Author: Joseph Vijayam
Category: Workplace Ministry
To facilitate a truly global conversation, we ask Christian leaders from around the world to respond to the Global Conversation’s lead articles. These points of view do not necessarily represent the Lausanne Movement. They are designed to stimulate discussion from all points of the compass and from different segments of the Christian community. Please add your perspective by posting a comment so that we can learn and grow together in the unity of the Spirit.
A response to Jo Plummer - Thinking Bigger About Business
Jo Plummer makes a very important point when she says that we need to think bigger about business. Few would argue with the fact that business, in and of itself, brings value to the world, to the Church, to the local community, and to individual stakeholders. But I also believe that we need to assert the differences that exist between “business as usual” and “business as mission” (BAM). Business as Mission is not the same as running any successful business and I see a tendency for observers and thought leaders to dilute the distinctiveness of BAM whenever the intrinsic value of business as a virtue in and of itself is projected.
As one among many who are advocates or practitioners of BAM, I see my role as acting in response to God’s call to bring in His kingdom in all its fullness. A BAM company is a commercial business whose explicit goal and raison d’etre is to serve kingdom concerns, which essentially consists in developing people and glorifying God. This is very different from the purpose for which the rest of the world may engage in business. There are at least 3 ways in which a BAM business is different from other businesses. I believe that each of these ways will cause us to “think bigger about business” as we consider the role of business as mission.
Firstly, a BAM business has a different starting point, which is to bring in the Kingdom of God. There are many things that the Body of Christ does to achieve that goal. One of those is to create wealth so that
Secondly, the everyday choices made by a BAM entrepreneur in running his or her business are influenced by a desire to use the business as a means to extend God’s Kingdom. For example, she is committed to the development of one’s employees, partners, suppliers and customers: all as God’s children, to the same extent, or sometimes more than that of being profitable. For a non-believer the goal may be to build his or her own kingdom with social responsibility as a by-product or even a core value of the company, but does it not supersede the other primary goals such as profitability.
Thirdly, a BAM business treats profits differently. The end result of all businesses is to maximize shareholder wealth. In a BAM business the ultimate shareholder is God. The wealth that is created is to be used in a manner that is most pleasing to God. The Great Commission is a mandate for every believer, whether he is a BAM entrepreneur or a medical missionary. The Gospel we share is designed to provide relief to the poor (Isa 61:1-4) which includes the economically poor -- the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless -- as well as the broken-hearted and those in bondage. (Mt 25:35-36).
All of us are required to preach the Gospel, but some are called to unique and ‘specialists’ roles. The most acknowledged is the role of the evangelist. Their role is understood and honored because they are seen as God’s provision to the Church for bringing in the Kingdom. In the same way business people are called to fulfill the Great Commission through the creation of wealth for Kingdom purposes. It is important that their role is understood and honored as well. They are another part of God’s Kingdom work and we must see that their calling, too, is of God. They are part of God’s provision to the Church for bringing in the Kingdom, so that the day of the wedding of the Lamb is hastened.
As we paint this picture of the role of business in the Church, let us be specific on our definitions of what is and isn’t a BAM business. We do the Kingdom and every business person a great service by creating clear definitions that help business people clearly understand the role they are playing in bringing in the Kingdom. My prayer is that this clarity I am advocating will allow us to “think bigger about business” as we leverage wealth for Kingdom purposes.
Joseph Vijayam is the Managing Director of Olive Technology Ltd., based in the USA and India. Joseph writes a blog at ministryplatforms.com