Archive for Skybridge
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.
Prior to launching a start-up company, some key questions have to be answered. Chief among these is how the venture will create customers. Toward that end a business plan is drafted, critiqued and revised continually. This helps gather the team around a shared vision that helps them agree and understand how the venture will succeed (or fail) with goals for both the top and bottom lines and everything in between.
For BAM or marketplace ministry ventures, a little more input will prove to be helpful. There are a number of key questions that, when addressed on the front end, will impact outcomes. Included among these issues are:
On Tuesday, (10/25) I will have the privilege of chatting with several that are involved in or considering pursuing BAM opportunities to facilitate a discussion on these and other key issues with the SkyBridge Community. If you have interest in launching a BAM enterprise or using your marketplace ministry with more intentionality, I invite you to join this conversation.
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