” While I readily agreed there were, I began to think about the question in a more profound way. What is the “good, the bad and the ugly” of real life BAM business experiences – those that demonstrate that there are BAM failures along with the successes?

Over the past 10 years, I have observed risk factors for BAM enterprises which should stimulate every stakeholder in the BAM community towards better recruitment, better preparation, better deployment and better accountability. Many a sports leader, military hero, or young entrepreneur has demonstrated the oft-quoted statement of Benjamin Franklin, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” And that is true in the Kingdom business endeavors of today.

So what are these factors and where are the stories which help us understand basic principles for launching and landing well in a cross-cultural business? How do we best start companies designed to work out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission? How can we improve so that there will be fewer failures and a greater chance of successful transformational businesses in the areas of the world that need them the most? If these five risk factors don’t actually doom your BAM company, not paying attention to them will seriously endanger it… at the very least!  Read more

The Power of a Story: Orality in Business

By Howard Partridge

While attending a very high level, exclusive leadership training, we were taken to the largest independent advertising agency in the U.S.

We were taken on a tour of the massive, modern office space inhabited by over 700 employees that included a gym that would rival any local health club, nap rooms, and most importantly the large, open stairwell that connected all the floors of this modern building.

The stairwell is the one and only place that all 760 team members can all be together. There is a catwalk that is prominently suspended in the middle of the open stairwell where the company news is shared. This is where potential clients are brought to be introduced, it’s where the good and the bad is shared. And, this is where stories are told.

In order to effectively tour the company, our group of about a hundred was broken into small groups of ten people. A staff member named Emily led our tour. She told story after story about their culture, why they do what they do, and why it was important. I was impressed that she was so passionate about the stories, the culture and the meaning behind everything they do. Read more

7 Markers for a Kingdom Business: A Framework for Entrepreneurs

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 “Most Popular Post” for July to December 2016.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Courtney Rountree Mills

A quick framework to help entrepreneurs learn how to integrate their faith life with their business life in a practical way.

Let’s face it. Life is hard enough as an entrepreneur. The whole world always seems to be resting on your shoulders. The pressure to succeed is immense. After all, if you don’t, you let down not only yourself and your family, but also your staff and their families! What gets you through the pressure? Mainly prayer and the passion you have for your business. You love the challenge of being an entrepreneur. It energizes you more than almost anything else. Sometimes thinking about your business becomes more like an addiction – you could work on or think through challenges you face all day, every day and never feel like you are completely caught up.

The only thing you care about more than your business is your relationship with Jesus and your family. Still, it seems your business ends up taking over your prayer life and family life, too. You keep hearing about how you should live an integrated life, but you have no practical idea how to achieve this. You hear people around you using the phrases “Kingdom Business” or “Missional Business.” These sound great to you, but you don’t even know what the definition of a Kingdom Business is. Measuring your business’ Key Performance Indicators is easy, but how do you measure your KPIs when it comes to integrating your life as a believer and business owner? This article provides a quick framework to help entrepreneurs live out their faith in their business. This is a topic that resonated most with the 450 entrepreneurs we have accelerated who were asking the same question. Most of this is not material I wrote. Rather, it is a compilation of some of the best material I have found on living out business as mission. Read more

7 Markers for a Kingdom Business: A Framework for Entrepreneurs

by Courtney Rountree Mills

A quick framework to help entrepreneurs learn how to integrate their faith life with their business life in a practical way.

Let’s face it. Life is hard enough as an entrepreneur. The whole world always seems to be resting on your shoulders. The pressure to succeed is immense. After all, if you don’t, you let down not only yourself and your family, but also your staff and their families! What gets you through the pressure? Mainly prayer and the passion you have for your business. You love the challenge of being an entrepreneur. It energizes you more than almost anything else. Sometimes thinking about your business becomes more like an addiction – you could work on or think through challenges you face all day, every day and never feel like you are completely caught up.

The only thing you care about more than your business is your relationship with Jesus and your family. Still, it seems your business ends up taking over your prayer life and family life, too. You keep hearing about how you should live an integrated life, but you have no practical idea how to achieve this. You hear people around you using the phrases “Kingdom Business” or “Missional Business.” These sound great to you, but you don’t even know what the definition of a Kingdom Business is. Measuring your business’ Key Performance Indicators is easy, but how do you measure your KPIs when it comes to integrating your life as a believer and business owner? This article provides a quick framework to help entrepreneurs live out their faith in their business. This is a topic that resonated most with the 450 entrepreneurs we have accelerated who were asking the same question. Most of this is not material I wrote. Rather, it is a compilation of some of the best material I have found on living out business as mission.

