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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

Discipling Marketplace Leaders: The Power of Church and BAM Partnerships

by Renita Reed-Thomson & Dr. Phil Walker

A Kenyan pastor approached us following our workshop and said, “Church begins on Monday. Sunday is ‘garage/maintenance time’ to prepare for that.” The lightbulb had gone on. It is the lightbulb that reminds pastors and church leaders that the Church gathers on Sunday for the purpose of being equipped to be scattered on Monday, shining the light of Christ everywhere they go. Unfortunately, the Global Church tends to be inward focused, defining itself as a building or by programs, rather than the people. While the majority of adult members in our churches spend the majority of their time in their workplace, we do not disciple them to the purpose of doing their work as an act of worship. Discipling Marketplace Leaders is seeking to remedy this as it brings the work of Business as Mission into the Church.

Finding Common Ground

In 2012 Dr. Phil Walker (President and co-founder of International Christian Ministries) was conducting a leadership seminar in Accra, Ghana. Renita Reed-Thomson (Regional Director for a BAM ministry) was attending the seminar with her team. At the break, she began sharing with Phil about the challenges of the BAM movement. While successful in helping Christian business owners grow in their ability to operate successful businesses, she was concerned about their spiritual journey (Deuteronomy 8:18). It was easy to see financial growth, but hard to know if they were growing in their walk with the Lord. Phil discussed his frustration with the local church and its inability to substantially impact the community by empowering members to be light and leaven in the community. Phil invited Renita to Kitale, Kenya, to teach a course on Church-based Business as Mission at ICM’s Africa Theological Seminary.

Over the initial months of teaching pastors, Renita saw a dramatic change in their perspective regarding business and work. Teaching business as a calling, supported theologically, pastors shifted from business as a “necessary evil,” to business as calling, contributing to fulfilling the Great Commitment of Genesis 1:28. Renita shared with other BAM practitioners about integrating BAM formally with the church. They said BAM and the local church could not find common ground for working together. Some stated that the church is “too difficult” to work with and therefore should be side-stepped. Renita decided on a research project to test whether the faith and work movement was possible within the local church. From 2013-2015, Renita conducted an 18-month research study, in three cities with six churches and 260 businesses.  Read more

People, People, People! Human Capital Flow for BAM Companies

by Peter Shaukat

Editors Note: When we asked veteran BAM leaders to identify some of the pressing issues that are facing the business as mission movement in the next decade, among the issues they identified were several areas that could broadly be categorized as ‘resource gaps for BAM companies’, including:

1. Adequate financial capital flow.

2. Adequate human capital flow – both in terms of a) recruiting the right kind of people to begin and sustain a BAM company, and b) succession planning and the successful transition of a BAM company from one generation of owners to another.

3. Adequate support for BAM practitioners, especially mentoring, accountability and care.

We will be posting articles covering each of these issues during the month of June, continuing with the challenge of human capital flow.

Human Capital Flow for BAM Companies

To some ears, the term “human capital”, especially when applied to the BAM movement, might sound strange, secular, and mercenary – even exploitative.

According to the OECD, human capital is defined as: “the knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services or ideas in market circumstances”.

There is, therefore, nothing at all shameful in this use of the term. Indeed, if the BAM movement is predicated on the assumption that God’s pleasure is to create good things for the benefit of all, and that the marketplace is part of the divine design for how society is intended to function, then we should rejoice in being a part of that process and outcome. This doesn’t mean we are ciphers or cogs in some impersonal machine, for this would entirely negate the splendid truth that we are persons, made in the image of our Father in Heaven.  Read more

Let’s Get Local: Developing Both the Localization and Globalization of BAM

by Joseph Vijayam

In 2013 I was on a business trip in Jakarta. One afternoon my host asked if I would join him for a gathering of believers in his office building. To my surprise, this was not a small gathering of believers; it was a full-fledged worship service with songs, intercession, testimonies, and a short sermon with over 100 people in attendance. During the time of testimonies, people were sharing about their needs, including those at work, home, and in their communities. One of the business owners in the room shared that he sees himself as a pastor to his co-workers. At that moment, I realized that here in one of the megacities of Asia, weekly church service had taken a new form. The venue was a business conference room, the people in attendance came as individuals rather than families, significant time was spent in sharing of testimonies by new believers, and the time of their meeting was on a busy weekday. Every aspect of the event perfectly fit the needs of first-generation believers working in high rise offices in Jakarta. 

