Foundations: An Act of Worship

by Mike Baer

Like Business as Mission, the term Business as Worship has many meanings. As I listen to speakers and read current writing it seems that these fall rather easily into two major thought buckets:

1. Business or Work as an Act of Worship

2. Business or Work as an Act of Spreading the Worship of God

These are by no means mutually exclusive nor are they contradictory. In fact, both are wonderfully true and accurate. They are simply looking at the near term versus the eternal.

An Act of Worship

The core idea here is that worship, the act and attitude of ascribing worth to God and of prostrating ourselves, literally and figuratively, is not at all limited to what happens in a church building on Sunday morning. Singing, praying, listening to the Word of God and giving are all recognized forms of worship. But what about loving others and serving others? Or providing for our families and generating income for employees? What about honest labor? Accurate scales? Are not all of these also acts of worship? Indeed, when we speak of work as worship we are building on the Biblical truth that all of life, every single bit of living is meant to be done from a heart of submission to God and affection for Christ and our fellow man. All of life, except for sin, is in fact worship.

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Business as Mission: An Expression of Biblical Integrity

by Mike Baer

The word “integrity” has been bandied about so much over the last decade or so that it has practically become meaningless. Politicians are described in their self-serving advertisements as men or women of “integrity.” We like the word. It’s right up there with “tolerant”—another empty term. In fact, who could argue with someone who was tolerant and had integrity. He or she would be a postmodern super hero.

Unfortunately, we don’t think about words much any more. We don’t dwell on what they mean. As a result, we lose the richness and power of a great concept. So, in this article, I want to spend a few moments unpacking two dimensions of integrity, especially in the context of Business as Mission.

Integrity and Ethics

When I first began teaching business in the Former Soviet Union twenty years ago, the first hurdle I had to overcome was establishing that business was legitimate in the first place. Most people viewed business as inherently corrupt and dishonest. Today’s America has very much the same opinion. And why not? We hear constant news flashes of another scandal in Apple’s China factory or fraud in CitiGroup’s financial products or theft on Wall Street, or…ad nauseum.  It is erroneous to confuse business with the business person. The person is corrupt but business is not. Nevertheless, few think that deeply and so they condemn all things business as dark, greedy and devilish.

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Are You Really a Second-Class Christian?

by Dave Kahle

For much of my Christian life, I’ve struggled with a difficult and painful image of myself: I was a second-class Christian. No one ever said that to me in so many words, but a certain belief permeates our Christian culture so deeply that few Christians would ever question it:

Real ministry is defined by the time you spend in the official efforts of the church to evangelize the lost and edify the saved. This is the work that God is interested in, that He considers most important, special, and significant.

By accepting this false belief, our fruitfulness is hindered by shrinking and distorting our views of what we and our businesses can be. As a result, millions of Christians, like myself, lead lives that are far less productive than God wants. And hundreds of thousands of businesses are hampered in achieving their full potential. And that means that the Church’s influence and impact is light years away from that which it could be.

Here are some ways this belief is expressed in Christian culture:

A client recently told me that one of his salespeople left the company to go into full-time ministry. The implication was that the former employee merely ‘made a living’ when they worked for my client; now they did ‘real’ ministry – that work that is only in the context of the church.

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Consequences of the ‘Business as Money-Giver’ Mentality

by Dave Kahle

“Our business should just make money so that we can give it away” – that’s the message our contemporary evangelical culture teaches us. Those who look for a higher purpose in their business may find this message easy to accept but is this message actually short-sighted and missing the mark on all God has for Christian owned businesses?

There are books written advocating that the sole purpose of a business is to make money to fund religion. What if God has a much larger and full purpose for business? It is easy to conclude from the Biblical theme of giving that the sole purpose of our businesses is to give. And besides, it feels good and gives great CSR standing in the community! With so much support for the idea, it’s no wonder that most Christian business people believe it.

But is our perspective skewed?

Could it be that this giving paradigm, that feels good and seems reasonable, is actually hindering our growth and thwarting the growth of the Kingdom?

If we could unleash the potential of Christian owned and influenced businesses to see themselves as powerful entities in the Kingdom with multiple bottom lines (Social, Spiritual, Economic, and Environmental) as opposed to merely a Kingdom check-book, we could turn the world upside down. Here are some consequences of the short-sighted view of the Business as money-giver paradigm.

Consequences of the ‘business as money-giver’ paradigm:

 

Consequence #1:  It elevates money to the highest priority in business.

By stating that the purpose of a business is to make money so that you can give it away, money is elevated to the highest priority in business. Now, all of the other purposes of a business — to provide community, to develop future leaders, to bless communities, to demonstrate the fullness of Christ, etc. (find the full list in The Good Book on Business) — slide down the scale and become subservient to the quest to make money. While a business should make money, that is not its highest calling. A business only achieves its potential when it steps out of the money-is-everything mentality.

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Damaging Beliefs About Work and Missional Calling

by Larry Sharp

In recent years I have taken notice of what pastors have stated on topics related to Business as Mission (BAM), the theology of work and the Great Commission. Here are some comments which give me particular concern and have caused me to wonder how typical they are or if they are part of the cause for the slow growth in the BAM movement.

I was part of a workshop at a BAM conference designed for pastors with about 30 in attendance. At one point after much had been presented and then discussed by the group, one pastor remarked that he was not in agreement with some things because “after all work was a result of the fall of man.” I was shocked, and wondered how long it had been since he read the book of Genesis.

