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Business as Good News to the Poor

by Rachel Rose Nelson

It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. Over the coming weeks we will have a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.

Affirmations 9 and 10 of the Wealth Creation Manifesto addresses the power of business to lift people out of poverty and fight injustice:

9. Wealth creation through business has proven power to lift people and nations out of poverty.
10. Wealth creation must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor, and should be sensitive to each unique cultural context.

Taken as a whole, the Wealth Creation Manifesto builds a sort of theology of business. It starts where every good theology must – in the identity of God, rooting the reader in the wealth creator’s role model – no less than the Creator of Heaven and Earth. It continues through affirmations of wealth creation as a holy calling, a provocative claim to many church and business leaders alike. But those willing to suspend disbelief at claims of holiness soon reach Affirmations 9 and 10 which tread on nothing less than the holy ground of Jesus’ own announcement of his ministry, words he drew directly from the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Luke 4:18-19

Jesus defined his ministry by its benefit to the poor. The people of Nazareth were moved at first but quickly turned against him. Many explain the drastic shift occurred as the crowd realized the man they knew since childhood was essentially claiming to be Messiah. But it’s worth noting that it was directly after Jesus denied big blessings for his own people that they moved to throw him off a cliff.

Wealth Creators on the Sidelines?

Are we so very different? How do we in the church receive these two Affirmations? Too often we love wealth creators when we think the blessings from their benevolence are headed our way, funding church programs, global missions, and charity to the poor, etc.. However, many harbor suspicions about what good can possibly be accomplished for God’s Kingdom by the businesses themselves.

And how do we in business receive the prophetic summons to bless the poor and vulnerable when stewarding our gifts? Most faith-driven entrepreneurs are certainly willing to give out of the overflow of their business, but never ask God how to use their business model to model Christ, making Him manifest in the places and for the people who need Him most.

Now more than ever we cannot afford for faith-driven wealth creators to be sidelined in the work of reaching the poor and setting captives free. Studies predict the economic impact from COVID-19 could increase global poverty by as much as half a billion people. This will be the first time that poverty has increased globally in thirty years, with people struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water, sanitation, and other essentials. [1]

Fighting the Injustice of Modern Slavery and Poverty

And modern slavery, linked as it is to poverty, is predicted to rise rapidly amid the economic vulnerability created by the global pandemic. The International Labor Organization recently reported millions of men, women and children will fall prey to human traffickers promising work and decent jobs. [2]

Pause here. As wealth creators we can become numb to the overwhelming needs of the world. Statistics like those above remain just numbers, without the power to move us from our positions of relative comfort. This is and always has been the curse of kings. We know from Scripture it took prophets willing to face death to move the hearts of kings, who had often grown calloused, ultimately building their own kingdoms alongside or sometimes even rather than God’s. We judge their blindness but many times miss our own.

What is God calling wealth creators to bring to earth as it is in heaven? What is good news to the poor? Many say charity. But if you ask the poor, what most want is a good job. [3]

According to the United Nations and many others engaged in global poverty reduction efforts, job creation has been and continues to be essential. [4]  It is clear: bringing good news to the poor means bringing a job, but not just any job. After all, even those being trafficked and exploited are employed. As faith-driven entrepreneurs we should aim at nothing less than providing jobs that carry out the ministry Christ first proclaimed, making Him manifest for those held captive in the clutches of poverty. That kind of job turns good news into the Gospel.

Blessing the Poor and Captive, Through Business

Andy Crouch, Praxis Partner for Theology & Culture asks, “What would it look like if Christians were committed to living redemptively – actively moving into systems that are bywords for corruption and caveat emptor, and changing the whole game?”[5]  I have seen firsthand what that looks like. In my role as Executive Director of Freedom Business Alliance I have witnessed a global network of leaders building businesses to provide dignified jobs for survivors of human trafficking. It is a mission that requires daily sacrifice on behalf of leaders who could very easily find more success walking down almost any other professional avenue. Yet these leaders remain. They labor daily to build Christ-like communities of support and development only possible in places of employment, but so rarely found in the regions in which they operate. Together they are reimagining business at the intersection of the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission.

