Foundations: BAM 101

by Mike Baer

So what exactly is Business as Mission? In its original intent (I was one of the first to use the term, so I can say this!) it meant that business—my job, my company, my skills—can and should be deliberately connected to what God is doing in the world, i.e. His mission. Nothing more. Nothing less.

What BAM is Not

 Over the past 25 years the term Business a Mission and the concept has been adulterated and abused. For some it has come to mean:

  • Ethical Business—simply being honest in a Christian sort of way
  • Business as Visa—setting up fake or quasi-fake businesses in the effort to secure an entry visa for missionary work in a restricted access country
  • Poverty Alleviation—programs to help the poor make a better living
  • Business Justification—making business OK or more valuable to God by somehow doing it overseas (I write as an American)

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Is Business As Mission Disruptive Innovation?

by Larry Sharp

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.1

BAM takes into consideration, the human condition of poverty and pain (both spiritual and physical) with the creation of a profitable business which creates jobs, which in turn creates wealth (a Biblical value stated in Deut. 8:18). It links that with the goal of making followers of Jesus and with the importance of wise use of human and natural resources. In summary, Business as Mission (BAM) at its core has a Quadruple Bottom Line: 1) Profit and Sustainability, 2) Job Creation, 3) Followers of Jesus, 4) Stewardship of Resources.

So how might this be innovative and how might it be disruptive?

First look at some well-known disruptive innovators. Jeff Bezos did not just improve book sales when he started Amazon. He disrupted everything – speedy book deliveries, then other products to become the world’s largest online shopping retailer. His latest disruptive talk: drones and space warehouses. His mantra, “if you are going to invent, you are going to disrupt.”  Read more

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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7 Creative Ways Practitioners Integrate Business and Mission

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Most Popular Post” for the spring of 2015.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

We are launching a new series on the topic of ‘Integration of Mission and Business’. 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

Lessons from the Edge: Integrating Mission and Business in Your Business Preparations

Insights from a BAM Practitioner 

Peter has lived and worked in a professional and business capacity for over 40 years throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South and North America and is a pioneer in the business as mission movement. He currently consults on business as mission all over the world and is the CEO of a global investment fund for BAM enterprise in the Arab world and Asia. 

Preparation must consider both business preparation and missiological preparation
This is about recognising what God has already done in the practitioner’s life in regards to their sense of missional call and life experiences; the tapestry woven together in their life before the BAM entity begins. What has God been doing to both missionally and professionally prepare the person, in terms of their skills and competencies? Mentors should begin with: Tell me what God has been doing in your life? Tell me what your sense of call is? Tell me how God has been preparing you? The incubation of a new BAM business is the result of the process that God has already been doing before that.

Gain an understanding of what is going on in the environment that God has called you to
What is your business going to be about, commercially and missionally? Where has God called you to do BAM and what might he want to do through the business? What is going on in that environment in commercial terms? What are the needs? What is the market? What is the missional calling to the people group? How is God raising up your business? This stage will include formal market research, missiological research, taking exploratory trips, etc. Avoid the stumbling block of falling in love with your product and discovering after the fact that the market doesn’t have the same affinity for it! The BAM practitioner will need someone who is business-minded to ask good questions. Also avoid the other stumbling block of an inadequate understanding of the missiological, anthropological, and sociological issues that are at play.

Work together with national Christians to gain understanding
Engage in a dialogue that will shape understanding about the context and what the business is going to be. This will involve persuading each other of the vision and intent of the company, and further refining what might work and what won’t. This should be bilateral; an expat that is not willing to listen to national Christians on what tweaking and refinement is needed is doomed to failure.  This of course is not the same thing as listening to all voices – for there will be many nay-sayers and people who just don’t get it. Choose your national counsellors with discernment and humility.


These Lessons were first shared in the BAM Think Tank Report on BAM Incubation, and published on the Blog in full here.

5 Stages of the Birth of a New BAM Company

by Peter Shaukat

Peter Shaukat, CEO of Transformational SME (TSME), identifies five stages in the emergence of a new business as mission company. Each stage, from conception to launch, involves the integration of missional and commercial elements.

Preparation Stage

This is before the ‘baby is born’, the preparation that has taken place even before the business journey starts. It is about recognising what God has already done in the practitioner’s life in regards to their sense of missional call and life experiences; the tapestry woven together in their life before the BAM entity begins to be incubated. Preparation includes both business preparation and missiological preparation. What has God been doing to both missionally and professionally prepare the person, in terms of their skills and competencies?

This is where mentoring should begin: Tell me what God has been doing in your life? Tell me what your sense of call is? Tell me how God has been preparing you? The incubation process needs to begin there. The incubation of a new BAM business is the result of the process that God has already been doing before that.

