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Beware of unintended consequences in missional business

Sunday, December 10, 2017
Beware of unintended consequences in missional business

In September 2017, Seattle’s Amazon corporation announced its intent to open a second headquarters projected to be even larger than the one in Seattle. This set off a scramble of fifty cities trying to lure the tech giant to their ‘neck of the woods”.

But it made me wonder if these cities have considered the “Seattle experience”. Once considered a one-industry town (first gold and then Boeing and then Microsoft, before other well-known companies like Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco made Seattle home), Seattle promoted the intentional decision of Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos to build in the inner city. The result has made Seattle the fastest growing big city in the country. Amazon today at its south Lake Union core has bestowed 40,000 jobs on the city located in 33 buildings with 8.1 million square feet. Amazon owns 19% of the high-end office space in the city and has 4,000 puppy dogs registered for its headquarters buildings.

Such dominance to be sure, has its benefits. Unemployment in King County is 3.7%, well below the national average, and smaller companies have showed up in this Silicon Valley of the north. Thirty-one Fortune 500 companies have research or engineering hubs in Seattle today, bring more jobs.

But what of the unintended consequences? Sociologist Robert Merton popularized the law of unintended consequences which suggests that the actions of people always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. It’s not a complicated idea but difficult to avoid it seems, when trying to keep up with Jeff Bezos and his Amazon juggernaut.

Taxpayers in Seattle now pay hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing transportation and infrastructure upgrades such as transit and road networks, parks, utilities and housing subsidies. Seattle is one of the most expensive cities in America and rents have increased 65% in the last seven years. The city of Seattle spends $60 million annually to address the needs of the homeless. It is impossible to drive on or under freeway overpasses without seeing hundreds of tents and other homeless indicators. And the traffic conditions in this beautiful city by the sea and the mountains are going from bad to worse.

Not all of these consequences can be blamed on Amazon, but the company certainly is a gigantic factor.

Boston, Charlotte, Kansas City, Tucson, Birmingham, Kansas City and 40 others – are you sure you are ready for this?

But what about anything else? What about any activity? What about Kingdom businesses? Of course, everything else is on a much smaller scale but still the Seattle experience should cause any endeavor to “count the cost”, to do a risk analysis, to consider the unintended consequences?

Some of the unintended consequences that I have seen in Business as Mission (BAM) have been family stress when the business owner is spending 80 hours a week at the business site, or the cost of expansion and its related taxes, increased labor force and rent, or increased attention in the community from rival business interests or political antagonists. Some BAMers are cut out for a small enterprise of 5-10 employees and not capable of scaling into a much larger company and such growth results in stress and potential failure. Growth usually means a new team dynamic, new division of labor and the insertion of new skills such as marketing, financial analysis and consulting services. These are all important and good but owners need to plan for these important components in the growth of the operation.

Unintended consequences can be intended consequences if we anticipate them, plan for them, or design strategies to avoid them. The London “tube” has signs everywhere “Mind the Gap”. Here my appeal is “Mind the Consequences.”

Predictors for BAM company impact

Sunday, December 03, 2017
Predictors for BAM company impact

There is considerable interest these days in measuring the impact of Business as Mission (BAM) companies. Is the theory of BAM something that will contribute to the intended results? How are individual BAM companies doing when compared to the quadruple bottom line? What makes for success?

Researcher and economist, Steve Rundle reported at the BAM Conference in September 2017 on research which addresses these questions in part.1 He started with two hypotheses:

Hypothesis # 1: Those BAM workers who draw a salary entirely from the business will have a greater economic impact than BAM workers who are donor supported.

Hypothesis # 2: BAM workers who are donor supported will be more effective in producing spiritual fruit than their business supported peers.

The study included appropriate numbers of subjects; and controls for location, firm size and business type, etc. Interestingly, the results demonstrated that hypothesis #1 was strongly supported, however hypothesis #2 was not supported at all.

Donor supported or business supported?

One would expect that spiritual impact would be highest for donor supported BAM practitioners; after all these are primarily missionaries who are paid to produce spiritual results. So, why such evidence? What then is correlated with effectiveness, or in other words, what are the predictors of spiritual results for these BAM practitioners? The evidence suggests:
  • Accountability to a board of directors
  • A measurable intentionality for what one is trying to achieve
  • A balanced holistic theology of mission to explain why they are there
  • Being open about one’s faith and identity
  • A perspective of ‘blessing’ the people, rather than ‘converting’
Professor Rundle points out the negative correlations; meaning factors which did not produce the intended results. They were: narrow missional orientation, secretive identity, conversion focus, being wholly donor supported.

Blessers or Converters?

He also pointed to a similar study by Mark Russell2 which produced parallel findings. Russell’s categories were called “Blessers” and “Converters”. The “Blessers” typically responded that they were there to be a blessing. Bringing others to follow Jesus was important but only one aspect of a larger purpose and vision.

The “Converters” typically tried to “keep the main thing the main thing” and viewed the business as an avenue for missionaries to proclaim the gospel and produce conversions, rather than a place to integrate faith with the work.

In a similar manner to Rundle, Russell demonstrated that the “Converters” who focused on a converting orientation, were secretive about their missionary identity, and worked independently, reported far fewer incidences of evangelism (converts) than those with a blessing mentality.

Probably similar studies are necessary before concrete propositions can be made, but such evidence as this certainly is food for thought – and ACTION!

