Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission
This post is the property of BAM Global. It was originally posted here.
Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done… In Business
The Biblical Models of Transformation Through Business Practices Issue Group (BMIG) focused on developing a Biblically sound and practical understanding of business.
The group defined its purpose as identifying principles, models and practices of business that give expression to its role in advancing God’s purpose or mission in the world. The group operated on the basis that, broadly speaking, God’s purpose is to establish His Kingdom—a Kingdom to be fully consummated with the second coming of Jesus Christ, but inaugurated in ‘this present age’ (Tit 2:11–14).
The group acknowledged that profit matters in any business, but that profit is not the raison d’etre for business as mission (BAM). Profit is necessary to sustain an enterprise and it can also finance good works of various kinds. But a different p-word motivates BAM practitioners—purpose, specifically God’s purpose.
The group set about its work in four areas, namely the overarching or integrating theme of God’s purpose in the world, the role of business in serving people, the role of business in creation care and the role of profit.
Regarding God’s purpose, the BMIG proposed that the creation mandate is foundational and that redemption of all of creation is God’s desire. An important barrier to the role of business was identified as the sacred‒secular (Sunday‒Monday) divide. Although this divide is now widely recognized the remedy is quite possibly to let the world see evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in business.
Jesus was a servant. He served his Father and he served humanity. Serving people ought therefore to be characteristic of BAM. All business does this in a sense—by being the primary means of delivering material blessing to people. Beyond that, business can serve people by delivering social justice.
God loves all of His creation. It is true that humankind is special and we, of all of creation on earth, have the special privilege of fellowship with Him. Nevertheless, God cares for all He created and there are a number of metaphorical scriptures that confer personhood on non-human creation. Business must engage in creation care if it is to fully embrace God’s purpose in the world.
Regarding profit, most of the leading thinkers on business as mission agree that BAM businesses ought to make a profit. Profit is an emotive word that elicits negative comment. However, what is actually objectionable about profit is not profit per se, but greed (and, perhaps surprisingly, consumerism and the idolization of freedom). There were antidotes to economic excess established in the Old Testament that have counterparts in the New Testament and they are discussed in this report.
Dotted throughout the report are the experiences and thoughts of a number of BAM practitioners (BAMers) who were members of the BMIG. They did a sterling job of balancing the contributions of the academic members who research and write about BAM, but are not experienced practitioners themselves.
Finally, some recommendations are made that might be considered by the business as mission community. These mainly concern the way in which BAM is defined and focus on whether the spiritual ‘bottom line’ should be added to the three bottom lines of Corporate Social Responsibility. This report suggests that, properly understood, the bottom lines of economic, social and environmental outcomes are all spiritual bottom lines. A new way of conceptualizing business as mission is presented for consideration by the BAM community.