by Mats Tunehag
One can identify 3 essential activities that have helped to catalyze and grow the global Business as Mission (BAM) movement: 1. Developing the concept 2. Spreading the concept and 3. Applying the concept.
Of course one cannot credit just one book, event, person or organization with the current interest in Business as Mission amongst Christians today. BAM is a Biblical concept and thus as old as the foundational stories of creation. It is based on theology and anthropology; who God is and what he does, and who we are as human beings and what we are called to do. Good and godly principles of work and value added processes are found in the first chapters of the book of Genesis. God has used women and men throughout history to serve God and nations in and through business.
Developing and Spreading the Concept
In our time there is a new growing global movement of people, organizations, churches and businesses who are understanding and embracing Business as Mission (or ‘BAM’) as an idea. Consultation work on Business as Mission, including a Global Think Tank on BAM under the auspices of the Lausanne Movement in 2004, has helped with the assessment of BAM practices and have been key developing our understanding. Since then the number of books and organizations focused on BAM has multiplied.
Applying the Concept
Although the number of BAM businesses in the Arab world and Asia have been growing steadily, this growth has been relatively slow. There are many more who accept the business as mission concept than those who are actually applying it. Of course there will be some natural time lag between understanding and action and not all who hear about BAM will be cut out for business as mission practice. But even allowing for this, there is still much more ‘BAM talk’ out there than BAMers taking up the challenge of starting and developing BAM companies. How do we bridge that gap?
I have observed in the global BAM movement since the mid-90s, that many pioneering and gifted entrepreneurs have started and developed successful BAM businesses. There have also been many failures, often related to the wrong people trying to do the right thing. But I don’t believe that’s the end of the story.
High and Medium Level Entrepreneurs
In any given context there are more medium-level entrepreneurs than high-level entrepreneurs. There are just a few Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Ingvar Kamprads (IKEA) who can start from scratch and build big. There are others who can start with an idea and develop a growing business in the small to medium size range.
But how are we to tap into the many more medium-level entrepreneurial people who also are good managers, but probably won’t start from nothing? People in this category can often run a franchise successfully, a McDonalds, a Starbucks, a Chick-fil-A, etc.… These are businesses ‘in a box’ so to speak. Not quite as simple as unpack, read the manual and go… nor are they as difficult or high risk or demanding as starting something from nothing.
BAM in a Box
I recently met a fellow BAMer who has a background in franchising in the US. Now based in the Middle East, he told me about a recent gathering in that Region that consisted mostly of aspiring BAMers. They were enthusiastic, but had little or no prospect of succeeding.
Are we missing something in BAM because we are assuming everybody can start from scratch? Are we missing an opportunity to tap into this pool of committed people because we don’t have a ‘BAM in a Box’ to offer? Could these people become good BAMers if there were franchising options? Many people are medium-level entrepreneurs, medium risk takers and good managers. These are good qualifications for franchise operators.
BAM in a Box is also worth exploring and pursuing as we deal with human trafficking. Regions with high unemployment are high-risk areas for human trafficking and unemployment makes people vulnerable to traffickers’ cunning schemes.
Rescuing people out of trafficking and prostitution is insufficient unless there is a job with dignity at the other end. Thus BAM in a Box can be one answer to scalable job creation measures both in prevention of human trafficking and restoration of its victims.
The spiritual, social, demographic and economic challenges of the Arab world and Asia are enormous and growing. How can we begin to meet the many needs there? BAM in a Box could potentially engage more people in applying BAM. That would mean more opportunities to serve people and nations by providing employment and good services and products, and so on. Global conversations are underway on business as mission and franchising. We need to move further. Are you an entrepreneur who can help develop BAM in a Box?
Mats Tunehag is the Senior Associate on Business as Mission for both the Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission. He is the co-editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission and currently the co-chair of BAM Global. He also serves with a global investment fund based on Christian values that helps SMEs to grow in size, profitability and holistic impact in the Arab world and Asia. Visit MatsTunehag.com for more resources from Mats.