Auteur: Jo Plummer
Category: Ministère sur le lieu du travail
Business as mission is a very good strategy under many circumstances, with infinite models and applications. However, I believe we are missing out when we think about business only in terms of a particular strategy. We need to think bigger about business.
What does God say about business? What were his intentions when he made enterprise part of his design for human society? I believe understanding this is a key to releasing the power of business for God’s kingdom; the power of business to bring God’s blessings to people and give them the opportunity to rise out of spiritual, social and physical poverty.
So before we focus in on a particular strategy, let us understand and embrace the fullness of God’s design for business. Let us celebrate his intentions. As we do that, I think we will have to say “Wow!” God is so creative and he has given us the ability to be creative, to add value, to make money, to create wealth and come up with new innovations, that provide livelihoods, that help a community develop, that help us live in peace, that close the door on exploitation, that give lives meaning and transform people’s values... These are all God’s gifts to us in business!
Business exists to enable humankind to provide for itself and to steward creation. It enables us to develop our standard of living, care for the destitute and live in peace within communities. That is glorious and glorifying to God!
Being Careful About What We Multiply
As we go out and do business as mission as a particular application of business, we must be careful about what we are communicating. If we only emphasize that business is a means to a particular end and not something to celebrate it in its own right, then that is what we will multiply. We will perpetuate the split thinking about what is sacred and valuable and what is not in the minds of the Christian business people we will disciple.
If we are to see a multiplication of business people bringing Kingdom transformation, we must instead affirm the role of business in and of itself. Steve Saint, entrepreneur, inventor and son of famed missionary martyr Nate Saint, was recently heard to say this:
“In our society we become what we celebrate. In order to release business people to get engaged, we need to celebrate their role in the Kingdom of God. We need to stop celebrating one call, one role over another call or role. Business is a high calling, we need to celebrate it so that our children and their children know that if they are called to business then that’s what they should be doing to God’s glory”
When we do business as mission, we are really leveraging the power of business for a particular purpose. This power is the innate God-given potential of business to beneﬁt society and bring him glory.
Expanding Our Horizons
Most of us approach the idea and practice of BAM from a particular motivation or starting point. Perhaps we are confronted by the very real needs of the poor, the need of a woman rescued from trafﬁcking to have a job. Perhaps we are being a witness to the gospel in our daily business life in a community that has never before heard the good news about Jesus. Perhaps we are a business owner that senses God’s prompting to somehow use our skills and experience for strategic kingdom work.
It is certainly not wrong to approach business as mission with certain motivations and goals. But as we do so, let’s not look at business through a straw and miss out on what God fully intended in his design for business. I believe doing so is bound to make our business as mission strategies less effective! Why? If we are not thinking about all the ways business in itself, as a God-given institution, might positively impact a community, then we will not be working intentionally to create that impact.
Of course God can expand our horizons in the process. There are many BAM practitioners out there that began with one set of goals and have been amazed at how they have been used by God outside of their original box! They might have started out creating jobs and ended up planting a church; they might have rescued vulnerable women and ended up helping to write a new tax code for the country!
Good for Business
Thinking broadly about the transformational power of business is also good for business. This is something the world at large is waking up to. Michael Porter of Harvard Business School calls this ‘shared value’. He argues that we can no longer think about benefiting society through our business as something ‘tacked-on’, like a corporate social responsibility program that simply makes us look good. Instead he says that as we integrate creating social beneﬁt into the core of our business model, when we create products that are good for society and meet human needs, then that will also be good for business in the purely economic sense. Perhaps that cutting-edge thinking is only rediscovering God’s original design for business!
We are living in exciting times. While ‘Occupy Wall Street’ was making big news last year, at the same time certain States in the USA were creating Benefit Corporations, a new legal framework for companies to be able to intentionally create positive impact in society. It seems that there is a movement going on in the world, one that is straining towards redeﬁning the purpose of business and enterprise within society. As Christians we need to have a ﬁrm grasp on what God says about the purpose of business and enterprise in society so that we can speak into this growing movement with boldness. In the business as mission movement, we need to work out what makes us distinctive as we also seek to address issues of spiritual bondage and poverty, in addition to eradicating other forms of bondage and poverty, through business.
Several Christian leaders have been asked to continue the conversation by responding to this lead article. Read their responses and share your own thoughts:
Jo Plummer served as the Facilitator for the Lausanne Forum 2004 Business as Mission Issue Group as part of Convening Team and co-edited the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She currently curates the Business as Mission wesbite and edits the Business as Mission e.zine.
Jo Plummer and Mats Tunehag are Chairing the 2nd Global Think Tank on Business as Mission.