These days the term “Business as Mission” (BAM) gets used a lot, and synonymously it seems, with many other terms such as “Marketplace Ministry,” “Kingdom Business,” “tentmaking,” and “Microenterprise Development.” Are these essentially all the same? If not, what are the differences?
Neal Johnson and I published a paper about this in 2006 entitled “Distinctives and Challenges of Business as Mission.” In it we argue that there are similarities, but also important differences between these terms. Our impressions were reinforced in 2004 when the Lausanne Conference that year established not one, but four separate “issue groups” to discuss the trends and challenges associated with the various efforts to combine business and missions.
For those who would rather not read our 22-page paper on this subject, you can watch this 10-minute segment of a lecture from my Business as Mission course at Biola. Keep in mind that the students have read the paper in advance, so there is some interaction with them about the paper. Also, this is merely a brief introduction to the subject. It is not a complete exposition of it. Over the course of the semester we drill down deeper, which provides me with many opportunities to unpack, clarify, retract, and qualify things that were only touched on lightly in this introductory lecture
Truth be told, I’ve grown weary of these debates. Arguments over “this is BAM, but not that” run the risk of being divisive and discouraging to people who are otherwise trying to be faithful servants of Christ in the marketplace. I’d much rather we spend our energies affirming and encouraging all good work being done in Christ’s name. Yes, BAM is unique, and merits some specialized training. But I’m not willing to shed any blood defending mine or anyone else’s definition of it.