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Family, friends and fools: understanding Business as Mission

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

This article by IBEC Ventures Training Director Larry Sharp was originally published in CPN On Point.

The last edition of CPN On Point presented an introduction to Business as Mission (BAM), as a means of gaining access to strategic and unreached places through building businesses worldwide. This article takes that discussion to the next and practical level.

Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Every follower of Jesus should examine how God has made him/her as unique – with interests, skills, experiences, spiritual giftedness. These attributes usually relate to a marketplace job. Os Guinness states it well, “…whatever is the heart of our calling is work that fulfills us because it employs our greatest gifts.” Or in the words of Bonnie Wurzbacher, Vice-President of Coca Cola: “You don’t get meaning from your work, you bring meaning to your work.”

Many Christians mistakenly see their work life as distinct and separate from their spiritual life. This is an old error, a remnant of first century dualism, which separated the spiritual from the secular; and the clergy from the laity. Wurzbacher noted that “What we need is to understand the Biblical worldview that says that there is no secular-sacred split and God wants us to understand that what we do should fulfill and advance God’s purposes in the world.”

Christians in business see their work as a testimony and a mission. Michael Cardone, CEO of Cardone Industries says that “service and excellence create a platform to talk about who God is and Jesus Christ.” And “I am not called to be a pastor or missionary; I’m called to be a business man and I see no difference.”

Similarly David Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby notes that “…we try in all decisions to ask what God would have us do…we don’t put our Christian faith on the shelf when we come to work.”

The idea behind Business as Mission (BAM) is to take a concept, and use business in North America as a replicable model to the world. Gil Sheehan, President and a founder of Barrington Gifts talked about his factory in China in these terms: “Everyday on the factory floor is an opportunity for discipleship.” With this business mindset, work is ministry and work is worship – and the “spiritual bottom line” is the numerous employees and community populace who are now following Christ.

Another example is entrepreneur Bill Job, who mentored Barrington Gifts, and started his own company in China which eventually employed over 600 people. He sees business as a replicable structure to reach for eternal value.

These are working models of BAM overseas. But it takes many people to build such a success story. The opportunity to participate is as broad as our business imagination.

The first way to become involved in BAM is the direct use of our business skill and experience. Bill Job once told me that he could have saved several years of his life if he had had some expertise from others to integrate into his efforts.

Business know-how is very much needed by Christian entrepreneurs overseas: management, strategic thinking, human resource management, product development, marketing, financial oversight, accounting, technology, legal, and logistics– all of these skills are needed. A good place to start such an effort would be a trip to a BAM company, to catch the vision for how to make a difference. Once a connection is made, coaching and consulting is mostly accomplished through Skype or other continent-continent communication. IBEC Ventures looks to make such connections between Christians in business and BAM companies overseas.

A second way to become involved is to become a BAM advocate. Young people with an interest in business need to be challenged to integrate faith into their workplace and to consider how they can make a difference on the international stage.

Finally, BAM entrepreneurs need investors. The top two concerns of overseas business owners and entrepreneurs are (i) Financial Capital and (ii) Human Capital.

Just as some of us can go overseas to provide expertise, some can make financial investments in BAM enterprises. Normally, investors seek safe and predictable returns. Investment in startups in countries that most need it – where there are highest levels of poverty, injustice, unemployment, and the most unreached spiritually – is high risk. Such investing is for the courageous, for those convinced that God’s work requires taking a risk.

It has been said that startup businesses get their capital from “Family, Friends and Fools.” Some call this “Love Capital”. In a sense, this is what BAM investors do.

They are family, as we are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, adopted into one family from every nation under heaven.

They are friends, available in time of uncertainty, ready to participate.

And they are fools – fools for the sake of Jesus Christ, willing to take on high risk investments that look beyond the accountant’s bottom line to the spiritual bottom line that earns eternal dividends that can never be lost.  

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

A tale of three businesses: the importance of life-long learning

Monday, October 20, 2014

Once upon a time four business people flew to a faraway country in Asia to observe and encourage three kingdom businesses. They came as learners but also ready to share suggestions and consulting expertise as requested.  They represented a cumulative 90 years of business experience, a recent MBA graduate among them and all four were involved in coaching, training and mentoring business startups.   Three were men, one was a woman and they came with robust experience in entrepreneurship, marketing, leadership and finance.