The truth:  God is a God of work demonstrated in the creation of all things, and then He gave a job description to the earth’s first human inhabitants.

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Two Books to Help you Break Down the Sacred-Secular Divide

The sacred-secular divide is one of the most serious barriers to business as mission engagement. It is the reason, given again and again, that business people do not feel affirmed in their call to business and do not realise the good their business could do.

Here are two books to help you, and the business people in your life, break down the sacred-secular divide.

Every Good Endeavour by Tim Keller

A Review by Dr. Steve Rundle

Book - Every Good EndeavourI’ve been doing lots of reading lately on the Theology of Work, and I’m discovering that most of the books cover pretty much the same ground. (That’s a polite way of saying they’re often boring.) So I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Tim Keller’s new book Every Good Endeavor. Yes, he covers some of the same territory as others – the intrinsic goodness of work, the Creation Mandate, the Doctrine of Vocation, etc. – especially in the first few chapters. But what made this book refreshingly original for me were his discussions about the impact of the Fall on our work, and about Common Grace. Obviously these aren’t new topics either, but he has a way of encouraging the reader even as he reminds them that (1) there is a certain inescapable futility and self-centeredness to our work, and (2) we should rejoice in the fact that God uses both Christians and non-Christians to fulfill his purposes. (Translation: Christians don’t have a monopoly on making contributions to the common good.) For those who want to read only one book about the Theology of Work, this one would be an excellent choice. It’s an easy read with lots of substance.

 

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How the Sacred-Secular Divide Influences Attitudes to Business in Asia and Australia

We asked people engaged with BAM around the world to share how they see the sacred-secular divide affecting thinking in the Church in their country – and how this influences engagement of Christians the business sphere.

Perspectives from Asia and Australia

Rod St.Hill – Australia

The sacred-secular divide is alive and well in Australia. A common complaint from Christians business people is, ‘My pastor does not understand me’. Pastors rarely visit their business people at their place of work. There is anecdotal evidence that perhaps 40% of Christians in business are not engaged in their local church because they don’t see church as being relevant to them. Christians in business often feel that the church has a somewhat cynical attitude toward them – ‘You make the profit and hand it over to the church’ as if that will somehow sanctify it. There are also Christians who show hardly any evidence of Christian belief in their business practices.

Yet all is not doom and gloom. There is growing interest in ministries such as Kingdom Investors, founded by businessman Dave Hodgson, who is encouraging business owners to be connected with, and supportive of, their local church and to infuse their businesses with Kingdom principles. Last February, the Global Marketplace Exchange, pioneered by Pastor Sean Morris and Peter Kentley was launched with a consultative meeting near Melbourne. Some 170 leaders from ten ‘domains’, including church and business, gathered to begin working together to transform our nation. In addition there are now at least four Christian university-level institutions that offer degrees that integrate faith and business. There is much to be done to break down the sacred-secular divide, but there are positive signs that God’s people are moving as they are in other nations. Read more

European Economic Summit Declaration

By Mats Tunehag

EES Declaration 2015How can we connect Sunday and Monday? How can our faith inform our actions in the marketplace? What are key building blocks in economics and business as we pursue a society built on justice and mercy?

These were key issues addressed by 175 people from 26 nations gathered at the European Economic Summit, EES, in Amsterdam in September 2014. Important observations and suggestions emerged through the pre-consultations, keynote addresses, small group discussions and prayer. These findings were summarized in the EES Declaration. Albeit a particular focus is on Europe, the lessons learned are valid and can be very valuable for other contexts as well. Read more

BAM Journeys: Three Practitioners Share How Their Thinking has Changed

We asked three BAM practitioner at different stages of their BAM journey to share how their thinking has changed enroute.

Carlos in West Africa

My wife and I initially came to West Africa as ‘traditional missionaries’. After 3 years of pastoring a church we came across some real challenges. The country where we live is 95% Muslim. Since we’ve been here, we have witnessed a number of evangelical churches being torched and ransacked. Muslim background believers (MBBs) have lost their jobs, their families and have even been physically abused because of their faith. That is not the only challenge, anyone that has spent any time in Africa will inevitably be confronted with the harsh realities of poverty. Jobs are already scarce for any African, let alone an MBB. Unfortunately, most churches are not setup to meet this need.

We started praying for another way to serve Jesus here. That is when the Lord put in our hearts to start a business. With a business we could provide jobs to MBBs and pre-believers, having contact with them eight to ten hours a day in a non-threatening environment. Read more

Lessons from the Edge: Balancing the Tensions

Insights from a BAM Practitioner

Tim has been in business in SE Asia for 18 years.

Keep both the big picture and the detailed picture in view
Don’t get so bogged down in the detail that you lose sight of the big picture and the rationale for what you are doing. Conversely, make sure you don’t spend all your time dreaming about vision and thus take your eye off the day to day operational details of the business. Keep a healthy tension between the two.

Have the bible in one hand and the balance sheet in the other
Knowledge of God’s ways in business is critical, but so is understanding the mechanics of business. Spend time getting skilled in the disciplines of business. As an entrepreneur you have to understand everything, even if you don’t do everything. Business has it’s own laws, don’t over-spiritualise them!

Keep lines of communication open and clear
Clear, honest communication with accountability groups, mentors and colleagues is vital. Keep sharing what is happening, but also humbly listen to input. Communication should be two way. If your spouse or children are telling you they are not getting enough time, stop and address it. Listen to your family.