The Vital Place of Mission Agencies in BAM

In the month of June we have been highlighting excerpts from the recently published BAM Global Report on BAM and Mission Agencies. To round off this series, here’s a repost of a blog from our archives on why Mission Agencies are a major and vital constituency in the BAM community, alongside our main business constituency and also the church and academia. 

by Jo Plummer

Mission Agencies have long been a crucial player and partner in the contemporary BAM movement.

Many early pioneer BAM practitioners of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s either came from a missionary background or were members of a mission agency. These agency workers- turned-BAMers were at the forefront of the early wave of BAM companies because they were already at the front lines. Sent out with a call and vision to see people and communities transformed by the gospel, they discovered that business could be a powerful means of integral mission – meeting spiritual, social and economic needs in communities.

Looking back on 20 years and more of recent BAM history, we see that companies with missional goals embedded within their business model, business culture, company values, working relationships and so on, have often proved to be the most fruitful way for agency workers to pursue their work. But it has not always been easy.

Business failure – already a high possibility for seasoned entrepreneurs in home cultures – became a common experience for missionary-run startups with the additional hazard of being in environments often hostile to both mission and business. Many missionaries are by nature pioneering and somewhat entrepreneurial, however most early agency-related BAMers lacked the know-how and practical business experience they needed to create sustainable, scalable companies. Early BAM companies had few models to follow and lessons were learned the hard way.

Those hard-won fruitful practices are now being passed on, benefiting the current generation of BAM practitioners. They are able to stand on the shoulders of a host of early BAMers (from both business and mission backgrounds) because those pioneers heard the Lord and were willing to go, they were willing to innovate, risk and persevere. In turn, these early BAM pioneers stood on the shoulders of many generations of traditional missionaries that passed on their own hard-won lessons.

Beyond ‘Business as Visa’

Necessity is the mother of invention. In some parts of the world, starting a business has long been the only viable means to establish a settled, credible role in a community. William Carey, right back in the late 1700s, took a management position in an indigo factory when he first arrived in India because missionary visas were hard to come by in the days of the East India Company. And like William Carey*, modern day mission workers soon discovered that the power of a business model extends far beyond a means to getting a visa. (Read more on how it extends here).

Thankfully most agency workers who are getting into business now have many more resources to draw on. They understand that to have a credible, sustainable role in a community, their company has to be credible and sustainable. That means aiming towards excellence in business practice and the true integration of holistic missional goals into every aspect of a company – from business plan, to daily business life.  Read more

Four Contexts to Integrate the Four Bottom Lines of BAM

In the month of June we are highlighting excerpts from the recently published BAM Global Report on BAM and Mission Agencies. Mission Agencies are a major constituency in the BAM community, alongside our main business constituency and also the church and academia. We believe these resources will be of value whether you are agency affiliated or part of another BAM constituency.

 

Integration of the four bottom lines

Business as mission involves the intentional integration of business and holistic mission. It is in response to mandates God has given to us, His people, including:

  • The Creation Mandate given in Genesis 1 to ‘tend the garden’ and enable human society and creation to flourish
  • The Great Commandment to love God above all else, to obey His commands and to love our neighbour as ourselves
  • The Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all Jesus’ teachings

Our response in business as mission is to seek sustainable, holistic transformation for people and communities through for-profit business models.

As we have seen above, we want to plan for, implement, measure, and grow sustainability and impact in four main areas: spiritual, economic, social and environmental. Although we should examine each one in turn in order to be intentional about each, in the context of the daily business operations these four areas of impact cannot be compartmentalised, they are meshed together in BAM companies.

