Archive for business as mission
Even with efforts to increase efficiency, the core team cannot keep up. The number of personnel required to meet the objective must increase by a sizable factor. If we, the body of Christ, are going to declare the reign of God, then it is essential that all members labor toward that end.
It is time for the church to bless and send out all of her people to live and share the good news that is the gospel. It is time for the professional clergy to empower and serve the worldly professionals that are going out into the highways and hedges daily. It is time for the stories of the laity to be featured center stage because they are profound in spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.
The church that sends herself out will inevitably look a lot like Jesus. The church that ’employs’ all of its’ members to live sent will end up changing the community. In turn, she will be changed into a more faithful representation of the bride of Christ.
“…the church needs to realize that an informed, effective, and culturally appropriate sending of her people will include both traditional and alternative paths to mission.”
This excerpt comes from my contribution to an upcoming book with The Upstream Collective. To learn more about Tradecraft for the Church on Mission, check out Exploring Alternative Paths to mission. I’ll share more about the book when it is available.
I have been working for several months with SkyBridge Community to evaluate how we can better help expatriates live on purpose. There are significant changes coming very soon. More on this in the days to come possibly here and definitely at the SkyBridge site. I would encourage you to check it out if you are open to considering what it might look like to live as a sent one to the nations.
Am reposting this video here as it sums up well what it looks like to live differently. What it looks like to be a trader.
Had a great time last night meeting people, hearing stories, sharing with and learning from others at the Engage@Work forum who are seeking to live out the whole gospel by seeing their work as part of the expression of their faith. The goal of the night was to begin to raise some questions about what this might look like. Special attention was given to what it may look like to conduct business in light of the triple bottom line.
For any readers that may be familiar with the idea of the bottom line, but unfamiliar with where it comes from, this is simply a number that comes from the Income Statement (some refer to this as a profit and loss statement). It is the remaining number (“in the black”) at the bottom that is calculated by taking revenues (green) and subtracting out expenses (“in the red”). Naturally, companies and individuals (and yes, even governments eventually) must pay attention to the bottom line. But the question arises, is that enough? Is making money all that business or life is about?
Socrates stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I would offer that evaluating business from a triple bottom line (TBL) is an attempt to do this examination thing for a business entity. And that, I would offer, is a very good thing. A TBL approach will evaluate whether or not a company is achieving their objectives in profit, people (this may include but is not limited social justice) and place (such as environmental issues, city beautification, etc.).
In extending the conversation, I would propose that doing TBL evaluation can be unwieldy. Still important conceptually, just difficult. I have seen businesses seeking to implement some dashboard metrics that included TBL issues, and found evaluation difficult because of the multiple outcomes. To aid in this, I would offer that it would be ideal to incorporate having an impact on people and/or place in the business plan as key factors that would be able to be key in our ability to also drive the monetary bottom line. Some good examples of this would include TOMS and Land of a Thousand Hills. If there is a big idea that resonates as true and worthwhile with others, then it should give a competitive advantage when all other things are equal. Even when other things such as price or ease of access are not equal, it may still give a distinct benefit that will help drive the old-fashioned bottom line.
Historically, businesses that have sought to do good have primarily done that through charitable giving. This avenue is still healthy and has great merit. But finding ways to incorporate being a blessing to others and/or to the creation we are to steward are definitely worthwhile pursuits to incorporate into business plans and practices.
Sent as Christ was sent, we are, I would offer, sent as the wise ones (among other things). So, what say you wise ones? What do we do with the TBL as we seek to live out the gospel?
This video quickly illustrates some of the cultural differences between a western mindset and what is the uniqueness of Russia. This provides a funny look at some extremes in culture, but also serves as a reminder of some of the challenges that lay ahead in seeking to do business as mission in a foreign context.
Next week Sojourn Community Church will be hosting an Engage@Work Forum where I will be participating on a panel. In preparation for that, panelists were asked to put a paragraph down addressing “why [work] is an important issue for Christians and the church as a whole to consider.” Below is my response. Other responses will be linked here as soon as they are posted.
