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Business as Mission

"Business not only creates valuable goods and services, but we’re creating employment for people that allows them to have a whole different sense of who they are, what their purpose is, and what their hope is for the future. And the social implications of that are just enormous. "
- C. Neal Johnson


C. Neal Johnson defines business as mission (BAM)* as “a for-profit commercial business venture that is Christian led, intentionally devoted to being used as an instrument of God’s mission to the world (missio dei), and is operated in a cross-cultural environment, either domestic or international.”

Such business enterprise has the potential to generate new wealth and resources in developing countries through a combination of creativity, risk and work, to provide important goods and services, and to build networks of human relationships. These natural fruits of honest, competent business activity also provide opportunities for a broad range of mission activities, addressing spiritual needs hand in hand with social, economic and environmental needs.

Business as Missions vs. Tentmaker Missions

The business-as-mission entrepreneur is related to but distinct from the “tentmaker” missionary. Both are self-supported, and both involve representing Christ in the workplace. However, the primary reason the tentmaker missionary takes a paying job in the mission field is to pay for his mission work, whereas the business venture that epitomizes BAM serves as the primary context for the mission witness.

In business as mission, the mission is worked out in and through the business, through its activities, through the products and services, and through relationships created and nurtured in building and doing business. The businesses themselves, and daily life in these businesses, become the channels for embodying and communicating the good news of Jesus to “all nations.”

Johnson emphasizes that it isn’t a simple matter of one approach being superior to the other. For some considering self-supported mission work, the tentmaker model will best fit their talents and opportunities. For others (as in the case of Christians with entrepreneurial talent and experience) the business-as-mission model may afford the greatest opportunities for spreading the Gospel and advancing the kingdom.

Business as a Mission – Objectives of the BAM Entrepreneur

  • Create jobs and provide dignified work for poor or marginalized communities.
  • Profitably introduce essential goods or services into an impoverished community.
  • Model good environmental stewardship, including the wise use of natural resources.
  • Transfer skills and training, spinning off new businesses and encouraging entrepreneurship.
  • Through skilled and honest business leadership, become a respected and influential voice in the community.
  • Model biblical principles and sound business ethics.
  • Become a witness of Jesus in word and deed in the context of everyday life.
  • Disciple newer Christians through the organic relationships arising from business activity.
  • Strengthen the local church, helping to establish new church plants or providing economic stability for believers.
  • Use some of the business’s profits to fund community or church projects 

The Business as Mission website concludes its summary of BAM this way:

Business has tremendous potential as a force for good, to tackle poverty, to stimulate local economies, to bring social and environment improvements and to carry the message of eternal hope to people and places which are often otherwise beyond reach.  And because a profitable business is self-sustaining, it can help to bring about sustainable social, economic, environmental and spiritual transformation.

Rethink Poverty

Subtitled in 15 languages, this six part video series that will change absolutely everything about how you approach charity and missions.