1  Steve Rundle -- Maximizing the Impact of BAM.

2  Russell, Mark. The Missional Entrepreneur. New Hope Publishers, 2010, chapter 11.

7 lessons for business entrepreneurs from the World Series

Sunday, November 26, 2017
7 lessons for business entrepreneurs from the World Series

It is a mystery to most of the world how a little-known USA sport like baseball can have as its culminating event called the “World Series”. Most everyone outside North America equates “World” with the “World Cup” of international soccer (football to them) which is truly “world”. Nevertheless, baseball remains an intriguing sport played by millions in the USA, with most citizens giving attention to its conclusion each October.

In the late-night hours of November 1, 2017 a team that almost nobody had predicted to win, defeated the favored and experienced Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-game series. The Houston Astros did it despite a payroll about one-half that of the Dodgers, and just four years earlier were the laughingstock of professional baseball having lost more than 100 games in each of the three years before 2014.

I love the metaphors of the sporting world which can sometimes be useful when applying to other institutions or events closer to most of us – such as starting a business or building one to success. These traits struck me during October of this year.

1. Little things matter.
In baseball as in most things, one must give attention to details. Certainly, the Astros did when they signed Francisco Liriano in July as a left-handed reliever. Liriano was not a major player and was brought on to the team to play a small part in the bullpen. He soon observed a team that embraced him and did so many “little things right”. He only faced one batter in each of games 6 and 7 – a small but important time, place and role.

Similarly, in business, the smallest of decisions or choices can be keys to success. What if Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Batstone, had not paid attention to a newspaper article in Berkley, CA about the enslaved workers at his favorite restaurant? Such a little thing led to the Not For Sale movement which focuses on liberating those enslaved in several countries.1

2. A team has chemistry and culture.
Liriano said upon his arrival “…we have a team, a real team…it’s not everybody trying to play individually. Everyone is playing for each other and has each others’ back. The MVP (World Series Most Valuable Player) George Springer stated, “…our team believed in each other all year.” And all-star Jose Altuve noted “…a lot of diversity and good relationships between players and coaches with everybody.” Management opened up to sharing data with players. In decision after decision, as pitcher Dallas Keuchel says, “each player became a person.” A phenomenal esprit de corps developed, which was visible to all who watched. And, thus, the team – with great chemistry and culture – won the championship.

My wife’s nephew is an engineer and team leader at Google in Mountain View, CA. The campus resembles a world class resort and perks include free food from its many restaurants. "The culture is amazing. Each employee does not mind helping the other out if they are stuck. I feel it is encouraged to reach out to others,” observes one engineer. Google is consistently rated a company with an excellent culture and team chemistry.

3. They had a goal.
During the three years of 2011 – 2013 the Astros lost a total of 324 games. They essentially started from scratch in 2014 with important operational decisions. Altuve recently told ESPN, “I think I was the only one in 2011, ’12 and ’13, those 100 losses – three years in a row. It’s not easy. But I think I kind of like believed the process.” Altuve exemplifies employee engagement. The best employees will be the ones that stick with you through the good times and the bad. Success is the bottom line. The Astros had a relentless focus on results, on winning. And that meant getting to the Series through wins and winning four out of seven games once there.

Freedom businesses can be considered social enterprises because of their clear goal – to keep women and children from human slavery and to liberate as many as possible from the human trafficking industry. Such a goal is measurable and systems of accountability exist for it. All BAM businesses need goals which can be measured and for which they can be held accountable. It is a privilege for IBEC consultants to help freedom businesses.

4. Good leadership.
Jeff Luhnow joined the team in 2011 as General Manager and as an entrepreneur with an MBA. He started to modernize the organization. That began the process of becoming a cutting-edge baseball operations machine, so much so that Sports Illustrated in 2014 predicted a Houston World Series by 2017. By 2015 they were chosen to have the Best Farm System in baseball by the MiLB. AJ Hinch, with a psychology degree from Stanford, was hired in Sept 2014 and had an early talk with Altuve, "We talked a lot about getting better," Hinch said. "We talked about the 100-loss seasons. We talked about the grind that had taken its toll. I asked him one question: 'Why don't we talk about winning?'" The culture began to change – instead of focusing on the errors of the past they focused on a goal – winning! And win they did – beating out the big boys of baseball history, the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

I often think of the story of Bill Job in China whose employees would call him the “best boss in all of China.” Such a description often embarrassed him as he realized that such an accolade is ill-defined and impossible to prove. But the facts are clear – Bill treated his employees with dignity, respect and fairness. He always challenged them to learn new things and be a significant part in building the company. He is a good leader and they love to work for him.

5. Data is important.
Sometimes managers manage from their gut and to be sure some of that is important, but success for Houston also involved data and analytics. Both team management and players bought into the importance of both gathering and using data in decisions about personnel, policies, and practices. The drive toward the use of analytics began with Billy Beane’s Oakland A's and it was used with last years’ Chicago Cubs. Some think Houston is the best at it today.

The May 2014 BAM Global Think Tank Report, How Are We Doing: Measuring the Impact and Performance of BAM Businesses, states “Good metrics are a compass that enables good leaders to stay on track”. This is true upstream and downstream in a business. IBEC uses data generated by many different entities in the planning process; for example, the World Bank’s “Doing Business” data2 on most every country in the world. Such data helps in making decisions in starting and building the BAM company. When it comes to the downstream of measuring success, the obvious financial analytics of P&L, Balance Sheet etc. are important but so are ministry indicators such as self-designed opportunities for living out the gospel with both incarnation and proclamation.

