Business as Mission is bigger than you think

Business as Mission, BAM, may sometimes be a tricky term, but it is an important
concept and an essential praxis.
But BAM it is not a silver bullet; it is not the ultimate strategy. It is, however, a
growing global movement of Christians in the market place asking: How can we
shape business to serve people, align with God’s purposes, be good stewards of
the planet and make a profit?
Business as Mission is not trying to replace traditional means of serving God and
people among all nations. Business as Mission is not a fundraising method. Nor is
it about attaching some church-like activities to a business.
Business as Mission, BAM, recognizes the importance of and embraces Corporate
Social Responsibility, CSR. But it goes beyond as well: BAM is CSR+.
We are on a mission in and through business. It is for example a mission of
justice. One could even say ‘Business as Justice’. This and other terms may help
us understand the holistic and transformational nature of Business as Mission.
Let me give 12 brief examples. The list could be made longer, but these 12 will
hopefully show that Business as Mission is not just doing business with a touch
of “churchianity”
1. Business as Justice
God loves justice and hates injustice. God sent prophets again and again who
spoke out against injustice, and they demanded change and correction. Injustice
often manifested itself in the market place: it was corruption, labor exploitation
and abuse of vulnerable people like immigrants.
To pursue honest business and care for staff is Business as Justice. To treat
customers and suppliers well is also a part of this God honoring pursuit. Business
as Justice includes fighting corruption and bribery.
2. Business as True Religion
True worship is to take care of widows and orphans. (James 1:27) These are two
vulnerable groups, who often are exploited in the market place today. Human
traffickers often target lonely children. Circumstances and cunning people may
force widows into prostitution.
These are realities in many parts of the world. Who will offer orphans and
widows a future; give them jobs with dignity, so they can support themselves
and others? That would be Business as True Religion.

3. Business as Shalom
Shalom is a Biblical concept of good and harmonious relationships. But
relationships were damaged and broken through the fall in Genesis chapter 3.
Through Christ there is a way to restored relationship with God, with one
another, and with creation.
Business is so much about relationships, with staff, colleagues, peers, customers,
clients, suppliers, family, community, tax authorities, and so forth. How can we as
Christians in business strive towards Shalom; Business as Shalom?
4. Business as Stewardship
Every human being has been entrusted with gifts and talents. In business we also
talk about assets. Stewardship is another important Biblical concept. How can we
use what we have to serve? What does stewardship mean when we own and / or
run a business?
God has given some people strong entrepreneurial gifts. They can be used for
God and for the common good through business. It is the same with managerial
gifts or gifts of bookkeeping or sales. We should encourage people with business
skills to be good stewards – Business as Stewardship.
5. Business as Servant Leadership
Jesus came to serve. He was an example of good and godly leadership. Many
books are written on this topic and it indicates the importance of the very
concept of servant leadership.
Doing business as unto the Lord means that we also explore what servant
leadership means in the business context. It is not a simple formula or a cookie
cutter approach. It may look differently in different industries and cultures. But
the key underlying principle is to serve people, communities, nations, and God.
We are too often reminded about the lack of good leadership in the business
world. Business as Servant Leadership is more than needed.
6. Business as Human Dignity
Every person on this planet is created in God’s image. We all have value and
dignity linked to the Creator. He created us to be creative, and to create good
things for others and ourselves. It is deeply human and divine to create; it is an
intrinsic part of human dignity. This creativity process and thus human dignity
has been partly broken, but there is restoration power through Jesus Christ.
It is not a sin to be unemployed, but unemployment and the inability to work and
support oneself and family, is a consequence of the fall. It is a loss of human
dignity. Putting people to work, providing jobs with dignity, is a godly act – it is
Business as Human Dignity.

