3 Key Questions: How We Define and Evaluate Kingdom Impact

By Will Thomas

Co-Founder & Managing Director, Ambassadors Impact Network

Ambassadors Impact Network (AIN) is an angel investment network based in Dallas, Texas, connecting Christian accredited investors with gospel-advancing entrepreneurs. Since inception in 2018, our members have deployed over USD $20 million across more than 50 companies and funds. In addition to targeting competitive financial returns, we are equally committed to seeking intentional and measurable spiritual impact.

One of the most common inquiries we receive from prospective members and applicant entrepreneurs relates to how we define, evaluate, and measure these kingdom returns. At the heart of our approach is a recognition that entrepreneurs come from diverse spiritual backgrounds, each with unique giftings, passions, and contexts. Therefore, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to gospel advancement. Instead, we encourage entrepreneurs to articulate how they intend to make Jesus known through three key aspects of their businesses: codified values, business activities, and products and/or services. Below are the questions we ask in our application and some background on each.

1. Incorporating biblical truth into company values

Does your company include biblical principles in the corporate documents (such as mission statement, manuals, etc.)?

Context and examples: Scripture tells us repeatedly of the immense power of words. “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook” (Proverbs 18:4). Indeed, it is through speech that our God brings things into existence. Similarly, we believe that the values of a company, when explicitly stated, play an enormous role in shaping organizational culture, guiding decision-making, and providing a stable foundation for God-glorifying growth. In our diligence process, we ask applicants to share about their corporate values, their alignment with biblical principles, and the extent to which these are formally codified in corporate documents, such as in mission statements, operating manuals, external communications, employee policies, etc. Read more

What is Business as Mission? A Short Introduction

As we start the new year, we are revisiting some foundational material on what business as mission means. Here’s the introduction to business as mission from our Start Here page.

What is Business as Mission?

Business as mission, simply put, is the seamless integration of excellent business with intentional mission. It is doing business for God’s glory, the gospel, and the common good.

Business is a God-given vocation and institution in society, with the potential to bring multiple benefits to people, communities and nations. Business as mission intentionally leverages this intrinsic power of business to address spiritual needs, hand in hand with social, economic and environmental needs. Business as mission is strategic today because it is often best placed to meet a wide range of needs in communities around the world.

Let’s start with business

Dallas Willard once said, “Business is a primary moving force of the love of God in human history.” Business, done well, is glorifying to God. Period. We see in the Bible and throughout history that business is able to create dignified jobs,  multiply resources, provide for families and communities, push forward innovation, and, in short, do good in society. A company does not need a business as mission strategy to justify its purpose or to somehow make it more ‘holy’. Business professionals following Jesus in the marketplace already have a sacred vocation. Business is a good idea that comes from God.

Yet, God has called us, His Church, to partner with him in the work of mission. To love our neighbour as ourselves, to care for the poor and vulnerable, and to share the gospel and make disciples in every part of the world. And business people, along with their skills and experiences, are some of the most needed in the work of global mission today. Alongside more traditional forms of mission, the world is crying out for for-profit, business solutions to some of its most pressing issues. These issues include job scarcity, human trafficking, economic exploitation, corruption, environmental degradation, dire poverty, and the challenge of sharing the love of God and His good news with those who haven’t yet heard it.

Business as Mission

In the global marketplace today, we have an opportunity to harness the God-given power of business to address these pressing spiritual, social, environmental, and economic issues. Business as mission is a movement of business professionals – alongside mission leaders, church leaders and academics – who are doing just that. They are taking the instrument of business, with its innate, God-given ability and power, and intentionally using that power in the work of mission. They are using their professional know-how and the gifts of entrepreneurship and good management to bring creative and long-term, sustainable solutions to local and global challenges. They are making a positive impact through for-profit business, along the ‘four bottom lines’: social, environmental, financial and spiritual. We sometimes refer to these as the 4Ps: people, planet, profit, and eternal purpose. Read more

4 Things to Know about How Business Fights Poverty

In our series this month “Exploring BAM as Justice: Choosing Hope in the Face of Challenge” we’re taking a deep dive into the intersection of faith, business, and complex global realities. We’ll be looking at business as mission’s impact on poverty and justice issues across the globe. Here’s the first post with some essential points on how business fights poverty.

1. Poverty means more than just material poverty

Poverty in the biblical sense goes beyond lack of money and all its implications, although that’s part of it.

Christian development thinker Bryant Myers, in his seminal book Walking with the Poor, describes the nature of poverty as follows:

Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, they are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings. [1]

He took the biblical idea of shalom as the fullness of life that God intended before the Fall, where humans are in right relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of Creation.

Poverty, therefore, is the outcome of sin and brokenness in these four relationships.

