Monthly Archives: December 2013

Think Tank Report – “A Dangerous Calling: The Challenge of Business as Mission in Hostile Environments”

A Dangerous Calling: The Challenge of Business as Mission in Hostile Environments

Download report here.

[I apologize that numbering these has gotten out of whack but I apparently missed one when it first came out. This is the eighth report available as of 12/20/13. – D. Doty]

From the Executive Summary

Challenge, risk and opportunity! Managing a business as mission (BAM) venture in a hostile environment presents the entrepreneur with a unique task. Not only is there the day-to-day task of ensuring the company is safeguarded against all the known risks, but there is also the constant need to look beyond the horizon to see those emerging threats that could bring down the business.


The discussion in this report
addresses the interdependent relationships between BAM ventures and their hostile


Good stewardship should motivate us to safeguard the assets and talents with which God has
entrusted us. However, as stewards called to mission, we choose to expose ourselves and
our BAM venture to a variety of hostile conditions and volatility that may threaten our
success. The challenge for BAM practitioners (BAMers) is to understand and cope with
multiple risks within a hostile environment that vary both in their nature and intensity level.

The goal of this report is to engage BAM entrepreneurs in a discussion on how to improve
skills for anticipating and managing these risks.

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BAm Think Tank Report #9 – Laboring in the Dark: Business in Iran

Laboring in the Dark: Business in Iran
BAM Think Tank Iran Regional Group Report

Available for download here.

From the Executive Summary:

Iran is an extremely hostile environment for any endeavor that is not instigated and controlled by the Islamic Government and its sympathizers.  This creates significant challenges for the Christian Community to create and operate businesses that promote Biblical values. In addition, due to the xenophobia of the Islamic Government and the imposition of International Sanctions, it is very difficult for the larger world wide Christian Community to provide any assistance or support.

Internally, the Christian Community is viewed as a threat to the Islamic Government and to openly identify oneself as part of that community is to invite persecution and potential death. Thus any identification of individuals or businesses as being an expression of the Christian Community is extremely dangerous and invites opposition.

In the area of economic activity, any enterprise of significant value is controlled and managed by the Islamic Government and is subject to its Islamic rules and regulations. Thus, to create and operate a significant business enterprise that is not owned and operated by a supporter of the Islamic Government and its values is nearly impossible.

However, despite the challenges of doing business in such a hostile environment, there are business examples to learn from. This report shares a summary of findings from a survey of 25 businesses in Iran. Many of these business are smaller in scale and tend to stay under the radar. The report shares survival principles and lessons learned from these businesses, as well as a summary of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for business as mission in Iran.


In spite of the dark conditions, God is at work in Iran. It is a testament to the Grace of God and the perseverance of His people in Iran that in fact there is a powerful underground movement in the country that is having a great impact on the people and society, and yet is hidden from sight.

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Convergence: Recommended Strategic Reading

In recent years I have had the opportunity to pursue reading across a broad spectrum of materials. I have been thinking about several books that are interconnected with the opportunities for global witness of the evangelical Church. Here is a brief reflection on eight books (in no particular order), many seminal works unto themselves, that can contribute to strategic thinking for churches and mission organizations willing to take the time to think deeply about their actions before taking them. It is likely that many readers are already familiar with most or all of these but even so, perhaps it would be best to revisit them and think on how they interrelate. None of these books are new but, as we are wont to do, we may have let them slip from the forefront of our awareness and thinking. These are some of the best works in our generation and worthy of refreshed reflection.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t – Jim Collins (HarperBusiness, 2001).

Collins offers eight chapters on the key elements of what make great companies great. He has ordered them according to their importance to the endeavor toward excellence. Perhaps three keys are most relevant to effective evangelical missions work. The first is that each organization is headed by humble leadership. These folk know their own limitations and make sure they augment those with the right folk, which is the second key: getting the right people “on the bus.” These leaders also pursue the best interests of the constituencies they serve. Personal interests and agendas, fiefdoms, political maneuverings, etc., have no place in their pursuit of success. The third key is The Hedgehog Concept, that is, zeroing in on what it is your organization does specifically and not allowing ancillary activities undermine the best efforts that might be applied to organizational focus.

The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization – Thomas A. Stewart (Currency, 2001).

Missions organizations and churches seem to function more on instinct than extending a best effort in intelligence gathering and data analysis. It is almost as if “there is no king…everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). It is hard to imagine that the Lord condones the disunity and lack of transparency among many in missions work today. Many will not share intelligence because they fear it will undermine their ability to fundraise. To be most effective, missional leaders must shed such fears and practice their faith with an open hand, sharing and coordinating information and efforts. To not do so is tantamount to robbing the Kingdom of its most expeditious effectiveness. Information is often more valuable than money today in pressing toward organizational success. The Church is a singular reality and divisions undermine its witness and ability to minister to the world.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization – Thomas L. Friedman (Anchor Books, 2000).

I would recommend coupling this work with Friedman’s The World is Flat and Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Friedman has been given an uncanny ability to capture a snapshot of globalization in our day and its far reaching implications. The world is far smaller than it used to be and missions organizations can tap into the same re-organization of thought corporations do as both seek to enter and grow in global markets. But to do so without at least trying to frame the globalized world into missional strategies will result in transcultural failures and missed opportunities.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order – Samuel P. Huntington (Simon & Schuster, 1996)

There is one key point to this book that keeps it in front of me though I do not remember Huntington discussing it directly, and that is liminality. The whole world is in flux, especially politically and economically. Whole societies and cultures have been disrupted by the globalization of the past few decades. People everywhere are confronted by a depth of knowledge of other cultures and systems unlike any time in human history. Research has shown that people are most open to new ideas as they face life transitions, like having their worldview shaken by exposure to new ideas. These are transitional times and the best (often, most practical) ideas will be adopted to replace less effective notions of reality and living. How does the Church address the opportunities at hand as whole populations are faced with conflicting ideas, with new opportunities, or losses of opportunity? How is Christian faith framed as the best option for understanding the world we live in and making the best life for individuals and communities? How is Christian faith framed in light of the draw of Islam, Hinduism, secular humanism, etc.? People are looking for life and their world to make sense. They are searching for answers and meaning in highly agitated and disrupted times. How can the Church provide them answers and meaning?

The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time – Jeffrey Sachs (Penguin Books, 2005)

The real message of Sach’s book is an unanswered question: If we have the economic power to eliminate abject global poverty, why are we not doing it? The Global Church controls immense amounts of wealth. Unfortunately many Christians in the West are committed to worldly, fear-based investment strategies to ensure their own comfort in old age. Retirement accounts appropriately parsed, at least to the world’s thinking, among precious metals, blue chips stocks, and a slight commitment to riskier high growth funds, have nothing in common with the biblical admonitions to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless. What we are missing is that the greatest wealth generation possible is by investing in the poor who, since all GDP is ultimately labor, possess the greatest potential for economic growth.

The Phenomenon of Man – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (HarperPerennial, 2008, first published in 1955)

Chardin was a French Jesuit and an authority in the field of paleontology. First, he was unafraid of reconciling the biblical creation account with modern scientific considerations of evolution. On this point, I agree with him wholeheartedly. It is only by a misguided insistence that the Bible is a history book rather than a sacred text that we must insist that every aspect must be taken literally. Unfortunately, that approach misunderstands the literary genres of the Bible and that stories, like Jesus parables, can contain truth without being factual. My second takeaway from Chardin’s book is in his visionary considerations of the growth of the noosphere, a “layer” of collective human intelligence surrounding the earth like the biosphere. The advent of the Internet has, in practical ways, made his vision come true. This points back to Stewart’s The Wealth of Knowledge above. The development of growing human knowledge, computing power, and global electronic communications offer opportunities to reach all the people of earth with the message of Christ in ways never before imagined. What strategies will best take advantage of these opportunities? Will they be restricted to simply “preaching” online or might they include ways of helping the world overcome its strife and struggles through the dissemination of ideas and practical applications of knowledge to alleviate suffering? Can global communications and knowledge-sharing help with economic development which, in turn, undermines oppression, modern slave trading and sex trafficking, economic isolation and deprivation? The possibilities have yet to been intentionally considered in the missions community. There are some pursuing these lines of thought in missions but who will step up to encourage and facilitate the conversation on a global scale?

Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration – Keith Sawyer (Basic Books, 2007)

Scripture is replete with the wisdom of seeking a multitude of counsel before formulating plans. Unfortunately, attempts to coordinate efforts among mission agencies, even to host gatherings of likeminded people toward collaborative work, is met with resistance. Two problems seem to exacerbate trying to overcome such resistance: the unwillingness to share information (see The Wealth of Knowledge above), and busyness. The first I have already discussed. The second is due to shortsightedness and an over emphasis on pragmatism. In the ancient days, when agrarian societies could afford some down time from productive field work, a fair amount of time was spent in learning and discussion among city elders. The worst impact of modern commercial society is the lack of opportunity to spend time together simply to discuss matters at hand. We have lost the art of personal social discourse and relegated it to blog posts and short articles on LinkedIn to share our ideas. These venues, unfortunately, do not allow for fluid discussion and the nuances of casual conversation. To be intentional about collaborative thinking, leaders must be willing to set aside portions of their schedules, trusting that the gains gleaned from such conversations will, in the long term, outweigh the fire-fighting and setbacks of business-as-usual. Together we can accomplish far more than we can individually, especially as we share ideas and parse our work according to each one’s strengths. The marketplace has demonstrated the positive impact of comparative advantage and specialization that many missions organizations and churches have yet to understand.

Non Zero: The Logic of Human Destiny – Robert Wright (Pantheon Books, 2000)

This is an interesting read as Wright studies social development throughout human history then draws a parallel between that development and biological evolution. Perhaps the most interesting observation, though Wright refuses to cross over into the discussion of metaphysics, is his conclusion that the progression toward higher complexity and specialization in both orders seem to be unidirectional and compelled by an inherent “force” or impetus. Though humankind has experienced some setbacks and dealt with some serious flaws along its developmental path, Wright’s conclusion paints a hopeful future.


The global Church is poised to take on some of humankinds biggest problems – poverty, human trafficking, political corruption. To do so will require a great deal of collaboration and willful high-minded thinking and strategizing. To do anything less, given the opportunity, is to short change God’s calling on every Christian life to become living witnesses to the glory of God. Can we set aside egotism and self-protecting fiefdoms? Can we embrace the tensions of admitting we each lack comprehensive knowledge and trust one another as God’s own children, all with the singular focus of welcoming and advancing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven? How might we go about creating a virtual think tank that openly welcomes disparate views on our current reality and then discuss without vitriol how different interpretations of Scripture might inform next steps and long term strategies?

Historically, the Church has suffered, and inflicted suffering upon the mission of God, by its own divisiveness. Very often, it has been the Church which hindered the progress of God’s agenda as movements of God have been embraced in the Spirit but then institutionalized, making them more a reign of human organizations than of God’s leading. If you have read some or all of the books discussed here, please reflect on them and how they can contribute to deepening discussions of Christian discipleship and Kingdom advancement.


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Eden’s Bridge Blog Milestone: Top Article

Okay, so my blog is not exactly setting the world on fire but it has just passed 20,000 page views. To date, the most popular post (accounting for about 4.4% of all page views across 160 posts) has been “On Justice and Righteousness (mishpat & tsadaq)—Strong’s 4941 & 6663,”  an excerpt from my book, Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission.

I find this intriguing because given all the other content of the blog, this post is fundamentally biblical and theological study. Mostly what I hear from folk when I share on the integration of Christian faith and economics is that they want bullet points on “what do I need to do.” I am encouraged that my most popular article is focused more on knowing God and understanding his ways.

Eden’s Bridge has been, from its start, a fledgling ministry. Without the support of an academy, I have largely funded operations out of my own pocket. I am deeply grateful to a handful of people who have come alongside and offered help when I needed it most (especially in getting to Chiang Mai, Thailand for the Global BAM Congress last April).

Right now, however, I could use your help. I believe there are two areas of concern that require more research in the business as mission movement. One is on the theoretical (biblical and theological) side where we need to more carefully consider how BAM and Christian Social Enterprise (CSE) tend to set themselves apart from Christians who are already doing “business as business” and whether creating such a dichotomy is helpful, or even a legitimate approach. Are we called to create “alternatives” to worldly institutions (like the marketplace) or are we called to lead and transform these institutions, from where they are, according to the  biblical, redemptive mission of God?

The second area for research is on the practical side. There are thousands of BAM / CSE initiatives popping up all over the world but communications between them is often all but nonexistent. We need academic leadership to step up and engage in the coordinated research of assigning, then collecting, collating, and analyzing case studies to help us better understand what is happening and where, and what we can learn from melding these data in a “big picture” conversation, especially to develop best practices, answer the big questions of funding, facilitation, and mobilizing marketplace Christians from developed economies, and press the community of faith that is transforming business as we know it. The world’s poor continue to die everyday, both physically and spiritually. What is the role of the marketplace in revealing God to the world that they might be fed materially and in Christ?

Would you join with me? Donations can be made at PayPal using my email address: Eden’s Bridge, Inc. is a U.S. registered, 501(c)(3) not for profit corporation and all gifts are tax deductible. Thank you for your continued support, especially in prayer.


Dave Doty

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BAM Think Tank #8 – Business as Mission: A Viking Challenge

Business as Mission: A Viking Challenge
BAM Think Tank Nordic Regional Group Report

Available for download here.

From the Executive Summary:

As far back as 200 years ago there was an example of BAM from the Nordic Region. This one person impacted his country socially, politically, financially and spiritually in just a few years. Hans Nielsen Hauge was a serial entrepreneur with a calling from God. He started around 30 companies, or rather industries, in Norway within 4 years and preached the gospel and discipled people.


The learnings we share come from our BAM work in our own region as well as work done going out from our region. We also report findings and recommendations from the work on different themes that we have done in various BAM Think Tank Issue Groups.


We researched four profiles of businesses that have been doing business as mission within or from the Nordic Region, plus a couple of shorter organisation summaries. We present some lessons learned and observations from these experiences.

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