7. Business as Reconciliation
The Apostle Paul writes that we are agents of reconciliation. Broken
relationships and conflicts are common, even in the market place. We also
witness tension and violence between ethnic and religious groups. Can
businesses provide a forum for reconciliation? Can business people bridge ethnic
and religious divides?
There is a long and sometimes violent history of severe distrust and tension
between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia. But I have seen first hand how
Chinese Christian business people in Indonesia have changed interethnic
dynamics and transformed interreligious relationships by intentionally doing
business as justice, stewardship, shalom, servant leadership, and so forth. As
God’s ambassadors, we can be business people on a mission to do Business as
Reconciliation.
8. Business as Creation Care
During the creation days God did a daily evaluation, he exercised quality control
on the products he produced. His verdict was “these are good”. He has entrusted
us to be stewards also of creation. Like God we can rejoice in being creative in
the physical arena and produce goods and services that are good for people and
the creation. This is the 1st Biblical mandate we have – to be creative and to
work, also in the business world.
The importance of environmentally friendly businesses is included in the triple
bottom line, striving to have a positive impact economically, socially and
environmentally. (Profit, people, planet)
On a visit to south Asia 2012 I met a couple who are working as management
consultants to major manufacturing companies. This couple had a clear BAM
mission, and was able to help these companies to become more profitable,
improve working condition, save energy and clean up huge amounts of water.
Access to and preservation of clean water is one of the biggest challenges we face
globally. Business as Creation care is essential.
9. Business as Loving Your Neighbor
The 2nd scriptural mandate is the great commandment and includes to “love your
neighbor as yourself”. We know that business can and should serve people and
meet various needs. For example: Unemployment is a major underlying cause to
malnourishment and starvation, homelessness, human trafficking, disease and
limited access to medical treatment, as well as to debt and crime. Providing
people with jobs is alleviating and preventing these dire conditions.
Human resource management (a term which sounds too impersonal and
technical to me) should be an expression of loving your neighbor. Taking our
neighbors’ physical environment into consideration as we run businesses is also
a part of this responsibility. CSR is thus not a new thing; it is based on Biblical
principles.

We can also study and learn from history. For example, the Quakers in England
and Hans Nielsen Hauge in Norway were agents of holistic transformation
through business already a few hundred years ago. They did Business as Loving
Your Neighbor.
10. Business as Great Commission
The 3rd Biblical mandate is the global centrifugal thrust: to all peoples, to all
nations. This is a major theme in the global BAM movement. How can we serve in
and through business, empowered by the Holy Spirit, “in Jerusalem, and in all
Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.
Business as Mission is about being a follower of Jesus, in business and to the
whole world, especially in areas with dire economical, social and spiritual needs.
This is CSR+ and this dimension is not an elective. We want to see the Kingdom
of God demonstrated among all peoples. It is Business as Great Commission.
11. Business as Body of Christ
God calls and equips some people to business. We need to affirm and encourage
business people to exercise their calling with professionalism, excellence and
integrity. Martin Luther puts it this way:
“A cobbler, a smith, a farmer, each has the work and the office of his trade, and they
are all alike consecrated priests and bishops, and every one by means of his own
work or office must benefit and serve every other, that in this way many kinds of
work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, even as all
the members of the body serve one another.” (An Open Letter to the Christian
Nobility)
12. Business as Glorifying God
BAM is the acronym for Business as Mission. Another relevant acronym is
AMDG. The ultimate bottom line of Business as Mission is AMDG – ad
maiorem Dei gloriam – for the greater glory of God
Mats Tunehag
September 2012

THE BUSINESS AS MISSION MANIFESTO

The Lausanne (LCWE1) 2004 Forum Business as Mission Issue Group worked for a year,
addressing issues relating to God’s purposes for work and business, the role of business
people in church and missions, the needs of the world and the potential response of
business. The group consisted of more than 70 people from all continents. Most came from
a business background but there were also church and mission leaders, educators,
theologians, lawyers and researchers. The collaboration process included 60 papers, 25

cases studies, several national and regional Business as Mission consultations and email-
based discussions, culminating in a week of face to face dialogue and work. These are some

