by Jo Plummer
First published as an Advance Paper for the Lausanne Global Workplace Forum.
Dallas Willard once said that, ‘Business is a primary moving force of the love of God in human history.’ Business, done well, is glorifying to God and has enormous potential to do good. Business has an innate God-given power to create dignified jobs, to multiply resources, to provide for families and communities and to push forward innovation and development in human society.
In the global marketplace today, we have an enormous opportunity to leverage this God-given potential of business to address some of the world’s most pressing spiritual, social, environmental, and economic issues. This is ‘business as mission’—a movement of business professionals using the gifts of entrepreneurship and good management to bring creative and long-term, sustainable solutions to global challenges. This movement of business people is growing worldwide; they are serving God in the marketplace and intentionally shaping their businesses for God’s glory, the gospel, and the common good. Business professionals are using their skills to serve people, make a profit, be good stewards of the planet, and align with God’s purposes; they are taking the whole gospel to the ends of the earth.
This paper aims to encourage businesswomen and men—whether entrepreneurs, managers, business professionals, or technical experts—that their gifts, experience, and capacity is a much-needed resource in global mission. In addition, it will exhort church and mission leaders to affirm and equip the business people in their networks and congregations so that they can effectively respond to the challenges in the global workplace today.
God gives us the ability to produce wealth
In Deuteronomy 8 we read that it is God who gives us the ability to produce wealth. He provides abundant natural resources so that we can use our creativity, talents, and hard work to provide for ourselves and innovate for society. Business processes naturally generate wealth and resources; companies are able to create good products and services for the benefit of communities. Business pushes forward innovation, helping societies develop; enterprises bring in new technologies, skills, and training to communities. Business, done well—not forgetting the Lord our God (Deut 8:11)—is glorifying to him.
Although companies sometimes have a bad reputation for environmental damage, corruption and exploitation, we believe that is not the whole story of business. Business has an innate power and God-designed role in society—and like any power, this can be corrupted by sin and greed. That is why God also reminds his people in Deuteronomy 8:11 and 18 not to forget him as they settle down, start businesses, and create wealth in the new land he is giving them.
Harnessing the power of business
Water is a life-giving resource on the earth, essential for human flourishing and ‘good’ just as it is. However, the power and potential of water can also be intentionally harnessed to do even more good, in small or great ways—it can be channeled through an irrigation pipe or can produce hydroelectric power. However, because we live in a sinful world, water can also be poisoned, it can be mismanaged, it can give rise to greed and conflict, or it can be used to do harm.
Business is also a good, God-given tool and resource that can be used for benefit or harm. If the natural role of business in God’s design for humankind is to create jobs, multiply wealth and resources, drive creativity and innovation, and sustainably provide for families, communities and nations, then we can already clearly see the potential of business for God’s kingdom work on earth. Businessmen and women may then intentionally harness this power of business and focus it to sustainably address some of the world’s most pressing problems: environmental crises, joblessness, poverty, slavery, sanitation problems, food security, and so on.
Rediscovering the role of business
This is something the world at large is already waking up to. Terms like ‘social entrepreneurship’, ‘shared value’, and ‘conscious capitalism’ are becoming common currency as society re-evaluates the role of business. There is a growing understanding that ‘doing well’ and ‘doing good’ need not be mutually exclusive; that as we create products that are good for society and meet human needs, then that will also be good for business.
The essential role of business people in the Body of Christ is also being rediscovered by the church. Not only is business know-how valuable for churches and Christian organizations everywhere, but business people and business skills are some of the most needed resources in global mission today.
Business at the heart of communities
In every village, town and city in the world, businesses are at the heart of the community; that is true in Kenya, Canada, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Cambodia and Iran! Business people have an influential role in a community, creating jobs, meeting real needs, and building a strong network of relationships.
People spend more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else. Deep relationships can be formed and biblical principles can be modelled in the crucible of daily business life, creating a company culture that reflects Jesus. Jobs with real dignity and excellent products and services bring economic stability to families and communities. Being in business can bring a position of influence with local community and government leaders. Business people are able to share the gospel in word and deed in the context of everyday life.
Companies are also able to impart training and build leadership skills that can strengthen the church and society at large. Alongside the traditional roles of pastor and missionary, business leaders provide a model for new believers of vibrant Christian life in the marketplace.
 Dr. Dallas Willard. (September 2011). In a panel response during the Leadership Lecture Series Biblical Wisdom for the Business World, Biola University. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkdwsHbVj3g [Accessed November 2018].
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.