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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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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Business as Mission: Where social impact and profit, and much more, converge

Post first published on the IBEC Ventures Blog, reposted with kind permission.

Some people find it confusing to read about socially conscious business, social entrepreneurship or values-driven business. Isn’t business just business – driven by profit margins acceptable to shareholders? What’s all this talk of values, social impact and community development?

For the past decade or so it has become increasingly popular to talk about social purposes, meaning that some entrepreneurs have a motive beyond profitability. They want to solve social problems and bring a positive return to society. Big corporations sometimes address this through the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); and business startups sometimes call themselves social entrepreneurs meaning they start businesses which inherently provide for maximum job growth in their area, or they hire the marginalized in the community, or they take gigantic steps to benefit the community by helping solve problems that exist in the community, or all of the above. Some entrepreneurs are driven by a cause, like a software developer eager to provide a better way for people to connect.
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Business as Mission: The Global Movement Today

Mats Tunehag has been speaking, writing and convening on business as mission for nearly 20 years. When he visited The BAM Review office recently, we asked him a few questions about the business as mission movement.

Mats, what have you seen changing in business as mission in the last 15-20 years?

We are seeing a reawakening of what it means to be a Christian in business in our day and age. There has been remarkable growth of people getting engaged in doing business for God and the common good. If we take a 15 year time span, there are things we have today that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Now, we have a greater common understanding globally of this idea that we call ‘business as mission’. There are significant common denominators in our understanding, even though terminology may vary from group to group.

15 years ago when you mentioned business as mission, there were many questions about ‘What is that?’, ‘Is this something we want to get involved in?’. Today you can travel to almost any country and bump into people who have heard of, or are talking about, or practicing, business as mission. That is one of the major changes globally. Read more

10 Guiding Principles for Business as Mission

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

What is Business as Mission?

Read our short introduction to business as mission:

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 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.

There is a growing consensus around this idea, although other terms are also used for the same concept. Many prefer alternative terms such as: Kingdom business, missional entrepreneurship, transformational business, missional business or business for transformation (B4T), among others. Business as mission, or BAM, is just one widely used term in the English language, other terms have developed in other languages. Read more

Four Pillars of BAM Preparation

Living in Thailand, we are surrounded by houses built on pillars. This picture hangs in our house, a constant reminder of the importance of strong foundations. I think of a BAM business being like a house built on pillars. No matter what shape the house is, what it looks like on the outside, the pillars (or foundations) must be strong to support the structure.

Each individual launching into BAM will have different experiences and a different journey of preparation. BAM models and strategies will naturally be diverse. God is creative and He has made each of us to be creative. There is no single BAM model that will work for everyone, everywhere. However, there are at least four common areas that need to be intentionally built to form a strong foundation for any BAM business. Like the pillars supporting a house, if one of these areas is weak or missing the whole structure will be unstable. If you are getting ready for business as mission, be intentional about building up these four pillars of BAM preparation:

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Five Tips for Starting a BAM Journey

Getting stirred up for business as mission? Wondering how to get started, here are our top five tips:

1. Seek the Lord

Take time to pray. If God is calling you to serve Him in business, ask where, when, how, with who? What path of preparation is He leading you on?

2. Connect with BAM stories

Read about real business as mission experiences, or go to an event where you will hear practitioners share their stories. Stories bring ideas alive for us by literally lighting up more areas of our brain!

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Thinking Bigger About Business: Biblical Foundations for BAM

What does God say about business? What were His intentions when he made enterprise part of His design for human society? For those pursuing business as mission it is essential to build on solid Biblical foundations.

Three reasons to build a Biblical foundation for business, work and economics:
1. Broadening our horizons

Most start with a particular motivation when they launch into BAM and there is nothing wrong with that. However, embracing all the ways that business might positively impact a community will give us greater potential to intentionally create that impact. Let us understand and embrace the fullness of God’s design for business. Let us celebrate His intentions. As we do that, we will have to say, “Wow!” God is so creative and He has given us the ability to be creative, to add value, to make money, to create wealth and come up with new innovations, that provide livelihoods, that help a community develop, that help us live in peace, that close the door on exploitation, that give lives meaning and transform people’s values, that communicates the Gospel… These are all God’s gifts to us in business! Read more

Entrepreneurs on Mission: Two Barriers to Break Through

by Mark Russell

There comes a day when we sit back and ask ourselves what we are going to do with our lives. In a sense, I am still asking myself that question. But many years ago I felt a nudge, a call if you will, to spend time in cross-cultural contexts advancing the gospel. At the time, I had no idea what that entailed. The only role models I had to look to were the missionaries I had met in Paraguay. They were either medical doctors or preachers. As a business student, it seemed I would have to leave behind my business interests and develop a new set of skills.

A few years into my overseas ministry, I began to ask myself some new questions about why couldn’t one be a businessperson and a kingdom builder at the same time.   At the time I was working in a traditional missionary setting, but quickly found that a lot of people resonated with my search to integrate business and mission. Later, I realized that people all over the world were working independently to the same end. It seems God is up to something.

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