of our observations.
Affirmations
We believe that God has created all men & women in His image with the ability to be
creative, creating good things for themselves and for others – this includes business.
We believe in following in the footsteps of Jesus, who constantly and consistently met the
needs of the people he encountered, thus demonstrating the love of God and the rule of His
kingdom.
We believe that the Holy Spirit empowers all members of the Body of Christ to serve, to
meet the real spiritual and physical needs of others, demonstrating the kingdom of God.
We believe that God has called and equipped business people to make a Kingdom difference
in and through their businesses.
We believe that the Gospel has the power to transform individuals, communities and
societies. Christians in business should therefore be a part of this holistic transformation
through business.
We recognise the fact that poverty and unemployment are often rampant in areas where the
name of Jesus is rarely heard and understood.
We recognise both the dire need for and the importance of business development. However it
is more than just business per se. Business as Mission is about business with a Kingdom
of God perspective, purpose and impact.
We recognise that there is a need for job creation and for multiplication of businesses all
over the world, aiming at the quadruple bottom line: spiritual, economical, social and
environmental transformation.
We recognise the fact that the church has a huge and largely untapped resource in the
Christian business community to meet needs of the world – in and through business – and
bring glory to God in the market place and beyond.
Recommendation
We call upon the Church world wide 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.
We call upon business people globally to receive this affirmation and to consider how their
gifts and experience might be used to help meet the world’s most pressing spiritual and
physical needs through Business as Mission.
Conclusion
The real bottom line of Business as Mission is AMDG – ad maiorem Dei gloriam – for the
greater glory of God

 

 

8 Business Failures: What we Learned

by Larry Sharp

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ (George Santayana-1905). In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said (paraphrased), ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’

I was recently cleaning up some physical files, when I ran across a spreadsheet from 2008/09 listing IBEC projects which provided data on the status of the start-up, metrics for success and other interesting information. I found it curious that many of these businesses we worked with in the first two years of our existence have “failed”.

It reminded me of a conference in Arizona a few years ago, when after I had cited many success stories, a person in the audience asked me, “don’t you guys have any failures?”

Now I would be the first to recognize that “failures” are not really failures, but more accurately experiments in learning. In the famous words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And so it may be with those early years in IBEC.

There is no perfect assessment of a cause-effect relationship, and I acknowledge that my perspective is personal and anecdotal, however I believe those closest to these situations would concur that what I relate here is at least at least one primary reason for the demise. Here is an effort to “remember the past” with a view to giving reasons for the demise of each dream and a statement of what we learned. I will not provide specific identification of the geographical area nor the persons involved out of respect for security issues and the fact that I do not want to disparage the efforts of anyone. 

Agricultural project in the Balkans

There was an excellent team led by a well-respected and experienced couple in place and even some business expertise on the team. Several hectares of land were leased, and research seemed to indicate that tomatoes would be in demand in the capital a 2-hour drive away. In the second season of operation, there was a bumper crop and there was optimism from the several tons of produce. What happened? Because of a glut in the market, the contract became worthless due to cultural factors that were not considered. Various supermarkets had “guaranteed” to take the product, but when the glut occurred and the prices dropped, the written contract was ignored leaving the expat team with rotting tomatoes. The good news is that they regrouped a couple of years later when they discovered that raspberries had more potential. They are still in business. We learned the importance of understanding the nuances of culture.

Consulting company in a former Soviet Republic

Jeff was a successful business man in the USA and entered this Asian country in partnership with a like-minded national attorney. Their business model was to provide real estate and cultural expertise for foreigners doing business in the country. What happened? It looked like a great match, but the local, who had access to the bank accounts, ran off with all the money and the clients. Jeff was left with little recourse in a foreign land. However, Jeff was a true entrepreneur and he went down the street in the same city and started over. That company did well and he sold it eventually for a good profit. We learned the importance of risk assessment and contingency planning, especially in countries without a Judeo-Christian ethics.

Engineering Company in the Middle East

A western European company was doing business in an Arab country known for Islamic radicalism. Government contracts allowed for visas for the expat workers. IBEC’s consulting was focused on helping families live in this desert country, and how to integrate faith into the workplace in a Muslim context. What happened? Radical elements shot and killed one of the employees and it became very difficult for all foreigners living in the city. Soon several families who loved the people and had learned the language moved to a calmer place in the middle east. We learned that some places are of such high risk because there is no “rule of law”, and normal contingency planning is all but impossible.

