What is Business as Mission?
As 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. There is an intrinsic power in business to create dignified jobs, to multiply resources through creativity and hard work, to provide for families and communities, to push forward innovation, and, in short, to do good in society. We don’t have to tack on a mission strategy to justify a company’s purpose or to somehow make that work holy. Business professionals following Jesus in the marketplace already have a sacred vocation.
However, there is also a huge opportunity before us to leverage that God-given power of business to address some of the most pressing spiritual, social, environmental and economic issues in the world today… To make a positive impact through for-profit business, along the ‘quadruple bottom lines’ of people, planet, profit and eternal purpose. There is a growing movement in the global church of people grasping this opportunity and they go by many different labels. One of them is ‘Business as Mission’ – a community of those building God’s kingdom through business, among the most vulnerable, most disadvantaged and most out of reach of the gospel in our neighborhoods and around the world today.
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 no one universally agreed definition of business as mission, but there are some key common denominators in the global BAM movement. And while there is growing consensus around the concept, many other terms are also used for the same, or similar, idea. 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.
This is the working definition of business as mission used by BAM Global during their Think Tank processes:
Business as Mission is:
- Profitable and sustainable businesses;
- Intentional about Kingdom of God purpose and impact on people and nations;
- Focused on holistic transformation and the multiple bottom lines of economic, social, environmental and spiritual outcomes;
- Concerned about the world’s poorest and least evangelized peoples.
Intentional and Integrated
Business as mission is not a new idea! Business and mission have been combined in different ways, at different times throughout Church history. However, the contemporary business as mission movement represents a growing intentionality in the global Church to fully integrate business goals with the call to the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. It is an answer to the prayer, ‘May Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’, as people and communities are positively transformed through for-profit business activities. BAM is the intentional integration of business and 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.
The idea of integration is important. This is not ‘ministry’ tacked onto business for convenience or business tacked onto ministry. Instead the mission is worked out in and through the business, through its activities, through the products and services and through relationships.
As mentioned above, business has the potential to generate wealth through a combination of creativity, hard work and risk. A profitable and sustainable business is able to create new jobs, drive new innovations and increase resources for society. Business can provide goods and services that are needed in a community and is established on a wide network of relationships.
These activities, products and relationships are integral to business and part of the God-given potential of business to transform society and glorify Him. Through business we can intentionally tackle poverty, increase quality of life, bring positive social change and carry with us the message of eternal life.
Business as mission is a concept that can and should be applied everywhere, but the business as mission movement has a special concern for people and places where there are dire economic, social, environmental and spiritual needs – Mats Tunehag
We invite you to be inspired and equipped by the stories and resources that we’ve curated and created on this Business as Mission Resource website.
by Jo Plummer
Updated August 2018
Six Books to Read First
Gea Gort & Mats Tunehag, 2018
A great introductory book to business as mission. Interweaves foundation-laying chapters on the concept of BAM, with case study chapters, sharing the stories of real companies.
Patrick Lai, 2015
This is a book that focuses on the practical how-tos of doing business for transformation. It’s a good, concise guide for people who want to start a BAM company.
Wayne Grudem, 2003
A short read which will a lay strong foundation for thinking biblically about business. Consider fundamental tenants of business, such as ownership, profit, employment, competition, in a whole new light.
Mike Baer, 2006
Takes the reader from where they are on a journey towards the seamless integration of business as mission. A great place to start on your BAM journey.
Steve Rundle and Tom Steffen, 2011 (Second Edition)
The first half covers principles for business as mission and the second half is dedicated to six stories of BAM in practice. Together these form a comprehensive overview that brings BAM alive for the reader.
Mark Russell, 2009
Based on an extensive study of what BAM looks like in real-life, this is a great introduction to business as mission in practice. Recommended for its user-friendly approach to equipping would-be missional entrepreneurs.
Four Articles to Read First
Jo Plummer, 2019
A short introduction to business as mission and why it is strategic in global mission today. Includes a recommended resource list.
Mats Tunehag, 2008
A six page introduction and overview of some key ideas in business as mission. Just one of many introductory articles by Mats Tunehag, in numerous language translations.
Neal Johnson and Steve Rundle, 2006
One of the most concise introductions to business as mission, this articles places BAM within the context of other related movements and identifies some key issues for BAM today.
Mats Tunehag, Jo Plummer and Wayne McGee (Eds), 2004
Written as a result of a unique collaborative effort by more than 70 Christian leaders and business as mission pioneers, this was the first attempt to bring a broad international and multi-disciplined perspective to business as mission. Chapter 9 is the one page BAM Manifesto.
A collection of reports on various topics such as BAM and Church Planting, BAM and Human Trafficking, Franchising, Biblical Foundations for BAM, plus reports from different global regions and countries. Something for everyone.
Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission
What does God say about business in the Bible? 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!
2. We will multiply what we sow
Whatever we believe about business in our own worldview we will multiply as we go out and do business as mission. If we only emphasize that business is a means to a particular end and not something to celebrate it in its own right, then that is what we will multiply. We will perpetuate the split thinking about what is sacred and valuable, and what is not, in the minds of the people we will influence and disciple. If we are to see a multiplication of business people bringing Kingdom transformation, we must multiply a Biblical view of business.