Though the purpose and function of the Body of Christ have remained the same, its local form has changed from age to age and from one culture to another. What I experienced in Jakarta was a unique expression of the local church that is ideal to the city of Jakarta for this generation. If the gathering of believers can take different forms, can our approach to bringing people into the Church be just as creative and specific to their situation? Not only do I believe that it can, I think it is essential.  Read more

Transforming the Church, One Engaged Business Person at a Time

by Larry Sharp

Over the years I have had various business owners and executives travel with me as I’ve coached and supported companies around the world. On one particular trip, the VP of a Fortune 500 company came with me and some others to a former Soviet Republic country. He had gone on many mission trips, built churches, passed out tracts, and tutored English – all good things! But in Kazakhstan he helped Kazakh believers and expats with business mentoring on topics like making financial projections, contract law, and international marketing. On the trip home he told me that he finally saw how his skills can be used to build the kingdom of God. “Where are we going next?” he asked, after a short time of reflection at home.

I have had many experiences like this, witnessing firsthand the moment business people have felt affirmed and become engaged in using their skills and experience in business as mission. They go from seeing their contribution as limited to PRAY or PAY, and start to realise they can be actively involved – i.e. PLAY! And there are multiple ways for people to get engaged.

For the first time she saw that her business ability and position was a God-given asset.

A young fellow about 30 years old heard me speak in a large mega-church in Pennsylvania. He asked to meet with me and said, “All this is new to me and I don’t think my wife will want to move outside the state, what can I do?” After finding out he was the owner of an SEO company with 14 employees, I said absolutely – and you don’t even have to leave your computer. He has been a wonderful contributor to business startups in unreached areas of the world.

On another occasion, I spoke in a church in the Philadelphia area one Sunday morning. The pastor seemed open to all I spoke about that morning but the real encouragement was talking to several business people afterwards. One woman was a chemical engineer, a former Proctor and Gamble manager who supervised the development of Pampers. She joined our team and helped us with our “product development” when we were just getting going as a BAM consulting group.  Read more

The Spirituality of Professional Skills and Business

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with great content and resources. As we start the new year, we are highlighting articles which have stood out in the past 6 months.

Below is the “Most Popular Post” for July to December 2018.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Peter Shaukat

This short and surely inadequate article on the place of professional and business skills in spirituality and mission is essentially a plea for Christ-followers to demonstrate and proclaim a wholistic gospel and to pursue authentic whole-life discipleship. In many respects, it reflects one element of my own pilgrimage in mission, which might be described as a long pursuit of an answer to the question: “How do we integrate our Christian faith with our vocational talents and training in a life committed to the global mission enterprise of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

My journey thus far is still for me most memorably crystallized when, as a young engineer-in-training experiencing the breakout of Jesus in my personal world, I approached a mission agency leader with the question: “What should I do to serve Christ globally?” The answer I received then was to go to seminary for four years and then come back and see him. His answer may just possibly (but probably quite remotely) have had to do with his perception that perhaps I had certain “ministry gifts” needing development. However, with the passage of more than four decades since that conversation, I am inclined to believe that it had more to do with a pervasive, dichotomous, sacred-secular worldview rooted in Greek Platonic (and Buddhist/Hindu) thought than with the biblical, integrated notions of shalom, holiness, and service. Since then, by God’s grace, through observing the modeling of Christ’s virtues in the lives of hundreds of fellow-travelers, imbibing five decades of studying Scripture on a personal devotional level, embracing divinely appointed circumstances, and following personally chosen pathways on five continents, some progress in answering that question first posed in the 1970s is slowly being made.  Read more

Four Essentials of a Working Spirituality

by Peter Shaukat

Having hazarded a comment on the global and ecclesiastical context of our time and offered a rough and ready theology of work, I’d like to outline few suggested essentials of a working spirituality with a missional worldview for the professional or business person.