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert built on Myer’s framework for their book When Helping Hurts and their work at the Chalmers Center. They put it this way:

The question of ‘What does it mean to be poor?’ requires more than a simple answer. We are all poor in our own way, as we grapple with the brokenness in the four key relationships in this world. Poverty is not solely about a lack of money; it encompasses a lack of intimacy with God, a lack of sensing one’s own worth, a lack of community, and a lack of stewardship over creation. – Chalmers Center

We all suffer from different types of poverty; you can be financially rich but socially poor, or financially poor but spiritually rich because you know Jesus.

To fight different kinds of poverty, we need to create different kinds of wealth.

Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical, and spiritual wealth. – Wealth Creation Manifesto, Affirmation #8

Business as mission enterprises have the opportunity to bring positive impact in all four areas of our broken relationships: relationship with self, relationship with God, relationship with others, and relationship with the rest of creation. Business as mission is a holistic mission model with the potential to create wealth and address poverty in multiple different ways.

2. Business is part of God’s design and is uniquely positioned to respond to poverty

Business is not evil, it’s not even neutral; it is part of God’s good design. [2] Of course, since the Fall when all things were corrupted by sin, business has the potential to do harm or be used for evil (intentionally or unintentionally). But, it can also glorify God and do good. That is part of God’s original purpose for business; He designed the enterprise of business to enable individuals, families, and human society to flourish. Read more

The Power of Business to Lift Communities Out of Poverty

This month we are exploring different motives a missional entrepreneur may have for pursuing business as mission as their strategy of choice. In this fourth post, we are exploring the power of business in lifting individuals and communities out of poverty.

Business is uniquely positioned as an essential and sustainable solution to ending poverty. Current global economic shifts and technological advances are creating a unique opportunity at this point to bring this goal in reach. Business by its nature is a relational activity, and a potentially transformational activity. Business not only creates jobs, it is where networks and relationships are the norm, creating networks and relationships that are essential for community restoration and transformation.

I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business.  That is because business produces goods, and businesses produce jobs.  And businesses continue producing goods year after year, and continue providing jobs and paying wages year after year.  Therefore if we are ever going to see long-term solutions to world poverty, I believe it will come through starting and maintaining productive, profitable business. — Wayne Grudem, Business for the Glory of God

 

The role of businesses and job creation in ending poverty

Thriving businesses and job creation are vital for ending poverty. Kaushik Basu, the Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at World Bank states, “Jobs are the best insurance against poverty and vulnerability” (World Bank, 2013). John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, shares from his own business experience, “Business is the greatest creator of value in the world. It’s helped lift humanity out of poverty and into prosperity” (Fox News, 2013).

From the voices of the poor themselves (in a survey of over 60,000), jobs and businesses were cited as major paths out of poverty:

In a large set of qualitative studies in low-income countries, two of the main reasons that people gave for moving out of poverty were finding jobs and starting businesses. (Narayan, Pritchett, and Kapoor, 2009)

The development world has reached a similar conclusion, that aid alone is not the solution to poverty. Renowned books, from Dead Aid, to When Helping Hurts, and Toxic Charity warn us of the destructive tendency of “us to them” aid that wears away at the dignity and productive capacity of people and communities. Read more

The Power of Business in Gospel Planting Among the Least Reached

This month we are exploring different motives a missional entrepreneur may have for pursuing business as mission as their strategy of choice. In this second post, we are exploring the power of business in sharing the gospel of Jesus and planting churches in the least reached places.

Jesus gave us the mandate to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28) and this ‘Great Commission’ will lead to us to the hardest places to reach with the gospel, where new believers may come to Christ in places where there isn’t already an expression of local church.  Many within the business as mission movement, especially those from church planting mission agencies, are hopeful that BAM can be a key strategy in starting new churches and transforming communities. Where these hard to reach places are often closed to traditional mission models, there are only a few places in the world that aren’t open for business!

Rationale for the integration of business and church planting

It is useful to consider some good reasons to combine business and church planting. Indeed, combining the two did not just begin when missionaries could not find visas to live in closed countries. Instead, there has been a natural merging of business, church planting and the presentation of the gospel throughout church history.

The apostle Paul himself was a tentmaker, or small business owner. He supported himself and saw this strategy as being beneficial for church planting. For example, among the Thessalonians, Paul “Worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while [he] preached the gospel of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:9). This example was needed to teach the Thessalonians that they also were to work and not be idle (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9). In Corinth, Paul did not accept payment from the people in order to clarify the message of the gospel, making it clear that the his preaching was not tied to financial gain (1 Corinthians 9, 2 Corinthians 12). Yet Paul’s tentmaking was not absolute; he would accept support and be “fully devoted” to preaching and teaching where there was support and when the context was appropriate (Acts 18:5).

