Key Principles For Sustainable Spiritual Growth In Business As Mission.
The following is content given in a keynote speech at the2020 Lion’s Den Business-As-Mission conference in Birmingham, Alabama.
I sought out the Lord in preparation for this speaking engagement and tried to discern what He wanted us to think about. I felt led to the phrase ‘Play Together’.
I think what the Lord wants to point out to us is playing together is what makes Christians different in the business space.
‘The World’ does business in a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog way, but as Christians we have an advantage: We are called to cooperate.
We saw this play out recently in a new Business As Mission (BAM) tech project I’m involved with. Owing to how the COVID-19 crisis has crippled the way traditional ways churches reach their communities, we started a group that could deliver the technical expertise to help them grow. With experienced leaders in web, mobile app, video creation-editing-streaming, and more, we established a project that could help churches deliver new ways of reaching their audiences despite the multiple lockdowns and restrictions imposed upon them by the UK government.
One of our product lines are very high quality but cost-effective websites. However, as we were starting to market these we came across another company that specialises in inexpensive church websites. They had been around for a long time, and their mission was exactly our mission: to help churches become more effective at reaching more people.
We don’t know these people, but we decided there was no need for us to compete with them and try to take business that could go to them. Even though we have very strong relational links to large denominations, and could probably win that business, we decided we’d refer churches that want low price websites to them, and we’d focus on other areas we can deliver impact.
As Christian business owners, we believe it all belongs to God anyway; so why unnecessarily compete against His other interests? That is our advantage as Christians, we can cooperate with one another rather than work as ‘the world’ does, and compete to hurt one another.
God wants us to ‘Play Together’.
How to be a good ‘BAM Player’
I have three areas to focus on if you want to be a good ‘BAM player’. And in the spirit of playfulness, I’ve decided to invoke the once celebrated, but now somewhat out of date word to remember these three areas. I invoke: The DAB.
These three areas, denoted by the acronym D.A.B., if you focus on them, will allow you to see your spiritual sustainability rocket.
The D in DAB
It might sound obvious when you hear it, however, in my experience people really miss a great deal when considering this issue. The D in DAB is for Discipleship.
Discipleship is critical at all levels in your BAM organisation because it forms the basis of character development.
Godly character doesn’t just help you to ‘play well’. It makes you and your people, great leaders.
Perhaps you’re one of those people who is now saying to yourself, ‘I got this, I do a regular bible study’.
If that’s you, perhaps ask yourself this: Do you have a long term discipleship plan, with expected demonstratable outcomes?
You see, there’s discipleship, and discipleship. And we’re talking about the latter.
The E in Discipleship
As a BAM company, to be successful at delivering the Spiritual Bottom Line, it’s necessary to have proficiency in evangelism. Evangelism is the ‘pointy bit of the spear’ that delivers the Spiritual Bottom Line.
If you’re big into evangelism, you need to be big into discipleship!
Firstly, it’s not always understood that you can disciple people TO conversion. Discipleship is not just for people who have already made a commitment to Christ. For many, exploring scripture is a way to discover how real God is.
Secondly, if you want to see outreach be successful AND sustainable, you need a solid discipleship strategy.
Another way to say it is: Your evangelism strategy is only as effective as your discipleship strategy.
Jesus said it
- Off the path where the devil comes to snatch it.
- Out of the rocks where persecution causes you to fall away.
- And good discipleship helps you to avoid the thorns where worries of this world cause you to be unfruitful.
In short, good discipleship is the soil which enables fruitfulness.
There is a caution to go along with this emphasis on discipleship. In some of our churches, we are doing so much discipleship for ourselves, we stop reach out to those who haven’t met God yet.
Good outreach should lead to good discipleship. Sadly, good discipleship does not always lead to good outreach. Too often it becomes too inwardly focused.
The secret you need to know
Here’s the secret everyone needs to know: If you make a commitment to learn how to share your faith, you will have a richer discipleship experience.
Why? Because you quickly learn that if you’re going to share the gospel, you have to have a gospel worth sharing. When you tell people how great God is, you experience the greatness of God more.
