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Business is deeply divine and deeply human. Doing business reflects who God is, and who we are. God is the Creator; making good things for himself and others. The triune God created in community for community, including Adam and Eve. We are created in God’s image, and thus we also create – in this case, good products and services.

Genesis tells us that God did quality control at the end of each creation / production day, and found the products good.   We also strive for excellence in business.

God told Adam and Eve to work in the garden; by sowing one seed they could reap twenty. Thus they were involved in a value-add process. They received a good return on their investment, ROI, and made a profit.

Work, creativity, value added processes, profit, ROI, product development, quality control, and serving the common good – business fundamentals – are all found in the first chapters of the Bible.

The genesis of BAM* is in Genesis.

* Business as Mission. For more info click here

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Two video vignettes, about a minute and a half each.

1. Do Business Like Bach!

 Business is an instrument which we shall fine-tune to serve people and glorify God.

2. Wall Street vs. BAM Street 

The Wall Street model is too limited; we need a more broad and impactful BAM Street concept.

 

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By Ibec Ventures

 

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Remember the Soviet Union? It was communist country with a planned centralized economy, violations of human rights were prevalent, and it also lacked freedoms to act in the market place. I was there – witnessed a dysfunctional state first hand. It was like a giant statue with feet of clay, and it did eventually fall over and implode in December 1991.

One country became 15 countries. One currency became 15 currencies. One grand artificial and dysfunctional economic system crumbled and 15 new nations had to re-group and try to adjust to a market based global economy.

I kept traveling to the now former Soviet Union, and kept working in Central Asia, in the ‘stans’: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and so forth. But it wasn’t just geopolitical changes and turmoil. A lot of Christian agencies came to the region from all over the world. We also witnessed a quite remarkable growth of people from a Muslim background becoming followers of Jesus.

At the same time there was an exponential growth of unemployment and underemployment. It was on a scale that most of us find hard to fathom. With it came all kinds of social problems. How could we as followers of Jesus respond to this need? Business people were needed. But churches and mission agencies did not call upon the people qualified to address these challenges.

So in the mid-90’s we started to explore how we could engage, equip and connect Christians in business with the needs and opportunities in the Central Asia region. We started the Central Asia Business Consultation and ran it for ten years. The lessons learned, including developing processes and networks to listen, learn, share and connect, were foundational for the development of the global think tanks on Business as Mission.

A second game changer was the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. If our sole success criterion is church planting and growth, Rwanda was probably the ultimate success story in the history of church and missions. It went from 0 to approximately 90 percent of the population becoming members of various churches in about 100 years. But in the spring of 1994 about one million people were killed in just a few months. It literally was Christians killing Christians. Rwanda had people in church but not church in people. The gospel had not transformed ethnic relations, politics and media.

These tragic events forced me to review our mission. What is the mission of the church? How can we serve people and nations towards a holistic transformation, believing that God can transform individuals and communities, churches and nations? What does it mean to be a Christian in the marketplace? How can we do business as mission, law as mission, education as mission, and city planning as mission? How can we serve God and the common good? What does it mean in practice and what are the lessons learned regarding seeking the Shalom and prosperity of cities and nations? (Jer. 29) How do we affirm, equip and deploy business people to exercise theirs gifts of wealth creation for the nations? (Deut. 8)

20 years ago we could not credibly talk about a global BAM movement. Today – by the grace of God – we can. The two global BAM think tank processes, starting in 2002, have been instrumental in bringing about a global cohesion and understanding of the BAM concept. They have also created an unprecedented connectedness of people and ideas.

It has been an exciting journey, both surprising and overwhelming. But it is a true privilege to be a part of global community who are on a rediscovery journey of Biblical truths on work, justice, business, profit and creating in community for community. We are witnessing a great reawakening in the church worldwide. May this lead to a reformation, as we shape and reshape our businesses for God and the common good.

PS. See also previous article: Rwanda: The Death and Resurrection of a Nation

Good books on Rwanda:

* The Angels Have Left Us, by Hugh McCullum

* The bishop of Rwanda, by John Rucyahana

* Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing,
by Patricia Crisafulli & Andrea Redmond

 

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Business as Mission, BAM, is not a technique. It is a worldview and a lifestyle. It is about following Jesus in the marketplace – to the ends of the earth; loving God and serving people through business.

  • BAM is not doing business with a touch of ‘churchianity’
  • BAM is not Christians just doing social enterprise.
  • BAM always considers God as a stakeholder who has a vested interested in multiple bottom lines and multiple stakeholders.
  • BAM must be underpinned by a Biblical worldview, informing our planning, operations and evaluation.

One very important aspect of worldview is time. This has implications on what we can do and what God does.

This affects how we plan, operate and evaluate a BAM business, aiming at a positive impact on multiple bottom-lines for multiple stakeholders. As we do this, there are extremes to be avoided: we try to quantify and monetize everything, or nothing.

We need to ask: how can God be a stakeholder and how can we aim at a Kingdom of God impact?

This is where Chronos and Kairos come in. These are two words in Greek for time.

Chronos is quantitative, sequential and of course related to the word chronological. We operate in the Chronos, we plan and evaluate in the chronological time, also in business.

Kairos is qualitative, the supreme moment, the right time. This is for example used for God’s intervention, in the fullness of time. We cannot control this, but we can set the stage for it to some extent.

Daniel and his three friends were involved in Civil Service as Mission. In the six first chapters of the book of Daniel we observe:

* Daniel and his friends served God and the nation with professionalism, excellence and integrity. (Chronos)

* God used that to occasionally intervene (Kairos) to bring glory to himself and transform people and nations.

* Most days for Daniel and company were just another day, week, year, decade in the office. But their faithful and good work (in the Chronos) set the stage for miracles and changed lives; in the right moment God intervened. (Kairos)

 

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This is essential as we run BAM businesses. How can we serve our customers, staff and suppliers with professionalism, excellence and integrity? We can and should carefully plan, execute and evaluate accordingly. But we also need to understand that we cannot convert anyone, push through or force a spiritual impact. But what steps can we take in the Chronos to set the stage for Kairos?

Or in the words of the apostle Paul: I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow.

Like Daniel and his friends, we must be prepared for another day, week, year, and decade in the business, as we constantly and intentionally shape the business for God and people, for many stakeholders and for multiple bottom-lines.

Chronos and Kairos help us to plan and set reasonable expectations, to see what we can do and what God can do. It can hopefully make us relax and trust God: we plant and water, but God will bring life and growth.

 

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Return on investment – ROI. This is a common term and acronym in the financial world as well as in the business community. People invest in businesses with a hope of getting a good return. This is also the lifeblood of the stock exchanges around the world. Companies need financial capital to start and to grow. Many start-ups get money from the 3 F’s: friends, family and fools. They may not see their money grow or return.

As we acknowledge the importance of both financial capital and investors, we also need to review the concept of ROI. The most prevalent paradigm is a Wall Street concept.

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Simply put, Wall Street is relatively one-dimensional: it is about money. Investors put some money into a business, with the hope and expectation to get more money back in the shortest time possible. That it is a two-way street: money goes from investor to business, and then back from business to investor. This is not bad or evil, but we need to think bigger, beyond the traditional ROI. We need to move from Wall Street to BAM Street.

Business as Mission is about seeking a positive impact on multiple bottom-lines for multiple stakeholders – through business. In BAM God is always one of the stakeholders, thus we are not Christians just doing social enterprise.

The BAM Street is different from Wall Street. A company needs financial capital and it needs to make a profit, but that’s not all. We recognize the importance of other bottom-lines as well. John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods, states that businesses should “endeavor to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical, and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders”.*

BAM Street recognizes the importance of investors, business owners and operators, but we also value other stakeholders such as staff, clients, God, customers, community, creation, suppliers, church, family, and so forth.

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BAM Street is multi-dimensional. Besides financial capital we are also intentional about putting in other kinds of capital into a business: intellectual – like mentors, and spiritual – like prayer. And it is more of a roundabout than a simple two-way street.

Roundabouts have multiple entry and exit points. I may put money in, but the financial return (part of or whole) may go to some other entity in the BAM eco-system. Part of the profit can go the community, to profit-sharing schemes or into investments in other BAM companies. (See PS)

The BAM Street engages more people and groups with various resources, to go in and through a business, to be a blessing on many levels for many stakeholders.

The global BAM movement needs more financial capital. But more money is not enough if we just think and operate on a Wall Street concept. We also need a discussion of what we mean by ROI. Should we settle for Wall Street, or should we move towards BAM Street? With the latter model we can see more and different kinds of capital invested in businesses, with more returns to more stakeholders.

 

PS. To learn more about how a BAM Street model works – and has worked since 2001, please see http://www.transformationalsme.org

PPS: Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury just published an article in The Telegraph, where he writes that “… inclusive capitalism does not always seek the maximisation of reward, but rather the maximisation of human flourishing.” See The Telegraph

* Conscious Capitalism, by John Mackey & Raj Sisodia

 

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