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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

So What Shall We Do Tomorrow? How We Have Endured

One day down

Sleep deprived, stressed, hiding in the office to cry, then pulling it together and working hard physically, attempting to speak a foreign language, smiling at potential customers, doing everything for the first time, from start to finish, from nerve-wracking open to exhausted and exuberant close. We did it! There was cash in the drawer to prove it. Success!!! We made it through… Day one.

We arrived home near midnight, our three small boys in tow. As we straggled through the door, my husband turned to me and said, “So what shall we do tomorrow?”

I stopped. I stared at him. Then I’m pretty sure I laughed. Barely.

All the focus for years and months had been to start a business. Now it was started. We were worn out, but the real work had just begun.

Later we learned that starting a business is like having a baby. In so many ways. One moment it appears unbelievably fragile. The next moment it’s screaming its lungs out in a show of robust strength. Helpless. Demanding. Exceedingly needy!

There was one American woman who understood this business-baby analogy before we did. She visited us the first day at the shop, congratulated us, and gave us a lasagne. Read more

Turn Off the Lights to Share the Light: Why Good Environmental Practice is Great Business Practice

by Mark Polet

There is a misconception that good environmental management always costs money. Well, sometimes it does seem to cost when externalities are not costed fully (waste management, air and water pollution control) or when the company is not managed properly (contamination). 

Turn Off the Lights so You can Share the Light

However, there is another area of sound business management where good environmental management saves money. It’s called efficiency.

In short, turn off the lights.

It is easy for all of us to fall into complacency or just get too busy to really manage our costs, especially in the challenging places where you work. That is why we are looking for quick wins. The first quick win my colleagues and I have noted in working for Kingdom Companies is energy efficiency.

Turn off the lights when you leave! I find it remarkable how many times energy is wasted in companies, even where energy availability is inconsistent. We have seen whole factories lit up with not a soul in them.

Manage your air conditioning.  25°C (77°F) is often recommended, no cooler. If  you have your suit jacket on while you work at your desk, something may be wrong.

BAM is in the relationship business, and enrolling staff in Creation Care is one more step in discipleship.

Watch for phantom power costs. Turn off appliances when not in use. 

Many electronic appliances (i.e. monitor screens) are still drawing power even when ‘off’. If at all possible, shut off at the main plug.

Read more

Messy Site, Messy Company: Aiming for Environmental Excellence

by Mark Polet

When it comes to running a good business, cleanliness really is next to godliness.

I want to explore with you why you who are pursuing excellence in business need to weave good environmental practice into your operations.

Messy Site, Messy Company

Good environmental practice is not a stand alone activity. Good environmental practice is woven into all aspects of the company. Because poor environmental practice is often quite visible in a disorderly site and disorganized operations, it is often the most evident warning bell to any investor or customer that something is wrong with this firm.

Why do I stay that? After over forty years of assessing companies for environmental excellence, including Kingdom-Oriented firms, there is one correlation in my experience that always holds.

If the site is a mess, the accounting is a mess.

Good environmental practice is not a stand alone activity. Good environmental practice is woven into all aspects of the company.

A messy site means messed up books. I have reviewed firms across a score of industry groups. At times I will come across a  company that has an unkempt site. Sometimes it is debris lying around; other times it is  far worse, with spills contaminating the soil. In all cases, I find as I continue my audit that their financial records are equally messy, and their regulatory compliance is spotty at best. The management of their supply chain was poor. The amount of waste they generate, both in lost productivity and actual, physical waste, is evident.  Read more

Business as Mission and the Global Workplace: Part 2

by Jo Plummer

First published as an Advance Paper for the Lausanne Global Workplace Forum.

Bottom-line thinking

It is becoming more common for companies to plan for positive impact on ‘multiple bottom lines’. Rather than only measuring success as a positive number on the profit and loss statement—ie, the ‘financial bottom line’—businesses around the world are beginning to look for positive impact on social, environmental, and financial bottom lines. Social enterprises now aim to have a positive impact on multiple stakeholders—their employees, suppliers, the community, their customers, etc.—rather than focusing solely on returning financial rewards to shareholders. This ‘cutting-edge thinking’ is rediscovering God’s original design for business.

A business as mission (BAM) company is simply one that embraces all of this thinking about multiple bottom lines and multiple stakeholders. Crucially, it holds that God is the most important Stakeholder in the business, and that the purposes of the company should align with his purposes. Thus, a BAM company is one that thinks about how the whole strategy for the business—and the business model itself—can intentionally integrate mission.

BAM company owners start their businesses for a wide variety of reasons, including: to fight the evils of human trafficking, accelerate the task of reaching the remaining unreached peoples with the gospel, and tackle the problems of social injustice, environmental degradation, and dire poverty, to name a few. Annie started her business in Asia to provide alternative employment for exploited women, Anne started hers in Northern Europe to create jobs and connect with disaffected youth, and Mary started hers in the Middle East to more effectively share the gospel in one of the least-reached nations on earth.

The world is open for business

God has mandated humankind to be good stewards of Creation, to create resources for the good of society, to love God first and then love our neighbor, and to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Thus, a business as mission company includes spiritual transformation as a measure of business success, alongside social, environmental, and economic concerns—and has a special concern for the poor, marginalized, and unreached peoples. 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. 

Read more

Business as Mission and the Global Workplace: Part 1

by Jo Plummer

First published as an Advance Paper for the Lausanne Global Workplace Forum.

