Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done… in Business
As we begin a new year, we are posting some ‘foundational’ material on our biblical foundations for business as mission and how we respond to God’s call in each of our individual lives and circumstances.
Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done… in Business
This was the title of a report for the BAM Global Think Tank with the subtitle “Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission” of which this blog post is an excerpt.
The working group who produced the report defined its purpose as identifying principles, models and practices of business that give expression to its role in advancing God’s purpose or mission in the world. Broadly speaking, they worked from the premise that God’s purpose is to establish His Kingdom—a Kingdom to be fully consummated with the second coming of Jesus Christ, but inaugurated in ‘this present age’ (Tit 2:11–14). The establishment of His Kingdom presupposes the redemption of the whole of creation (Rom 8:19–22).
What this means for business is that although profit matters for the sustainability of any business enterprise, it is not the raison d’etre for business as mission (BAM). BAM exists to pursue a different ‘p’, that of (God’s) purpose.
Thoughts on the Fundamental Biblical Purpose of Business
God calls His people to do good… Whenever business is carried out justly, it does good and is God-ordained because we are assured that all good things ‘come from above’ (Jas 1:17). God created the marketplace to serve positive ends. Human provision, facilitated by the beneficial exchanges of the marketplace, is a fundamental function of creation. Commerce can also be, at least informally, a means of revelatory grace, specifically as immanent charis, the kindness, mercy, and goodwill of God in the world, as business generates wealth that can be used to pay wages, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for widows and orphans. Business can be evangelizing witness to the glory of God… Christ is present in the marketplace when the devout carry out their business in accordance with God’s will, purposes, and character (Doty, 2011, pp. 93–4).
Understanding God’s purposes for business comes through understanding God’s purpose for humans outlined in Genesis and understanding God’s purposes for institutions (principalities and powers outlined in the New Testament writings). Broadly, the purpose of business lies within the context of the purpose of life―that is, the ‘chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy God forever’
(Westminster Confession). God is in the people-developing ‘business’ to make a people to live in harmonious relationship with God and with one another (Daniels, 2012, p. 60).
First, business appears to be uniquely well situated to work the fields, to cause the land to be fruitful, and to fill the earth—what we might in modern parlance characterize as “to create wealth”. Second, business is the dominant institution (although obviously not the only one) equipped to provide organized opportunities for meaningful and creative work (Van Duzer, 2010, pp. 41–2).
Business, from a Christian viewpoint… is a calling to transformational service for the common good. It is a calling on personal, institutional and structural levels to serve God and participate in his ministry of bettering the lives of others in multiple dimensions (Wong & Rae, 2011, p. 284).
Christ talks about invasion: may God’s Kingdom come on earth, may God’s will be done in our lives and societies today. The incarnational mystery is one of engagement, living among us, sharing our lives and circumstances.
Business as Mission recognizes our calling to be salt and light in the marketplace. It is not about evacuating Christians from a sinful and corrupt sphere, but rather becoming an answer to the Lord’s Prayer: May your Kingdom come in the business world (Tunehag, 2013b).
[W]hen I speak of a Kingdom business or a Kingdom company, I use the term to describe a business that is specifically, consciously, clearly, and intentionally connected to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom in this world. In other words, it is directly involved in making disciples of all nations… (Baer, 2009, p. 28)
[Business As Mission] is broadly defined as a for-profit commercial business venture that is Christian led, intentionally devoted to being used as an instrument of God’s mission (missio Dei) to the world, and is operated in a cross-cultural environment, either domestic or international (Johnson, 2009, pp. 27–8).
But we must also include God as a stakeholder (in business) and thus we need to ask: How can we shape business for God and for the common good? We recognize the importance of and embrace Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR.
But we aim at more than CSR: BAM is CSR+, i.e. to start and grow businesses to serve people, align with God’s purposes, be good stewards of the planet and make a profit (Tunehag, 2013a).
‘Give a man a fish; you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime’―author unknown. Revised saying, ‘Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime. Teach a man how to establish a fishing business; and you not only feed him for a lifetime, but bring benefits to his family and the community. As a business entrepreneur operating from a Biblical Worldview, I cannot be satisfied with just teaching a man to fish but, rather, helping a man establish a fishing business that results in economic, social, environmental and spiritual transformation. A business leader called to be a BAMer has broader influence in the community than most people, even those called to ‘ministry’ (pastors, missionaries, church workers) because his/her contacts are across many more areas in the community and (are) more visible during the entire week. He/she has to live out their faith every day, at every transaction, meeting, sales; at work, and in the community (member of the working group).
I am just a small business man who has a calling to work with the unsaved and I enjoy that (member of the working group).
The quotes above capture the essence of the purpose of business. In simple terms, the purpose of business is to fulfill the purpose of God in the world which, in turn, is redemption (see, for example Walsh & Middleton, 1984, Stevens, 2006, Wright, 2006, and Daniels, 2012). The last quote expresses the heart of many in BAM. They are ‘ordinary people’ following their calling without calling attention to themselves. Yet, they are doing extraordinary things.
This blog post is an excerpt from the BAM Global Think Tank Report on Biblical Foundations for BAM Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be Done… Through Business. For references and to read the full report, please download here.