6.It takes balanced talent.
There is good management and bad management. Good management picks good draft picks and Houston did – young guys like Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Alex Bregman. They went after a dynamic core of young offensive talent and brought on old-timers who could lead, mentor and be source of wisdom and maturity, like Justin Verlander and Carlos Beltran. Young and Old! Untested talent and Experienced Stars! All were important to this balanced team.

Brittany joined a BAM team in Azerbaijan and brought significant skills in coffee roasting and retail. However, she realized that she needed capital developers, managers, operational people, marketers, HR experts, accountants and legal advice. Before long a team emerged and the result after the application of varied skills and much hard work – a roasting company with two successful stores.

Perseverance can be described as ”…steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Three years from 2014 to 2017 can seem like a long time but perhaps Cameron Maybin said it best on winning night. “We battled, we persevered, we never gave up.” Another said that there were no shortcuts; there was plenty of pain.”

Whether it be Wintston Churchill’s famous “never give up” speech to parliament, or a sport like baseball, perseverance is important in the success of a business. It takes long steadfast trial and error to achieve success – in understanding the customer, in perfecting the product and in developing human potential. Never Give Up!

One of the first entrepreneur’s I advised was a fellow named Lee who started a business in a former Soviet Republic. He partnered with a local attorney and within two years the partner took off with all the money in the bank and the business folded. I called him to express my sorrow and asked what he was going to do, thinking he may return to Florida. Lee quickly responded, “I have already gone down the street and rented another office and incorporated another company”. Lee was a persevering BAMer. He never would give up.

Whether it is baseball or another sport or an endeavor such as business in developing unreached countries “for the glory of God” we do well to consider these seven lessons.

1. Not for Sale
2. Doing Business 2018 http://www.doingbusiness.org/

Remembering the goodness of God

Sunday, November 19, 2017
Good Stewardship is critical for Business as Mission

As we begin this week of celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S., I'm thankful for my friend Doug Nichols for sharing these 20 verses and thankful for the freedom to share a few of the things we at IBEC Ventures are grateful for. Blessings over you and your families as we reflect on God's goodness.

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:18  In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

2. Philippians 4:6-7  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

IBEC continually makes requests for our overseas projects and we thank God for answered prayer - for protection and for success in business, job creation and in making disciples of Jesus.

3. Psalm 28:7  The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.

4. Psalm 106:1  Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, or He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!

IBEC is thankful for new clients in the agricultural sector – poultry and soy beans in Africa, rice in Indonesia and nut production in Asia.

5. Psalm 100:4  Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!

IBEC recently sign an agreement for a continued relationship with a major client – we give “thanks to Him…bless His name!”

6. Colossians 4:2  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

7. Colossians 3:17  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

This is a verse which drives the validity of business for the glory of God, along with the parallel verse in I Cor 10:31.

8. Psalm 95:2  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!

9. Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

How thankful we are for a strong team of consultants and a great gathering for training in August.

10. 1 Chronicles 29:13 And now we thank You, our God, and praise Your glorious name.

There is no greater reason for gratitude than a new follower of Jesus as reported by a client high in the Himalayan mountains.

11. Psalm 105:1-2  Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works! And give thanks to His holy name.

IBEC is driven by the quadruple bottom line, one of which is to make His deeds known to the unreached of the world.

12. Psalm 69:30  I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

13. 2 Corinthians 4:15  For all things are for your sake, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

“All things” for IBEC means profitable businesses so that jobs are created and people brought out of poverty and injustice.

14. Psalm 9:1  I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.

15. Psalm 107:8-9  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.

IBEC gives thanks for freedom businesses which bring enslaved women and children out of human trafficking and give satisfaction to thirsty souls.

16. Jeremiah 33:11a  The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, “Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting”.

17. Hebrews 12:28  Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.

IBEC is thankful with great gratitude that we operate within a balanced budget as reported at our annual Board meetings this month.

18. 1 Timothy 4:4-5  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

19. 2 Samuel 22:50  Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name.

IBEC gives thanks for a foundation which helps IBEC with important projects – we thank them and God!

20. 1 Chronicles 16:34  O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

The Barnhart Crane and Rigging story: safeguards for BAM entrepreneurs and owners

Saturday, November 11, 2017
Good Stewardship is critical for Business as Mission

This week I was walking through Magnuson Park along Lake Washington in Seattle, when I came upon some heavy equipment – really heavy equipment - marked “Barnhart”. The largest vehicle there carried a crane capable of lifting 550 tons; that’s roughly equivalent of 275 of my Toyotas, or the weight of two of the largest train locomotives in service today. What is this Barnhart company?

Owner and President Alan Barnhart tells it this way. “It is God’s story and how he uses ordinary people,” and how a “mom and pop operation” working out of the family garage become one of the country’s largest companies known for “picking up and moving heavy things”.

All of us who are followers of Jesus are in full-time ministry

Alan and brother/partner Eric grew up in a Christian home in Memphis, TN and attended a church which believed in the Great Commission. Fellow believers saw that Alan loved Jesus and wanted to follow him, so the default response was that he should “go into full-time ministry”. But early on, by God’s grace and providence, Alan discovered that he was gifted more in business and engineering than in preaching and teaching. It propelled him to the truth that “all of us who are followers of Jesus are in full-time ministry.”

