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.
Hitched Together versus Pushed Together
Over the years of listening to practitioners ask questions and share experiences I have observed that the degree to which business goals and mission goals are integrated together will influence the kinds of tensions experienced. For instance, as the goals are more aligned, time management tensions become less of an issue, but there is potential for other kinds of conflicts.
And the whole thing is ‘mission’ – business as mission.
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. 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:
- Split thinking
- Time management problems
- Lack of passion
- Identity crisis
Read Part 2 where we’ll unpack each of these challenges, and share ideas for how to tackle them.
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.
Those pushing the circles together will not, however, be immune to tension. Here are just a few of the kinds that may be encountered:
- Business can get messy!
- Making trade-offs
- Identity crisis
- Conflicts of interest
Read Part 3 for more about each of these tensions.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.