The A in DAB
I’m a big fan of the classic 80s film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day off’. And in that film there’s a famous line from one of the characters where he says in a monotone voice ‘Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?’ as he’s seeking a response—any response—from a non-interested crowd.
I really wanted to make the A in DAB ‘Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?’.
However, to make it clearer, I’m going with another triple A: Attentive to Anyone Alone.
If we are going to play well together, we need to be attentive to those in our organisations who are alone.
And that starts with you: Are you alone?
Godless vs Godly business
In western Culture we value:
- Self-sufficiency, and
Layer onto this the fact that as business people most of us operate in a capitalist society, there might be an issue.
The trouble is the godless form of capitalism can become a bit of a nasty competition; where it’s all about squashing the others to win.
These are NOT biblical values, and they create unseen pressures on BAM operators that can result in isolation.
If we are going to play together in Business As Mission, we need to be aware of these dynamics in our organisations, and in ourselves.
We need to seek out those who appear to be alone, and invite them into community with us.
Hot tip: A great way to form community is great discipleship!
If you want to create sustainable spiritual growth within your Business As Mission project, be attentive to anyone alone.
The B in DAB
This brings me to the final letter in DAB. B is for Body: Recognise and understand how the body of Christ should work in Business As Mission.
In 1st Corinthians chapter 12, St Paul elegantly uses the metaphor of the human body to describe how we are connected and interdependent.
The passage is specifically about the various spiritual gifts in the church, but I think the principles carry over well to Business As Mission.
The BAM ecosystem, like the Church, is made up of many parts: There are investors, operators, workers, volunteers etc. There are many different roles in BAM.
Each part is ordained by God with certain abilities and functions.
Just as Paul exhorts the Church in 1 Corinthians 12 to play nice, so we need to recognise our interconnection and interdependence, and honour one another.
As Paul directs:
- Let’s not talk badly about other parts of the Business As Mission body of Christ.
- Let’s not be jealous of other parts of the body.
- And let’s be more attentive to the parts of the body that are different.
If there’s one thing the COVID crisis has shown us all is that we really need each other.
We can see now that we need people more than we realised.
Perhaps more importantly, it also means that people need us more than we realised!
If God is calling us to ‘play together’, let’s consider: Who the kids we haven’t yet invited to the party?
I know a lot of BAM operators who would love more ‘playtime’ with their investors. What about the shop-workers with the C-suite?
Where are the parts of the ‘the body’ that you just haven’t considered? The neglected ‘hand’, because you are an ‘eye’ and only seem to play with ‘eyes’?
Let’s play together! We are all part of one body.
One specific example I’m passionate about: I think the Business As Mission world could learn a lot from the missions world.
Missionaries, and I’ve been one of them, may not relate well to the ins and outs of business. But don’t let that put you off! Many missionaries have the same entrepreneurial spirit as BAM operators. They are often innovators in how to deliver both the Spiritual and Social Bottom Lines.
I am a firm believer that the missions world can be the same for BAM, as universities are to the secular business world. They can be the Research and Development department for BAM organisations seeking to be more effective at delivering the Spiritual and Social bottom lines. So let’s play together!
Get Your DAB on
Learning to be effective DABers will help BAM organisations flourish. By implementing long term effective discipleship, you will increase each person’s sanctification and maturity in Christ which will in turn lead to better leaders, and greater delivery of the Spiritual and Social Bottom Lines.
By being attentive to anyone alone, you will help undo the trappings that doing business in a fallen world can create; where people can become isolated and become unmoored from the very reasons they got into Business As Mission.
By being aware of the body of Christ at work in Business As Mission, you will see more cross-pollination of God inspired ideas, and start to learn how together we can become more than the sum of our individual parts.
In short, implementing DAB is a way to establish a flourishing Godly culture across your organisation that will in turn lead to a richer delivery of the Spiritual and Social Bottom Lines.
Which is why we all get into Business As Mission in the first place isn’t it? ✝