One of the businesses visited was well established, fiscally mature and served the community well with job creation, fiscal and tax responsibility and social engagement.  They had been in business for 15 years and in the startup phase they brought in qualified managers and sought help from business people experienced in the country.  Local mentors provided counsel in the language, culture, social conditions and Business as Mission integration.  There were ups and downs but they consider their success to be closely linked to their willingness to be life-long learners.

The second business also had been in-country for about 15 years. It had created jobs for many people and was making a clear difference in the community where it had respect and credibility with the locals. The owners had built their business model on proven models in other places.  However upon arrival in 2004 the visiting team found that the business was facing significant challenges.  The market had changed and their customer base was changing.  Their cash flow was at risk and they were worried about the future.  They asked the team of four for advice. They knew they needed to learn, wanted help, asked for it and appreciated two days of good counsel.

The third business gave evidence of much success in the social and spiritual sector, however the business model was being challenged and finances and management were in disarray.  This and more was evident to the visiting team.  However it was not equally evident that this business owner wanted help.  He seemed detached from the realities of where the business was headed.  Being a learner was not a concept he had internalized.  His business seemed to be at high risk.

Why is it important to always be learning?

1. Speed of change:  Moore’s Law describes the driving force of technical and social change, increased productivity and economic growth in exponential technical terms.  For example, four exabytes of unique information will be generated this year, more than the previous 5,000 years.  The top ten in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2014 and it is estimated that by 2035 50% of the jobs on the planet today will not conceptually exist.  The amount of technical information is doubling every two years.  The speed of change in the world today demands that managers always be learning. 

Hall of Fame hockey great, Wayne Gretzky, when asked what makes him different, suggested that he does not go where the puck is but where the puck will be.  Such logic is prophetic of a manager who has learned to keep growing and learning.  Zig Ziglar once said, “I’m a constant learner.  You need to be a constant student because things change and you have to change and grow.  And I emphasize the word ‘grow’.” This 4-minute video provides a sense of how much change we are facing now  -- and what it means for lifelong learning.

2. Complexity of Kingdom businesses:  Some evidence suggests 80% of US businesses fail within the first five years of operation (Why 9 out of 10 Small Businesses Fail). Now add the complexities of a foreign culture, different language, factors of integrating the Triple Bottom Line, international law, trade issues and financial/accounting issues -- one would think the failure rate would be much higher.  In order to succeed such complexity demands owners, consultants and coaches to be constantly learning.  In the words of Sidney Poitier, “I have always been a learner because I knew nothing.”

3. Common Wisdom: A wise man 3,000 years ago reminded us of the importance of counselors in decision making: “Make plans by seeking advice…many advisors make victory sure…plans fail for lack of counsel…”(Solomon in Proverbs 20:18; 11:14; 15:22).  Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

Yes, it's true, just as this blog from The Under 30 CEO explains: Great Entrepreneurs are ALWAYS Learning.

To be successful in any business and to be successful in Kingdom business overseas, striving for the Triple Bottom Line of profitability, job creation and social Kingdom disciple-making results requires owners and managers to always be learning, open to new ideas, seeking counsel from others and with the counsel of others making plans for tomorrow.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

What does Christopher Columbus’s life teach us about business leadership?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day is celebrated the 2nd Monday of October – a memory of the first non-native American to come to our shores and stay with a permanent presence, paving the way for European expansion.  Columbus was an interesting and colorful character demonstrating some admirable qualities but also some qualities that are detractors for any successful endeavor.  What can business entrepreneurs and developers learn from dear old Chris?