Biblical safeguards

As the brothers assumed ownership of the company from their dad and things began to prosper 1, Alan and his wife, Katherine decided they must study the Bible to understand what it said about money. He came to realize that everything they had comes from God and they are stewards of it all; and they learned to “fear wealth”, because Jesus said it was hard for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven and Paul said you can take nothing with you when you die.2 Three safeguards were put in place and have guided the two families since then, and are instructive for all entrepreneurs and business owners:
  1. God owns the business; it does not belong to us but we are stewards of it.
  2. They set a lifestyle and salary cap (for them this meant they set their salaries at the mean salary of middle class members of the Sunday School class at church).
  3. Accountability was put into place so that they maintained adherence to the above and put the fruits of the labors into advancing the kingdom of God.
The Barnhart brothers are known for growing a company with excellence of service, commitment to giving, and evident obedience to God’s word. Says, Alan, “…the alternative to consumption is kingdom living.” He uses a military metaphor to explain that “the army cook should not eat better than the troops.” As the company routinely gave away over half of their income to advance the kingdom (as much as $1 million per month), the blessing of God just increased. Today they still operate and grow the business but 100% of it is in a charitable trust.

And their kids did not grow up as rich kids for which the adult children are grateful to their parents today. Alan likes to use tool and toy terminology. A toy is something we would buy for our own pleasure, comfort or fun. A tool is something we buy that God can use in His service.

Tools not toys

As a family, they try to minimize the investment in toys and maximize the investment in tools. One example of an investment is the international travel they have done as a family with the result that their children have seen the needs of the world and what God is doing in other cultures. To them an inheritance for the children is faith, education, abilities and motivation.

The moral of the story for all entrepreneurs and business owners is not the details but the Barnhart principles of stewardship, a lifestyle cap and the appropriate accountability.

1 The company grew 25% a year for 23 years in the 80s and 90s and today is valued at over $250 million and has over 1,000 employees in the US.
2 Matthew 19:23; I Timothy 6:7

Jobs as justice

Saturday, November 04, 2017
Business as Mission promotes justice by creating jobs

For some years I taught at a graduate school on the West Coast. I note that they now have a Master’s degree in Justice with courses such as Theological Foundations, Social Justice, The History of Justice and similar topics. I also note the content of entire conferences on Christian justice with themes related to chasing justice, theology of justice, justice as worship, peacemaking, and Christian community. All good things to be sure – but noticeably lacking – jobs as justice!

According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, the Hebrew words tsedeq and mishpat and the Greek dikaiosyne are all used to describe “justice” in the Bible. These words are interchangeable with the words for “righteousness.” Jim Wallis affirms that “…the clear meaning of “justice” is “what is right” or “what is normal” — the way things are supposed to be.”1;

He continues, “One of the clearest and most holistic words for justice is the Hebrew shalom, which means both “justice” and “peace.” Shalom includes “wholeness,” or everything that makes for people’s well-being, security, and, in particular, the restoration of relationships that have been broken. Justice, therefore, is about repairing broken relationships both with other people and to structures — of courts and punishments, money and economics, land and resources, and kings and rulers.”

“Employer-employee relationships could be brought into the idea of shalom as well — fixing what has been unfair, unjust, or exploitative. Economic systems, structures, and interactions can be judged by how they serve or destroy good and healthy relationships.”

The Gallup Corporation surveyed over 150 nations in their renowned World Poll of major issues of life. They wanted to “…discover the single most dominant thought on most people’s minds….” Says CEO Jim Clifton, “Six years into our global data collection effort, we may have already found the single most searing, clarifying, helpful, world-altering fact. What the whole world wants is a good job.”2

Consider the world conditions of today – extreme poverty (30% of the world living on less than $2 a day), unemployment in some countries over 50%, victimization and exploitation such as human trafficking, disease, wars on several fronts, natural disasters and persecution. Job creation will not heal all of this but growing economies creating good jobs brings dignity, opportunity for positive relationships and the ultimate transformation of individuals and communities. God created humans to work and be productive (Gen 1:28), to work heartily ’as for the Lord and not men’ (Col 3:23) and “…shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father…” (Matt 5:16). This all takes place in the marketplace of work.

Many situations where righteousness, justice and shalom are lacking could be corrected with meaningful employment. The poor could be fed and clothed, the powerless would have dignity, disease would be ameliorated, and relationships healed. None of this is perfect, but it is in the direction of what Jesus called righteous living; it would be transformative.
Poverty Cure, a division of the Acton Institute,3 has many resources which promote a good understanding of “what causes wealth?”, a better question than “what causes poverty?” Every modern institution – education, government, and the church consumes wealth. Only one institution creates wealth – business! And wealth creation is a God-given ability (Deut. 8:18).

It is time to move away from so much focus on distribution of wealth in the world and focus on its creation. It is time to move:

  • From aid to enterprise.
  • From poverty alleviation to wealth creation.
  • From paternalism to partnerships.
  • From handouts to investments.
  • From seeing the poor as consumers or burdens to seeing them as creators.
  • From viewing people and economies as experiments to pursuing solidarity with the poor.
  • From viewing the poor as recipients of charity to acknowledging them as agents of change with dignity, capacity, and creativity.
  • From encouraging dependency to integrating the poor into networks of productivity and exchange.
  • From subsidies and protectionism to open trade and competition.
  • From seeing the global economy as a fixed pie to understanding that human enterprise can grow economies.

