So what exactly is Business as Mission? In its original intent (I coined it so I can say this!) it meant that business—my job, my company, my skills—can and should be deliberately connected to what God is doing in the world, i.e. His mission. Nothing more. Nothing less.
What BAM is Not
Over the past 25 years, the term Business as Mission and the concept has been adulterated and abused. For some it has come to mean:
- Ethical Business—simply being honest in a Christian sort of way
- Business as Visa—setting up fake or quasi-fake businesses in the effort to secure an entry visa for missionary work in a restricted access country
- Poverty Alleviation—programs to help the poor make a better living
- Business Justification—making business OK or more valuable to God by somehow doing it overseas (I write as an American)
And there are many more aberrations.
What BAM Is
Business as Mission is based on a four cornered foundation:
Business is, like any other vocation, a call from God. It is not some afterthought or necessary evil. Business is, in fact, a divine institution predating the fall. Its purpose was to honor God (like all things) and specifically to enable God’s people to create wealth so that they could provide for their families and build a healthy, godly society. Imagine a society without wealth! Impossible.
Moreover, as a calling from God, business is equal to all other callings. There is simply no hierarchy or value system to God’s call. It is perfect (Romans 12:1-2) and therefore cannot be any more than or less than any other call.
I believe our greatest challenge in the 21st century church is to rekindle the joy and abandon that Christians experience when they know they are doing exactly what God wants them to do.
There is a very keen reason why I used the singular term “mission.” I do not want people to think that it is foreign missions or marketplace evangelism that is what makes business matter or what makes it strategic in the Kingdom of God. God is on a singular mission and has been since the moment Adam fell and our race was doomed. What is that purpose? To restore all that Adam lost and infinitely more. God is on mission to fill the earth with people who know, love and worship Him and even to restore the earth as well. As Isaac Watts wrote in Joy to the World, “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
With that understanding of mission, we then deliberately and prayerfully trust God to show us how our career or company can connect and contribute to what He is doing. In other words we are called and we are called for a purpose.
While doing “missions” or “evangelism” does not make business any more legitimate than it already is there is still a point to be made about how business can help reach the unreached. What I discovered 25 years ago as a follower of Jesus in business is that I am welcome in virtually any country on earth whereas a missionary is not. We live in a global economy and that potential for businesses, either physically or virtually, to reach into the dark places of this earth and put Christians in place is astounding. Real business doing real things living out real faith among real lost people. That is BAM.
I find that Christians in the marketplace are hungry for community, i.e. for relationship with other believers, encouragement and accountability. We weren’t meant to do this alone. Third Path Initiative was built on this principle: a community of Christ followers starting businesses to the glory of God in community with one another. Real BAM is done together and acknowledges the reality that we need one another.
Many people smarter than I will take the Business as Mission concept further and refine it over time. This is what I meant when I first spoke the words in one of my company's mission statements: We exist to support church planting among the unreached people groups of the 10/40 Window through the seamless integration of business as mission.