Three positive characteristics demonstrated by Columbus necessary to entrepreneurship today

  1.  Columbus was determined and persistent. Not only did his native Italy and powerhouse Portugal decline his requests for resources for his voyage, but Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain were engulfed in a war, so refused Columbus until after the war.  After hanging around the Spanish court for years, waiting persistently, Columbus was finally resourced for the vision.  He did not give up.
  2. Columbus knew how to cope with failure.  The Santa Maria ran aground and sank on the first voyage, his first colony experienced a massacre, he was marooned in Jamaica for a year and he failed to bring spices and other valuables back to Spain.  He was a masterful leader and sea captain and was able to move beyond the failures, keep the goal in mind and accept failure as a part of life.
  3. He was a man of faith, seeing himself as called to spread the faith to the new lands he discovered. As a man of prayer, he depended on a higher power for strength for the day and wanted the inhabitants of the Americas who were unaware of a sovereign God to come to know him.

Three negative facts about Columbus which cause us to learn from him

But Columbus was far from perfect, and there is much to learn from his mistakes.

  1. He failed to focus on what he was good at. It is well known that Columbus was a skilled navigator, sea captain and visionary; however when the King of Spain offered him the governorship of the new colonies, he accepted it.  This representation of what later became known as “The Peter Principle” was a disaster. His skills did not include administration and he was eventually arrested and returned to Spain in chains.  He was not gifted, trained, nor skilled in the world of governance and politics.  He should have stayed with what he was good at.
  2. He lacked integrity and made promises he could not keep - telling his crew that they would all get rich.  He promised the first person to sight land a sizable reward but when Rodrigo de Triana sighted what is now known as the Bahamas, Columbus did not reward him but kept the reward to himself.  As with all of us, such a character flaw eventually catches up with us and ruins our relationships and our business.
  3. He did not see nor treat all people with respect.  In fact he saw the peoples of the Caribbean as potential slaves and brought some to Spain proclaiming them to be his biggest discovery.  Thankfully Queen Isabella rejected the idea.  Columbus did not see people created equal before God nor did he treat them fairly with equality, justice and respect.  He has a legacy as a slave trader.

As an important historical character, we remember Columbus this day on our calendar, but we can also learn about life, leadership, good and evil, our humanity, and character which glorifies God or character that brings Him disgrace.  The challenge for all business entrepreneurs, developers and leaders is to learn from history; even from the story of Christopher Columbus.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

There is no better ‘boss’ to work for: manage well

Monday, October 06, 2014

Dave Kier is a business owner in western Iowa in the agriculture sector.  IBEC Ventures is blessed to have Dave as a board member. He contributes much wisdom and hard work to IBEC, as well as demonstrating what “Business as Ministry” really is.  He writes daily devotionals for members of his family and his employees.  Here is a recent one which may bless you as it did me.  --  Larry W. Sharp

.. and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 

Genesis 1:28b NASB®

Don’t you just love this time of year? The cool nights, the trees turning yellowish gold, the shadows becoming long, dragon flies zooming about, the birds congregating - it’s a grand time of the year. Soon the wondrous time of harvest will be in full swing as farmers see the fruit of their labor and the result of God’s majestic creation as one seed replicates itself many times over. As I look over the sea of corn and soybeans maturing in fields carefully tilled by the farmers, I have a sense of pride in what good stewards they are over the land God created. 

Do you realize that when the creation story begins, it begins stating the earth was “formless and void” or in the Hebrew this means it was a wasteland or literally, a garbage dump?   Yet because of His great love for us, He made it beautiful and productive and He allowed a lesser being than the angels, mankind or you and I, to manage His wonderful creation. What an awesome privilege -- but what a responsibility -- to manage the property of the King of Kings. Yet, since the day man gave way to temptation, man has the tendency to get his role mixed up.  Many a person succumbs to the temptation of thinking he is the owner and not the manager. Instead of managing to give God the glory some exalt themselves thinking they are more than they are.  

You know, I don’t mind being the manager or the steward over what He has entrusted to me. I believe it’s a great plan that He is the owner and I work for Him. There is no better “boss” to work for. Oh, and by the way, our Heavenly Father is not an absentee landlord. He is ever present. Manage well this week!

“Thank you Lord for this beautiful world you made for us. Thank you for entrusting to us the privilege of managing your land but more so the time and talents you have given us.”

Seven forms of patient capital

Monday, September 29, 2014

Patient capital can be described as long-term capital where the investor does not expect a quick profit and results but forgoes the immediate return for a more substantial result such as social impact.  For financial investors patient capital sits between traditional venture capital and traditional philanthropy; between development and foreign direct investment.