Justice has many facets and to be sure there are no easy answers. But job creation for sure should be in the mix of answers. Business, free markets and entrepreneurship are keys to prosperity, economic growth and justice for the poor. Let us do all we can to empower the poor with jobs, limit foreign and church “aid” (certainly some is needed in time of crisis), and stimulate small business – and all within the moral context of Biblical justice and the teaching of Jesus.

1 Jim Wallis,How The Bible Understands Justice.
2 Jim Clifton, The Coming Jobs War, p.10
3 Poverty Cure: www.povertycure.org

5 ways Business as Mission may mirror the Protestant Reformation

Sunday, October 29, 2017
Business as Mission restores the Biblical priority of WORK

Protestant churches around the world will be remembering Martin Luther and the tenants of the Reformation this month as October 31 commemorates 500 years since Luther nailed his Theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle in 1517.

Most of us would probably find it difficult to come up with more than two or three of those theses, but most of us can probably articulate the essence of Luther’s and other reformers’ vision – to bring the Christian church back to the truths of the gospel which Jesus left us.  In the subsequent years to 1517, Lutherans, Reformed, Puritans, Pietists, Wesleyans and many others sought to “reformare” – the Latin meaning to form again, or to change.  Modern dictionaries indicate that to reform means to change something with the intention of setting it back on the right path.

Swedish apologist for Business as Mission (BAM), Mats Tunehag reminds us that BAM as a term is only about twenty years old but the idea is as old as the gospel itself.  It is not new.  BAM today challenges some of the practices of the past 150 years and in this sense can perhaps be considered a reformation – a re-discovery of Biblical truths and practices. Why?

1.  BAM is sourced in the Cultural Mandate and the Theology of Work.  

For too long evangelicals have ignored the fact that in the creation story we see God as a God of work (Genesis 1-3). As integral to that narrative, God declared that the first humans are to also be creative and be workers in the garden as good stewards and creators within the physical realm.  Centuries later God reminded Moses that his people were creators “…remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deut. 8:18). Today, for-profit businesses are the natural and biblical mechanism for creating wealth.

Calvin saw work as a means to do something well as a testimony to others.  As we work with excellence, diligence and dedication we are responding to God and is our highest calling. Similarly, Luther declared that that “…the call of God comes to each in the common task.”  

Today, apologists for BAM remind us of the value and importance of work as a  demonstration of who God is to those around us.  When we in business humanly create good things for his glory, we are obeying God and modeling who God is.  Some call this the Creation Mandate or the Cultural Mandate.

2.  BAM highlights the Second Great Commandment of Jesus

Several theological, historical and political events in the twentieth century placed great emphasis on the Great Commission at the expense of the Second Great Commandment.  
 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37).

What does love look like in our world today with so much poverty, injustice and unemployment? BAM is a re-discovery of ways to meet human need without disregard for the Great Commission. Fundamentalists in mid-twentieth century feared the social gospel as likely destructive of the faith and projected a soon return of Jesus to earth. 

However, just as Jesus addressed human physical need and linked it with spiritual need, so job creation is an example of what Jesus means by loving your neighbor.  It is what Jesus would do today where there may be 50% unemployment, extreme poverty and gross injustice, whether the second coming of Jesus is imminent or not. Loving your neighbor for BAM practitioners means producing products and services in ways that provide for my neighbor, and doing so while demonstrating Jesus’ values.

During the plagues of the 2nd and 3rd centuries when thousands were dying daily and as many as could were fleeing the cities, the Christians stayed in town and did what they could to help, even their pagan neighbors.  They loved their neighbors.  Today such love which highlights the Second Commandment of Jesus means jobs in Nepal (and everywhere), an eye clinic in Ethiopia, poultry production in the “stan” countries, alternative energy in the Middle East, a fish farm in east Africa and other similar projects.  Modern day businesses call it CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility, or social responsibility.  I simply call it what Jesus would do.

3. BAM is the re-discovery of the integration of faith and work.

Since the times of the Greek philosophers, work has been considered distinct from philosophy and religion (or ‘thinking’ as Socrates put it).  This sacred and secular dualism reflected an inferior view of work and the philosophy became known as Gnosticism.  Today we often refer to it as the Sacred-Secular Divide (or Dichotomy).

Prior to this Gnosticism distortion most of God’s people in the Old Testament followed careers where they were challenged to represent God through farming, ranching, the military, politics, or business.  Their faith was integrated with work.

In modern times, what Christians think and do in private and in church is often separate from what they do at work.  Monday values do not integrate with Sunday values, or at least they are modified.  Many theologians and sociologists alike have demonstrated that evangelicals today are indistinguishable from unbelievers in the general culture.

But the Quadruple Bottom Line of BAM insists on a high value for four domains – a for-profit business; job creation; Jesus values and the making of disciples; and the stewardship of creation.  All of it is biblical; all of it is important.  The Great Commission is integrated in our business.  We glorify God in all that we do and we do it intentionally.  This is the missional part of the term BAM.