The regions in which they operate are predominantly developing economies, where extreme poverty and modern slavery are all too prevalent and decent jobs scarce. These are places faith-driven wealth creators are desperately needed. But as Affirmation 10 of our Manifesto maintains, when we go into all the world, we must enter with sensitivity so as not to repeat the sins of the past. We bring some important resources but certainly not all. We bring some answers but must first seek understanding. And we bring Christ in us, but must never fall victim to the lie that He has not already been there moving, working in the hearts of the people, and perhaps most importantly, raising up leaders from whom we ourselves must learn. For as Randy Woodley, Distinguished Professor of Faith and Culture at Portland Seminary, outlines in his Missiological Imperatives, “God expects two conversions out of every encounter, our conversion to the truth in their culture, and their conversion to the truth we bring to the encounter.” [6]

As wealth creators we are in many ways the kings of our day, with power which comes from the Lord. But at the risk of being thrown off a cliff, I submit that this power is not granted solely to bless the wealth creator or even the church, but the poor and captive. And this blessing should not come through charity alone but through a reimagined engagement in the art of business patterned after nothing less than the ministry of Jesus.

 

ENDNOTES

[1] Sumner, A., Hoy, C. & Ortiz-Juarez, E. (2020) Estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty. WIDER Working Paper 2020/43. Helsinki: UNU-WIDER.

[2] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Covid-19 Impact on Child Labour and Forced Labour, www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—ipec/documents/publication/wcms_745287.pdf

[3] Clifton, J. (2011). The coming jobs war : What every leader must know about the future of job creation. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

[4] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Poverty. (n.d.). Employment and Decent Work | Poverty Eradication. United Nations. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://www.un.org/development/desa/socialperspectiveondevelopment/issues/employment-and-decent-work.html

[5] Crouch, Andy. “Why Ethical Work is Not Enough. Medium: The Praxis Journal, 3 Sep. 2020, https://journal.praxislabs.org/why-ethical-work-is-not-enough-1d4a42296fc5.

[6] Woodley, Randy, “Mission and the Cultural Other: In Search of the Pre-colonial Jesus” (2015). Faculty Publications – George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Paper 50. http://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/gfes/50

More in this series:

Wealth Creation Manifesto: Affirming the Role of Business People in God’s Plan for the World
Shaping Our Views on Wealth, Wealth Creation and Wealth Creators
Creating Wealth for God’s Glory and the Common Good
Business Is a Holy Calling That Should Be Affirmed by the Church
Alleviating Poverty by Creating Businesses and Sharing Wealth
Business as an Agent of Human Flourishing and the Greater Glory of God

Rachel Rose Nelson serves as Executive Director of Freedom Business Alliance, the only global network creating business solutions to human trafficking. FBA has 100+ member businesses across 28+ countries. They are on a mission to scale the Freedom Business movement in order to create 100,000 jobs for survivors of human trafficking and those at risk of being trafficked. Prior to her role at FBA, Rachel was an entrepreneur and business consultant in the areas of leadership and brand strategy. She holds a Bachelors in Graphic Communication and a Masters in Ministry Leadership. She and her family live just outside Portland, Oregon.

 

 

 

Watch the Wealth Creation Classroom Series

The Lausanne Global Classroom on Wealth Creation is a series of short 2-5 minute videos based on the work of the Wealth Creation Consultation

More Resources

Download: PDF of the Wealth Creation Manifesto

Read: Wealth Creation Manifesto with Bible References

Read: Calling the Church to affirm Wealth Creators

Download: Wealth Creation Papers:

Click on image to open BAM Global Reports page

 

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

 

Business as an Agent of Human Flourishing and the Greater Glory of God

by Rod St Hill

It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. Over the coming weeks we will have a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.

Even the simplest one-person or family businesses as most are, especially in poorer countries, unleash the creative capacity in the human person, bringing together various inputs and transforming them into products that contribute positively to human flourishing. Not only do the products contribute to human flourishing, but the processes associated with business create opportunities for the realisation of human dignity.

The purpose of this blog is to reflect and comment upon the seventh and eighth affirmations of the Wealth Creation Manifesto:

7. The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.
8. 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.

I studied economic development at university over 40 years ago. I still recall reading Dudley Seers on ‘The Meaning of Development’. [1] He conceptualised development in terms of ‘realisation of the potential of human personality’. For this, he argued there were a number of necessary conditions, namely:

  • Basic needs – food, clothing, footwear, shelter – must be met
  • A job – defined broadly to include paid and unpaid work like studying, working on the family farm and housekeeping – to satisfy the need for self-respect
  • Other conditions such as good education, freedom of speech, and citizenship of a nation that is truly independent

In the first decade of my academic career I taught development economics. My students were certainly made aware of Seers’ concept. I also introduced my students to Amartya Sen’s work. He rejected the idea of ‘development’ and focused on freedom as the ultimate goal of economic life as well as the most efficient means of realising general welfare. According to Sen, overcoming deprivations (‘unfreedoms’) is central to development. These include hunger, ignorance, an unsustainable economic life, unemployment, barriers to economic fulfilment by women or minorities, premature death, violation of political freedom and basic liberty, threats to environmental sustainability, and poor access to health, sanitation, or safe water. [2]   Read more

Alleviating Poverty by Creating Businesses and Sharing Wealth

by Francis Tsui

It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. Over the coming weeks we will have a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.

