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I spent a few days in Thailand this week in planning meetings for the expansion of the BAM Global Think Tank.** During the visit I was interviewed about the status of the Business as Mission movement; its yesterday, today and tomorrow. Here goes…

Mats Tunehag has been speaking, writing and convening on business as mission for 20 years. When he visited The BAM Review office recently, we asked him a few questions about the business as mission movement.

Mats, what have you seen changing in business as mission in the last 15-20 years?

We are seeing a reawakening of what it means to be a Christian in business in our day and age. There has been remarkable growth of people getting engaged in doing business for God and the common good. If we take a 15 year time span, there are things we have today that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Now, we have a greater common understanding globally of this idea that we call ‘business as mission’. There are significant common denominators in our understanding, even though terminology may vary from group to group.

15 years ago when you mentioned business as mission, there were many questions about ‘What is that?’, ‘Is this something we want to get involved in?’. Today you can travel to almost any country and bump into people who have heard of, or are talking about, or practicing, business as mission. That is one of the major changes globally.

Another change in the last 15 years, is that we now see an unprecedented global connectedness of people involved in business as mission (BAM). There are now many more people involved in the ‘BAM ecosystem’ around the world; not just business owners, and other business professions, but those that provide support services. There is a growing recognition that businesses are needed for holistic impact, by mission agencies, churches, academics, and others who are connecting in. So now there isn’t just individual expressions of business as mission around the world, but a global movement. People are working together, and having a broader impact, and that is a significant change.

What’s ahead? What do you see as some of the big opportunities for the BAM movement for the future?

We need to acknowledge that businesses can provide solutions some of the most serious issues globally. Even more so, BAM businesses have a unique contribution to make as we are trying to address some of the dire problems that we find around the world. For example, according to some statistics, there is a 1.8 billion job deficit globally, that is rising, especially among young people in the Arab world and Asia. One of the biggest challenges we are facing is unemployment, underemployment and the lack of jobs with dignity. This is beyond just job creation, the Mafia also creates jobs, and so does the sex industry! This is about creating jobs, with human dignity, that honor God and are good for people and society.

Many countries are facing enormous environmental challenges and we know that through technological innovations, there are solutions that can be commercialized to address such problems.

Another global issue is the endemic corruption that keeps people and nations in poverty. Business as mission is also about doing ‘business as justice’! That means – like the Old Testament prophets before us – we take a stand against bribes, labour exploitation and cheating customers and suppliers on products, services or payments. How can we shape our businesses, and connect our businesses, to create momentum for fighting corruption?

We need to keep increasing that connectedness that I was talking about earlier, and build a critical mass of Christians in the marketplace that are involved in business as mission – regardless of what they call it or what terms they use, or what business or industry they are in.

What do you think is holding us back?

A major challenge we encounter again and again is the issue of worldview. Business as mission is not a technique, it’s a worldview centered on following Jesus in to the marketplace.

This worldview, shaped by the Bible, includes seeing wealth creation as something good and seeing creativity in business as being something that is helpful for people and society. It involves affirming, equipping and deploying business people into service as they do business unto God and for the common good.

The sacred-secular divide is deeply entrenched in our churches and in our thinking as Christians all around the world. So we can’t just do a minor tweak in our business techniques. No, there is a need to completely align our thinking with the Bible’s view on work and business.

What are you particularly excited about at the moment?

That this is actually a global movement! This is bigger than any organization or person or business or conference. A movement means that there is a growth that is beyond any one person’s control. If we think about the a global charismatic movement that emerged in the 1970‘s, for instance, there were some significant leaders and initiatives, but you could never find out where the headquarters of the charismatic movement was! There was no number to call!

The same is happening with business as mission now. God is at work and people around the world are embracing Biblical truths and running with it. There is a great variety of things happening from place to place and industry to industry; and while there is common vision and purpose, you can’t point to the center. It is a true movement and that is so exciting to me.

Mats Tunehag in conversation with Jo Plummer, Editor of The BAM Review 

 

** The interview was first published at here. The BAM Global Think Tank will expand to further support the growth of the movement. To that end we have, among other things, re-vamped the website www.businessasmission.com, a strategic alignment between the Business as Mission Resource Team and the BAM Global Think Tank. We are in the midst of a major re-grouping, but you can get a glimpse here at BAM Global. More is yet to come. Stay tuned…

 

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God is in prison

Christmas is the ultimate reminder of vulnerability
God entrusted himself to fallible people
Helpless and totally dependent as a newborn
This incarnational mystery is expressed by Thomas Merton:

“What is holy in our midst has something to do with the odor of dung on a stable in Bethlehem, the fruity taste of wine on the table at Cana, and the smell of dried blood on the cross at Golgatha.”

Thus God is on the plane and in the rice field
He is in prison and in Carlton Club
God is in the brothel and in St Clara church
He is in the slums of Calcutta and in the CBD in Sydney

He is always Immanuel – God with us

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There is a growing global movement of Christians in business who are shaping their businesses with a dual perspective: for God and the common good. That includes fighting corruption and poverty.

We know that businesses are strong transformational agents and can effectively address global issues like corruption and poverty.

For example, the biggest lift out of poverty in the history of mankind has happened in our generation – through business, and especially through the small and medium size business sector.

Economist poverty

Corruption not only represents a significant risk for companies, but also keeps millions in poverty. Fighting corruption and poverty is doing business as justice, and business as loving your neighbor.

Joseph Vijayam, Director of Olive Tech, a BAM company in India and the USA says: Corruption is one of the biggest issues that business people face globally today, and is a highly relevant topic for business as mission practitioners.”

I recently spoke on “Business as Mission: Fighting Corruption & Poverty” at a G20 related event in Brisbane, Australia. It was an invitation only meeting, with key leaders from business, academia, church, and missions.

After an introduction to BAM, and the significant role of business in fighting corruption and poverty, five simple but effective steps were suggested:

  1. Affirm, equip and deploy people to serve in business and create wealth
  2. Acknowledge businesses as possible change agents for good
  3. Shape businesses for God & good
  4. Recognize the importance of small and medium size businesses
  5. Create critical mass for macro transformation

A group in Indonesia applies these principles and concepts, and they are having a major impact. The presentation tells their story.

Click here for video         For powerpoint presentation BAM & Corruption Brisbane Nov 2014

The Global BAM Think Tank will give a priority to BAM solutions to global issues, like corruption. Please note that the work of the BAM Global Think Tank will continue under the new name: BAM Global.

 

RESOURCES:

For an introduction to the issue of corruption, and resources to combat it, see BAM:  corruption – resources

Toolkit for Business Leaders: Business toolkit

Two very important BAM Think Tank papers dealing with BAM solutions to poverty:

1. Business as Mission & the End of Poverty                      2. Business as Mission in Haiti

Other BAM videos

 

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The BAM Think Tank has just released its eleventh paper, Business as Mission in and from China

China’s astounding economic growth for the last twenty years has created a good commercial environment for business as mission (BAM) within China. But the growing church in China also has an increasing involvement in BAM from China.

At the same time, as one BAM practitioner in China has noted, “China has one of the largest unreached populations in the world, business is a significant channel for Christians to effectively impact countless people”.

This unique report includes nine case studies: “The business as mission companies profiled in this report tell the stories of many decisions for Christ, the discipleship of new believers, Bible study groups formed, church leaders trained and local churches added to or planted. These businesses in China have also had an influence through job creation, improved working conditions and benefits, improved standards of living, training up the workforce, imparting biblical values for work and family and challenging corruption, among other things”.

The key leaders behind this report are organizing two major BAM events in Hong Kong 30 -31 May, and I will be a keynote speaker. After the BAM Summit in Hong Kong I will go to Australia for a speaking tour for 10+ days.

The China report is part of a series of papers published by the BAM think tank from October 2013 and onwards. Each report covers a particular topic or geographical region and has involved collaboration between hundreds of BAM leaders and practitioners worldwide. These papers are the result of the largest gathering of intellectual and social capital ever in the BAM world, and they provide groundbreaking insights to BAM around the world.

Some of the reports published so far have dealt with BAM in Mongolia, Haiti, Nordic countries and Iran, and also topics like human trafficking and church planting.

The next report to be published will look at how we can measure spiritual, social and environmental impact, as well as the economic bottom-line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Should Christians in business have a Jesus centered mission as they do business? Or should they just try to do good ethical business but play down Jesus in their business relationships and activities?

Some like the term Business as Mission, others dislike it – even with a passion. It doesn’t matter to me. It is just a term in English. But the concept is important: we believe that business should aim at more than just the three bottom-lines, often cited in Corporate Social Responsibility: Economic, Social and Environmental. Business as Mission, BAM, includes these but goes beyond, based on a Kingdom of God theology. That includes Jesus and the Great Commission. The Kingdom of God is our mission.

Some use the term Business for Transformation, and that also reflects our belief and mission: businesses can and should be instruments for holistic transformation of people and societies. Business on a transformational mission!

Transformation – good and lasting change – takes time. So can we learn something from missionaries and Christian cross-cultural workers of the past? Is there a difference in long-term impact between different kind of missionaries?

The results of a 14 years long research project* have surprised many, but the evidence is clear and overwhelming: there is a correlation between Jesus centered conversionary missionaries and democratic development, better health, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment and a stronger civil society.

The sociologist Robert Woodberry and about 50 research assistants spent many years gathering and analyzing material from several continents. They assumed that missionaries might have contributed towards a positive long-term impact. But they were wrong: the missionaries were not just part of the process, they were central to it; they were the most crucial factors for the positive developments. To date, over a dozen other studies and reports have confirmed Woodberry’s facts and conclusions.

But wait – there is more to this story: it wasn’t just any kind of missionary or Christian aid worker. The above mentioned positive effects of missionary work only applied to “conversionary missionaries”. These Jesus focused missionaries were not linked to colonial authorities. They unashamedly believed that people should hear about Jesus. They tried to meet physical and social needs and they engaged in justice issues and fought oppression. Missionaries who had been hired by the state apparatus or linked to power structures have not had this long-term impact.

That said, not all missionaries or mission initiatives have been good or are exemplary. But the good and long-term influence on the macro level cannot be denied. The evidences of causal correlation between conversionary missionaries and holistic transformational impact are powerful and numerous.

Woodberry’s study also shows that these missionaries in general did not set out to reform societies. But driven by love for Jesus and people, their work had a far greater impact than they often dreamed of. There is of course a need for more research, and this report does not mean that we should uncritically celebrate all missionary activity.

But these findings should cause us to review and further discuss our mission, whether we call it Business as Mission, Business for Transformation or nothing in particular.

There is not one-size-fits-all approach or just one way of being a follower of Jesus in the marketplace. We need to be tactful and also mindful of culture and security related issues. But at the same time we should learn from those who have gone before us: Jesus centered missionaries were instrumental in bringing about holistic transformation.

We mustn’t be or do business without a mission.

 

* The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries: They didn’t set out to change history. But one modern scholar’s research shows they did just that

 

 

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