North Africa Outdoor Activity Company

This company was well coached and well prepared to provide tours for Europeans interested in the outback of the country. There was a good team in place and the leader was well trained and experienced. In the second year they were experiencing excellent profit margins on tours. What happened? Two things precipitated the temporary closing of the business. One of the key product developers decided to give up and leave the country, leaving the leader without a key assistant, and secondly, they discovered the reason why they were unable to scale the business. They could not be overcome some distance factors and poor infrastructure. They sold the business to a business person from the UK and the company has started up again with some major changes. We learned that one cannot be too careful in the testing stage and have pivots in mind from the start.

Sheep farm in Senegal

A native of Togo had moved to Senegal for missionary work among a people group there. He spoke several languages and was loved by the people. He contacted us to help with a feasibility study while they purchased some land and bought some sheep. There was an evident market for mutton in this Islamic country. What happened? After several attempts to find someone to lead the business as a full-time job, the operation was closed. We learned that without the right person, the operation will fail. There must be a leading person with the vision, expertise and time to grow the business.

Photography business in East Asia

The leader of this business was experienced in the area, spoke three languages, and had a product that seemed marketable. The photography business was aimed at tourists and resident expats who wanted quality photo shots of their work and of the country. The photography was of high quality and great efforts were made to market the idea. What happened? Despite the efforts of the couple and consultants, the business never really produced significant revenue and became more of a hobby than anything else. We learned that without a customer, there is no business. There should have been more research, which would have demonstrated an insignificant number of customers willing to pay market prices for the product.

Water retention and distribution company in Indonesia

The owner had a science background and the family loved the country and were well liked by the community. They had significant success in raising money in the US for rain storage units which then piped clean water to the remote villagers. It was a much needed and appreciated social project. However, the day came when NGOs were being expelled from the country and the decision was made to make this a for-profit business. The IBEC consultants attempted to teach management, marketing, product development, capital acquisition, financial planning and other principles. What happened? The leaders found it difficult to learn and develop the necessary business skills, and they decided to leave the business and return to the USA. We learned that it is next to impossible to transition a not-for-profit to a for-profit using the same people.

Coffee Farm in Haiti

Coffee had been a primary product in some of the hill areas of Haiti, and some farmers were contracted to grow it again and to provide beans to a small fair-trade producer. This was set up like a cooperative, and profits were to benefit the pastors and their ministry. What happened? Before long, the missionary left the country, and the business never really scaled into anything significant, though a few growers began to sell their product to the bigger buyers. We learned that motivation is a key component in business which is meant to create wealth and it does not work well to begin a business to support another time-consuming effort such as pastoring a church.

These and similar stories provide opportunities for learning. While to not reach a pre-determined goal can be fairly considered a failure; the opportunity to move on with the experience and all that is learned is of high value.

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.

2,577 days…

Our business is still open. It’s a miracle. We have two profitable locations and are planning for a third. We have 50 employees, including managers and managers in training. It’s moving toward sustainability and reproducibility.

For our part, we wanted to quit many, many times. Some days we still feel like we just can’t “do this” any more. We fail often, and in many different ways. Most of the time we feel like we are operating out of weakness and not strength.

Personally, I have had very long lists of things that I told God I needed, repeatedly, which He did not provide. Good things. Things that made sense. Things that would further this work, His work. But God knows us, and He knows what we need.

Here are some of the things that He did provide, and continues to provide for us:

Agreement

My husband and I are in this business together, and we don’t agree easily. In fact, when we do agree, we take it as a sign from God that we’re heading in the right direction. This has been a safeguard for us. It was important when making decisions to start the business, but equally important when one or the other of us wants to quit. We agree that we have to agree.

Money

God sold our house for us. We didn’t even have signs up in the yard. He just brought a buyer knocking on our door. Twenty-four hours later another interested buyer called us. We got more than we would have asked for.

That money started our business. We put our treasure in, all our eggs in one basket, and it compelled our hearts to follow. We invested everything we had in terms of abilities and time.

It sometimes feels like the business has us by the throat, and if we had a house in a far away country… We don’t. That is part of God’s provision for us too, to keep us moving forward in obedience, financially putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t look back. Don’t look down.

A drummer

Our first employees were a youth band: a singer, a guitar player and a drummer. High school graduates who had worked in factories or not at all. We told them that we were starting this business for them. We told them we had a vision for the world. We told them that there would be a future.

