Friday, May 16, 2014

Business as Mission as Business as Usual

Business as mission is a significant idea that has received a fair bit of exposure in the missions world in recent years. According to the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization Occasional Paper 59, business as mission (BAM) is based on the principle of holistic mission (; my interaction in this post is entirely with this paper). As holistic mission attempts to address God’s concern for all of life so a biblical and Christian and missional view of business must address issues such as economic development, employment and unemployment, economic justice and the use and distribution of natural and creative resources. Advocates of business as mission assert the validity of “business as a mission, a calling, a ministry in its own right”. It has, they assert, a kingdom perspective rather than an approach to call people to separate from the world.

The paper then goes on to define BAM by distancing it from other related concepts. It is not, they say, “workplace ministry”. Nor is it tentmaking or “business for missions” in which legitimate business is engaged in to generate profits to plough into missions. BAM advocates also distance the approach from fake businesses that exist solely to provide a platform for missionaries to get a visa and businesses that operate solely for the personal gain of the owner even if they are purportedly run out of Christian motivations. As the Lausanne Occasional Paper puts it “The business of business is business. And the business of business of business as mission is business with a kingdom of God purpose and perspective”.

The Lausanne Occasional Paper gives us ten foundational business principles of good business as mission, the first two of which are those that are shared with all good businesses. The rest are those that are distinctive of BAM. BAM, then,
  1.  strives to be profitable and sustainable in the long term. As such then it takes a positive view of the profit motive. A good profit indicates that resources are being used wisely and that the business is a good steward of those resources.
  2. strives for excellence, operates with integrity and has a system of accountability. Hard work, honesty and fairness are valued. These qualities become known and lead to the long term viability and success of the business.
  3.  has a kingdom motivation, purpose and plan that is shared and embraced by the senior management and owners. The principle here is that the company should be set up with the intention of having a “positive and lasting impact in the local community as well as the local church”.
  4.  aims at holistic transformation of individuals and communities. The business will use every opportunity to bring spiritual, social, economic or environmental benefits to the local community.
  5. seeks the holistic welfare of employees. The company sets high standards for the way it treats its employees.
  6.  seeks to maximise the kingdom impact of its financial and non-financial resources. This is worked out in different ways by different companies.
  7.  models Christ-like, servant leadership, and develops it in others. Managers lead by example, living a life of prayer and mentoring.
  8.  intentionally implements ethical Christ-honouring practice that does not conflict with the gospel. Kingdom businesses operate on moral and ethical principles of the Bible.
  9.  is pro-active in intercession and seeks the prayer support of others. Managers and owners actively seek the prayer support of others and keep them informed of the progress of their company in recognition that they are operating in a spiritual conflict.
  10. seeks to harness the power of networking with like-minded organizations. Partnership with other organizations with such a kingdom orientation is sought for the common good.

I think all these principles are very good but I have a question about categories: I find it difficult to see how they are any different from what one would hope from any business that is being run by those who have experienced the grace of God in their lives and understood the positive value and legitimacy of life ‘in the world but not of it’. But the advocates of BAM seem to be saying that the concept is different from such a business because of its intentionality in mission. I think it is important to recognise how many Christians who do business do so with values that are far from Christian and therefore one can see how such a contrast can be maintained but surely the principles they are advocating are those that should be the norm for all Christ-followers in business, are they not?

So BAM, for a business person, really means living your whole life under the lordship of Christ. It is not, in the end, something new at all. Rather, it should be business as usual for the one who follows Christ with integrity and desires that his whole life should bring glory to God.

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