Kingdom Business: The Definition

First, what is a Kingdom business? The best definition I found is one I slightly adapted from Acton School of Business in partnership with Gateway Church:

A kingdom business is an enterprise directed by the Holy Spirit and managed by a godly leader that uses its time, talent, and money to meet the spiritual and/or physical needs of the community around them to advance God’s purpose.

Ok good. We’ve defined it. Sounds pretty simple right? Now, let’s break apart this definition piece by piece to define the characteristics of a Kingdom Business. From this definition, Acton matched 6 characteristics they believe a Kingdom Business should exhibit. Each one has an associated question you can use to evaluate yourself and your business. I have slightly modified this framework to add a seventh dimension (“Reflection of God’s Character”) that I think is quite helpful. 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

The Marketing Value Proposition: The ‘Golden Rule’ in Action

by Bill Westwood

Ever since I left school in 1974 and joined the marketing department of a major (unfortunately now defunct) motor manufacturer, I have loved marketing. It was the genesis of a lifelong passion for the business world and happened to broadly coincide with the start of my faith journey too. Not that faith and business are separate journeys; it’s a partnership made in heaven. Unfortunately the business and ecclesiastical worlds that we inhabit today all too often collide in conflict and misunderstanding. For that, they are both the poorer.

I will never know whether or not I would have been a force to be reckoned with in marketing (although I suspect not) because somewhere along the way I got lost and became an accountant instead! But finance did teach me how companies worked, and when I finally got to manage a business, it was a big help having a ‘numbers’ background because it’s the numbers that tell the story of the value that a business delivers to its clients. Value fascinates me, and if you are in a frontline commercial function one of the things you learn pretty quickly is that ‘everyone understands cost, but not many understand value’. I believe that value is not only at the heart of business; I shall show how it’s also at the heart of the fundamental biblical narratives of creation and redemption too. In fact it’s at the heart of life itself. Read more

Why BAM Training is Important: Adding Value to the Entrepreneur

by Mark Plummer

Making a business work is incredibly satisfying and exciting. Even when a business fails, a resilient entrepreneur gets up and goes at it again having learned from their first experience. Business is an incredible process where creativity, tenacity, risk and hard work can bring financial fruit and a broad impact.

God instructs man in Genesis 1 and 2 to be fruitful and multiply, to work the land, to create and essentially to ‘add value’. I believe business falls under this ‘creation mandate’ – and what an amazing process to be involved in!

I am also quite passionate about training. I believe that preparation and training can be the difference between failure and success, and I am all about hedging towards success. This is particularly true for the entrepreneur starting a business in an emerging economy of the world where there is so much to learn and so much to consider. Read more

Central Asia: Disciple-Making in the Marketplace

In the world of “Business 4 Transformation” we often seem to be enamoured with outward appearance, even though we know that we should be striving for lasting fruit (which usually does not go hand in hand with glitz and glory!) In Kazakhstan, we are facing a similar challenge as the last 10 years have been a time where people have been tested, somewhat by persecution but more so by the coming of the glitz of wealth that believers were not well equipped to deal with. As a result, many are not walking with the Lord and the need for ordinary business people who live like Jesus (even just a little like Jesus) in the marketplace remains a huge need, in order to see expansion of the Kingdom of God in the nation.

Kazakhstan is a largely bi-vocational country where paid pastors remain a small minority. But how do you make a living and do ministry where there are few good examples of Godly business people to follow? Business people are beginning to be seen as legitimate believers within the national church, which is a big change in recent years.

After many years of working in Central Asia, I believe the greatest need is such a simple one that it is often overlooked.  We have so many methods, but the Scriptures say simply, “Go and make disciples.” This is simple but the results are so stunning. We are called to go deep into a disciple’s life with the truth of Scripture, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded”. This may sound simple, but it takes lots of effort. In obeying this command, I will be inconvenienced and there will be setbacks as we encounter life’s problems. But, it is so rewarding to see disciples taking hold of the Scriptures for themselves – and then repeating it with another person! Read more

Portfolio Items