Earlier this month four of us from IBEC joined about sixty others in Minneapolis for a three-day focus on Business as Mission (BAM).  Overseas entrepreneur Peter S led several sessions focusing on BAM topics including BAM best practices, getting started in BAM, capitalizing a BAM business, defining success, and BAM investing.  One item especially caught our attention: seven forms of patient capital! Here’s an overview:

Human Capital – the “boots on the ground” personnel making things happen.  This includes the entrepreneurial groundbreaker types as well as business builders who manage, direct and develop the business using the fundamentals of business inputs, processes and outputs.  It takes a team of people committed to the business and its financial rewards and social outcomes to achieve organizational success. As critical as the entrepreneur/creators are to a BAM businesses, the BAM community may need ten builders with professional and managerial skills for every one creator/entrepreneur.

Intellectual Capitalmentoring, consulting, coaching is critical to success.  This is the capital that IBEC brings to the mix.  IBEC consultants bring consulting services from the initial idea and opportunity stage to launch stage and onward to the growth of the company.  This coaching service includes multi-disciplinary analysis and research, stimulus toward on-going learning, commercial and spiritual mentoring and a multi-dimensional value-add.  You can learn more about IBEC’s services, processes and people on our website: www.ibecventures.com.

Natural Capital – related to the natural environment and ecosystem.  Every analysis of the business opportunity requires an understanding and utilization of natural resources, raw materials and sourcing systems for this capital.  Business stewardship of God’s creation (sometimes referred to the 4th item of the “Quadruple Bottom Line”) is an important and necessary capital component.

Infrastructure Capital – the system of man-made structures for communication, transportation, social services and energy.  Every business must take into consideration how energy is acquired, how workers are educated and trained, how the product is brought to market and how to communicate with customers, vendors, employees, authorities and others in the supply chain and market chain.

Social Capital – what the World Bank calls, “…institutions, relationships and norms that shape the quality and quantity of society’s social interaction.”  Social capital is the glue that holds an institution together, its culture.  The leaders of every BAM business must understand the language, beliefs, customs, worldview and behaviors of the culture – as represented in their unique educational, governmental, familial, religious, and ethnic distinctives.  While a foreigner will never be totally ‘native’ – and in many ways may forge a “Third Culture” – social capital understanding is fundamental to success.

Spiritual Capital – the faith, trust and commitment that people will do what is right in the eyes of God.  It is “…showing integrity, being accountable and honest, offering hope, being loyal and trustworthy, loving and encouraging others, exhibiting good stewardship, being fair, creating order and serving others…” (Eldred in God is at Work, 2005, p. 98).  When this is institutionalized in a business, it leads to a morally based DNA, which leads to life transformation and Jesus followers, which leads to kingdom living.

Financial Capital – according to Peter S, financial capital is to business what blood is to the body. We don’t think about blood too much, but it is vital to life. Sources of financial capital come to businesses differently at different stages and face unique challenges at each stage, but for startups the capital usually originates with an individual’s savings and personal collateral plus “love capital” (family, friends and fools).

These seven forms of capital are all vital and require research and understanding.  It is difficult to isolate any one of them as more important than another, but common wisdom would likely concur that human capital and financial capital are two the biggest challenges.  Getting the right people in place and the financial foundation at the beginning is much harder and more important than most would admit.

Investors who want to realize social change, transformed lives and long term success must opt for patient capital and make an investment aligned with the values of such a timeline.  In time patient capital in its long-term application has the greatest potential to make followers of Jesus, bring social uplift and change to communities which start to build the kingdom of God.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Where are we going?

Monday, September 22, 2014

IBEC Leadership Team: Larry Sharp, James Mayer, Gwen Rapp, Gary Willett and Robert Bush

It is a good thing for every person and every organization to periodically step back, assess who they are, what they have accomplished in the past, and where they are going in the future.  The Leadership Team of IBEC Ventures, led by Robert Bush, did that this past week at a beautiful setting in Colorado’s mountains – thanks to Board member, Dave Kier’s provision of his mountain chalet at 9150 feet above sea level; all with a lovely view of Pike’s Peak.

