Posts

What is Business as Mission? A Short Introduction

As we start the new year, we are revisiting some foundational material on what business as mission means. Here’s the introduction to business as mission from our Start Here page.

What is Business as Mission?

Business as mission, simply put, is the seamless integration of excellent business with intentional mission. It is doing business for God’s glory, the gospel, and the common good.

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. Business as mission is strategic today because it is often best placed to meet a wide range of needs in communities around the world.

Let’s start with business

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. We see in the Bible and throughout history that business is able to create dignified jobs,  multiply resources, provide for families and communities, push forward innovation, and, in short, do good in society. A company does not need a business as mission strategy to justify its purpose or to somehow make it more ‘holy’. Business professionals following Jesus in the marketplace already have a sacred vocation. Business is a good idea that comes from God.

Yet, God has called us, His Church, to partner with him in the work of mission. To love our neighbour as ourselves, to care for the poor and vulnerable, and to share the gospel and make disciples in every part of the world. And business people, along with their skills and experiences, are some of the most needed in the work of global mission today. Alongside more traditional forms of mission, the world is crying out for for-profit, business solutions to some of its most pressing issues. These issues include job scarcity, human trafficking, economic exploitation, corruption, environmental degradation, dire poverty, and the challenge of sharing the love of God and His good news with those who haven’t yet heard it.

Business as Mission

In the global marketplace today, we have an opportunity to harness the God-given power of business to address these pressing spiritual, social, environmental, and economic issues. Business as mission is a movement of business professionals – alongside mission leaders, church leaders and academics – who are doing just that. They are taking the instrument of business, with its innate, God-given ability and power, and intentionally using that power in the work of mission. They are using their professional know-how and the gifts of entrepreneurship and good management to bring creative and long-term, sustainable solutions to local and global challenges. They are making a positive impact through for-profit business, along the ‘four bottom lines’: social, environmental, financial and spiritual. We sometimes refer to these as the 4Ps: people, planet, profit, and eternal purpose. Read more

4 Things to Know about How Business Fights Poverty

In our series this month “Exploring BAM as Justice: Choosing Hope in the Face of Challenge” we’re taking a deep dive into the intersection of faith, business, and complex global realities. We’ll be looking at business as mission’s impact on poverty and justice issues across the globe. Here’s the first post with some essential points on how business fights poverty.

1. Poverty means more than just material poverty

Poverty in the biblical sense goes beyond lack of money and all its implications, although that’s part of it.

Christian development thinker Bryant Myers, in his seminal book Walking with the Poor, describes the nature of poverty as follows:

Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, they are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings. [1]

He took the biblical idea of shalom as the fullness of life that God intended before the Fall, where humans are in right relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of Creation.

Poverty, therefore, is the outcome of sin and brokenness in these four relationships.

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert built on Myer’s framework for their book When Helping Hurts and their work at the Chalmers Center. They put it this way:

The question of ‘What does it mean to be poor?’ requires more than a simple answer. We are all poor in our own way, as we grapple with the brokenness in the four key relationships in this world. Poverty is not solely about a lack of money; it encompasses a lack of intimacy with God, a lack of sensing one’s own worth, a lack of community, and a lack of stewardship over creation. – Chalmers Center

We all suffer from different types of poverty; you can be financially rich but socially poor, or financially poor but spiritually rich because you know Jesus.

To fight different kinds of poverty, we need to create different kinds of wealth.

Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical, and spiritual wealth. – Wealth Creation Manifesto, Affirmation #8

Business as mission enterprises have the opportunity to bring positive impact in all four areas of our broken relationships: relationship with self, relationship with God, relationship with others, and relationship with the rest of creation. Business as mission is a holistic mission model with the potential to create wealth and address poverty in multiple different ways.

2. Business is part of God’s design and is uniquely positioned to respond to poverty

Business is not evil, it’s not even neutral; it is part of God’s good design. [2] Of course, since the Fall when all things were corrupted by sin, business has the potential to do harm or be used for evil (intentionally or unintentionally). But, it can also glorify God and do good. That is part of God’s original purpose for business; He designed the enterprise of business to enable individuals, families, and human society to flourish. Read more

How the Church Can Engage in Discipling Marketplace Leaders

by Dr. Phil Walker and Renita Reed-Thomson

There is a story told about a frog in a kettle. The frog is placed in a kettle of cold water. The frog does not notice that the water temperature is being turned up gradually until it is too late. He dies from the heat of the water, not realizing the danger he was in.