Embrace the Incarnation of Christ

The first essential is to embrace the incarnation of Christ. Specifically, devotionally, prayerfully to remember and internalize the fact that Jesus walks the Holy Land of your country, your marketplace, your professional sphere through you. You are his hands and feet. You are his mind and word. You are a channel of his redemption and restoration. His promise that we would do greater works than he did in Palestine is surely supported by his promise to be with us and evidenced by the work and witness of practicing Christians in every profession, especially in places where it’s still highly unlikely that the majority have ever seen a Christian engineer, teacher, or businessman.  Read more

The Spirituality of Professional Skills and Business

by Peter Shaukat

This short and surely inadequate article on the place of professional and business skills in spirituality and mission is essentially a plea for Christ-followers to demonstrate and proclaim a wholistic gospel and to pursue authentic whole-life discipleship. In many respects, it reflects one element of my own pilgrimage in mission, which might be described as a long pursuit of an answer to the question: “How do we integrate our Christian faith with our vocational talents and training in a life committed to the global mission enterprise of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

My journey thus far is still for me most memorably crystallized when, as a young engineer-in-training experiencing the breakout of Jesus in my personal world, I approached a mission agency leader with the question: “What should I do to serve Christ globally?” The answer I received then was to go to seminary for four years and then come back and see him. His answer may just possibly (but probably quite remotely) have had to do with his perception that perhaps I had certain “ministry gifts” needing development. However, with the passage of more than four decades since that conversation, I am inclined to believe that it had more to do with a pervasive, dichotomous, sacred-secular worldview rooted in Greek Platonic (and Buddhist/Hindu) thought than with the biblical, integrated notions of shalom, holiness, and service. Since then, by God’s grace, through observing the modeling of Christ’s virtues in the lives of hundreds of fellow-travelers, imbibing five decades of studying Scripture on a personal devotional level, embracing divinely appointed circumstances, and following personally chosen pathways on five continents, some progress in answering that question first posed in the 1970s is slowly being made.  Read more

Why We Need the Term Business as Mission, But Maybe Not Forever!

I hope very few people will talk about Business as Mission (BAM) in the future. The term is like scaffolding; it is needed for a season as we build a new paradigm and praxis: businesses that glorify God and bring about holistic transformation of people and societies.

The term BAM has its merits in clarification of the concept. The term has been helpful in the affirmation of business people and the mobilization of resources. But the term is not important – the concept and the applications are.

Many Terms, Similar Concepts

In the general business world, there are also several terms for businesses that aim at multiple bottom-lines serving multiple stakeholders. Some examples are social enterprise, creative capitalism, conscious capitalism, corporate social responsibility, and inclusive business. Different terms, but very similar concept.

Some people dislike the term BAM or question its usefulness. Other phrases are used, such as business for transformation, Kingdom companies, missional business or business as integral calling.

Even this article highlights a limitation regarding terminology: it is in English. There are about 6,000 other languages in the world.  Read more

Team BAM: Legacy & Looking Ahead

By Joyce Ahn

The following is a summary of a lecture given by Mats Tunehag at the BAM Conference 2017 in Dallas, TX. Mats is a widely-known scholar focused on BAM and developing research and materials for BAMers globally.

BAM is not a new concept. In fact, we stand upon a rich legacy of professionals who sought to glorify God through their business.  We see entrepreneurs in the scripture and throughout history. We stand at a crossroads as we look at how the BAM movement has progressed, and where things are headed.

Here are some trends I have observed in recent years:

Faith and business are more integrated than ever before. We see more and more believers who understand the importance of integrating our faith into how we run our businesses all throughout the week. It’s becoming more natural for people to say “Of course God has called me to business” and seek ways to invite him into their values and company culture. It’s exciting to see the growing numbers of BAM companies in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and an increasing number of BAM materials in dozens of languages. Read more

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