Work began or at least was radically altered as a result of the curse and consequence of sin as recorded in Genesis. Because of this, redemption of a person’s work is one of the key ways that evidence transformation by Christ. While this real-world working out of one’s faith is naturally a blessing to the individual, it is vastly more. In a context where bottom-line and the resulting self-gratification is often viewed as both the primary objective and metric, work that is done for the glory of God is markedly different to observers including co-workers, clients and the community. Products manufactured and services delivered with the highest levels of quality control, contributions to make more just the lives of the needy, work relationships that are healthy and others-oriented, and work policies and practices that raise the ethic levels of the business showing it to be distinctly different are some of the ways that exalt Christ in the workplace. In a day of globalization, work that is conducted in this way has potential to provide evidence of the reign of God to the nations. This transformation of work from being the curse of man to a vehicle that exalts Christ to the nations in keeping with the mission of God is a clear example of the complete redemption that comes only through Christ.
With the different wiring and issues facing the mission-oriented person (MOP) and the business-oriented person (BOP), there are several options for how to be about business as mission (BAM). The first option is to determine that one type of individual and resulting strategy is categorically right and the other is always wrong. There are a host of issues that make this a poor choice, so let’s put this choice aside for now. Second would be to allow that both have merit and each MOP or BOP should find his or her own way. I have seen cases where this has and is happening, but often with poor results. A third option would be for the church to come alongside the MOP or BOP person and resulting proposed strategy and speak into the conversation, process and strategy. This is, I am convinced, a super healthy way to move forward.
If mission belongs to the church, then BAM is a tool or strategy for the church to use. The church is uniquely positioned to be able to work with the MOP to bring some BOP(s) into a collaborative relationship to be able to speak into strategy and process. On the other side of the scale, the church can bring MOP(s) into a consultative relationship with the BOP person being sent out to provide balance and perspective.
The church that is seeking to take rightful ownership of the commission of Christ can as a healthy body help in addressing strategy in a range of areas including resourcing whether it be expertise, legal counsel, capital fund-raising, business plans, missional living coaching, etc. The church is key in seeing the gospel go forward. If she takes ownership of this responsibility, then she should also prepare to work in a range of ways and strategies including BAM.
As this happens, there will be a slew of new questions to address. At the base level, the church will do well to look to answer the question about her role both if and in BAM as a strategy for her people to reach out to those to whom they have been sent.
There is a rising interest and practice in the use of business to do mission. With this comes both new opportunities and new challenges. As I have been involved in this some over the years in a couple different iterations, I thought it would be helpful to begin writing on the topic here from time to time. Following are some revised notes from a chat I facilitated last month with Skybridge Community. The follow-up post will deal with the church’s role in business as mission. While this would not normally be a first post on BAM stuff without laying more groundwork, I have promised to get this up for use by a church I am currently in consultation with on the topic. Of course, we can always go backward in the future…blogs are fluid!
There is, I believe, a distinct difference between mission-oriented people (MOP) that are seeking to use business and business-oriented people (BOP) that are seeking to be on mission. When the MOP speaks of business as mission (BAM), they are usually talking about a platform. For the BOP, when speaking about the business aspect of BAM, they are usually thinking more in terms of a profitable, self-sustaining business model. Both of these have value. At the same time, both wirings come with some difficulties (more on this another time).
Most people will be able to self-identify quickly as being either a MOP or a BOP. Some natural ways to determine this would deal with whether someone is more comfortable developing a business plan or a ministry plan. Are they more comfortable interpreting financial statements or exegeting culture? Is reading business books and magazines more or less desirable than reading Christian literature? Does their conversation tend toward business or church models? Generally, a person will lean in one direction or the other.
The mission-oriented person (MOP) and the business-oriented person (BOP) will naturally have different questions and face different challenges.
Common questions and challenges for the MOP:
– What are opportunities to fund the mission effort?
– How can I get into meaningful relationships with non-believing nationals?
– How do I gain experience / credibility in business?
– How should I pursue / maintain excellence / professionalism?
– How much time do I have to spend on business type activities?
Common questions and challenges for the BOP:
– Where can I find good workers and legal structure to expand my business or outsource parts of my current business?
– What job / business model exists or is possible that fits my giftings and context?
– How do I balance work and mission?
– How can I practically be about the mission?
– How can I fully engage culture / be a learner?
Next BAM post: BAM and church