During our 4-day retreat we evaluated many things. Here are some of our conclusions:

IBEC’s Purpose

IBEC helps build sustainable businesses through consultative expertise that changes lives and transforms communities.

IBEC’s Vision

We envision an increasing number of Small-Medium sustainable Kingdom businesses with our special emphasis on areas that are both economically impoverished and spiritually unreached.

IBEC’s Initiatives for 2014-15

We concluded with five specific strategic initiatives for the coming year.  Included are:

  • Developing consultants through training partnerships such as Prepare to Engage and specific web-portal mechanisms for our more than 30 training courses.  Check out our website for examples of our training courses, soon to be available online.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

What are some examples of Triple Bottom Line Kingdom businesses?

Monday, September 15, 2014

The last three blogs have highlighted the Triple Bottom Line of a BAM (Business as Mission) business. 

  • The goal is to be profitable and sustainable
  • The business creates jobs and other community value
  • Spiritual capital is created –  Kingdom values and a pathway to following Jesus

I find it helpful to have practical models which help envision concepts like the Triple Bottom Line.

This week I received an email from a member of the leadership team of an offshore design company in Asia.  IBEC had helped them in the early years and now four years later Susy writes that it has been hard to take a wage from the business but all other expenses are being paid from the business including hired employees and rented space in a modern office building.  They continue pursuit of full profitability.

Secondly, the business has five employees – that is five families with a job and income, children with food and clothing and an option for a better future.  A few days ago Chuck Colson wrote this entry in his BreakPoint blog, In Celebration of Labor: The Value of a Good Day's Work. It provides a God-honoring view of work.

Thirdly, employees are seeing what Kingdom values look like in the workplace. Susy writes this week:

“Sometimes I think that my godliest moments are when I am doing what we call ‘spiritual work’: studying through Romans with my friend A, praying for a friend, or planning a purposeful event. But when an employee performs poorly and I have to stay late to re-do her work, am I patient? When an important client complains, do I trust the Father or worry and trust my own abilities? These situations are everyday crucibles, in which the quality of our inner man is tested”.  

A friend recently asked Susy a faith question and she shared a book by C.S. Lewis with her - Mere Christianity. She is reading it and the friend texted and said she had read up to page 59 and has lots of questions.

Another better known example of a kingdom company which has achieved long term profitability, more than 100 jobs, and a clear pathway to following Jesus can be seen in this clip, Barrington Gifts - Why we do what we do! on the IBEC website. "Your work can be ministry. Work is worship." This is the Triple Bottom Line in action.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

A BAM business seeks to make followers of Jesus

Monday, September 08, 2014
The last two blogs referred to two of the three bottom lines of Business as Mission (BAM): profitability and sustainability; and secondly, the creation of value, particularly job creation.  The third bottom line is the development of spiritual capital – making followers of Jesus.

The concept of the Triple Bottom Line has been around since 1994 when John Elkington coined the term to mean economic, social and environmental measurability.  He suggested that every business must measure profits but also the impact on people and the planet.1   The BAM Triple Bottom Line has made an adaptation with the insertion of the spiritual component. However, some BAM authors suggest a quadruple bottom line to include the fourth idea of stewardship of creation – a commitment to caring for the environment and all elements of God’s creation. 

Most writers and practitioners in Kingdom businesses suggest that the spiritual (or mission) bottom line is the raison d’etre for any activity and certainly a BAM company.  This bottom line requires that there be an intentional living of Kingdom values in every element of the company, and a continual striving to honor God in every aspect of corporate life.  A Kingdom company is specific, conscious, clear and intentional in establishing Jesus’ kingdom in the world.