Perception Stage

The perception stage is the next step. This is about gaining an understanding of what is going on in the environment that God has called you to do business as mission within; and what God wants to do through the business. What is going on in that environment in commercial terms? What are the needs? What is the market? What is the specific missional element? What is the missional calling to the people group? How is God raising up your business? The perceiving stage addresses the question: What is your business going to be about, commercially and missionally? This is the beginning of the gestation stage of the new business. Read more

How to Build a Gospel-Minded Business: A Guide Book

Book Review: From Concept to Scale

From Concept to Scale is a collaborative production out of Praxis Labs. The book information reads:

From Concept to Scale tackles the inevitable challenges every entrepreneur faces when bringing something new into the world. Starting with a Gospel-minded approach to organizational development, the authors examine the opportunities and common pitfalls leaders encounter in the areas of product development, financing, organizational culture, board development, partnerships, time management, and more

from concept to scale coverIn this book, authors Steve Graves, Dave Blanchard, and Josh Kwan have constructed a guide to lead entrepreneurs through practical steps – to go from an idea to a fully operational, sustaining, entity – in what they call a “Field Guide for Entrepreneurs”. A comprehensive and very practical guide this presents less like a book of rules and more like a ‘painter’s palette’, with suggested tools and techniques from which to draw from. While being accessible for the beginner, there is at times an assumption of readers previous experience. While terms are defined as they are introduced, a comprehensive glossary of terms and phrases would also have been helpful.

I found their step-by-step approach, with ‘learn by doing’ practical exercises, to be a great aide in reinforcing the ideas presented. There was a thorough run-through of issues to consider at each stage of organizational development, and each concept was illustrated by the Q&As and case studies that were integrated throughout. The first-hand experiences of mentors and practitioners brought to life what it is to go ‘From Concept to Scale’. Read more

4 Natural Tensions of the Pushed Together Model

We are exploring the integration of business and mission, and the tensions this integration can produce. In Part 1 I introduced two different models of connecting mission with business: ‘Hitched Together’ and ‘Pushed Together’. In Part 2 I unpacked some of the tensions that occur when you ‘Hitch Together’ business and mission. Here is more about ‘Pushed Together’ and the tensions that tend to arise with this model.

The ‘Pushed Together’ Model

Business as mission is where the goals and roles of business operations and missional life are aligned. The ‘ministry’ happens in the context of life in business and out of the activities of the business itself. Although it’s all ‘mission’, it is legitimate to consider different kinds of goals and impacts: commercial, social, environmental and spiritual – because we measure along multiple bottom lines. Specific activities will be focused on producing results for one or more of those bottom lines.
Pushed Together graphic 2
Those pushing the circles together will not, however, be immune to tension. Here are just a few of the kinds that will be encountered:
Read more

4 Tensions to Avoid of the Hitched Together Model

We are exploring the integration of business and mission, and the tensions this integration can produce. In Part 1 I introduced two different models of connecting mission with business: ‘Hitched Together’ and ‘Pushed Together’. Here is more about ‘Hitched Together’ and the tensions that tend to arise with this model.

The ‘Hitched Together’ Model

‘Hitched Together’ is when ministry goals/job description do not overlap very significantly with the business operation. For instance, you work in a business, but you do your primary ‘ministry’ work outside of office hours. Perhaps the business is a means to a particular end – you need it for a visa, or money, or access – but you don’t see it as the primary sphere where your missional goals and role is outworked.Hitched Together graphic
Some might say this isn’t really ‘business as mission’ because it is hardly integrated. They might call it ‘business for mission’ or ‘bivocational work’. There is nothing inherently wrong with being bivocational. For many people in ministry all over the world, it is the way they make life work. However, I would suggest there are some pitfalls to this model, especially in the context of cross-cultural work, and some natural tensions that arise, including: Read more

Hitched Together Versus Pushed Together: BAM Integration

Business as mission is all about the two I’s: Intention and Integration. In BAM we take the innate God-given potential of business to produce innovation, resource multiplication, job creation, community development, and so on, and intentionally leverage that power for ‘missional’ goals.

Business as mission is demonstrating what the Kingdom of God is like in the context of business – and as we do so, engaging with the world’s more pressing social, economic, environmental and spiritual issues.

A hallmark of a BAM company is the intentional layering business operations and mission together into an integrated whole. However, just because something is intentional, it doesn’t mean it is without tension. Practitioners share that when mission and business are layered together, there will inevitably be tensions of one sort of another. But what kind of tensions and how can they be resolved?

Not All Tension is Bad

Tension is not necessarily a bad thing. Forces that tear apart can also, when managed correctly, support great loads. BAM Mentor and, Peter Shaukat, neatly illustrates this point with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Suspension bridges use the forces of tension to support the weight of the bridge across wide spans. Shaukat argues that because success in BAM is measured along multiple dimensions – including commercial returns, spiritual impact, expanding reach and long-term influence – that success in BAM is therefore is dependent on being able to effectively manage tension. Read more