by Jo Plummer
December 2018 marks four full years of the new Business as Mission website and the launch of The BAM Review blog and today marks the 100th Edition of The BAM Review email, that has been going out to our subscriber list twice a month since January 2015!
With these milestones to celebrate and the end of another year approaching, I thought I would take some time to reflect on Business as Mission – read Part 1 here…
I remember reading an email from a businessman a few years ago in response to a previous suggestion by Mats that the ‘as mission’ in business as mission could eventually be dropped. This person had recently connected with the global BAM community and was newly inspired by the ‘as mission’, and thus he strongly lamented the suggestion that it could be abandoned in the future. ‘Business as mission’ could never, in his view, be condensed back down to mere ‘business’ because for him that meant old ways of thinking about his vocation that had nothing to do with his faith or God’s kingdom work.
For those who have been thinking about a concept for a while, the term we use for it can become so familiar that we forget the ‘aha moment’ we had when we first heard it. But for those coming new to this idea, the freshness of the term business as mission (or business for transformation, or missional business, or negócios como missão, or whatever you prefer!) can be inextricably linked to the concept, the new label itself marking a move towards new possibilities.
Not Limited by Labels
However, the use of a particular term should never hold us back or become dogmatic. Where a particular term draws hard lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and excludes people from feeling part of a community, it is damaging rather than helpful.
We are a community with business models that lie along various different spectrum, as our friend Peter Shaukat calls it: the ‘broad highway of BAM’. Along this highway it is helpful to have some guard rails so we don’t fall into the ditch, but we recognise that there are different lanes and different vehicles on the road.
This community should have permeable edges, even as we gather around particular terms or definitions. We value collaboration for the sake of God’s kingdom coming, recognising that others may prefer other terms or define themselves in slightly different ways. We need to affirm and celebrate a wide diversity of BAM models, even while we emphasise the values of excellence, sustainability and staying on mission.
This breadth in our community in part stems from the diverse starting motivations of the founders of BAM companies. 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. We can celebrate and learn from each, and recognise that they all have ‘common ingredients’, as Mats phrases it in his article.
Beware of Creating New Divides While we are Breaking Down Old Ones
One criticism of BAM is that it can introduce a hierarchy between types of business, one that elevates BAM companies as somehow more ‘spiritual’ than ‘normal’ companies – as if attaching a Great Commission-related goal to business somehow sanctifies it. This is something we must be very careful to avoid, or risk alienating and discouraging business men and women around the world that are being faithful to the call of God on their lives, wherever He has placed them. Ross O’Brien makes the point particularly well: that different is not better!
[W]hile all followers of Jesus are called to make disciples in and through their work, some business models facilitate a more diverse and wide opportunity to do this locally and globally…. This does not make the BAM business more “spiritual” than a Kingdom business, just different. However, it does require different processes, paradigms and sets of resources.
Even as we are trying to break down the sacred-secular divide, we must be careful not to create a new divide. That is why business as mission must be established on the foundation of solid theological reflection on work and business in general. As Mats states:
Business as Mission is a subset of a broader category of theology of work and theology of calling. Today there is still a need to state the Biblically obvious: God calls people to and equips people for business. Unfortunately, this is still a far fetched idea in many churches, mission conferences and theological seminaries.
As I first wrote in the Introduction to BAM for this site: Business, done well, is glorifying to God. Period. There is an intrinsic power in business to create dignified jobs, to multiply resources through creativity and hard work, to provide for families and communities, to push forward innovation, and, in short, to do good in society. We don’t have to tack on a mission strategy to justify a company’s purpose or to somehow make that work holy. Business professionals following Jesus in the marketplace already have a sacred vocation… However, there is also a huge opportunity before us to leverage that God-given power of business to address some of the most pressing spiritual, social, environmental and economic issues in the world today.
Why We Do What We Do…
And that brings us neatly to the core motivation for this website, blog and our ongoing efforts to resource and connect the BAM community, namely the opportunities and needs in the world today, and the barriers that still stand in the way. We want to see BAM companies multiplied to bring impact around the world, engaging with some of the worlds most pressing issues.
The sad reality is that the idea of business and business people being a valuable resource for global mission (beyond giving), is often, as Mats stated, far fetched in many places. The sacred-secular divide is one of the most consistently cited barriers to business people becoming engaged in business as mission. There is still much to do to rally people around this idea and help more and more people have ‘aha moments’ about their call to business.
Then there is the need to make sure people are well equipped and that new BAM companies have the best chance possible of long-term survival (i.e. no going for a stroll on a glacier in flip flops!) For this to happen we need to be able to connect newcomers to more experienced mentors and teachers, we need to develop great resources, and we need to pass down the hard-won lessons and fruitful practices from one generation of BAM practitioners to another.
The BAM Movement Needs You!
Whilst we celebrate the milestone of 4 years of BAM blogging and 100 editions of The BAM Review, we are starkly aware how much there is still to do. That is why I want to close this article with a call out: The BAM movement needs you!
The BAM community is like a wall in that there are the ‘business bricks’ that make up the bulk of the movement, and then there is the mortar that connects the bricks together and strengthens the whole. We will need to multiply both the ‘bricks’ and the ‘mortar’ functions of the BAM movement in order to grow strong in the future. The BAM movement needs those with the gift of communication, administration, and project management – as well as investors, mentors, trainers, prayer warriors, and many others – to be the mortar that helps strengthen the whole.
We also need many more business people to feel affirmed in the call of God on their lives for business and consider where he might be leading them to do business for His glory!
As we look forward to the next year and beyond, we have many exciting projects lined up in the BAM Resource Team and BAM Global that will require the gifts of administration, media and communications particularly, including design, writing, social media, podcasting, event management, administrative leadership and project management, among others. If God is stirring your heart to be involved, we invite you to contact us to find out more.
If you would like to consider supporting the work of business as mission through the BAM website or BAM Global in your end of year giving, please head over to our Giving page to find out more.
Read Mats Tunehag’s article>> Why We Need the Term Business as Mission, But Maybe Not Forever!
Read Ross O’Brien’s article>> Why We Need the Term Business as Mission, But Maybe Not Forever! A Response
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of BAM Global and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website and The BAM Review blog.
Thanks for reading. We will now take break on The BAM Review blog until January. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebration and a Happy New Year!