4. BAM means every Christian can and should be involved. 

Prior to the reformation, the gospel resided with the professional clergy and the Bible was not available to the common man.  Ministers had a special relationship with God and they mediated God’s grace and forgiveness through the sacraments.  Only those who could read Latin and the ancient languages could read what God was saying to mankind.  Luther and others unpacked the biblical “priesthood of believers” and translated the Bible into the common languages of the day.  God and the Holy Spirit could then rightly speak to every believer.  The reformers addressed the functional sacred-secular dichotomy of the day and thus made it possible for ever believer to be equally connected to Jesus and the gospel, and live it out in the marketplace.

However, for the past 150 years, the Christian church has outsourced some aspects of the Second Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Missionaries are paid to carry the good news to the ends of the earth; professional clergy are the guardians of truth; and the federal government and the aid agencies seek to “love our neighbor” in distress.

George Gallup states that America today is a “nation of biblical illiterates”1 with fewer and fewer Christians attending a Bible teaching church or reading the Scriptures for themselves.  With such ignorance, it is no small wonder that business and professional people have been marginalized from their role in every priestly endeavor.  But work is worship; business is ministry.  Business does not only make profit in order to support ministry; it is the end in and of itself – for the glory of God!

In the words of Dallas Willard, “Holy people must stop going into ‘church’ work as their natural course of action and take up holy orders in farming, industry, law, education, banking and journalism with the same zeal previously given to evangelism or to pastoral and missionary work.”1

Twentieth century pastor and author, A.W. Tozer stated, “The laymen need never think of his humbler task as being inferior to that of his minister.  Let every man remain in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry.  It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.  The motive is everything.”

5. BAM declares and practices all for the Glory of God.  

The reformers believed that all individual believers were free to worship, serve and glorify God and enjoy him forever.  A believers’ only ambition is the glory of God – Soli Deo Gloria.  Such was carved into the organ at Bach’s church in Leipzig and the composer signed his works with its initials.  Bach and others declared the recovery of God first and foremost in everything.

Contemporary theologian Michael Horton2 along with many historians, considers the far-reaching influence of the reformation in transforming culture.  The work ethic, public education, civic and economic development and a revival of music and the arts all relate to God and His glory.  The reformers emphasis on sin, salvation by grace, and the sovereignty of God demonstrated that with the true gospel at the center, effects in the real world will follow.

It would seem that the church today does not lead in societal change, but to the contrary is drifting into the norms of culture; however, BAM is an effort to bring at least the world of business back under the domain of God’s glory in the world.  This is more in line with the first centuries after Jesus than with the 20th century.

The book of Acts is full of evidence that everyday working believers, as noted when they left Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), took their lives and jobs into the marketplace throughout the Mediterranean world and everywhere lived and preached Jesus.  By Acts 17 they had “caused trouble all over the world” meaning the Greek-Hebrew world between Judea and Greece.  They did that by living for the glory of God in every aspect of life.

BAM today envisions the 21st century as analogous to the first century, unlike the twentieth century, where the marketplace of life (work and business) was considered less than spiritual, wealth distribution was considered more important than wealth creation, Christian business people had limited roles in the church, seminaries did not teach courses on the theology of work and business and, job creation was not valued as a primary means of addressing injustice in the world.

Yes, BAM seeks to bring all of God’s creation into the mainstream of the church and every believer’s life and practice. Business as Mission in many ways mirrors the Reformation of 500 years ago.

1 Willard, Dallas. Dallas Willard, a Man of Deep Love and Christ-like Character
2 Horton, Michael. Reformation Essentials - Five Pillars of the Reformation.

All startups need tugboat help!

Saturday, October 21, 2017
Importance of Consultants for Business as Mission

On September 22 I watched the 66,000 ton cargo ship OOCL San Francisco proceed slowly into the Seattle unloading dock. Within 24 hours this gigantic container ship would unload its tonnage and head back to sea.

As I watched this giant 909-foot ship slowly edge toward to the docks I noticed two tiny, but powerful tugboats along its port side barely visible against the hull of the ship. Why would this great ship which had just traversed the Pacific Ocean and survived the wind and waves of the high seas without help, now need a couple of tugboats to help it in the calm waters of Puget Sound?

A former student of mine is a captain on a super tanker and he explains it this way. It is impossible to control a large ship in tight quarters like inland waters, rivers and harbors. So a special pilot joins the ship as it leaves the sea and pilots the boat in the narrow tricky waterways. This pilot gives directions to the tugs which keep the ship on course with an efficient push or shove in the inland bays and harbors.

Business startups and Small-Medium Enterprises

I could not help but compare to business startups and Small-Medium Enterprises which are striving to scale their business. They may have a good understanding of the customer and a desirable product. Their team may be the best and the cash flow and P&L going just great. But they must remember that there are tricky sea lanes ahead which will require small but powerful nudges to keep it on track.

I am reminded of a visit I made to a Kingdom business in Asia a few years ago. They were doing well with over 60 employees and had a good set of financials with excellent cash flow. Their product was excellent. A year later, three consultants dropped by for a visit to see this excellent endeavor. They had not come to evaluate or to provide consulting services. However, they learned of some serious problems.

In a short 3-day visit they were able to provide some gentle nudges which required some labor cutbacks and some marketing changes. Not long afterwards the owner admitted that without those “tugboats in the harbor” they would not have realized that there were rocks ahead and potential disaster.

Every business needs outsiders to come aboard, ask hard questions, give insights and provide guidance in changing times.