The drummer is still with us. He is experienced now. He is trustworthy. He is a manager who tells his new employees, “This business is different.”

…and counting

We had a favorite thing we used to say. We’d say, “We’re building this business to be a strategic tool that God can use,” and we’d think about the people in difficult-to-reach parts of the world whose lives could be changed through the impact of business as mission.

Then in one of my really dark days, as I let out a storm of complaints, God revealed something to me. Our business is a tool right now. A sharp tool. A strategic tool.

God is using it on the difficult-to-reach parts of my heart, and telling me that my life could be changed.

I revisit that moment on the threshold. Half in. Half out. Stopped in my tracks. I am always somewhere between triumph and utter despair. But at the end of the day when God speaks it is not rhetorical. It is not a joke with a bitter edge. It’s a loving invitation.

“So what shall we do tomorrow?”

Grand Openings and Grand Opportunities: A BAM Story

We’re so excited to be open! After 3 years of planning, preparation, cutting through swathes or red tape, remodelling, investment-raising and long days of hard work, the day of our café grand opening was nearly perfect. Lots of customers showed up, neighbors congratulated and welcomed us, and we received lots of positive feedback.

Everyone who walks in says nearly the same thing; some version of, “Wow, this place is beautiful, and so comfortable and relaxing. I might not leave!”

It is gratifying to see people come in and enjoy our products and our service, and then come back again. We have already noticed how this business is giving us greater inroads to be able to share Jesus with people.

New Connections

The most encouraging thing about the opening of our café is the greater openness and acceptance from people that it has provided. The next door neighbor to our shop, who we’ve waved at and attempted to engage with over the past three years, has become our most frequent customer. He brought his family over and introduced them, and has begun having client meetings at our cafe. And, new people are coming around as well. We recently met Lek who was walking buy, decided to stop in, and then asked if I could talk for a minute. We talked about the business and then about him for over an hour. In a couple of weeks, we’re going to meet at another coffee shop in town to work on his English and my Thai. 

Our café business being open has allowed me to make new connections at other specialty coffee shops in town as well. I had previously attempted to get to know some people in town who were in the coffee industry, but because I was only running a jewelry company at the time people seemed disinterested. Now I’m visiting two or three other coffee shops each week, spending time with the owners and baristas and seeing a new openness as a result of having my own coffee business.

New Year, New Business

The New Year and our café’s opening occurring at nearly the same time has caused us to be more reflective than usual. Opening a BAM company is something we were called to, as a couple, nearly ten years ago. For me, this has been something that I believe God has been leading me towards since I was in India in 2006 and had been affirming me in consistently since then.

The morning we opened, I was on a walk and felt like God was bring me back to why we had together begun pursuing business as mission in the first place, beyond just “God told us to.” The purpose has never been only to open a business.

God gave me the grace that morning to realize again and meditate upon the hopelessness and despair of the Thai people. They live according to the ‘kingdom of Buddha’. In this kingdom, if bad things happen to you it’s because you deserve it. People are there to help you to earn merit for yourself. If you’ve been born poor or disabled or into a life leading to prostitution, the best thing to do is simply bear it as best you can, because you deserve it as a result of your bad karma, until you die, hoping for an easier life when you are reborn. And this is just a small measure of the hopelessness felt here that I can convey in a few sentences. After having lived in this country for seven years now and having built friendships with many Thai people, I can say that Buddhism is not the beautiful religion we might perceive from postcards of golden temples, but a belief system that enslaves and destroys people.

King Jesus

Knowing and following Jesus will bring freedom and joy, making Thai people’s lives better – here on earth now – and then of course being with Him for eternity. When living according to the ‘Kingdom of Jesus’, there will be newfound joy, as people follow their new King as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom. Marriages will grow more intimate, families stronger, friendships deeper, and communities healthier – ultimately resulting in God being glorified. We want to bring this Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.

We are in business here so that we can show people what this Kingdom and this good news is about, each day in our company. This news is not difficult news to share. It is news we passionately seek to share every single day we are here. It is our greatest desire for the Thai people to know the hope and joy that can be found in Jesus Christ. This year, we are more excited than ever because we have more opportunities than we have ever had to share the greatest news we’ve ever heard with Thai people every day in and through our business life in this city.