Is Business as Mission (BAM) a Flawed Concept? (w/ Dr. Scott Quatro and Dr. Michael Thigpen)

What do you think? Is Business as Mission (BAM) a flawed concept?

Dr. Scott Quatro is Professor of Management and Co-Chair of the Business Department at Covenant College and is the Chair Elect of the Christian Business Faculty Association.

Dr. Michael Thigpen is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitics at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and is the Executive Director of the Evangelical Theological Society.

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  • Joanna

    As a director of a BAM organization, I noticed several assumptions from Dr. Quatro’s arguments that were based in theory and did not seem to reflect reality. One was that “BAM undermines profit.” Clearly, every business whether BAM or BAB needs profits to sustain, so I’m not sure if I’m understanding his meaning. But Dr Quatro seemed to take it a step further and espouse that all businesses should exist to operate in a way that maximizes profits for the company, making the conclusion that any business owner who chooses other goals are not operating in a way that strives to fulfill our cultural mandate. I would argue that Scripture does not assert this but rather gives examples of business owners who bless others with gifts and opportunity through their business. A business owner can choose the goal for his/her business, whether that be to become the best in the industry, or rather to be content with sustenance and use whatever extra resources to promote kingdom work. To assume that every business must strive to maximize profits I believe is something Scripture does not teach.
    Secondly, Dr. Quatro alluded to BAM organizations as start-ups that do not stand much of a chance in the real business world because efforts and resources are spent in ways that are not aimed at growing the business. Our BAM organization, Amani ya Juu, has been around for 20 years and many of our business practices are nonsensical from a business perspective: we pay our employees above and beyond the standard wage so that our African sisters have the opportunity to move out of the slums and lead a life of dignity; prayer and devotional time is on-the-clock; and we avoid the efficient assembly line model so that our ladies are educated in making a product from beginning to end – a skill that they can take with them through the rest of their life. Despite our choice to follow a more holistic development model, and a sometimes less efficient business model, God chooses to bless and grow the organization year after year. An organization that strives to honor God in ethical business practices, generosity, and sacrificial love and care for those working within the organization can expect to see God work powerfully to sustain it.
    Quote by Dr. Quatro: “BAM companies evangelize, disciple and develop the underdeveloped nations of the world … and all three of those “foundational truths” of BAM companies … sort of scare me because of the critical role that business plays in the role and business needs to play that role without mandates meant for the organized Church.” Dr. Quatro, I would love for you to visit our Amani center here in Chattanooga and share with you the very real benefits of BAM organizations like ourselves and why they are worth supporting. If Amani moved from a BAM model to a BAB model, 150 refugee women would be out of work, impacting hundreds more dependents in their communities.

    • Darren Shearer

      Thank you for sharing your first-hand perspective of how God is using your BAM company, Joanna! Awesome! As Jeff Van Duzer explained in another episode of the Theology of Business Podcast, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” (market forces) does not equate to the hand of God… So, just because the marketplace doesn’t reward a certain business practice financially doesn’t mean God doesn’t. Keep up the great work, Joanna!

  • DeLong Vaughn

    I greatly appreciated the conversation between Drs. Thigpen and Quatro. We have seen less of an interest in traditional models of evangelism and discipleship, while there has been a dramatic increase in the BAM approach. This seems to be a cultural shift, though, and not necessarily a studied, intentional, corporate approach to missions by the church; and so it is certainly worth discussion.
    I resonated with how I understood Dr. Thigpen’s perspective, that the individual aspects of life are to be approached holistically. There is no need to create hard delineations between spheres. I also appreciated Dr. Quatro’s esteem of business as a worthwhile endeavor in itself—that Christian businesspeople are fulfilling a sacred task in running a successful business. There is no need to tack on to that a missional aspect for it to be a kingdom calling. I did end up ultimately feeling troubled with the conclusion in regards to BAM that Dr. Quatro arrived at.
    Dr. Quatro seemed to be asserting that the cultural mandate means that we should pursue business in the most efficient and profitable way that is ethically permissible. I did not hear a biblical argument for this assertion, but I can think of biblical arguments to the contrary, especially in regards to the idea that corporate charitable giving is “troubling”. Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22, and Deuteronomy 24:19 all specifically command that farmers not do a thorough job in harvesting in order that the stranger, fatherless, and widow can glean food. Boaz not only allowed Ruth to glean, but gave special instruction to his servants, guaranteeing that Ruth made an abundant harvest. Even though this action would harm his profitability, this was not characterized as a misdeed. Rather, Naomi rejoiced in saying, “Blessed be the one who took notice of you.”
    We see that giving by a business is not troubling, but it is required and praiseworthy. Scripture even goes beyond, however, to say that generosity will result in prosperity, as will pursuing the kingdom of God. Proverbs 11:25: “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these [all that you need to live] shall be added to you.” Scripture describes God’s blessing as the primary factor in the success of a business, not best business practices, and God’s blessing comes to those who actively seek His lordship in the world and live as Christ to the world. These are exactly what BAMs seek to do. It would therefore be errant to argue that because these consume part of a BAMs resources, they are less likely to succeed.
    As Dr. Thigpen stated, the argument is not that all businesses need to operate in the BAM model. We need BABs, and we probably need many more of them than BAMs in order to sustain our civilization. But it is also perfectly fine and commendable for a business to operate in the BAM model, especially if that is its express reason for existing. Why make rigid lines separating evangelism, discipleship and development from business? I think that Gamaliel’s advice to the council of priests who were planning to shut down Paul’s ministry is a perfect way to conclude: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. … keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

    • Darren Shearer

      Good thoughts, DeLong. Regarding your point about Gamaliel’s advice… When asked by Dr. Thigpen, Dr. Quatro stated that he believes companies that have “spiritual objectives” (e.g. evangelism) are likely to be less profitable than companies that do not have such stated and measured “spiritual objectives.” Indeed, this is something that should be measured empirically (not merely anecdotally) so we can find out if this is true or not.

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