However, many of us have inherited dichotomised ways of thinking about what is sacred and what is secular. We may be used to compartmentalising our lives; between faith and work, between gospel witness and environmental stewardship, between ‘ministry activities’ and ‘making payroll’ (i.e. paying our employees), for instance. We may come from a church or mission tradition that prioritises personal evangelism over socio-economic justice (or vice versa). As a result, we might have to work hard to be intentional about integrating business and mission together—both individually and in the agency as a whole—and we should consider how to do this in four main ways:

1. Personal integration and preparation

As we (BAM practitioners) are integrated, so our businesses will be integrated. As we live integrated lives as disciples of Jesus, the rule of God’s Kingdom will extend to every part of our lives. Preparation for fruitful business as mission thus begins by being rooted in Christ, abiding in Him (John 15:1-5, Col 2:7) and by developing patterns of thinking that are transformed by that relationship (Rom 12:2). Integration flows from our theology and is expressed through our walk with Jesus in daily life.

It may be helpful to prepare for BAM by examining our own thinking in light of the sacred-secular divide and make a study of the Bible on topics such as economics, business, human flourishing, justice, mission and restoration, for example. Does our worldview align with God’s view of us as integrated people and communities?

As we commune with Jesus and seek the will of God, we allow ourselves to be integrated into his plan and He is able to use us in big, small, obvious, and surprising ways to advance his Kingdom. Being yoked with Him, allowing Him to carry our heavy burdens, we are able to rely on His direction and not on our own striving or direction. As we listen to His voice and obey it, we can follow the miraculous life that Jesus modelled for us as his disciples—in business.

2. Integration in business planning

To fulfil its potential to create integrated impact, a BAM business needs to have a clear plan for reaching profitability, alongside creating spiritual, social, and environmental impact. The first step in the process is to identify a business model that could be viable and profitable in the target location, among the community the business team hopes to reach and enable to flourish. This step may take extensive research and reconnaissance. Good community development practices, alongside business planning practices, should be engaged to research and discover the felt-needs of the community, rather than imposing solutions to social, economic or environmental problems from an external perspective. Read more

4 BAM Bottom Lines: Doing Spiritual, Economic, Social and Environmental Good

In the month of June we are highlighting excerpts from the recently published BAM Global Report on BAM and Mission Agencies. Mission Agencies are a major constituency in the BAM community, alongside our main business constituency and also the church and academia. We believe these resources will be of value whether you are agency affiliated or part of another BAM constituency.

 

The BAM and Mission Agencies Consultation considered the full and effective integration of business and mission and how we keep a positive tension between the multiple bottom lines of BAM. Working subgroups focused on each of the four bottom lines of spiritual, financial, social and environmental outcomes for BAM and these discussions were framed by dialogue on integrating ‘multiple bottom line impact’ in a BAM company.

Introduction to the ‘Quadruple Bottom Lines’ (QBL) of BAM

Business as mission, as we have read in the BAM Global definition, is intentional Kingdom of God purpose and impact on people and nations; focused on holistic transformation and the four bottom lines of economic, social, environmental and spiritual outcomes.

The idea of having multiple bottom lines for a business comes from the original ‘financial bottom line’—the number that indicates net profit (or loss) typically found at the bottom of a company’s income statement. A company that is solely focused on making money for its shareholders will only be concerned about this one ‘bottom line’, its financial earnings. The social enterprise movement introduced the idea of ‘triple bottom line’ impact that is also concerned with social and environmental outcomes. Business as mission extends this idea to ‘quadruple bottom line’ (or four bottom line) impact, including spiritual impact as well.

If intentional impact along these multiple bottom lines is a hallmark of BAM, agencies will do well to build a solid understanding of each. As has been previously stated, while these four areas of impact are integrated together in terms of the business model, strategy and daily operations—all things working together for missional impact—there are times when the focus should be on each one separately. This is especially true when planning for positive outcomes in each. Then careful consideration is needed as to how success is defined in each area and, therefore, how progress is measured so that there can be accountability and ongoing evaluation.