Another significant example of God working through the marketplace is the Moravians, who were Christians that formed a spiritually and economically integrated community in Europe during the eighteenth century. The first Moravian missionaries, David Nitschmann and Leonhard Dober, were sent out by the Moravian community to Saint Thomas in the Caribbean to establish a mission to African slaves. One of the missionaries supported themselves through his carpentry skills. Other missionaries soon followed them. All missionaries “sent out” by the Moravians were expected to support themselves if they could and to provide any profit they earned from their endeavors to the mission itself, not for themselves personally. They sought ‘profit for the Lord’, as documented by William Danker in his book of the same name.

The Moravian missionaries in Suriname on the northern coast of South America started what would become very large commercial operation. While employing African slaves in a tailor shop, the missionaries found it easy to talk about the gospel while sitting together at a tailor’s bench. As they added a bakery and a watchmaker’s business they were able to employ more and more of the slaves and gave them not only work, but also a new way of life. This mission resulted in a permanent department store that had a great impact on the local area and thirteen thousand members worshipping in seven churches. The Moravians also went to Cape Town, South Africa where they combined evangelistic efforts with trade, industry and agriculture, not only providing their own financial support, but also financially helping the local people. A further benefit of the Moravian commercial activity was a boldness in setting the moral and ethical standards for business in their area. Read more

Compelling Reasons for Business as Mission That are Still Relevant Today

This month we are exploring different motives a missional entrepreneur may have for pursuing business as mission as their strategy of choice. To set the scene, here is a classic introduction to BAM as a strategy from the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. Published nearly 20 years ago, these arguments are as compelling and relevant today as we still seek ‘God’s Kingdom come’ — through business. 

 

A World in Need

The world holds fresh opportunities and challenges for the global Church.  In regions where Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are dominant and where 90% of the world’s unreached peoples live, you also find 80% of the world’s poorest populations. Unemployment in these countries ranges from 30% to 80% and it is even higher among Christian minorities. Furthermore many Christians and others in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin American are living in poverty because of lack of jobs and unjust economic systems.

Over the next 20 years, more than 2 billion people will enter societies where there are few churches and very few jobs.

What should be the response of the Church and particularly Christian business people to such challenges?

What the poor want is not aid, but jobs – real jobs, not subsidised ones. This is the dignity and self-reliance they deserve.

 

Business as Mission – a Renewed Call

There is a wave of thousands of Christian business people from all continents who are experiencing a dynamic move of God as part of a renewed call to His kingdom work. God is on the move in Latin America, Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and the Pacific regions, calling His global church to rediscover His heart and intention for business.

God established the institution and practice of business as a means of fulfilling His creation mandate to steward and care for all of creation. He is releasing the power of business to aid in the task of fulfilling the great commission making disciples of all nations. God longs to be glorified through our business activities.

Business people are being challenged to look anew at their business activities as an expression of their calling and service to God. They are being affirmed in their vocation as business people and used as instruments for extending God’s kingdom. God has led a growing number of business people to think strategically about how they can integrate their skills and experience in business with the task of world mission. God is calling many more business people, from all nations to go to all nations, in this new paradigm of mission. Read more

7 Creative Ways that Practitioners Integrate Business and Mission

Read this classic blog from our Archives, first published on The BAM Review blog in June 2015 and republished for the Summer Series 2022.

A defining characteristic of a BAM company is that it intentionally integrates mission with business. But what does that look like in practice? What are some creative ways that practitioners work out their goals for spiritual impact, alongside their commercial, social and environmental goals?

We asked a small group of practitioners to share what they do in the business context that moves them towards their missional goals and spiritual impact. This could be something they did when establishing the company, or practices they do on a regular basis in the day-to-day life of the business. The practitioners shared a diverse range of specific practices, but there were some common themes. These seven ways to integrate business and mission stood out:

Keep Purpose Front and Center

Keeping the purpose, vision and objectives of the company at the forefront emerged as a key principle. This is important all the way through the life of the company, from the planning stages and goal setting, to evaluating those goals and choosing measures, to on-boarding processes for new hires, to daily communication with employees. Read more

10 Guiding Principles for Business as Mission

Read this classic blog from our Archives, first published on The BAM Review blog in January 2015 and republished for the Summer Series 2022.

 

A good business as mission business will, by definition, have many of the characteristics of any well-run business. A kingdom business must be profitable and sustainable just as any other business. Integrity, fairness and excellent customer service are characteristics of any good business, not just a business as mission venture. As such, while important, those characteristics will not by themselves necessarily point people to Christ. A kingdom business begins with the foundation of any good business, but takes its stewardship responsibilities even further.

What follows is a list of principles that should underpin a business as mission business. First we list the basic foundational principles that must exist in any good business. Following that are the principles that distinguish a good business as mission business.