17 entrepreneurship points to ponder and practice

Sunday, October 15, 2017
Inspiration for Business as Mission

This past summer I taught a university course in entrepreneurship.  I love to use videos of the great entrepreneurs and thought leaders of our time.  Here are seventeen quotes from some of those we studied.1

"First get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats, and then they can figure out where to drive it." 
Jim Collins, Good to Great

“The companies that I really admire the most are the ones that have a deep visceral understanding of why people use their service, and they figure out ways of making money that are completely consistent with how people are feeling and what they are doing at the time.”
Ben Silbermann, Pinterest

“Every startup should address a real and demonstrated need in the world. If you build a solution to a problem lots of people have, it’s so easy to sell your product to the world.” 
Kevin Systrom, Instagram

“I’m here to build something for the long-term. Anything else is a distraction.” 
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

“To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials.” 
Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

“You have to be very nimble and very open minded. Your success is going to be very dependent on how you adapt.” 
Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp

“If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.” 
Jeff Bezos, Amazon

“Make every detail perfect and limit the number of details to perfect.” 
Jack Dorsey, Twitter

“Anything that is measured and watched, improves.” 
Bob Parsons, GoDaddy

“The secret to successful hiring is this: look for the people who want to change the world." 
Marc Benioff, Salesforce

“Always deliver more than expected.” 
Larry Page, Google

“Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical.” 
Howard Schultz, Starbucks

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” 
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”
Sara Blakely, Spanx

“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all -- in which case, you fail by default.” 
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

"The common question that gets asked in business is, ‘why?’ That’s a good question, but an equally valid question is, ‘why not?’" 
Jeff Bezos, Amazon

"I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough. 
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo
1    Mavenlink blog, Feb 6, 2017

Freedom through business: hold fast to your dreams

Sunday, October 08, 2017
Business as Mission and Freedom Businesses

The following is a report by international BAM spokesperson, Mats Tunehag.  He reproduces a speech by the founder and CEO of a freedom business, Annie Dieselberg. IBEC partners with the Freedom Business Alliance and this article breathes insight and inspiration into several issues in the BAM movement and especially developing freedom businesses. IBEC partners with the Freedom Business Alliance, where Larry Sharp is a member of the advisory board.

Reprinted with permission 

My wife and I spent a couple of weeks in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos in August. The focus was freedom! Freedom from slavery and injustice, and freedom to live in truth, enjoy beauty, create wealth and share goodness. This is the story of freedom business.

We know that jobs with dignity are a primary need for prevention of human trafficking. It is also a must to bring restoration of survivors of modern day slavery.

That’s why freedom businesses exist, and the Freedom Business Alliance exists to help freedom businesses succeed.

To that end the Freedom Business Forum was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in late August. It was the first global gathering of its kind, and about 140 people from all continents participated. It was a great mix of people and talents, all committed to true freedom through business, with all their hearts and minds.

Freedom business is hard, but necessary. And some are called to it, and as Pope Francis says: “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world.  It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”

The concluding keynote address at the Forum was held by one of my heroines, Annie Dieselberg. She runs a freedom business in Bangkok. Her calling is clear and her commitment exemplary. Her challenging freedom business journey is reflected in a most inspirational speech. Here’s Annie:

Hold fast to your dreams

My children recently decided they needed to make some money. Secretly they began creating products and then they laid them out on the table and announced their store was open. They invited mom and dad to come and to make purchases. What they had created was paper bookmarks, origami, and drawings, which they had priced at around 10-20 baht each. My husband and I each chose a couple of their products and my kids proudly pocketed their income with plans for an outing to the nearest 7/11. They had figured out that earning money was purchasing power and the ability to make choices.

Most of us, if not all of us, at young ages, became aware of the power that money has to give us choices in life. Most of us probably came up with innovative ideas of how to make some money to gain choices that our parents were not providing for us. From lemonade stands, to car washes, to babysitting, or mowing peoples’ lawns, there was in us a desire to create money, because money is purchasing power and gives the ability to make choices. The ability to choose is not something to be taken for granted. It is something that comes with freedom.

Freedom allows for choice, which can be used for good or for evil, for self entirely or for the good of others.

My older daughter Kristina was a nanny for a very wealthy and prominent business family. One day my daughter and the 3 year old were discussing friends. The wealthy family traveled so much that she didn’t have any friends to play with. The 3 year old announced, “That’s okay, I will buy friends.”

This 3 year old already understood that money was power. From her worldview she could get anything she wanted with money. She is too young to understand the negative consequences of misuse of money and power, especially when it comes to relationships.

The business of prostitution and sex trafficking makes billions of dollars of profit for people with evil and selfish goals. It preys on vulnerabilities of people who have few choices in life and turns them into slaves and commodities. It is an obscene abuse of power and of wealth. The dreams of the victims to gain income for their families and improve the quality of life, quickly turns into terrorizing nightmares that scare away their dreams.

Prior to working with women in prostitution, I mostly viewed the business world as the other side – where greedy and selfish people used money used for privilege and exclusivity while ignoring or exploiting the vulnerabilities of the poor. I made the mistake of dismissing business as a whole.