Ken Eldred describes this as spiritual capital which includes a corporate culture of integrity, accountability, honesty, hope, loyalty, trust, serving others, fairness, and love.  They do what is right from God’s perspective.  Incarnational living is observed every day in a Kingdom business and becomes the basis for proclamation of faith.  BAM businesses have a vision, mission and strategy evidenced in their policies, procedures and culture that encourages godly values.3

The end of such integration of faith and work, a truly biblical concept, creates an optimum climate for people to decide to follow Jesus.  The business provides the context for discipleship. One such Asian business that benefited from IBEC consultants is noted by Dale Losch:

“For Andrew, the answer laid in living out the gospel every day by being fair with employees, paying his taxes, paying a fair wage, placing verses from the book of Proverbs on the office door and starting the day in prayer for everyone (all employees were non-Jesus followers).  It involved building relationships, caring for families, and even weekend camping trips with employees.  It meant talking about the real issues of life and showing them who Jesus is and how a follower of His really lives.  Some call it discipling people into the kingdom…”4

Reconciling and integrating all the bottom lines is a key issue for a BAM business.  It is not an easy task and involves more than just a business plan. It necessitates an integrated plan which brings together all three bottom lines:

  • What is good for the profit
  • What is good for all stakeholders including employees
  • And what is good for God’s kingdom. 
Deliberate management choices must be made so as to facilitate such integration. Numerous models exist in North America in companies owned and operated by Jesus’ followers committed to the Triple Bottom Line.  Such models should be studied because they can be emulated and used as transferable models to other cultures.  Helpful materials for further learning can be found in books by Buck Jacobs (C-12 group), Ken Eldred, Neal Johnson, and Ken Humphreys and on YouTube sites of Kingdom businesses in North America and abroad.  Contact IBEC for more information.

In summary, the Triple Bottom Line includes profit because that is what sustains an authentic business; it includes job creation because we see that as fulfilling the Great Commandment to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), and it includes the building of Jesus’ kingdom and in so doing we obey the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-19).

1 The Economist, Nov 17, 2009

2 Mike Baer, Business as Mission, 2006

3 John Mulford and Mike Baer, “Kingdom Entrepreneurs Transforming Nations,” 2008

4 Dale Losch, A Better Way, 2012

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

A BAM business creates jobs

Monday, September 01, 2014

Last week we began a three-part series on the Triple Bottom Line of Business as Mission (BAM).1 The first bottom line was that every business has a goal of profitability and sustainability.  The second bottom line is the creation of value, particularly job creation.

Mike Baer, in referencing the Kingdom of God, understands that the book of Matthew speaks about the Kingdom of God being “not yet,” but it also speaks of it being “here and now.”  In short, Kingdom living is about living out the principles of Jesus in every sector of life, including the workplace.  It demonstrates the integration of our faith with our work.  We bring the Kingdom of God “…on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10) via business transactions because business creates value and we have the opportunity to create holistic value based on the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control  etc.  A business owner in Asia, Pete, says it succinctly, “Everyday on the factory floor is an opportunity for discipleship.”

One of the key values created by business is jobs.  When we think of Jesus being very aware of the social condition of his day and doing something about physical realities such as hunger, danger, illness, and death, we can easily transpose his practical concerns to the concerns of today.

The Gallup Corporation recently surveyed over 150 nations in their renowned World Poll of major issues of life.  They wanted to “…discover the single most dominant thought on most people’s minds….”  Says CEO Jim Clifton, “Six years into our global data collection effort, we may have already found the single most searing, clarifying, helpful, world-altering fact.  What the whole world wants is a good job.”2

Consider the world conditions of today – extreme poverty (30% of the world living on less than $2 a day), unemployment in some countries over 50%, victimization and exploitation, disease (such as the Ebola crisis in West Africa), wars on several fronts and persecution.  Job creation will not heal all of this but growing economies creating good jobs brings dignity, opportunity for positive relationships and the ultimate transformation of individuals and communities.  God created humans to work and be productive (Gen 1:28), to work heartily ’as for the Lord and not men’ (Col 3:23) and “…shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father…” (Matt 5:16). This all takes place in the marketplace of work.

IBEC consultants, coaches and subject matter experts have valued experience at work because they know it is their “high and holy calling.”  Their success in the marketplace uniquely qualifies them to coach and train entrepreneurial business startups in hard places in the world.  One of the bottom lines for them is job creation.


