Recently, I have had an increasing dislike for the term “business as mission” or “BAM”. This is very significant given that my fellow ThirdPath Co-Founder, mentor, and friend Mike Baer wrote the first book called Business as Mission and coined the term. We have discussed my growing dislike, and he understands my perspective.
The Divide and Hierarchy Strike Again
At ThirdPath we talk a great deal about the “sacred-secular divide” and that there is no “hierarchy of callings” from God in life, but I am going to argue that I think we have created a divide and implemented a hierarchy for Christians in business. I have heard many Christians in business talk about “business as mission” as if it is the “sacred” way of doing business and that not using your business specifically for God’s global mission (they usually mean cross-culturally) is the “secular” way of Christians doing business. The hierarchy here is a bit more implicit in that if you are called by God to start and run a business in the mountains of Western North Carolina where I live you’re not doing “business as mission” and that starting a business in a different country is a better calling. No one would say this, but it’s almost like saying “Jesus loves you more”. I’m guilty as well of this thinking and am only now strongly becoming opposed.
I’m all for Christians starting businesses cross-culturally to love people for the glory of God, but I don’t think that it is inherently better or more “holy” than starting a business where you live and doing the same. I love the nations. I want to see more businesses started around the world and in the 1040 window by Christians, but I don’t want those Christians or any of us to view that as the highest calling from God in business. I also don’t want those Christians to think that they’re doing something inherently more important to God.
Business Glorifies God
We need to remember that business glorifies God. Business does not need to be “baptized” by poverty alleviation, church planting, marketplace ministry, workplace evangelism or missions. These are all good things from God, but so is business. By itself! Business is a morally good gift from God. It does not need to be justified by any other non-business activity. “Business as mission” is no more inherently glorifying to God than business.
Business is a high and holy calling from God. You do not have to do business in a cross-cultural context to do business to the glory of God. You do not have to call your business “BAM” to glorify God with your business. You can love and honor the LORD in business right where you are.
Big Mission, Little Business
I think the term “business as mission” has allowed many people that are big on “mission” to be very little on “business”. I have no formal business education, no MBA, no certifications in business, etc. But I do have a decent understanding of business. I acquired this by getting mentors, reading books, reading blogs, watching videos, having conversations with others in business, by working in businesses, starting my own business, starting businesses with others, helping others start their businesses, etc. If you don’t know very much about business, you can learn. You really can! Our course might be a perfect fit for you. Don’t be afraid to dive in and learn all you can about business, but please don’t use “mission” as an excuse to know very little about business. Calling your business a “BAM business” makes it no more inherently glorifying to God than putting a Jesus fish bumper sticker on your car does. Your heart and the way you love people in and through your business is infinitely more important than how you label your business.
Jesus was likely a carpenter. What kind of products do you think he made? Do you think he made poor products because he was “on mission”? No! He worked to the glory of God, just as he lived in all of his life. If you’re doing business or want to, do it well. You will mess things up like we all do, but there is grace from God even and especially in doing business. God loves you and cares about how we live all of our lives under his lordship, for his glory and the good of others.