Somewhere around 2003 however, I was introduced to Business as Mission and I began to see the strength of business and the opportunity for individual, community, and global impact.[1] I realized that it wasn’t business or making money that was evil and self-serving, but the misuse of that privilege. I realized that the creation of business, is a key to sustaining freedom, by providing survivors life-giving choices.[2]

I am a survivor… I have survived being a pioneer in the freedom business movement. In 2005, my team and I began NightLight Design Co. Ltd. The story I have told many times over is a humble beginning with one girl over a coke at McDonalds learning to make a necklace. She needed a job and I promised her one so with a prayer and a leap of faith we began. Though I had 5 years experience working with survivors, I did not have any professional business experience. Being a pioneer in the field I had no mentors that could guide me in creating or operating a freedom business.

Initially visiting business people’s advice lacked awareness of the challenges of working with survivors. Mission groups came through with advice on addressing the spiritual or emotional needs, but their advice lacked the understanding of the business side. I quickly discovered that we were pioneers with a big machete in hand, hacking through the jungle vines. We would encounter valleys and mountains, we would get hit in the face with branches, bit by spiders and snakes, trip and fall on our way to find the path. It was messy and it was and is an adventure.

The business took off quickly with a lot of excitement. By the third year we had 88 women employed. I made a hasty and foolish promise to God that I would not reject anyone who came our way for help. It was a promise I couldn’t keep. As other organizations began to emerge with similar businesses and the market quickly became saturated, we began to realize that our model was not sustainable.

We came to a crisis point a few years ago. The negative voices thundered in my head and I began to cave in and doubt the vision that I had believed came from God. I almost quit. I almost gave in to shutting down the business. At about that time Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag[3] came through with encouraging news about the launching of the Freedom Business Alliance[4] and instilled some hope back in me.

Around the same time, God gave me a vivid dream that was a clear warning against aborting the vision. I decided to take a stand and rather than give up we did some re-structuring to save a failing business. That restructuring began to turn things around.

Freedom businesses are hard.

Recently my family was returning from vacation at the beach when my 6 year old daughter asked, “How do you get a hotel?” wow, what a loaded question. Now that I have been in business, I began to list many of the steps from planning, to investment, to design, to construction, interior decorating, restaurant set up, menu, guest services, staffing, and marketing.

By the time I was done listing I concluded that it is a huge project that involves a lot of work. My daughter was not anywhere near as overwhelmed as I was and announced, “I am going to have a hotel.” What was it that made her decide she wanted a hotel? It was her positive experience. She had made the connection albeit naïve, that having a hotel could give people, including herself, a positive experience. She had a dream.

I had a dream of a business that would employ survivors and give them a positive experience. I really had no idea what I was really getting into, but I had a dream and in spite of the challenges I was not going to give up.

Since 2005 we have seen 175 women come through the holistic employment program of NLD and NLF. The women are employed in an environment of faith, hope, and love that they have never experienced before.

One of my heart stories that drives me is a woman I met when she was still in prostitution. She told me that sometimes she did not know if she was still a human being so she cut herself. She said if she saw blood and felt pain she knew she was still alive, still human. When she started making jewelry at NightLight she said to me, “Annie, I used to catch myself with my head low because I was so ashamed of who I was and what I was doing. Now I catch myself with my head up high because I am proud of what I am doing.”

Today that same woman is on staff managing the materials department. She teaches new women and expat groups how to make jewelry. She now has power of choice in her life and she is choosing to make an impact in her community.

Freedom businesses are about the business of restoring that hope, of restoring the power to choose, of redeeming the value of life, and the ability to make money for good and positive impact. Freedom businesses give people the chance to dream again, to believe in a future that has quality of life.

I believe many of you are starting out or in a stage of the dream where it feels hard and honestly when we hear the presentations of some of the very successful businesses it can feel overwhelming. We wonder how we will ever get to that measure of success. We wonder sometimes if we can legitimately call ourselves a business in comparison. We resonate with Kerry’s[5] description of heart-driven decisions. But honestly, none of us here are only heart people. We all have a little of the brain at least. And brains, you all have at least some heart. Otherwise none of us would be here at this forum.

The Freedom Business Alliance is in fact an intersection of the two. If we were all heart, we would be content just working at a soup kitchen or a relief agency. If we were all brain we would probably be doing business completely oblivious to the crying demands of survivors. All of us are here because we either have big hearts with growing business brains, or big business brains with growing or enlightened hearts. We all dream of a world where business has a great social impact and provides jobs, freedom, choice, and quality of life to survivors, their families, and their communities.

Langston Hughes wrote, “Hold fast to your dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” The women we encounter in the sex industry are broken-winged birds who cannot fly, birds caught in cages, bought and sold and with each sell they lose sight of themselves and their dreams.

Freedom businesses open up the cage doors and bring the broken-winged into a place of security, of love, of healing, and of hope.

Freedom businesses give women back their dreams and through freedom businesses women are given back their ability to fly. Hold fast to your dreams!

Freedom business founders and leaders, hold fast to your dreams! I cannot promise it will be easy, but with each bird, each woman, who flies again, we forget the costs, the labor, the sacrifice, and we celebrate life and freedom.

Annie Dieselberg, NightLight [6]
Keynote address at the Freedom Business Forum [7], Chiang Mai, Thailand
Delivered August 23, 2017

Notes added by Mats Tunehag / MatsTunehag.com:

[3] Jennifer & Mats Tunehag visited Annie in Bangkok in February 2015

[5] Kerry Hilton also spoke at the Freedom Business Forum. He runs a freedom business: Freeset.

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