Note a few affirmations from the 2004 “Business as Mission Issue Group”, chaired by Mats Tunehag:

  • 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 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 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 recognize 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 recognize that there is a need for job creation and for multiplication of businesses all over the world.
  • The real bottom line of Business as Mission is – “for the greater glory of God.”

The gospel that does not deal with the issues of the day is no gospel at all.  Martin Luther

1 Sometimes we use the term Kingdom Business which Mike Baer defines as “…a business that is specifically, consciously, clearly and intentionally connected with the establishment of Christ’s kingdom in this world.  In other words, it is directly involved in making disciples of all nations. Michael Baer, Business as Mission, p.14

2 Jim Clifton, The Coming Jobs War, p.10

Larry W. Sharp, Directory of Training - IBEC Ventures

A BAM business will be profitable and sustainable

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Triple Bottom Line is a guiding force for the BAM movement.  These next three blogs will comment briefly on the meaning of each of the three bottom lines which drive us to our preferred future.  The first is the importance of a business which is profitable and sustainable.

For most of the 20th century businesses and MBA programs would answer the question, “What is the goal of your business?” with a simple response, “to maximize shareholder value” or “to make a profit”. 

However, the real goal of business is more importantly to serve others and bring glory to God. The original purposes of God are evidenced in the Creation Mandate that he is a God of enterprise, creativity and production – for His glory.  From the first human couple until now, God intended creation to grow and expand as mankind began to produce food, distribute food, build, manufacture and trade goods.  The fundamental function of creating wealth is intended to be a “high and holy calling”. Van Duzer expresses the purpose of business as two-fold: 1) “to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish” and 2) “to provide opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity.”1

Clearly the command of Jesus to “engage in business until I come” (Luke 19:13) carried with it the expectation of a profit.  Business is the only human institution which actually creates wealth.  Education, the Church, and government all consume wealth.  Business creates it! “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who give you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deut. 8:18)

While it is true that profit can be abused as with any good thing, profit is a necessary and important component in adding value, providing good stewardship and multiplying resources as a way of helping people. Profit is that which results from a business which generates value and expands the total economic pie.  “Profit is a sign that others are being served effectively, not that advantage is being taken of them.”2  Profit is a necessary condition if we are able to continue to provide value to customers.  Profit, however it is not the goal.

In recent years, many business people have come to the conclusion that there is a wider purpose of business.  One of those leaders, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, puts it this way: "The purpose of business is to create sustainable value for all stakeholders." (See his recent coauthored book, Conscious Capitalism). Mackey and others are focusing on the dignity of all their stakeholders, not just the shareholders.  They want to make a difference, seek a common good, and make the world a better place. This idea is incorporated in the modern trend toward CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility.

Traditionally development agencies, churches and governments have focused on providing aid to poor countries.  While there is a place for aid and disaster relief, aid will never alleviate poverty and these are rarely self-sustaining projects.  When funding dries up or interest declines the “false market” which created dependency is exposed and more problems often develop than were solved.  Only investing in sustainable profitable businesses creates employment and true economic development for poor countries.  Check out the excellent video from Poverty Cure entitled “From Aid to Enterprise.”

As IBEC consultants coach, mentor and contribute their expertise, the goal of profitability and sustainability is bottom line #1.  Our goal is that the business can outlast our involvement, be based on kingdom values and contribute toward the sustainable transformation of individuals, their families and entire communities.


Business as Mission is about business with a Kingdom of God perspective, purpose and impact. Business as Mission Issue Group, Lausanne, 2004.

Managers must convert society’s needs into opportunities for profitable businesses. Peter F. Drucker

Many assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money…Profit is not the proper end and aim of management – it is what makes all of the proper ends possible. David Packer. Cofounder, Hewlett-Packard.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever he does.  Saint Paul.

I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business.  That is because businesses produce goods, and businesses produce jobs. And businesses continue producing goods year after year, and continue providing jobs and paying wages year after year…if we are ever going to see long-term solutions to world poverty, I believe it will come through starting and maintaining productive, profitable businesses.  Wayne Grudem – Business for the Glory of God.

1Van Duzer, Jeff. Why Business Matters to God, p. 46

2  Ken Eldred. The Integrated Life. p. 45

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training - IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission