The following is content given in a keynote speech at the 2020 Lion’s Den Business-As-Mission conference in Birmingham, Alabama.
Why Business As Mission?
Many of us get into Business As Mission (BAM), because we love business and we love Jesus.
Let’s be frank though- there are lots of ways to love Jesus through business, right?
You can make money through business and give it to worthy causes. As you mature as a Christian in business you may eventually conclude: “I don’t own anything—I’m just a steward of God’s resources”. Then you might get really good at making money and giving it away.
In an extreme version, you might start a Business For Mission (BFM) project which exists to make money and giving it away.
I was connected to one such project. Little Texas was a 4 star hotel and Tex-Mex restaurant built in early post-communist Romania. It was a Business FOR Mission and at one point was generating half a million dollars a year that it was pumping into local ministries. That one business facilitated a huge range of creative ministries from dental offices, to apple farms in the region. It was transformational.
Another way to love Jesus through business is to use the business to intentionally serve people. Whether you are providing needed jobs, or your company has a ‘buy one give one’ product line that donates needed items to underprivileged communities, these projects serve needs.
These are clearly social enterprises, but run by Christians. So Christian-social-enterprises or CSEs.
BAM Does It All
However, if you’re in Business As Mission, you are trying to do it all:
You’re often trying to make money like a BFM project.
You are helping people like a CSE.
However in BAM, not only are you bringing the Kingdom of God to people, you are also bringing people into the Kingdom of God.
In a BAM project, people come to know, love, and serve Jesus through the work of the business.
My Journey In BAM
When I first got into BAM 15 years ago, I was much more focused on the money generation and the social impact of our projects. Maybe that’s a young man’s game. It’s easy to feel good about making money for good causes, and helping people.
In my experience, it’s also true that the world will affirm you for making money and helping people. However, expand that into bringing people to Jesus, and you may suddenly see opposition.
BAM companies need help to overcome that opposition. Which is why I now spend nearly all my time equipping Christians to do effective outreach.
Mind you, it’s not your Grandpa’s outreach.
BAM Ready Outreach
Outreach for BAM is outreach at another level than we are used to seeing. It’s:
- Measurable outreach
And it’s delivered sensitively and sensibly.
Why It’s Necessary
I live in Europe. Sadly, in Europe people aren’t getting converted, it’s churches that are getting the wrong type of conversion. Churches are being converted into bars, health clubs, supermarkets, and night clubs.
To see some of these converted churches check out these links:
When you live in a culture where the church is moved from mainstream to marginalised to maligned, you realise something.
Nations and societies only become post-Christian, because Christians stop having an appropriate emphasis on sharing the gospel!
The BAM Army
When I see the millions of Christian owned businesses around the world, I don’t just see a sleeping giant of funding and service; I see an army of people, that can usher waves of hurting people into the arms of a loving God!
If you’re like me, and would like to see EVERYONE who touches your business have a chance to know Jesus: I’m telling you it is possible!
Tools To Do The Job
However, Armies need tools to do the job. We need to stop sending our BAM teams out with a knife to a gun fight!
It IS possible to have outreach be just as organised as your P/L and your General Ledger.
It IS possible to have targets and metrics that everyone gets behind.
It IS possible to even employ more complex business tools like KPIs and Quality Control measures for Kingdom outreach.
Potential Connected To Mission
A key concept is Missional Potential—and Jesus talked about it. Not unlike our own kids, it’s important to understand that each BAM company has a different potential for accomplishing mission. For some of our kids, getting an A instead of an A+ may be a disappointment. For others, a C grade may be a real achievement.
This is a principle that Jesus talked about applies to Business As Mission. In Matthew 13 (and elsewhere), the fruitfulness of the seed in the fertile ground varies. Some of it was 30 times, some of it was 60 times, and some of it generated 100X fruitfulness.
Jesus also touched on it in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. One servant is given 2 and made 2 more. One servant was given 5 and made 5 more, but both were given the same affirmation in verse 21/23.