For business as mission, the four bottom lines are:

1. Doing spiritual good

Acting on the belief that faith in Jesus and a reconciled relationship with God addresses sin and brokenness at an individual and societal level that are the root cause of all other social, environmental and economic problems. Lasting change (God’s Kingdom coming on earth) and salvation from death and sin can only occur when our relationship with God, self, each other, and creation are reconciled. It involves sharing the gospel in word and deed, living as a disciple of Christ as a witness to others, and making disciples. Read more

Why BAM? It’s Biblical, Strategic and Time for New Wineskins!

In the month of June we are highlighting excerpts from the recently published BAM Global Report on BAM and Mission Agencies. Mission Agencies are a major constituency in the BAM community, alongside our main business constituency and also the church and academia. We believe these resources will be of value whether you are agency affiliated or part of another BAM constituency.

Why Mission Agencies do Business as Mission

Business as mission (BAM) is the strategic use of authentic business activities that create authentic ministry opportunities that bring spiritual, economic, social and environmental transformation to unreached peoples and marginalised people. In other words, it is taking the instrument of business, with its innate, God-given ability and power to do good in the world, and intentionally harnessing that power towards the work of mission.

There has been much discussion around the value of and justification for doing business as mission, not least among mission agency leaders. We would like to suggest that there are at least three strong bases for taking a positive approach: It is biblical, it is strategic, and it is time for new wineskins.

It is biblical

There are numerous themes in the scriptures that provide strong support for running businesses that give expression to Kingdom of God values and purposes.

In Genesis 1 and 2, we see God’s great enterprise of creation by which He reveals Himself as the original Great Entrepreneur. God created human beings ‘in his own image’ (Gen 1:2), as creative beings who are to co-labour with him to steward creation through innovation and work. They are to use the fruit of their labours to sustain families and communities, and to care for others.

In Deuteronomy 8, God reminds his people Israel not to forget him as they prepare to enter the promised land—to settle down and start agricultural and mining businesses (Deut 8:8-9)—because ‘it is [God] who gives you the ability to produce wealth’. In the desert, the Lord had provided manna daily, but when the people entered this new land the manna stopped immediately because God designed human society to be provided for through enterprise and work. Business is a God-designed and ordained institution that can bring glory to Him. Business done well involves innovating with natural resources, good stewardship of these resources, the opportunity for dignified work, the creation of life-enhancing products and services, and the multiplication of resources and wealth that enable people and societies to flourish and advance.

The Apostle Paul exhorted Christ’s followers to work hard and not be idle (2 Thes 3:10-12), and modelled the value of work and enterprise by his own example. Paul seemingly engaged in the business of making tents (or perhaps leather working or saddle making) to provide for financial needs (1 Cor 9:6), to ensure his message was credible by being free of the complications of patronage (Cor 9: 18, 2 Cor 12:14), to enable mobility and open up opportunities to meet and spend significant time with others (Acts 18:1-3), and to model the Christian lifestyle (1 Thes 4:11-12, 2 Thes 3: 6-9).

Justice and concern for the poor and marginalised is a theme pervading the scriptures and one in which all business as mission practitioners can actively participate and make a significant contribution. Starting business as mission enterprises enables us to ‘open our arms to the poor’; just as the entrepreneurial woman in Proverbs 31 did as she worked hard, produced good products, and traded well.

Read more

The Vital Place of Mission Agencies in the BAM Movement

by Jo Plummer

Mission Agencies have long been a crucial player and partner in the contemporary BAM movement.

Many early pioneer BAM practitioners of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s either came from a missionary background or were members of a mission agency. These agency workers- turned-BAMers were at the forefront of the early wave of BAM companies because they were already at the front lines. Sent out with a call and vision to see people and communities transformed by the gospel, they discovered that business could be a powerful means of integral mission – meeting spiritual, social and economic needs in communities.

Looking back on 20 years and more of recent BAM history, we see that companies with missional goals embedded within their business model, business culture, company values, working relationships and so on, have often proved to be the most fruitful way for agency workers to pursue their work. But it has not always been easy.