Foundational Business Principles

1.  Strives to be profitable and sustainable in the long term

Profit is an indication that resources are being used wisely. It indicates that the product or service being produced and sold does so at a price that covers the cost of the resources, including the cost of capital. For most businesses, profits are fleeting, and never a sure thing. It is common for businesses to experience periods of low profit, and even negative profit. Thus it is important to take a long-term view of profitability. Occasional windfalls are often what will sustain a company through periods of financial losses. For that reason a well-managed business will use extreme care when considering whether and when to distribute profits. Profit, and its retention, is not necessarily an indication of greed. Read more

Pray More and Pray More Intentionally

by Dave Kahle

 

How do I Integrate my Christian faith with day-to-day business practices?

This is a question almost every Christian professional and businessperson considers regularly. The answer isn’t simple, and it varies from time to time and place to place.

The Christian life is a journey and we focus one step at a time. It’s like walking through a forest at night, with just a small flashlight to light your way. You can’t see more than a few feet ahead, and the light illuminates only the next few steps.

That analogy provides us a perspective on the question. The answer to the question today may be different than it will be just a bit down the road. Because our circumstances vary, the opportunities and relationships that we have today will be different than what we encounter further down the path. What’s important is that you keep asking the question. Today’s answer is just today’s answer, and not necessarily a lifetime prescription.

Having said that, there is a body of knowledge about some principles and practices that extend beyond the specific details of our current situation. These are principles and practices that apply regardless of the circumstances.

In this post, we’re going to drill deeper into one such principle: Pray more and pray more intentionally. In other words, intentionally add depth and breadth to your prayer practices.

First, let’s establish some Biblical principles upon which this practice is based:

1. We are commanded to pray for everything

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6  

Does “everything” include our careers and businesses and the multitude of decisions we must make, the relationships which occupy us, and the never-ending list of tasks to be accomplished? Of course. “Everything” means just that.

There is a horribly debilitating idea that is, unfortunately, quite commonly held; that God doesn’t want us to pray for our careers and businesses. This mistaken mindset reserves our prayers for our families and sanctioned “church work.” It is okay to pray for a missionary your church supports, for example, but a bit gauche to pray for that big sale on which you are working. You can pray that you find a new youth pastor, but not that you find a new administrative assistant.

Those ideas must be some of Satan’s greatest lies. By getting Christian businesspeople to believe them, he has successfully removed a major sphere of activity from being God-influenced. He must congratulate himself every time he sees someone who could be praying about a business issue and doesn’t. Read more

The Task Still Ahead and Plugging the Resource Gaps

The business as mission community is contributing to a wider ‘listening process’ in the global evangelical mission community as part of our connection the Lausanne Movement. Lausanne asked us:

What are the most significant gaps or remaining opportunities toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20)?

We in turn received input from 25 global leaders on this question especially as it relates to business as mission. Four main themes emerged as leaders answered this question, which we will share in four blog posts through November.

The fourth and final theme focused on major resource gaps. Of course, the sacred-secular divide and lack of affirmation for the vocation of business (the theme of the first post in this series) is a major barrier to the mobilisation of people and other kinds of resources. However, this post builds on that and identifies specific kinds of human resources needed, plus initiatives such as prayer, funding, training, replicable business models that require focused attention if we are to continue to effectively respond to the Great Commission through the business sphere.

Theme 4: The Task Still Ahead and Plugging the Resource Gaps

In thinking in terms of BAM, we need more business builders. There are many BAM companies that need help growing and expanding their companies. More business builders will allow a greater reach into areas where people are living and dying without the Gospel being lived out among them.
MK

To see greater impact for the Great Commission, we need to see more franchisable models for BAM which have a high-enough barrier to entry for competitors in local 10/40 locations. We also need to mobilise ever greater numbers of entrepreneurs that specifically have as one of their goals to enable a minimum of 5-10 other Great Commission focused people, providing a means for other business leaders and professions for long-term in-country incarnational presence in least reached nations.
DN

If we are going to make disciples of all the nations, then we need to have a reason to be there. We know that the creation of a job, for many, can be the impetus behind their pathway to salvation. Bottom line is “People Need Jobs”. Gaining access to these individuals is a significant gap in our ecosystem. Finding the practitioners who can, in fact, transform lives through job creation is a major challenge. Once we are able to tell the story of Business as Mission, the response is almost always extremely positive. However, getting to these individuals can be difficult. One of the greatest opportunities is to work closely with churches and agencies already in-country and to find a way to integrate BAM where appropriate. In order for this to happen, there has to be someone in a leadership position within the church or agency who is willing to change. BAM needs to be looked at as a complement to their current strategy and not a threat. There has to be a sense of urgency that, at an aggregate level, doesn’t exist today.
BB

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