Here’s the lesson: It’s crucial to work out what has the Lord given you to steward, and what are fair expectations?
Has he given you 2 with the ability to make 2?
Or has he given you 5 with an ability to make 5?
This is the value in calculating your missional potential.
The projects that don’t work this out sadly can end up like the servant with 1 talent…and we all know that didn’t work out to well for him!
Talking Numbers—An Example
Calculating your Missional Potential is more than a concept, it’s calculating numerical targets.
Let me give you an example:
I’m currently working with a multimillion dollar fund that buys up apartment complexes and returns an IRR in the mid-teens to investors.
In this project we know exactly how many units, and how many residents in each location.
We also know that Jesus in John chapter 6 tells us we don’t convert anyone. It’s up to the Father to draw them to Jesus.
But we also know, and this is key, that the Father is calling people, All. The. Time.
To calculate the Missional Potential, we use certain outreach activities we know response rates for as benchmarks. We then multiply those rates against the number of residents.
For example, I know that a specific outreach activity has a pretty steady response rate of 80%/15%/5%. Out of everyone approached, 80% will choose not to explore anything to do with Jesus, 15% will want to learn more about Jesus, and 5% will make a commitment to Jesus on the spot.
Using this, we can now put a numerical target against the Missional Potential of this particular project.
i.e. if we have 1000 residents, and can deploy this outreach method effectively, we expect to see 50 new Jesus followers, 150 new seekers, and 800 residents to try another outreach methodology on.
Now we have calculated the Missional Potential of this project numerically. This allows us to measure whether we are hitting our targets.
We can move forward with setting up KPI’s for the teams participating in the outreach.
We can evaluate how to improve the process by implementing a Demming Cycle into the process.
In short, getting something to measure helps you have something to manage.
The old adage: You can’t manage what you can’t measure is what most BAM projects are facing today.
If you are the CEO, or a BAM investor, now you know what success looks like!
Keep in mind, this is only a taste of the tools out there, but I hope it helps you start to see what is possible.
Calculating the Missional Potential helps observers have realistic expectations for BAM projects that might be underperforming. It also helps set realistic expectations for companies where the standard might be too high.
Going back to the Parable of The Talents, by calculating the data and measuring things, it helps to identify if you’re a 2 talent BAM company when your investors are expecting 5 talents.
The Bakery and the Data Entry Company
I learned this first hand when we opened a series of BAM companies in South Africa. Our first company was a small data entry operation. It was based in a Christian compound and we employed locals who happened to all be Christians. Even our main customer was a Christian with all Christian staff.
When we started to look at the value we were producing for the Spiritual Bottom Line, we realised we had very little opportunity to deliver anything at all. We simply had almost no exposure in this project to anyone ‘far from God’.
Consequently we looked for a BAM opportunity that might reach more people. We settled on opening a bakery in a township location to sell bread to the locals. Within weeks our staff had established ministry relationships with a host of residents. Why? Because we had so much more exposure to people ‘far from God’ than the data entry business.
This is where understanding the true Missional Potential of each project is so helpful. It would be unfair to expect the data entry business to deliver the same volume of results towards the Spiritual Bottom Line as the Bakery. Likewise, it would be a gross misjudgement to only expect the bakery to deliver spiritual results on par with the data entry business.
Each project should be measured against its own missional potential target. By calculating each project’s own realistic max missional potential, it allows operators and investors to know if they are performing in line with achievable results.
One of the hardest things for me to come to grips with when I looked back at my previous BAM projects, was the realisation that the Father was drawing people to Jesus all the time; and I had just been missing them!
If you’re one of those people who are in BAM because like me, you see potential for it to save people’s lives and change society, I want you to know: it IS possible.
You CAN maximise the missional potential of your project.
Go and get the tools you need.
Go and upskill your team.
Go and find the people the Father is drawing to Jesus. You can do it!
Partner with God to rescue His kids; just like someone already partnered with Him to rescue you!✝