The Global Church is suffering from the “frog in the kettle” syndrome. As people increase in financial security, they tend to decrease their dependence on God. It is time to get the frog out of the kettle! In many parts of the world the local church has moved from an evangelical, spiritual force in the community to a closed off social activity in the corner. This move away from the vitality of government, education and business is slowly making the local church irrelevant to the community it is called to serve as a light. Like the frog in the pot, we are slowly reaching a boiling point from which we will not recover our critical role and calling. The dropping statistics of church attendance in both Europe and North America is alarming. Failure to make Jesus relevant in the marketplace will lead to a failure of mission. While business as mission has found a niche in the Christian community, it is not fulfilling its potential.

In 2004 the Occasional Paper on Business as Mission from The Lausanne Movement called on the church to disciple and release its members to be lights in the community.

We call upon the church worldwide to identify, affirm, pray for, commission, and release business people and entrepreneurs to exercise their gifts and calling as business people in the world—among all peoples and to the ends of the earth.

In the same proclamation it called on the business people to live out their calling as Ambassadors, moving out of the four walls of the church into the four corners of the marketplace. Read more

BAM and the Church: A Case Study from Ethiopia

This case study from the new BAM and the Church Report published by BAM Global showcases the process that one denomination in Ethiopia took to implement a workplace ministry throughout the denomination, following key leaders embracing the need to overcome theological challenges inherent in the church’s understanding of work.

Background

The Ethiopia Kale Heywet Church (EKHC), with 10,000 churches and 10 million members is Ethiopia’s largest evangelical denomination. In 2017, Pastor Yoseph Bekele was appointed to be the ‘Business as Mission Director’ for the Kale Heywet Church. Yoseph had previously worked in youth ministries across the country, even while running several businesses of his own.

When he started, Yoseph shared that businesspeople were considered ‘sinful people’ in his setting. There was no understanding of the purpose of business from a godly or biblical perspective. He also shared that while Ethiopia has a rich heritage and culture, it is poor economically. Therefore, sharing about work as worship and business as mission would be critical for Ethiopian Christians to understand the biblical call to work and how to do business that honours God, which can allow them to grow economically and to flourish in God’s way.

Outcomes to date

In the first three years of the program, from 2018 to 2021, Yoseph and his team of BAM trainers reached nine of the eleven regions of Ethiopia with the message of church-based business as mission. There are teams of trainers who help pastors understand the call of the local church to equip their members for the work of the ministry from Monday to Saturday. The leadership of the headquarters church of the Kale Heywet denomination has agreed that every local church should have a workplace ministry, just as they have a youth and women’s ministry.

In addition to working through the local church leaders, BAM trainers are also bringing this message to youth leaders, women ministry leaders, children’s ministries, prison ministries, mission departments, and the many Kale Heywet Bible schools, while also passing on the teaching and training to other denominations. As part of the training, everyone learns that there are one or more critical outcomes from the three Great Directives—the Great Commitment, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission.

The Great Commandment outcome is social. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is about loving God whole-heartedly and loving our neighbour as ourselves. The Great Commission outcome is missional. Jesus tells us to go and make disciples, beginning in Jerusalem and reaching the whole world. But the outcomes of the Great Commitment, a universal call, is economic and ecological. For many Ethiopian Christians, this often comes as a surprise. Read more

The World is Open for Business

by Jo Plummer

 

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

by Jo Plummer

 

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

Promising Breakthroughs and Innovations to Accelerate the Great Commission

The business as mission community is contributing to a wider ‘listening process’ in the global evangelical mission community as part of our connection the Lausanne Movement. Lausanne also asked us:

What promising breakthroughs or innovations do you see that can accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission?

We received input from 25 global leaders on this question especially as it relates to business as mission, here are selected replies that highlight the main themes, including:

  • Prayer and networking that fosters servant-hearted partnership
  • Witness and discipleship in the marketplace
  • Mobilisation of business people – especially the next generation
  • Higher quality training and business incubation
  • Greater accessibility of funding for businesses
  • Media and technology bringing multi-faceted impact

What promising breakthroughs or innovations do you see that can accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission?