In our society we become what we celebrate. In order to release business people to get engaged, we need to celebrate their role in the Kingdom of God. Business is a high calling, we need to celebrate it so that our children and their children know that if they are called to business then that’s what they should be doing to God’s glory. Steve Saint
3. It is good for business
Thinking broadly about the transformational power of business is also good for business. This is something the world at large is waking up to. Terms like ‘social entrepreneurship’, ‘shared value’ and ‘conscious capitalism’ are becoming common currency as society re-evaluates the role of business. There is a growing understanding that as we create products that are good for society and meet human needs, then that will also be good for business in the purely economic sense. This cutting-edge thinking is rediscovering God’s original design for business! As Christians we need to have a firm grasp on what God says about the purpose of business.
Thoughts on the fundamental Biblical purpose of business
Excerpts from the BAM Think Tank Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission paper:
God calls His people to do good… Whenever business is carried out justly, it does good and is God-ordained because we are assured that all good things ‘come from above’ (James 1:17). God created the marketplace to serve positive ends. Human provision, facilitated by the beneficial exchanges of the marketplace, is a fundamental function of creation. Commerce can also be, at least informally, a means of revelatory grace, specifically as immanent charis, the kindness, mercy, and goodwill of God in the world, as business generates wealth that can be used to pay wages, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for widows and orphans. Business can be evangelizing witness to the glory of God… Christ is present in the marketplace when the devout carry out their business in accordance with God’s will, purposes, and character (Doty, 2011, pp. 93–4).
Understanding God’s purposes for business comes through understanding God’s purpose for humans outlined in Genesis and understanding God’s purposes for institutions (principalities and powers outlined in the New Testament writings). Broadly, the purpose of business lies within the context of the purpose of life―that is, the ‘chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy God forever’ (Westminster Confession). God is in the people-developing ‘business’ to make a people to live in harmonious relationship with God and with one another (Daniels, 2012, p. 60).
First, business appears to be uniquely well situated to work the fields, to cause the land to be fruitful, and to fill the earth—what we might in modern parlance characterize as “to create wealth”. Second, business is the dominant institution (although obviously not the only one) equipped to provide organized opportunities for meaningful and creative work (Van Duzer, 2010, pp. 41–2).
Business, from a Christian viewpoint… is a calling to transformational service for the common good. It is a calling on personal, institutional and structural levels to serve God and participate in his ministry of bettering the lives of others in multiple dimensions (Wong & Rae, 2011, p. 284).
Christ talks about invasion: may God’s Kingdom come on earth, may God’s will be done in our lives and societies today. The incarnational mystery is one of engagement, living among us, sharing our lives and circumstances. Business as Mission recognizes our calling to be salt and light in the marketplace. It is not about evacuating Christians from a sinful and corrupt sphere, but rather becoming an answer to the Lord’s Prayer: May your Kingdom come in the business world (Tunehag, 2013b).
Read the full paper to unpack these and other ideas. See also Further Resources list below.
What does the Bible say about business, work and the economic sphere?
Selected scriptures for further study:
Provision for human society and multiplication of resources is designed by God to come primarily through dignified work. God is creative and pleased with his work and we are made to be creative in His image: Genesis 2:1-3, Deuteronomy 28:1-13, Joshua 5: 11-12, Psalm 128:1‒2.
Material provisions are good and important for our daily life and the healthy functioning of communities, however they are not sufficient to fully satisfy us as humans: Deuteronomy 8, 1 Kings 4:25, Psalms 62:10, Proverbs 23:4-5, Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, Zechariah 3:10, Matthew 4:4, Matthew 6:33, Mark 8:36.
Business creates opportunities for meaningful work and creativity that is essential for human dignity and a peaceful society: Genesis 2:2-3, Ephesians 6:5-9, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:10–12.
We should care for the poor and needy and support the work of the Church out of the abundance of economic activity. We are to be generous: Deuteronomy 15:4-10, Proverbs 31:18-20, Leviticus 19:9–10, Acts 20:33-35, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Corinthians 9:10-14, James 2:14‒17
God hates oppression, injustice, and those who exploit the economically and socially vulnerable: Exodus 22: 22-27, Deuteronomy 24:14–15, Deuteronomy 25: 13-16, Proverbs 22:16, Amos 8:4-10, Micah 2:1‒2, Micah 6:8, Malachi 3:5, Colossians 4:1, James 5:4.
Biblical values and precepts can be modeled in the context of daily business life; this makes our message and witness more credible. Life in business can be a training ground for moral development and spiritual maturity: Deuteronomy 22:8, Proverbs 11:1-3, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9.
We are God’s image bearers in the world and our chief end is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We are to be salt and light in the world, called on to be witnesses for the Gospel in any daily situation: Genesis 1:26-27, Psalm 86:8-13, Matthew 5:1-16, Colossians 4:5-6, 1 Peter 3:15.
