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What’s so different about Business as Mission?

Editorial by Sarah Dusek - With the huge explosion of mission terminology in recent years the potential for confusion abounds. Terminology such as Business as Mission (BAM), Tent Making, Work Place Ministries and Enterprise Development all refer to very different mission strategies but all fall under the banner of economic-based mission or Kingdom Business. For the purpose of understanding where one term ends and another begins a brief explanation of the major terms currently being utilised will be explored here.

Tent Making

In recent years Tent Making has been a commonly used practice, enabling individuals to use their professional skills to gain work in another country, in order to relate to nationals and in turn communicate the gospel. The concept of Tent Making originates from the apostle Paul, whose profession was making tents, which he successfully combined with church planting. Since Paul’s adoption of this method of combining work and ministry, Tent Making has been utilised by numerous groups of people in history. In fourteenth century Italy the Waldensians are reported to have travelled about as peddlers preaching and teaching wherever they went. Similarly the Moravians went out to establish new villages with all of the trades necessary for a small town1 and in the early nineteenth century David Livingstone pioneered the themes of ‘Christianity, Commerce, and Civilisation.’2

Today Tent Making specifically refers to the use of professional, business or trade skills to work for a living in a cross-cultural situation in order to witness for Christ. It is a ministry which takes place primarily in a commercial context.

Work Place Ministries

Similarly to Tent Making, Work Place Ministries focuses on utilising the work place as a means for presenting the gospel to work colleagues. However, in contrast, Work Place Ministries occurs within the same cultural setting, no cultural or national boundaries need to be crossed in order to minister the gospel.

Enterprise Development

Enterprise Development is close in definition to BAM as it refers to the start up of small enterprises through the use of micro-finance loans. Its aim is to empower those affected by poverty to start small scale businesses and in affect change their communities. Enterprise Development focuses largely on community development and it represents a more passive Christian model. Its intention is not necessarily to actively promote the communication of the gospel but encourage development and the alleviation of poverty.

Business as Mission (BAM)

BAM is the newest branch to emerge within the Kingdom Business movement, the term BAM first being coined in 1999 in the UK and subsequently confirmed in 2004 by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization in Pattaya, Thailand.

BAM recommends a holistic and inclusive approach to mission which is not intended to be simply an access strategy or only a source of income for missionaries. BAM’s focus is the creation and utilisation of businesses in least evangelised places for the purpose of bringing Kingdom transformation. BAM believes in the redemptive potential of business itself and attempts to make an impact on a financial, social, spiritual and environmental level. BAM insists upon a concerted effort within the company to witness for Christ both overtly and through holistic lifestyle evangelism, for example, through Bible studies, as well as training in literacy, health care, child care, and nutrition. It is intended to be an integral holistic mission strategy that specifically aims to meet physical as well as spiritual needs in the least-evangelised and least-developed parts of the world.

BAM Companies often promote leadership training and development from within the company, with the long-term goal of turning over management and possibly ownership of the company to national employees. This is a distinct difference from Enterprise Development micro-finance initiatives, which are based on local entrepreneurial activity and ownership from the outset. BAM is a missionary strategy that aims to bring outside resources of personnel and finance into an area in order to create businesses that will affect the immediate community and, potentially, the country’s economy. Rundle and Steffen suggest that there is no limit to the form a BAM Company can take but that there are some basic characteristics that they all have in common which enable a BAM Company to be defined as: a socially responsible, income producing business managed by Kingdom professionals and created for the specific purpose of glorifying God and promoting the growth and multiplication of local churches in the least evangelised and least developed parts of the world.

The connection of the business to the development of local churches, either their initial creation or support of existing churches, is a high priority for BAM.

Fundamentally BAM Companies are real enterprises which aim to be profitable and successful on numerous levels. Businesses which in affect are only fake businesses that act as fronts to provide visas in order to gain access to a country are not considered to be legitimate BAM enterprises.

Economic-Based Mission

Each of the four described approaches embraces the reality that work is not in itself evil but is an essential aspect of life in which Christ can be demonstrated and revealed. BAM undoubtedly takes this theological stand point to its fullest development with its holistic missional expectation of bringing Kingdom transformation by establishing businesses. However, this is not to dismiss the value and use of the other strategies. All forms of economic-based mission are relevant and offer unique missional opportunities in our constantly changing twenty-first century world. The challenge that remains therefore is to ensure that if we are engaged in business that we are intentionally missional and understand the mission which God has called us to.

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posted by Justin Forman | 12.07.2008 - 2:00 PM


Thanks for the clarification, and definitions. It really helps when talking about these areas so that people have an understanding of what a company or person is trying to do. thanks
commented by Blogger DG, 10:09 AM  

Thank you for the article. Now it is easy to explain some of the initiatives we have taken this year.sunilklavara@gmail.com www.picasaweb.google.com/sunilklavara
commented by Blogger storehouse, 8:11 PM  

Are there any BAM companies working within the nutrition or personal trainer world?
commented by Anonymous W. Medlen, 10:32 PM  

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