by Jo Plummer
First published as an Advance Paper for the Lausanne Global Workplace Forum.
It is becoming more common for companies to plan for positive impact on ‘multiple bottom lines’. Rather than only measuring success as a positive number on the profit and loss statement—ie, the ‘financial bottom line’—businesses around the world are beginning to look for positive impact on social, environmental, and financial bottom lines. Social enterprises now aim to have a positive impact on multiple stakeholders—their employees, suppliers, the community, their customers, etc.—rather than focusing solely on returning financial rewards to shareholders. This ‘cutting-edge thinking’ is rediscovering God’s original design for business.
A business as mission (BAM) company is simply one that embraces all of this thinking about multiple bottom lines and multiple stakeholders. Crucially, it holds that God is the most important Stakeholder in the business, and that the purposes of the company should align with his purposes. Thus, a BAM company is one that thinks about how the whole strategy for the business—and the business model itself—can intentionally integrate mission.
BAM company owners start their businesses for a wide variety of reasons, including: to fight the evils of human trafficking, accelerate the task of reaching the remaining unreached peoples with the gospel, and tackle the problems of social injustice, environmental degradation, and dire poverty, to name a few. Annie started her business in Asia to provide alternative employment for exploited women, Anne started hers in Northern Europe to create jobs and connect with disaffected youth, and Mary started hers in the Middle East to more effectively share the gospel in one of the least-reached nations on earth.
The world is open for business
God has mandated humankind to be good stewards of Creation, to create resources for the good of society, to love God first and then love our neighbor, and to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Thus, a business as mission company includes spiritual transformation as a measure of business success, alongside social, environmental, and economic concerns—and has a special concern for the poor, marginalized, and unreached peoples. Business as Mission is:
- Profitable and sustainable businesses;
- Intentional about kingdom of God purpose and impact on people and nations;
- Focused on holistic transformation and the multiple bottom lines of economic, social, environmental, and spiritual outcomes;
- Concerned about the world’s poorest and least-evangelized peoples.
Many of the places that the gospel has still to reach are hostile to traditional missionaries, yet business people are welcome nearly everywhere. The world is open for business!
The challenges ahead
Unfortunately, in many parts of the church, we have inherited unbiblical patterns of thinking about work, business, and economics that have affected our attitudes towards the vocation of business. As a consequence, many business people feel that the most ‘spiritual’ thing they can do is to give financially to those doing the ‘real ministry’, and, if they really want to serve God, they should leave their company behind and become a missionary or pastor.
While generosity and a true calling to church leadership is to be commended, this narrow view of the value of business ultimately hinders the work of the gospel. There has been much written about the need to continually break down the false dichotomy between what is considered ‘spiritual work’ and what is considered ‘secular work’—the so-called ‘sacred-secular divide’. Two of our great challenges are, firstly, a dearth of those who are intentionally integrating their Christian faith with their business life and, secondly, a lack of encouragement and equipping for business people to mobilize their effective engagement in mission in the global workplace.
Embracing Christian faith as relevant to the workplace is the first and foundational step. From there we want to exhort business people to ask God where and how he might use their business skills and experience for his glory and his mission. As Pastor J.D. Greear expresses it, ‘Whatever you’re good at, do it well for the glory of God, and do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.’
A call to the global church
If the Lausanne Movement is centered on its slogan ‘the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world’, then the hope of the business as mission movement is that:
- ‘the whole church. . .’ will be more whole as we encourage and equip businessmen and women to be involved in the taking; that
- ‘the whole gospel’ will be more often beautifully demonstrated through for-profit companies: dignified jobs, goods and services, community peace and stability, genuine friendships, the good news of the gospel; and that
- ‘the whole world’ will be open for business.
In the words of the Business as Mission Manifesto:
We call upon the church worldwide to identify, affirm, pray for, commission and release business people and entrepreneurs to exercise their gifts and calling as business people in the world—among all peoples and to the ends of the earth.
We call upon business people globally to receive this affirmation and to consider how their gifts and experience might be used to help meet the world’s most pressing spiritual and physical needs through Business as Mission.
 J.D. Greear. (November 2016). Is God Calling You to Go? The Summit Church Blog. Available at: https://jdgreear.com/blog/is-god-calling-you-to-go/ [Accessed December 2018].
 The full wording of the Business as Mission Manifesto is available here.
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.