Many business professionals and church leaders today are hearing of the term “Business as Mission” (BAM). While there are many variances to a perfect definition, I like the expression of J.D. Greear of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC, “Christians in the marketplace today are able to gain access more easily to strategic, unreached places. Globalization, great advancements in technology and urbanization have given the business community nearly universal access.”
Greear reminds us that God has placed in his church the skills necessary to penetrate the most unreached parts of our world – and those skills are business skills. Business people should focus on a two-fold vision, “whatever you are good at, a) do it well for the Glory of God; b) do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.”
Mats Tunehag, one of the leaders of the BAM movement suggests that Business as Mission (BAM) is simply “legitimate economic activity (business) by a workplace professional which serves as a vehicle for sharing the love of Christ…” He and the Lausanne committees on BAM insist that BAM activities must be profitable and sustainable, create jobs and local wealth; and produce spiritual capital (disciples of Jesus).
Such a definition would encourage one to think that BAM could, should and does take place in every workplace in the world where God’s people in business are faithfully living like Jesus and looking for ways to bring people to know him. And while to a certain extent that is true, BAM over the past 20 years has tended to think in terms of “developing impoverished” countries and unreached areas where Jesus is relatively unknown.
Three propositions may help to justify and explain the Business as Mission movement:
The Sanctity of Work
It is important that we all have clarity on the biblical divine understanding that God is a God of work, and he intends his people to be workers (Genesis 1). We should not feel guilty or feel like second class Christians when we succeed in business; God expects us to drive for excellence, to be ambitious and to do “all for the glory of God” (I Cor 10:31). While business and work can temp us to sin, work and business are fundamentally good and provide many opportunities to glorify God (See Business for the Glory of God, W. Grudem).
The Christian at Work
This proposition suggests that Christians should engage in work like anyone else but live differently from everyone else. Christians work ethically, view their customers differently, love and serve others, seek justice and use their work to serve their communities. In so doing believers become a testimony and draw others to become followers of our Savior.
Work and the Kingdom of God
The book of Matthew suggests that the kingdom of God is “not yet” (heaven) but also “here and now.” As we create jobs and wealth, we are advancing the kingdom of God which essentially is obedience to the Second Commandment (i.e.to love our neighbors). The Great Commission enjoins us to make disciples of “all peoples.” So the Christian businesses that we develop here in our home neighborhoods represent a transferrable model. We can participate in business startups, franchises, or multinational business efforts abroad in the developing world and all the while live like Jesus. That is Business as Mission.
Here is a quote from a recent memo from a friend who is a Kingdom business entrepreneur in an Asian country: “Upon entering a local office where local authorities facilitate some aspects of our company, I saw my national friend who manages the office. Amidst the hubbub we greeted one another and caught up on personal news. Suddenly my friend asked, “Do you have a divine connection? I’m sensing a positive energy emanating from you and I don’t know what it is.” Stunned, I replied, “ Well as a matter of fact, I do have a divine connection to Jesus!” I then went on to explain who Jesus is and His presence in my life. He listened intently. Something is happening in my friend’s heart and mind…something we believe that God is doing.”
So Business as Mission is not “business as normal.” Neither is it “missions as normal.” It is living out the commands of Jesus in the workplace: to love our neighbor and make disciples so individuals and communities are transformed – spiritually, economically and socially – for the greater glory of God and the establishment of his church.
Veteran kingdom business owner in Asia, Bill Job says it this way, “The simplest definition of BAM is that it is walking with God at work.” (You will have the opportunity to gain more BAM insights from Bill Job when we introduce IBEC BAM Talk videos later this year; stay tuned here for details.)
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures