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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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There are legitimate reasons to fear nuclear weapons in the hands of the mullahs. There is now an on-going discussion between the regime in Iran and Western powers. But the question marks are many: Is Obama’s regime strong and skillful enough to manage these negotiations? Will Israel see a need to intervene militarily? Will sanctions be lifted and what will that mean for foreign direct investments?

For Iranians inside the country there are frustrations and sorrows, and fear that the economic hardships will get worse. And those who fight for democracy and human rights may fear being hauled off to prison and torture.

Fear is also a key characteristic of Islam. I have met so many former Muslims and long-term workers in the Muslim world who have told me this. 

The problems and challenges are both on a macro and micro level; it is about dealing with major international relations but also the lack of jobs for individual Iranians. The growing unemployment sometimes affects Christians even more because of discrimination. That forces many Christians to leave the country.

Iran has some of the worst drug related problems in the world. Prostitution is growing and human trafficking plays a part in this. Due to both internal and external factors, like sanctions and a repressive regime, unemployment and poverty have risen, and with that comes many social problems and evils, like drug addiction and prostitution.

It can be quite easy, unfortunately, to paint a dark and sad picture when it comes to the situation in the country and when it comes to Iran and terrorism, proxy wars and nuclear threats.

But there are also other parts of the story. We have witnessed a major and historic shift in Iran since 1979. The Islamic revolution has turned millions of people away from Islam. Millions are hearing about Jesus via satellite TV. Thousands and thousand of people are starting a new life with Christ.

I have been working with key Christian leaders around the world for about 20 years, all involved in and for Iran. As we have met once or twice every year we have acknowledged one critical need and gap: jobs with dignity. There are many Iranians in the Diaspora who would love to do more business with Iran. When the sanctions are lifted the opportunities will be many.

We know one thing for sure: all dictatorships fall. It is a matter of time. Even the seemingly staunchest regimes may crumble relatively quickly. We learned that from the Soviet Union and the Communist states in Eastern Europe.

One day things will change even in Iran.The borders may open soon and create all kinds of opportunities. But will there be overwhelming and uncoordinated efforts, albeit with good intentions, doing more harm than good?

Water is a necessity of life. But too much water in too short of a time can become a flood and cause a disaster. We need to provide irrigation channels, so water can flow to become a blessing.

Part of this irrigation channel is jobs with dignity. We need to learn and prepare in various ways to serve the people and the country of Iran by developing businesses.

Right now there are many restrictions for some nationalities to engage in business in Iran. Many non-Western countries have other opportunities.

Every Christian, who loves God and Iran, should prayerfully consider what the needs are and how one can work with others. We want to be beacons of hope – also by doing business as mission.

The Business as Mission Think Tank has published an important report, which I hope will be read by many.

To read and download the report, click here –> Business as Mission in Iran: Laboring in the Dark

 

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In August I gave a lecture on Business as Mission, BAM, at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama USA. Enclosed below are the video link as well as a copy of the powerpoint used.

The presentation includes Biblical and historical perspectives on BAM, it introduces the global BAM Think Tank and also presents contemporary BAM case studies. Some issues dealt with:

  • When did BAM start?
  • Engineering with or without God – does it matter?
  • Martin Luther and the rediscovery of BAM
  • Chocolate for Jesus: Cadbury
  • Johan Sebastian Bach and BAM
  • The potential danger of micro businesses
  • The Pyramid of Christ: stop climbing and tear it down!
  • Earthquake tested the value and importance of a BAM business in S Asia

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Click here for the video, my presentation starts 12 minutes in to the video clip.

Click for powerpoint for lecture at Samford University in Birmingham AL USA Aug 2013

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Slavery is illegal but continues. Up to 30 million people are held as slaves today. Human trafficking is not only illegal – it is an evil. It degrades human beings, it tramples human dignity, and it creates untold pain and unbelievable misery.

The global awareness is rising quickly and manifestations against it multiply. But we are yet to see a major breakthrough in setting the captives free, which is more than a rescue operation. The survivors need healing and jobs with dignity. Jobs are also essential to adequate prevention to human trafficking.

The global BAM Think Tank is proud to present a groundbreaking report on how we can combat the business of the slave trade with Business as Mission, BAM. It gives a thorough analysis of the problem as well as providing concrete and practical steps to get engaged. Business is key to prevention and restoration, but by partnering with non-profits a greater impact can be achieved.

The global anti-trafficking movement is growing, but the biggest challenge may yet be to bring business solutions into the arena. This report helps us understand how businesses can become Freedom Businesses. But this is more than a concept; it is more than an awareness campaign. This is about hard and diligent work in and through business, intentionally and with a holistic approach bringing freedom and restoration by providing jobs with dignity.

This report trumpets a new call to freedom – through freedom businesses. We must allow it to ring and be heard widely. As Martin Luther King said 50 years ago:

“When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”

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To download the report, click here: Business as Mission and Human Trafficking

 

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