Affirmations 5 and 6 of the Wealth Creation Manifesto addresses the contrast between wealth creating and wealth sharing, and the power of wealth to alleviate poverty:

5. Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.
6. There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.

In a January 2020 report, Oxfam International revealed that the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population. It further pointed out that the 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa.

The Covid-19 pandemic is ravaging the world’s economy and millions of people have lost their jobs, while millions more are living precariously. Since the beginning of the pandemic, billionaires in the U.S., such as Jeff Bezos (of Amazon), Steve Ballmer (former CEO of Microsoft) and Elon Musk (Tesla & SpaceX) and a few of their peers, have together increased their total net worth $637 billion so far. This is a classic case of the few rich ones got richer, while the millions sink to the bottom of the heap. Even some of those who used to be part of the middle class in many countries find themselves caught in the downward spiral. This wealth polarization happens in spite of the pandemic. Yet, the pandemic has just exacerbated the situation through economic shutdowns and restrictions, as well as uneven government economic aid to different industries. Ethical wealth creation should go hand in hand with fairness in wealth distribution.

Minding the Gap

Those who operate in the free market system show the efficacy and potency of their power in wealth creation and accumulation, especially those who manage to harness the power of technological advancement to increase productivity and efficiency. However, the increasing wealth disparity in the world has signaled something is seriously wrong. Wealth hoarding is definitely wrong, and wealth sharing needs to be encouraged. The Executive Director of Americans for Tax Fairness Frank Clemente once said, “The orgy of wealth shows how fundamentally flawed our economic system is.” Wealth creation without effective wealth distribution is fundamentally defective and unethical. When more people are sinking into financial oblivion, the result is the demeaning of humanity, and the robbing of human dignity.

As the gap between the haves and the have-nots widens, and increasing number of the world’s population are sinking into poverty, the call for generosity is getting louder. Every year, charities are looking for more support and more donation. Unfortunately, many charities have hit a major road block as the pandemic lingers on.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals reports that more than half of charitable organizations in the United States are expecting to raise less funds in 2020 than they did in 2019. Further, many believe that the same will occur in 2021. The picture is very disturbing. While the need for more generosity is required, the reality many charities confront is that funds are drying up. Many who are already living in poverty and hunger remain there, and there seems to have no light at the end of the tunnel.

Created to Create

Wealth creation and poverty alleviation should go hand in hand in our Christian witness. While ordinary Christians may not be in a position to alter the balance of wealth distribution on a global scale, and may not be in the capacity to bring about policy change for secondary distribution on government level, there are plenty of opportunities for us to be an active participant in both wealth creation and poverty alleviation ministry.

Our God is a creative, entrepreneurial, enterprising God as seen through His Creation. He is also a God of abundance and provision. Wealth creation is consistent to the character of God. Likewise, poverty alleviation is also a key attribute of God as on numerous occasions in the Bible He came through for the poor, the widowed, and those who was abandoned by their community.

We need people who share the compassionate heart of God and who are gifted in creating wealth through their entrepreneurial ventures and investment skills to be enlisted in the harvest fields to bring about job opportunities and sustainable economic growth to create wealth for communities and individuals.

Godly and ethical business practice lives out the Christian witness among the peers. Jobs bring livelihood and dignity to individuals. Economic well-being builds community. The Incarnate Jesus is present when the Good News prevails in the local community and people would have the foretaste and a glimpse of Kingdom on earth. The transformative power of the Gospel is alive and vibrant in the local community.

The Book of Ecclesiastes states, “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” (8:15) Further, in the Proverbs, it also reminds us that “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” (22:9) and that “the righteous give without sparing.” (21:26)

A Business Story

About 10 years ago, a successful Laotian Canadian Christian banker quit his job and went back to his birthplace, a place he had fled from as a child, along with his family, running away from war and poverty. He took out a long lease with the Laotian government on a plot of land at the Bolaven Plateau and started a coffee farm there. Bolaven Farms’ mission is to redeem the soil and nurture sustainable ecosystems promoting healthy and productive agrarian community developments.

