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BAM gets a breakthrough textbook

Neal Johnson’s new book, Business as Mission (2009), will certainly become the default textbook among Evangelicals for marketplace missions, but it should be supplemented with other texts that address energy overuse, consumerism and sustainable business development, among the ‘base of the pyramid.’Business as MissionI just got my hands on Neal Johnson’s new book, Business as Mission: A comprehensive guide to theory and practice, by IVP Academic (2009). It is a tour de force in nearly every way. It appeals to me as an MBA professor, as it covers entrepreneurial and economic facets of Business as Missions (BAM) in developing economies. As a missiologist, I find it cutting edge and contextually relevant to Evangelicalism. As a strategic leadership scholar, I find its hands-on guidelines for business and ministry practitioners to be practical.

I’ve witnessed the emergence of Marketplace Missions since Leadership ’88. While many voices have shaped its approach the past 20 years, no single leader has emerged to shape its direction. But Johnson’s layered approach may offer much needed direction to put Marketplace Missions in context. He sees it as the latest expression of a long-history of church renewal movements, as significant as the ecumenical movement, worship renewal or the charismatic movement.

He also sees Marketplace Missions as four streams: domestic marketplace ministry, tentmaking, Christian enterprise development-NGOs, and focused commercial BAM in cross-cultural contexts. Business as Mission will certainly help anyone considering work overseas to weigh their own contribution through BAM as a cross-cultural missions strategy, and offers step-by-step operational procedures.

As comprehensive and practical as Johnson’s book is, it does not address the macro-issues that must shape BAM as a community of practice. While it does address corporate social responsibility and the need for BAM to create “kingdom” bottom lines, it could have offered a stronger business call to sustainable development and social entrepreneurship, in the vain of Thomas Friedman’s Hot, flat, and Crowded (2008), or Hart and Quinn’s Capitalism at the crossroads: Aligning business, earth, and humanity (2007).

These issues of systemic business transformation are not foreign to Evangelical discourse, as McLaren has shown in his Everything Must Change (2007). As I wrote in 2006, the future of business of mission must address the macro issues of transforming business so it doesn’t live beyond its limits, in creation abuse, energy overuse or debt formation. Anyone to ignore this is tone deaf to the abuses of Wall Street, in the wake of the Great Recession.

Nevertheless, Business as Mission will be helpful to both undergraduate and graduate courses. All 500 pages of Johnson’s tome deliver value, even his chapter ending discussion questions. For less than the cost of a tank of gas this book is a good investment.

Having played a key role to develop the Perspectives program, I am certain that Business as Mission will become the default handbook for any BAM student, business owner, church mission pastor or aspiring missionary. Thank you Dr. Neal Johnson.

Dr. Jay Gary is president of, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years Jay has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.

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