We know that businesses can fail and hurt people (Enron) and harm nature (BP). But it is equally true that we all depend on businesses, and that they can do good. The woman in Proverbs 31 was an astute businesswoman whose ventures served individuals and her community.
The Quakers practiced a kind of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) long before academics developed the term. Their motto was ‘spiritual & solvent’. They served God and people in and through business.
Even Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations and sometimes called the “father of capitalism”, said that business should operate within a framework of fair play, justice and rule of law, and that businesses exist to serve the general welfare.
The computer pioneer Dave Packard said: “Many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. While this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being. People get together and exist as a company so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately – they make a contribution to society.”
We have in recent years been able to witness the effects of a global economic crisis. Mahatma Gandhi’s list of seven deadly social sins seems to be an accurate diagnosis for some of the causes of this crisis.
There has been too much…
1. politics without principle
2. wealth without work
3. commerce without morality
4. pleasure without conscience
5. education without character
6. science without humanity
7. worship without sacrifice
Business as Usual?
We cannot, and must not, go on assuming and practicing business as usual – neither the extreme Wall Street way, nor the centrally planned socially engineered way.
Did Christopher Columbus discover America? Not really. The Vikings were there many centuries earlier. So one may say that Columbus re-discovered America. Business as Mission is not a new discovery – it is a rediscovery of Biblical truths and practices. In one sense it is like the Reformation and its rallying cry: ad fontes – back to the sources.
Business as Mission, BAM, is a term widely used today. The term is new but the underpinning concept is not. During the Reformation old truths were highlighted and contemporary assumptions were challenged. This is what the global BAM movement is doing today. We are revisiting Scripture, questioning jargon and traditions, and assessing the situation in the world.
Many Evangelicals often put an emphasis on the Great Commission, but sometimes make a great omission. This is only one of three mandates we have.
Business as Mission rests on three distinct Biblical mandates:
The first one that God gave us is the Creation mandate, Genesis 1-3: we are to be creative and create good things, for ourselves and others, being good stewards of all things entrusted to us – even in the physical arena. This of course includes being creative in business – to create wealth. Wealth creation is a godly talent: “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deut 8:18). As Christians we often focus more on wealth distribution, but there is no wealth to distribute unless it has been created.
The second mandate is the Great Commandment, which includes loving your neighbor. In the first and second mandates you find a basis for what modern day economists call CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility. It is about creating wealth and producing products and services in ways which are considerate of ‘your neighbor’. CSR recognizes the importance of serving several constituencies through business – not just the owners, but also staff, suppliers, clients, community and the physical environment. CSR includes three bottom-lines and looks at the impact businesses have economically, socially and environmentally for the various stakeholders.
We know that business can and should serve people and meet various needs. For example, unemployment is a major underlying cause to malnourishment, starvation, homelessness, disease and limited access to medical treatment, as well as to debt and crime. Providing people with jobs alleviates and prevents these dire conditions.
BAM also recognizes the importance of the triple bottom-line as it is based on the God given mandates about being a creative steward and serving people. But BAM goes beyond this, to CSR+, as we include the third mandate – the Great Commission. We are to glorify God and make Christ known among all peoples. This is the fourth bottom-line. As we integrate the Great Commission into our business goals, we develop a global and missional perspective. BAM is CSR+ where the + can also be seen as a cross – putting everything under the Lordship of Christ.
Rediscovering the Three Mandates
We need to re-discover our three Biblical mandates and review their implications on church, business and our global mission.
These three mandates must be at the forefront when we plan and run BAM businesses. It is equally important that these three serve as a framework as we continuously evaluate our practical BAM mission. We must be aware of the risk of mission drift. One may start out with high hopes and ambitions regarding all three mandates, but eventually end up just operating a CSR business, only fulfilling the creation mandate and the great commandment mandate. As good as that may be for various stakeholders, it is nevertheless a shortcoming. Our unique contribution and responsibility as BAMers rests on the threefold mandate.
Just doing business for maximization of profit is also a mission drift. This limited understanding and praxis of business contributed towards the global recession.
Mahatma Gandhi’s observations on values are important as we seek the general welfare of society. As Christians in the market place, we strive to do business as unto the Lord, being accountable to Him and to fellow followers of Jesus.
by Mats Tunehag
A version of this material was first published on MatsTunehag.com and more recently in Gea Gort and Mats Tunehag’s recently published book BAM Global Movement. It is reposted here with kind permission from the author.
BAM Global Movement: Business as Mission Concepts and Stories is a book about doing business to honor God and have a positive impact on people and societies. Where many see “ministry” as being separate from work and business, Gea Gort and Mats Tunehag see them as being critically aligned. In the book, you can read about how ideas regarding mission, church, and charity are shifting, and a growing number of Christians are aiming for a missional way of living and doing business. Gort and Tunehag explain the BAM concept through theory, history, and theology, but most importantly with stories to show what it looks like in real life.
Dr. Gea Gort (www.GeaGort.com) is a trained journalist and studied transformational leadership in the global urban context at Bakke Graduate University, where she serves as adjunct faculty and is a regional board member. She is passionate about innovative mission in an urban and global context. In her hometown of Rotterdam (Holland), she initiated City Prayer, directed a Christian leader’s network, and advised the government on multicultural affairs.
Mats Tunehag (www.MatsTunehag.com) is a speaker, writer, and consultant from Sweden who has worked in more than half the countries of the world. A global thought leader for the Business as Mission movement for over twenty years, he is chair of BAM Global and has led two Global BAM Think Tanks. Tunehag has served as a senior leader in BAM for both the Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance, and was the convener of the Global Consultation on the Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation. Tunehag serves part time with a global investment fund that helps SMEs to grow in size and holistic impact in the Arab world and Asia.