Wayne Grudem – Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (2003)
Timothy Keller – Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (2012)
Jeff Van Duzer – Why Business Matters to God: (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed) (2010)
Kenman Wong and Scott Rae – Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace (2011)
Articles and Web Resources:
BAM Think Tank Report – Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done… in Business: Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission
Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 59. – Business as Mission. See Chapter 2, The Word and the Mission: Biblical Foundations for BAM
Theology of Work Project – A Biblical Perspective on Faith and Work
Daniels, D. (2012). Toward a theology of business. In Okonkwo, B. (ed.). Finding Meaning in Business: Theology, Ethics and Vocation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Doty, D. (2011). Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.
Saint, S (2010). Unpublished conference speech, Call2Business, Long Beach, USA
Tunehag, M. (2013). Business as Mission can be smelly. Retrieved March 20, 2013, from www.matstunehag.com.
Van Duzer, J. (2010). Why Business Matters to God: And What Still Needs to be Fixed. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Wong, K. & Rae, S. (2011). Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Four Pillars of BAM Preparation
A BAM business is like a house built on pillars, no matter what shape it is, what it looks like on the outside, the pillars (or foundations) must be strong to support the house. 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. Each individual launching into BAM will have different experiences and a different journey of preparation. However, there are at least four areas that need to be intentionally built to form a strong foundation for all BAM businesses.
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:
Pillar #1 – Personal Character and Spiritual Formation
Jesus said, I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5, NIV). We will not magically become godly business as mission owners or employees that bear much fruit. Right where we are now, let’s be committed to walking closely with Jesus in everything we do, growing in the fruit of the Spirit as His disciples. Prayer, ethical business practice, healthy marriage and family life, the way we relate to others, our attitude to money, the leading of the Holy Spirit, these are all essential areas to nurture and cultivate for healthy lives – and healthy BAM practice. Neglect or outright sin in these areas will destroy our credibility and quite possibly our business. Weak character or immaturity in Christ will be a hidden fault line in our BAM foundations. Although all of us fall short and our efforts and resources alone will not please God; we must be quick to repent, patient to seek God and be committed to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5: 13-25).
Pillar #2 – Biblical Foundations
Ideas have consequences. The way we think and what we value will shape our actions, behaviours and what we build. Whether our thinking about business has been moulded by secular ideas, or by unbiblical attitudes from our church heritage, we need to make an honest evaluation. Many of us need to dismantle the way that we think about business and intentionally develop a biblical worldview of work, business and the economic sphere (not to mention, mission, relationships and human flourishing!). In 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, Paul the Apostle unpacks one of the reasons he was in the tentmaking business. He explains that he worked hard in order to give the Thessalonians an example to imitate. Paul was teaching, but also modelling, the Bible’s view about work and business. At the time, the prevailing Greek-Roman culture had a low view of the material world, manual labour was disdained and there was a sharp divide between what was considered sacred or secular. This sacred-secular divide is very prevalent in our churches today and influences the thinking of many Church leaders and Christians in business weakening our foundations. All work, all vocations have the potential to glorify God and business has an innate power to transform lives and communities for good. Business as mission is merely an expression of that power and potential, that should be built on strong Biblical foundations.
Pillar #3 – Business Excellence
As we launch into business as mission we cannot neglect the sound business practice that applies to any business. The business and economic sphere is governed by natural laws, just as gravity is. We wouldn’t dream of going to the top of a tall building, praying with our prayer partner and jumping off, expecting an act of spiritual devotion to save us! Yet too often in business as mission we have prayed and hoped for the best whilst neglecting fundamental business principles. Business startups have a high failure rate in general, BAM startups face a whole range of additional challenges. We must gain the business skills and experience that we will need to understand our industry, business model and business context. We need to crunch the numbers, do the financial planning, conduct market research, develop an HR plan, manage our risk and so on. We cannot neglect the expertise we will need to put the necessary systems in place as our business grows. If we don’t have the experience and expertise we need, we must diligently build a team, develop partnerships, take a course, find a coach or mentor, engage a board of advisors, hire a lawyer and so on. Let us be committed to do business with excellence.
Pillar #4 – Business as Mission Best Practice
We are building on the shoulders of a generation of business as mission pioneers. There have been successes and failures that we can learn from. There is a growing body of resources dedicated to unearthing BAM principles and fruitful practices. Let us learn from those and avoid reinventing the wheel or making unnecessary mistakes. Take time to build up your understanding of fruitful BAM practice: read stories, research BAM experiences in a particular industry, visit BAM companies, go to a BAM conference. In whatever way possible, learn lessons from others who are willing to share them. Here are some helpful resources to start: Practitioner Toolkits, BAM Think Tank papers, Stories, Books containing case studies.
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!
3. Find a Community
Find or create a community that is going to provide support for you in your BAM journey. Find a BAM mentor or connect with a like-minded group that will help hone your vision, pray with you and ask the tough questions.
4. Make it Concrete
Set goals, write down your ideas, articulate the possibilities. The next step in your BAM journey is not going to happen by itself. Prayfully document and capture your ideas to bring clarity to the next step.
5. Take a First Step
Identify the next step or two that has emerged out of the process of seeking the Lord, hearing BAM stories, getting counsel from others and making a plan. Go!
Resources and Ideas for Taking the Next Step