At Bolaven Farms, in their own words, they “believe in sowing the seeds of hope.” By training resident farmers their Integrated Organic System free of charge and making credit available to qualifying graduates, farmers are empowered to break the cycle of poverty, one family at a time. Many of the skilled technicians they are bringing in for the technology transfer are followers of Christ. What they are bringing into this creative access country are their faithful witness in addition to the technical skills. They are convinced that what the poor need is not aid, but jobs – real jobs, not subsidized ones. This is the dignity and self-reliance we are equally created for. The Bolaven Farm resident farmers become proud land owners with productive family farms. Over the years, on the Bolaven Plateau, families are blessed with improved livelihood, and the community transforms, holistically.

Wealth creation could definitely be an instrument of grace and a vehicle to bring forth blessings and giftedness. Increasingly both in overseas mission fields as well as in local communities, BAM businesses such as Bolaven Farm are making an impact in places historically insulated from Christian encounters, earning respect and able to be a witness for Christ. When wealth creation and poverty alleviation go in tandem, they claim more territories for the Kingdom.

As wealth is created, believers may choose to live in abundance or in the virtue of contentment or even material simplicity with no coercion, but simply as a personal lifestyle choice. One way or the other, our God is the God of abundance and grace, ready to bless and happy to invite His good and faithful servants into sharing His joy.

More in this series:

Wealth Creation Manifesto: Affirming the Role of Business People in God’s Plan for the World
Shaping Our Views on Wealth, Wealth Creation and Wealth Creators
Creating Wealth for God’s Glory and the Common Good
Business Is a Holy Calling That Should Be Affirmed by the Church

Francis K. Tsui is from Hong Kong and has been active in Asian mission in the last two decades serving as faculty, mentor, and Board member with Asian Access and AsiaCMS. He holds multiple higher degrees in modern Chinese history, business administration, as well as mission and leadership studies. Currently, he is working on a DMin at Fuller Seminary.

 

Watch the Wealth Creation Classroom Series

The Lausanne Global Classroom on Wealth Creation is a series of short 2-5 minute videos based on the work of the Wealth Creation Consultation

More Resources

Download: PDF of the Wealth Creation Manifesto

Read: Wealth Creation Manifesto with Bible References

Read: Calling the Church to affirm Wealth Creators

Download: Wealth Creation Papers:

Click on image to open BAM Global Reports page

 

 

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

 

 

Creating Wealth for God’s Glory and the Common Good

by João Mordomo

It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. Over the coming weeks we will have a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.

The first two affirmations of the Wealth Creation Manifesto focus on the fact that wealth creation is an overflow of God’s nature, and people are created in God’s image:

1) Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity.
2) We are created in God’s image, to co-create with Him and for Him, to create products and services for the common good.

These affirmations dwell in the convergence zone between theology and economics, and they serve as the biblical-theological foundation for wealth creation. God is the creator (Gen. 1:1 – 2:4; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 104; Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11) and owner (Gen. 14:19; 1 Chr. 29:11-12; Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26) of the universe, and it is his desire, will, and plan that the world and the people therein flourish with abundance and diversity (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 72:1-7; Prov. 28:20; 2 Cor. 9:8; Rev. 7:9). This is the Old Testament concept of shalom, which theologian Cornelius Plantinga beautifully describes as

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be. [1]  Read more

Four Hands in Two Countries: A Parable of Talents!

by Evan Keller

What brings a stone carver and a mechanic together? Although they‘ve never even met, this story connects two (of my favorite) people who revel in lavishing generosity on others. Both Josue and Don beautifully embody the joy of giving that my new book explores. They are master craftsmen who love blessing people through their handiwork: Josue’s hands work in stone and Don’s hands master mechanics. Their Haiti-Florida bond was born in February of 2012 as we at Creating Jobs Inc mentored Josue Jean-Gilles in his business of creating plaques and gifts carved from stone.