Business failure – already a high possibility for seasoned entrepreneurs in home cultures – became a common experience for missionary-run startups with the additional hazard of being in environments often hostile to both mission and business. Many missionaries are by nature pioneering and somewhat entrepreneurial, however most early agency-related BAMers lacked the know-how and practical business experience they needed to create sustainable, scalable companies. Early BAM companies had few models to follow and lessons were learned the hard way.

Those hard-won fruitful practices are now being passed on, benefiting the current generation of BAM practitioners. They are able to stand on the shoulders of a host of early BAMers (from both business and mission backgrounds) because those pioneers heard the Lord and were willing to go, they were willing to innovate, risk and persevere. In turn, these early BAM pioneers stood on the shoulders of many generations of traditional missionaries that passed on their own hard-won lessons.

Beyond ‘Business as Visa’

Necessity is the mother of invention. In some parts of the world, starting a business has long been the only viable means to establish a settled, credible role in a community. William Carey, right back in the late 1700s, took a management position in an indigo factory when he first arrived in India because missionary visas were hard to come by in the days of the East India Company. And like William Carey*, modern day mission workers soon discovered that the power of a business model extends far beyond a means to getting a visa. (Read more on how it extends here).

Thankfully most agency workers who are getting into business now have many more resources to draw on. They understand that to have a credible, sustainable role in a community, their company has to be credible and sustainable. That means aiming towards excellence in business practice and the true integration of holistic missional goals into every aspect of a company – from business plan, to daily business life.  Read more

Four Constituencies in the BAM Movement: Business and Beyond

It is stating the obvious to say that a major part of the international BAM community is made up of businesses and business people. This is business as mission. We see the great commission and the great commandment to love our neighbour fulfilled in the daily context of company life; lived out through business men and women faithfully sharing the love of Christ in word and deed. Businesses and business people are a core constituency of the BAM movement.

However, these companies and business people will not thrive outside of a healthy ecosystem made up of many types of individuals, skills, perspectives, and institutions. We will not reach a tipping point for macro impact through business as mission unless our business constituency is connected to and supported by a much broader network. Therefore, we see that the BAM global community is made up of four major constituencies; leaders from business, mission, church and academia.

BAM thought-leader Peter Shaukat expresses this same idea as the 4 As: 1

  • Academy: scholars and educational institutions
  • Agency: mission agencies, yes, but also other kinds of entities with specialist functions
  • Assembly: local churches and congregations
  • Actualizers: the business people who run business as mission enterprises

The Four Major Constituencies in the BAM Movement

 

At the same time, we are part of a broader movement of God’s people following Christ in many arenas. The BAM movement should also be more broadly connected to, and overlapping with, like-movements, such as ‘Justice as Mission’, ‘Education as Mission’, ‘Art as Mission’ and so on. Business as mission is not a “silver bullet” and we should see our place among those that the Lord is raising up in all spheres of society.  Read more

Why Do BAMers Give Up & Go Home? The Top 4 Reasons for BAM Attrition

We asked seven BAM mentors to share the reasons for BAMer attrition that they most commonly see. By attrition we mean negative factors that erode a BAMers ability to stay in their job and thus cause them to leave their location or their company – these could be gradual or cataclysmic.

Here are the top four factors the BAM mentors shared and some observations about each one:

1. Commercial failure

As expected, the most commonly cited factor was commercial failure. This covered a very broad area, but there were two strong themes within this category: money and market.

“Money” included both inadequate capitalisation and lack of financial control leading to cashflow problems. “Market” included lack of adequate business planning to determine whether there is a market for the product or service, and lack of ability to pivot to changes in the market.