Introduction

Dallas Willard once said that, ‘Business is a primary moving force of the love of God in human history.’[1] Business, done well, is glorifying to God and has enormous potential to do good. Business has an innate God-given power to create dignified jobs, to multiply resources, to provide for families and communities and to push forward innovation and development in human society.

In the global marketplace today, we have an enormous opportunity to leverage this God-given potential of business to address some of the world’s most pressing spiritual, social, environmental, and economic issues. This is ‘business as mission’—a movement of business professionals using the gifts of entrepreneurship and good management to bring creative and long-term, sustainable solutions to global challenges. This movement of business people is growing worldwide; they are serving God in the marketplace and intentionally shaping their businesses for God’s glory, the gospel, and the common good. Business professionals are using their skills to serve people, make a profit, be good stewards of the planet, and align with God’s purposes; they are taking the whole gospel to the ends of the earth.

This paper aims to encourage businesswomen and men—whether entrepreneurs, managers, business professionals, or technical experts—that their gifts, experience, and capacity is a much-needed resource in global mission. In addition, it will exhort church and mission leaders to affirm and equip the business people in their networks and congregations so that they can effectively respond to the challenges in the global workplace today.

God gives us the ability to produce wealth

In Deuteronomy 8 we read that it is God who gives us the ability to produce wealth. He provides abundant natural resources so that we can use our creativity, talents, and hard work to provide for ourselves and innovate for society. Business processes naturally generate wealth and resources; companies are able to create good products and services for the benefit of communities. Business pushes forward innovation, helping societies develop; enterprises bring in new technologies, skills, and training to communities. Business, done well—not forgetting the Lord our God (Deut 8:11)—is glorifying to him.  Read more

10 Pressing Issues to Address in BAM in the Next 20 Years: Best of BAM Blog

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with great content and resources. Each year we do a summer roundup of articles which have stood out in the past 6 months.

Below is the “Most Popular Post” for January to June 2019.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Jo Plummer

This year marks around 20 years since the term ‘Business as Mission’ was first used and discussed amongst a growing group of like-minded people around the world. Of course, there were pioneer BAM models before that time, not to mention the fact that business and mission have been integrated in many different ways since Paul the Apostle made tents! However, for this modern iteration, the cohesion and an international conversation around this concept really started around 20 years ago.

I like to think of this pioneer generation and what has followed as ‘BAM 1.0’. It is amazing to reflect on all God has done in our global community in the past couple of decades! Now, as we look forward to the future, we want to explore the theme of ‘BAM 2.0’ for a new series of posts on The BAM Review blog. In the coming months, we’ll discover where we’ve got to and the issues we still face for the future.

To prepare for this series, we asked 20 leaders who have been engaged in business as mission for between 10 and 35 years to tell us what they believe are the most pressing issues we must address if the BAM movement is to be even more fruitful for the next 20 years… and beyond! While this isn’t a scientific survey across the entire BAM community, it does represent wisdom from a collection of leaders who have served long in our movement.

Here are the 10 overarching issues that were identified by these leaders, in no particular order:  Read more

3 Reasons to Scale Your Business to Reach the Unreached: Best of BAM Blog

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with great content and resources. Each year we do a summer roundup of articles which have stood out in the past 6 months.

Below is our second “Staff Pick” for January to June 2019.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Mike Baer

In all entrepreneurial circles, the hot topic is “How to scale the business.” How do we take our company from me (and possibly a few others) to many? How do we add more employees? Customers? Lines of business? Locations? Profits?

Scaling in General

“Scale or Die” is the cry that comes from many startups and from virtually all investors. Growth is an evidence of life and health. Healthy companies grow. But it’s not easy, especially in a business as mission endeavor.

Where will you find the funding to expand? Bootstrapping or “cash-flowing” expansion is extremely difficult and tediously slow.

What about managers sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable to lead a larger business who also share your faith and focus? Where will you find them? How will you pay them? Who will move to your location? Do you use locals? Expats?

And, most importantly, what about your own experience or lack thereof? If you’ve never done it before, it’s daunting and difficult to say the least! The overwhelming majority of startups fail to scale.  Read more

How Business as Mission Can Help End Poverty for Good: Best of BAM Blog

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with great content and resources. Each year we do a summer roundup of articles which have stood out in the past 6 months.

Below is our first “Staff Pick” for January to June 2019.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Doug Seebeck

The Business as Mission movement has made remarkable advances over the past 20 years. It is a powerful movement that affirms God’s call to business and the central role of business in missions and insists that business is critical to the redemptive work of God in the world and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

While there is much to celebrate, now is the time for a rallying cry for what can and must be done in the 20 years ahead of us. Indeed, the health of our planet, the flourishing of our neighbors, and the integrity of the Gospel itself depend upon our concerted focus and action. And that focus is the end of extreme global poverty as we know it today. To this end, we need the Business as Mission movement to serve those at the bottom of the pyramid who are scraping by on less than $2 per day.

Our vision at Partners Worldwide is to see the end of poverty so that all may have life, and have it abundantly. This is a grand, audacious goal we know we can’t accomplish alone. And yet, for the first time in human history, the number of our fellow human beings who face extreme poverty has fallen to under 10 percent. The latest figures from World Bank suggest the extreme poverty rate fell to 8.6 percent last year—a rapid decrease from 36 percent in 1990. It is truly amazing!  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