The ability for believers globally to pray together by sharing information, prayer needs, and sharing answered prayers will lead to the greatest breakthrough.
HE

Acceleration = Movements. Incremental change will not reach the goal. So in every area we need to ask, “How do we make this simple, scalable, replicable, sustainable?” Movements can be facilitated through collaboration, networking and partnerships. When applied to prayer, resources, technology, equipping, etc. we will see greater breakthroughs. Since it requires increased humility, putting one another first, greater listening, etc. all these invite the Holy Spirit to do His work.
DS

The breakthrough will be when everyone sees their profession as that which can accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission. In addition to BAM efforts, another breakthrough is the several hundred thousand evangelical Christians working abroad for transnational corporations, government contracts, consulting gigs, university teaching getting the vision to share Jesus and disciple people. For example, I coached a group of 40 professionals working in North Korea a couple of years ago. There are a couple of hundred countries in the world, most of them non-western and they all want western technology, science, etc. Why not thousands of Christians at work living like Jesus everywhere. That would be a breakthrough – not only relying on traditional missionaries, but Jesus followers who live differently and beg the question for earnest seekers.
LS

Read more

The High and Holy Calling of Business and Breaking the Sacred-Secular Divide

The business as mission community is contributing to a wider ‘listening process’ in the global evangelical mission community as part of our connection the Lausanne Movement. Lausanne asked us:

What are the most significant gaps or remaining opportunities toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20)?

We in turn received input from 25 global leaders on this question especially as it relates to business as mission. Four main themes emerged as leaders answered this question, which we will share in four blog posts through November.

The first theme was the need to continually break down the sacred-secular divide and affirm the high and holy calling of business. This is, as it turns out, is also foundational to all the other themes and consistently comes up in lists of priority issues for business as mission. To learn more about what the sacred-secular divide is and why and how we work to break it down, please read this introductory blog by Mike Baer.

Theme 1: The High and Holy Calling of Business and Breaking Down the Sacred-Secular Divide

Specifically in the context of BAM, I see a couple challenges that I believe we can address in the near future. One is the continued lack of the global church embracing the high and holy calling of business. This lack restricts the enlistment of disciple makers in business as mission, limits the equipping for this work by the church to church-centric training, and prevents the next generation from seeing the potential of working in business as a venue for global evangelism.
MB

From the perspective of the church, a huge gap remains the theological marginalisation of work as a sacred act of worship in the understanding and behaviour of Christians in their everyday context. Ministry still remains largely defined in “church-type” terms, and “ministers” still remain largely a professional “class” in the minds of most avowed Christians. This must continue to be addressed.
CS

Read more

Let’s Celebrate! Significant Growth Areas for BAM Over 20 Plus Years

by Jo Plummer

Business and mission have been woven together in various ways through history since Paul the Apostle made tents in New Testament times and modelled Christian leadership in the marketplace. However, through the 1970s, 80s and 90s there was a grassroots growth of business professionals and entrepreneurs seeking to intentionally integrate business and mission, marking the beginnings of the contemporary tentmaking and then business as mission movements. At the very end of the 1990s and the early 2000s, there was a burst of activity around  business as mission: consultations, conferences, books, articles, the first websites etc. – and this kick-started greater momentum in the BAM movement, which has been growing to this day.

The Business as Mission Resource Team (who develop this website and blog) celebrate our 20th anniversary this month, having been founded in March 2001. We’re in a celebrating mood!

Two years ago, to celebrate about 20 years since the term ‘business as mission’ was first used and discussed, we asked a group of BAM leaders to share their view on what progress we can celebrate in the BAM movement over the last 20 years or so. We’re reposting it this month as part of our CELEBRATION series.

What are some wins, or significant growth areas in business as mission that we should note and be thankful for?

The movement has gained traction. People now understand the legitimacy and role of BAM in particular and the calling of business in general for the Great Commission. New organizations have been founded to address the gaps in the BAM movement such as mentoring, funding, events for promoting and networking, etc. More established older organizations have begun embracing BAM ministry by starting a division, department or group focused on BAM. The biggest win for me is the wider acceptance of BAM as a way to impact the world for Christ by the global Church (with a capital C). We still have a ways to go, but the progress has been significant. God has used the BAM movement to move the needle. – Joseph Vijayam, BAM Practitioner & Lausanne Catalyst  Read more

Celebrating God’s Purposes for Business

by Jo Plummer

We have chosen the themes: CELEBRATE, CONNECT & CREATE for the upcoming BAM Global Congress.

As we gather the BAM movement together from every corner of the world, we want to:
+ CELEBRATE what God is doing through business around the world
+ CONNECT with a global network of collaborators
+ CREATE momentum for the future of business as mission

In March, as we prepare for the Congress next month (see information below), we are going to focus on the theme of CELEBRATE!

I believe that to do effective business as mission, we must start with a solid foundation of thinking about business from a biblical perspective. In other words, before we get to the ‘as mission’, we need to understand God’s design for business – and yes, celebrate it, because it is really good!

Celebrating God’s Purposes for Business

It is no secret that my favourite quote about business comes from Dallas Willard who 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 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