Why We Need the Term Business as Mission, But Maybe Not Forever!
by Mats Tunehag
I hope very few people will talk about Business as Mission (BAM) in the future. The term is like scaffolding; it is needed for a season as we build a new paradigm and praxis: businesses that glorify God and bring about holistic transformation of people and societies.
The term BAM has its merits in clarification of the concept. The term has been helpful in the affirmation of business people and the mobilization of resources. But the term is not important – the concept and the applications are.
Many Terms, Similar Concepts
In the general business world, there are also several terms for businesses that aim at multiple bottom-lines serving multiple stakeholders. Some examples are social enterprise, creative capitalism, conscious capitalism, corporate social responsibility, and inclusive business. Different terms, but very similar concept.
Some people dislike the term BAM or question its usefulness. Other phrases are used, such as business for transformation, Kingdom companies, missional business or business as integral calling.
Even this article highlights a limitation regarding terminology: it is in English. There are about 6,000 other languages in the world.
We also acknowledge that BAM and other terms may not translate very well or at all into other languages. Thus the specific term is of secondary or tertiary importance.
Common Ingredients of Business as Mission
Terminology may vary in English and other languages, just as different BAM businesses have different public profiles. Some have a very specific mission, like fighting poverty or human trafficking. Others have a less specific niche, but they intentionally – like others – try to shape their businesses for God and the common good. We are not Christians just doing social enterprise: God is always a stakeholder. He is the ultimate owner of our businesses. We want to see Christ manifested and God glorified through our businesses.
BAM is authentic business, which aims at proclaiming, manifesting and extending the Kingdom of God.
What are some commonly agreed key ingredients of a BAM business? First, it is about business. Real business. Aiming at growing profitable and sustaining businesses. But we do business with a Kingdom of God purpose and perspective. We pray and work towards a holistic transformation of people and societies. We believe that God can transform people and nations and that businesses are strong transformational agents. BAM is authentic business, which aims at proclaiming, manifesting and extending the Kingdom of God. To that end, we plan, operate and evaluate our businesses to make a positive impact economically, socially, environmentally and spiritually. In this process we recognize and value the stakeholders, not just shareholders.
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 farfetched idea in many churches, mission conferences and theological seminaries.
Salt and Light
Mark Greene, Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, has suggested that there are basically two strategies, modus operandi, for the church: Either we can try to get people to give some of their leisure time and spare money to church programs and mission activities, or we can equip people for every day work and activities, being salt and light to everyone in all things they do.
Business as Mission is one expression of the second strategy: business people being affirmed, equipped and deployed to make a difference in the marketplace in and through business.
A New Baseline
A paradigm shift takes time and often involves stress and pain. But once we are through, it becomes the assumed baseline. Until then, and throughout the shift, we need terms like Business as Mission to highlight inadequacies of the present paradigm and to guide us to a more Biblical and holistic understanding of work, calling and business.
Business as Mission is business people being affirmed, equipped and deployed to make a difference in the marketplace in and through business.
Similar processes have happened before in the Evangelical world. The Lausanne Congress in 1974 put a focus on unreached peoples. During the 1980s and 1990s there was quite a bit of discussion on the term “unreached people”. Some liked the term, while others questioned it. But it served well in clarifying a mission challenge and in mobilizing the church worldwide to develop strategies for unreached peoples. Today there is less talk about the term unreached peoples – and less controversy – because it has indeed become a given.
When a new paradigm and praxis have been established, the scaffolding can be removed.
>>Read a Response by Ross O’Brien
>>Read a Response by Jo Plummer
First posted in The BAM Review in May 2018
A version of this material has been previously published in the Lausanne World Pulse and The BAM Review, and more recently adapted for Gea Gort and Mats Tunehag’s new book BAM Global Movement. It is reposted here with kind permission from the author.
BAM Global Movement: Business as Mission Concepts and Stories is a book about doing business to honor God and have a positive impact on people and societies. Where many see “ministry” as being separate from work and business, Gea Gort and Mats Tunehag see them as being critically aligned. In the book, you can read about how ideas regarding mission, church, and charity are shifting, and a growing number of Christians are aiming for a missional way of living and doing business. Gort and Tunehag explain the BAM concept through theory, history, and theology, but most importantly with stories to show what it looks like in real life.
For more information on BAM Global Movement: Business as Mission Concepts & Stories, visit the Hendrickson website. Also available at Amazon.com and other booksellers.
Dr. Gea Gort (www.GeaGort.com) is a trained journalist and studied transformational leadership in the global urban context at Bakke Graduate University, where she serves as adjunct faculty and is a regional board member. She is passionate about innovative mission in an urban and global context. In her hometown of Rotterdam (Holland), she initiated City Prayer, directed a Christian leader’s network, and advised the government on multicultural affairs.
Mats Tunehag (www.MatsTunehag.com) is a speaker, writer, and consultant from Sweden who has worked in more than half the countries of the world. A global thought leader for the Business as Mission movement for over twenty years, he is chair of BAM Global and has led two Global BAM Think Tanks. Tunehag has served as a senior leader in BAM for both the Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance, and was the convener of the Global Consultation on the Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation. Tunehag serves part time with a global investment fund that helps SMEs to grow in size and holistic impact in the Arab world and Asia.
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash