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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.

Socially conscious business and Business as Mission – what’s the difference?

Sunday, October 01, 2017
Definitions / Descriptors for BAM / Business as Mission

Many terms surround the space in which IBEC works; terms such as socially conscious business, Business as Mission (BAM), social enterprise, Business for Transformation (B4T), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Benefit Corporation among others. The following grid is far from perfect, but perhaps will help a little in creating some understanding. I welcome your comments.

Socially Conscious Business

Business as Mission (BAM)

Definition: Business committed to an attitude of sensitivity toward and sense of responsibility regarding injustice and societal problems. Definition:  Legitimate business activity which serves as a vehicle for sharing the love of Christ and helps make followers of Jesus and transform communities.
Focus primarily on social issues, but also includes spiritual and economic objectives; aims for profitability. Focus on job creation as primary way to address community need, together with spiritual objectives and profitability.
Historic Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet and Profit
Quadruple Bottom Line: People, Planet and Profit plus Spiritual capital
Often called social enterprises. Often called Kingdom businesses.
Oftentimes registered as a Not-For-Profit; but can be a For-Profit company.
Usually registered as a For-Profit company, but can be Not-For-Profit.
Sustainable success measured largely by profitability, job creation and on social change. Sustainable success measured largely by profitability, job creation and spiritual transformation.
Location: Businesses anywhere in the world. Location: Businesses primarily in undeveloped countries, though the principle in developed countries might be called Business as Ministry.
Legally usually a 501 c/3, Limited Liability (L3C), or Benefit Corporation (B-Corp). Legally usually LLC, S-Corporation, C-Corporation, Partnership, or Sole Proprietorship.
Sample social enterprises: RUNA, Ashoka, Eco Scraps, Harvest Power Sample BAM companies: Pacific Resources International, Galtronics, Barrington Gifts
Some spokespeople: Seth Godin, Matt Flannery, Blake Mycoskie, Mohammed Yunus Some spokespeople: Mats Tunehag, Dwight Nordstrom, Mike Baer
Very similar terms: Social enterprise; social entrepreneurship Very similar terms: Business for Transformation (B4T)

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission