In preparation for the Business as Mission Conference happening this weekend in Silicon Valley, we sat down and talked with Mike Baer to learn more about it.
Mike Baer is a recognized leader in the global Business as Mission movement. Over the years, Mike has served as a church planter and pastor; he is an entrepreneur who has launched several businesses, the founder of an international business incubator, a prolific author, an in-demand speaker. Currently, Mike is a senior executive at EmployBridge (the largest light industrial staffing company in the US) and founder of ThirdPath (an online Business as Mission education platform). He and his wife of 42 years live in the mountains of North Carolina.
Check out the interview below to get some insight on the importance of this BAM event, why you should check it out, and what Mike is most excited about.
FDE Team: Business as mission is a phrase that is used a lot now, but it can also be interpreted to mean a lot of different things. Can you set the record straight for us? What exactly is business as mission and what does that phrase means to you?
Mike Baer (MB): Business as Mission, as a phrase, has been extrapolated to mean all kinds of things—a strategy to enter closed countries, a platform for missionary visas, ethical business, etc. Some even use the phrases to justify business, i.e. it’s only pleasing to God if it’s missional.
The root of the term actually comes from a mission statement my company developed to explain what we did. “The Jholdas Group exists to support church planting among the unreached people groups of the 10/40 Window through the seamless integration of business as mission.” The full concept has been lost by cutting off the “seamless integration” portion.
Unpacked like this, you recognize that the concept is simply that business is a high and holy calling from God into the world of commerce. It is not to be separated by sacred-secular thinking into some lesser thing. As a call from God, like all of life, it is to be lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and, thus, connected to what He is doing in the world, i.e. the mission. It is important, as well, to realize that the term mission is deliberately singular; it is not business as “missions” (i.e. connected to traditional missionary activity) but “mission” (i.e. the constant and eternal purpose of God).
FDE: Can you tell us some exciting stories and trends you’re currently seeing in the business as mission world?
MB: Business as Mission continues to be difficult to track due to the fact that most people who are thoughtful practitioners simply don’t advertise themselves as BAM or Kingdom Companies. That being said, there are some very exciting things happening in the world of BAM.
The most exciting thing to me is that BAM continues to be a spontaneous and global movement. There is no controlling organization, no revered set of leaders, no one way to do it. Instead, it is found literally in every country and in every form imaginable. The creativity and variety of BAM companies boggles the mind and demonstrate the infinite creativity of God.
The impact of BAM involves economic results, job creation, avenues for discipleship, breaking the chains of human trafficking and injustice, and a new movement of professionals men and women dispersing into the world.
One story specifically illustrates BAM potential for the Kingdom. A friend of mine from New Zealand moved to India in a traditional missionary capacity. He soon discovered that he and his family had moved into the “red light” district of a major city. His first impulse was to move but the Lord quickly confirmed that they were exactly where God wanted them. As they reached out to the prostitutes (women trapped in the sex traded due to generational poverty) and as women and girls began to turn to Christ, my friend and his wife realized that unless they could find work for these new converts they would quickly return to their old life. They started a for profit sewing business that has blossomed making jute bags for the convention business around the world and employing increasing numbers of the rescued and redeemed, thus changing their lives forever
FDE: This event might be in a unique location for you in the heart of Silicon Valley. What drew you guys here and what are you most excited about with this conference?
MB: When we determined a few years ago to focus on making “The BAM Conference” THE BAM event, we knew we needed to move it around the country (and now around the world, given the recent BAM Conference in Bucharest). So, it was logical to hold an event in California. However, Silicon Valley is known as the entrepreneurial center of the world as well as the venture capital Mecca. These two factors excite us as we seek to invite more entrepreneurs into direct involvement around the world and to fuel the spark of kingdom investing in BAM enterprises.
FDE: Now that we’ve talked about what you’re looking forward to, let’s talk about the other side. What are you hoping to leave this conference having experienced? Maybe even take us out a few months or a year. What do you hope the attendees take from this conference, and what would you like to see them doing as they move forward?
MB: My goals and expectations for events like this are always the same. First, I want to see more and more believers with hearts for God and business enter the movement; I want to see them get out of the stands and onto the field of play. Second, I believe it is vital to see investors drawn into action; one of the great hindrances to the impact of BAM is simply lack of capital. After all, it’s a new and risky field but eternally minded investors have a big part to play. Third, as iron sharpens iron, it is exciting to see the further refinement and clarification of BAM thinking both in terms of theology of work and global best practices.
I certainly hope and pray that participants will see their “seat on the bus” in what God is doing in and through business to expand the Kingdom of Christ on earth. More than that, I want them take their seat and travel with us.