by Steve Rundle
Not long ago the Wall Street Journal noted a significant change in the attitudes of university business students1. Compared to other incoming classes in recent memory, today’s young people are more interested in using their business skills to make a positive difference in society. Undoubtedly, many have been inspired by social enterprises like Tom’s Shoes, Kiva, and Chipotle’s Mexican Grill, as well as turned off by stories of corporate excess on Wall Street.
In Christian circles we are seeing something very similar. “Business as Mission,” as the name suggests, involves businesses that have a missionary impulse. Neither motivated by money, nor embarrassed about making it, these enterprises and the entrepreneurs who start them defy easy classification. Like Social Enterprises they are hybrids in their purpose, and in many cases, their organizational structures. The main distinctive is that “Business as Mission” extends beyond addressing the physical needs of the poor (or the ethical treatment of pigs and chickens, as in Chipotle’s case), and includes a desire to make Christ known and see people freed from spiritual bondage. While social entrepreneurs want to do good for their fellow man, so-called “BAMers” in addition, are motivated by a desire to serve God and draw people’s attention to Him. The Christ-centered nature of BAM is a significant difference that gives rise to different questions and requires a more interdisciplinary approach to the subject.