At the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, Josue suffered damage to his Léogâne home and workshop while fellow church members lost their very lives. Important foundations of his life continued to crumble as his mother died of a likely curable illness and his wife abandoned him and their children. After we heard Josue preach with passion one Sunday morning, his divorce forced a year-long furlough from teaching and leading at his church, which shook him further. So, you can see that his youthful face masks more heartache than a young man should have to bear. Yet his soul has not shrunk in self-protection but keeps giving, hoping and investing in others. It would have been natural to closely guard what remained, including a regional monopoly on his type of artisanal stone carving. Instead, he spread his skills far and wide by sharing his well-honed techniques with not only employees, but many orphans, and several new competitors he helped to raise up. Now that’s a mindset of abundance!  Read more

10 Things That Will Help or Hinder BAM Multiplication

As we count down to the BAM Global Congress in April 2020, we revisit some of the key issues that we want to address when we gather together. These 10 topics are all on the agenda for the Congress 2020 and we invite you to join us!

How do we multiply and scale the number of fruitful BAM companies around the world? One of our key tasks must be to envision and mobilise a new wave of would-be business as mission practitioners from every country on the planet. Some of those will come from a corporate or small business background, envisioned with a broader perspective on their skills, experiences or companies. Others will come from a non-profit or mission agency context after seeing the need for business as mission firsthand. Still others will be the next generation coming through schools and colleges, growing up with an integrated passion for business and God’s work in the nations.

There are many strategies and models for mobilising and equipping future BAMers. Whatever your strategy, here are 10 things that will help or hinder BAM multiplication:

1. God is at work

Perhaps our most important opportunity is that God is on the move in the global marketplace. God is at work among business people and business people are hungry for this message. Christ-followers in the marketplace around the globe are sensing God’s call to impact the world in and through their vocation. Our message must affirm business professionals and exhort them to use their vocational experience and expertise for God’s Kingdom work. Since we are co-workers with the Holy Spirit in the work of mobilisation, prayer must be considered vital work in the BAM community. We cannot have fruitful advocacy and mobilisation without this partnership between our efforts and God’s work in people’s lives. This is not another program for us to deliver, but a movement of God. 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

What is Success? Advancing Spiritual Impact in BAM: 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 “Editor’s Pick” for January to June 2019.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Tom

It is easy to be confused by how success in business as mission (BAM) is defined today from a spiritual perspective.

Once-upon-a-time the core concept of BAM was to have a spiritual impact. The reality that a business needed to be profitable should also have been a given, after all, a business that does not make money can’t survive or, as we say in BAM, cannot be sustainable. Even with this relative simplicity, being able to measure spiritual impact seemed elusive.

Early definitions struggled between Business AS Mission and Business FOR Mission both of which held that a central purpose was spiritual transformation. Early theological debates centered around the secular-sacred divide, could business even be spiritual? There were common perceptions of money and profit, often portrayed as evil and exploitive among Christians, that needed to be overcome. Business AS Mission assumed that when operations aligned with spiritual values, businesses could and would produce spiritual results when driven by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Business FOR Mission simply used the profits of a business to support traditional missional activity.

Today the definition of BAM has expanded to include an emphasis on poverty alleviation and job creation etc., issues that are also popular in the secular social enterprise world. However, one danger we face is that while we are expanding, we might also lose what makes us distinctive, appearing to put less and less emphasis on spirituality or spiritual impact. Yet, without intentional spiritual impact BAM is not any different than any well-meaning secular program.

Twenty years on from the early days of the business as mission movement, we continue to wrestle with this topic of spiritual impact in BAM!  Read more

What is Success? Advancing Spiritual Impact in BAM

by Tom

It is easy to be confused by how success in business as mission (BAM) is defined today from a spiritual perspective.

Once-upon-a-time the core concept of BAM was to have a spiritual impact. The reality that a business needed to be profitable should also have been a given, after all, a business that does not make money can’t survive or, as we say in BAM, cannot be sustainable. Even with this relative simplicity, being able to measure spiritual impact seemed elusive.

Early definitions struggled between Business AS Mission and Business FOR Mission both of which held that a central purpose was spiritual transformation. Early theological debates centered around the secular-sacred divide, could business even be spiritual? There were common perceptions of money and profit, often portrayed as evil and exploitive among Christians, that needed to be overcome. Business AS Mission assumed that when operations aligned with spiritual values, businesses could and would produce spiritual results when driven by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Business FOR Mission simply used the profits of a business to support traditional missional activity.

Today the definition of BAM has expanded to include an emphasis on poverty alleviation and job creation etc., issues that are also popular in the secular social enterprise world. However, one danger we face is that while we are expanding, we might also lose what makes us distinctive, appearing to put less and less emphasis on spirituality or spiritual impact. Yet, without intentional spiritual impact BAM is not any different than any well-meaning secular program.

Twenty years on from the early days of the business as mission movement, we continue to wrestle with this topic of spiritual impact in BAM!  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