Sometimes it’s a failure to do suitable and effective research and planning. Is there a need for the product or service? Simple as that. – DS

I’ve got a couple of businesses that are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and I think it’s problematic. And, in these instances, because they aren’t the type of owners who are the typical risk takers, they don’t make decisions to change their business model easily. – NH Read more

Education and Identity: Managing Connections to Christian Networks

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

How do you manage your associations with Christians and Christian networks – both national and international – in light of security concerns? My ideal is to maintain my relationships with churches and Christian organisations (and indeed receive vital support/services from these); and I want to be well connected into the local church. However, I am concerned about how those connections may endanger my business. How have you managed both the relational side and other more formal associations you have with organisations or churches?

~ Feeling Cautious

Dear Cautious,

I personally believe that there are two key areas that you need to focus on as you consider your associations with Christians and Christian networks while working in a hostile environment. You should concentrate on education and building a strong identity.

Ever since we moved into a restricted access country, we have been working on educating all of the different parties involved in our lives. Most of our sending churches had only dealt with traditional missionary models, so we had to talk with them about:

  • How they communicate with us in email
  • What they could post about us online
  • How they should refer to us during their services.

During the first few years, we had to be vigilant about what they were writing in their online bulletins and websites. Over time, they have come to understand the seriousness of their actions. One simple way to make your point clear is to share real life stories of people who have been questioned because of “church mistakes.” Read more

Pragmatic and Prophetic: Managing Connections to Christian Networks

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

How do you manage your associations with Christians and Christian networks – both national and international – in light of security concerns? My ideal is to maintain my relationships with churches and Christian organisations (and indeed receive vital support/services from these); and I want to be well connected into the local church. However, I am concerned about how those connections may endanger my business. How have you managed both the relational side and other more formal associations you have with organisations or churches?

~ Feeling Cautious

Dear Cautious,

This is first and fundamentally a theological-missiological issue, secondly a relational issue, and thirdly a risk-related issue. Let’s tackle the question in this order.

By “theological-missiological” I mean that the question takes us to the core issues of spiritual warfare, identity with the Kingdom of God, and the often overlooked and neglected matter of suffering for the sake of righteousness, in fulfilment of God’s purposes. The point is that, ultimately, our security is not our concern! We are engaged in a spiritual warfare, in which the advance of the Kingdom of God is often painfully slow and subject to setbacks, and that suffering, even to the point of shedding blood, let alone expulsion, is the New Testament norm. It’s commonplace, but profoundly erroneous, to assume that because we are doing something as value-added as business, we have therefore some sort of iron-clad guarantee that we’ll be exempt from the same tests, trials and trauma of any other missional effort.

By “relational” I mean that our being blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ by definition implies a willingness to be associated with this community, to take pride in our shared identity, and to find meaningful ways to engage with other Christians. Our businesses should not be seen by the host country as discriminatory (i.e. don’t hire all Christians!) or a cover for activities that may be illegal at worst, or at least misunderstood (i.e. avoid associations with certain styles of activities or messaging that can be counter-productive). But we should resist any fear or shame in being identified with the local and global Christian community which shares the Name of Jesus, just to protect our business – which, while important, is of secondary importance to the Body of Christ. Read more

7 Internet and Email Security Tips for BAM Practitioners

1. Basics

Do the absolute basics of making sure you have a reputable: firewall, antivirus, anti spyware and anti malware programmes. Sometimes these come as all-in programmes, do a lot of research to find out what is best at the moment as the market changes rapidly.

For a more in depth look at what security steps you can take click here and for Windows users a list here called “Probably the best security list in the world”.

2. Email Security

Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail are not secure enough email options for people working in the non-secure world. At the very least they are vulnerable to passport hijackings. At worst it is quite possible for security agencies within the government to be regularly reading your emails.

Good secure email options, unfortunately, usually cost money. Many organisations give a secure email options. Otherwise you could use something like Swissmail.

If you use Mailchimp to email newsletters, be aware that the newsletter is effectively a web page. Yes it is secure on their server but all servers are vulnerable to hacking. For more advice, and a warning, for missionaries serving in non-secure parts of the world regarding email communication see here. Read more