Did Christopher Columbus discover America? Not really. The Vikings were there many centuries earlier. So one may say that Columbus re-discovered America. Business as Mission is not a new discovery – it is a rediscovery of Biblical truths and practices. In one sense it is like the Reformation and its rallying cry: ad fontes – back to the sources.
Business as Mission, BAM, is a term widely used today. The term is new but the underpinning concept is nothing new. During the Reformation old truths were highlighted and contemporary assumptions were challenged. This is what the global BAM movement is doing today. We are revisiting Scripture, questioning jargon and traditions, and assessing the situation in the world.
Many Evangelicals often put an emphasis on the Great Commission, but sometimes make a great omission. This is only one of three mandates we have. The first one God gave us is the creation mandate, Genesis 1 – 3: we are to be creative and create good things, for ourselves and others, being good stewards of all things entrusted to us – even in the physical arena. This of course includes being creative in business – to create wealth. Wealth creation is a godly talent: “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deut 8:18) As Christians we often focus more on wealth distribution, but there is no wealth to distribute unless it has been created.
The second mandate is the great commandment which includes loving your neighbor. In the first and second mandates you find a basis for what modern day economists call CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility. It is about creating wealth and producing products and services in ways which consider ‘your neighbor’. CSR recognizes the importance of serving several constituencies through business – not just the owners, but also staff, suppliers, clients, community and the physical environment. CSR includes three bottom lines and looks at the impact businesses have economically, socially and environmentally for the various stakeholders.
BAM also recognizes the importance of the triple bottom line as it is based on the God given mandates about being a creative steward and serving people. But BAM goes beyond this, to CSR+, as we include the third mandate – the Great Commission. We are to glorify God and make Christ known among all peoples. This is the fourth bottom line. As we integrate the Great Commission into our business goals, we develop a global and missional perspective. BAM is CSR+ where the + can also be seen as a cross – putting everything under the Lordship of Christ.
We need to re-discover our three Biblical mandates and review their implications on church, business and our global mission.
But there are of course many other issues and aspects as well. During this much needed ad fontes and re-discovery process we need to ask ourselves:
Why do we seem to value the calling to be a pastor and a missionary over the calling to be an entrepreneur or accounting executive?
Why are there so few sermons on Biblical views on work and business?
Why do we tend to focus on non-profit mechanisms to alleviate poverty, when for-profit businesses are natural and biblical mechanism for creating wealth?
Why do we tend to value wealth distribution and often neglect wealth creation?
Why do we seldom commission business people on a Sunday morning service to be salt and light in the market place?
Why do we tend to limit the contribution of Christian business people to donating money to ministry programs?
Why don’t we more often ask business people how we can pray for them and their businesses?
Why do we often settle for doing good business – triple bottom line – and forget the fourth bottom line: glorify God and make Christ known among all peoples as we do business.
Why are we not telling more stories of godly business people who are and have been instrumental in holistic transformation of people and societies through business?
Why are so few seminaries and Bible colleges providing courses on theology of work and business?
Why are so few mission thinkers and strategists dealing with the global shortfall of 1.8 billion jobs*; mainly in areas where the name of Jesus is rarely heard?
Let me emphasize the enormity and gravity of the last point: 1.8 billion jobs are needed. How can we serve these hundreds of millions of people? How can we affirm, train, equip and deploy business people and others to demonstrate the Kingdom of God among these multitudes? Both church leaders and business people need to rediscover Biblical truths and make changes to meet the many challenges before us.
“We call upon the Church worldwide 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.” (The Business as Mission Manifesto**)
PS. This article is also published on the Lausanne website. There will be 2 – 3 people writing responses to it. Lausanne is featuring BAM in March and there will be many articles and video clips on BAM posted. The introductory article is written by Naomi Frizzell, Lausanne Movement Chief Communications Officer: Called to Work: Business as Mission. You can even now find a brief BAM Resource Directory.
* “Young people, old people, rich and poor, Russians, Ethiopians, Peruvians, Muslims, Hindus, Kurds, Christians, and all different races and cultures – whether you are an ad executive, an army general, a Peace Corps volunteer, or a missionary – the No. 1 topic in the world and for years to come is job creation and entrepreneurship.” The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton, Gallup Press, October 2011. (I wrote a blog on this in September 2011: Global Shortfall: 1.8 Billion Jobs)
** The Business Manifesto, 2004, is a kind of summary of the findings of the 1st Global Think Tank on Business as Mission which “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.”