by Jo Plummer
1. We can’t talk about ‘business as mission’ until we talk about ‘business’
Business is part of God’s good plan for human flourishing and has a God-designed power and role in human society. Business as mission takes this intrinsic God-given power and role of business and intentionally uses it as an instrument for mission. Just as water or wind power can be intentionally harnessed to do more good (or harm), business as mission is harnessing the power of business for God’s glory, the gospel, and the common good.
It is therefore vitally important that we have a good grasp of what the Bible says about business – and indeed, economics, human flourishing and God’s mission to the world – before we then apply those fundamental truths about God’s purposes to doing business as mission. Let us build on solid biblical foundations!
What we don’t want to do is create a new ‘sacred-secular divide’ while trying to break down the old one. Business does not need to be sanctified by being engaged as an instrument for mission, it is already part of God’s good design. Just as one vocation is not more spiritual or sacred than another, the same goes for different kinds of business. We can glorify God through work and our vocations, wherever we are.
2. Business as mission is part of a broader movement, but also has a unique and distinctive response to the world’s most pressing issues
For example, business as mission is part of the wider shift in the global church towards more integral (or holistic) models of mission that break down the dichotomy between evangelism and social responsibility. But it is also distinctive in that it emphasises for-profit solutions to mission challenges, rather than charitable or donor-driven mission models.
Business as mission is also part of a broader re-evaluation in society concerning the purpose of business beyond financial returns for shareholders. This movement towards ‘social enterprise’, ‘impact investment’, ‘conscious capitalism, etc. focuses instead on creating ‘shared value’ for many stakeholders, with positive social and environmental impact included alongside economic impact. Although these expressions of social enterprise sometimes encompass spiritual impact as well, BAM always includes spiritual impact. Business as mission makes central a restored relationship with God, through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross – plus all the implications for restored relationship with our neighbours and creation that will also bring.
Business as mission is part of a growing movement to integrate faith and work and to encourage entrepreneurs and business professionals everywhere to be ‘faith-driven’ – and such integration must be foundational in every BAM company. However, business as mission is also distinctive in that the ‘ministry’ happens both within the business context AND also through the business model, through every part of the business strategy and operations. Business as mission sees business both as the medium and the message.
By calling out the distinctives of BAM, we are not implying that it is superior to any other model or emphasis. However, it does require a particular set of methodologies, tools and resources, that benefit from a common language, a community of practice, and a connected, supportive ecosystem.
We are also not saying that the term ‘business as mission’ itself is unique, as there are many other terms in English and of course other languages that are used for the same idea. Rather it is the concept of business as mission (whatever you want to call it) – the idea behind it – that is distinctive.
To read more on the distinctives of BAM and its relationship to ideas like workplace ministries, tentmaking and other mission models, read Chapter 1 of the Lausanne Occasional Paper on BAM: ‘What is Business as Mission?’
3. Business as mission integrates ‘four bottom lines’ in response to ‘three biblical mandates’
Picking up the theme of BAM as an integrated mission model, business as mission seeks to bring positive impact to ‘four bottom lines’. Beyond just bringing a positive return to shareholders on the ‘financial bottom line’ of a profit-loss sheet, BAM seeks to bring ‘quadruple bottom line’ impact, with positive economic, social, environment and spiritual impact – for individuals, communities and society as a whole.
This is because BAM is a response to at least three God-given biblical mandates:
- The cultural mandate given in Genesis 1 and 2 to develop flourishing human society and care for creation
- The great commandment given in Matthew 22 to love God above all else and love our neighbour as ourselves, and
- The great commission given in Matthew 28 to share the gospel and make disciples of Jesus in all corners of the earth
Thus we have a definition of BAM that is ‘intentional about Kingdom of God purpose and impact on people and nations’ and ‘concerned about the world’s poorest and least evangelized peoples’.
These aims and impacts are intimately woven together in the life and operations of the BAM company. Whilst we may focus on each of these bottom lines or mandates in isolation when we are writing a business plan, setting goals, or gathering key metrics, in practice they are fully integrated and cannot be isolated from one another in day-to-day operations. Whether it is prayer over a piece of equipment, a monthly staff breakfast, the position of an office, or the choice of supplier, every day business decisions, relationships, actions and cultural norms will have an impact on multiple bottom lines, in response to God’s care and concern for the whole person and whole community.
4. Business as mission needs all kinds of people
The business as mission movement needs those who will:
- Start and build BAM companies (BAM practitioners)
- Support and resource BAM practitioners and their companies
- Nurture and network the wider movement
BAM practitioners will include both entrepreneurs (those with the vision and skills to start a company or repurpose an existing one) AND also ‘business builders’ (those with management skills or expertise in business disciplines such as finance, marketing, HR, logistics, etc.) who will help the business become sustainable in the long term. It has been estimated that for every entrepreneur in the BAM movement, we need ten business builders to create strong business teams.
Support and resource functions include critical services for BAM companies, such as financing, consulting, recruitment, marketing, and distribution networks, plus specialist roles like mentoring, pastoral care, counselling, board governance, training, business incubation, and so on.
Networking and nurturing the wider movement towards growth needs those with skills to advocate for BAM, mobilise involvement, research BAM practice, and offer tools and spaces for the community to connect and network. Those with communications skills (media production, design, writers, IT support, video editing, social media etc.) are needed as well as those who can convene and facilitate (event planners, community engagement experts, administrators, regional network leaders, interest group facilitators, and so on!)
The long term health of the BAM movement will require leaders from our four main constituencies – academics/scholars, NGO/mission leaders, church leaders, and business leaders – to contribute their unique functions and areas of expertise, as well as collaborate together.
In short, BAM is an ecosystem, with many constituent parts and we need YOU!
Jo Plummer is the co-chair of BAM Global and the author and editor of many business as mission papers and articles, including the BAM Global Think Tank Report series. She is a Lausanne Catalyst for Business as Mission and the co-editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of this Business as Mission website and blog.