The last two blogs referred to two of the three bottom lines of Business as Mission (BAM): (1) profitability and sustainability and (2) 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
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. 2
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…”. 3
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.
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 (Matthew 28:18-19).
1 The Economist, November 17, 2009.2 Mike Baer, Business as Mission: The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God, 2006.
3 John Mulford and Mike Baer, Kingdom Entrepreneurs Transforming Nations, 2008.
4 Dale Losch, A Better Way: Make Disciples Wherever Live Happens, 2012.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures