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The Future of Business as Mission

Is Christian ministry responsible for the direction of the 21st century? Can it influence Big Business and Brother Government toward a great transition to sustainability? In April 2005 I presented a paper to the Rocky Mountain Evangelical Missiology Society, entitled, “The Future of Business as Mission: An Inquiry into Macro-Strategy.” The abstract is:

Recently ‘Business as Mission’ has emerged as a world evangelization strategy. It operates at the micro-level of cross-cultural witness and at the meso-level of new business formation. But 21st century macro-level forces such as terrorism, climate change, oil shortages, and national debt could increasingly challenge the global business growth paradigm. The transition beyond the industrial age may drive us back to Jesus’ vision of societal transformation, enabling missions once again to be an agent in recreating the world.

In the tradition of Huntington’s clash of civilizations, I start from discussions of globalization and the world futures debate, to ask how Business as Mission could relate to macro-level forces shaping the future with something other than the Gospel of Big Business. The paper aims to argue six points:

  • That through parables, Jesus held the micro- and meso- life-worlds of business and religion open to critical inquiry from the macro-story of the  crisis of the kingdom.
  • That terrorism is the first of many 21st century ‘game changers,’ possibly followed by climate change and genetic pandemics. These forces will cause the world-system of business to face its own historical crisis related to living beyond its limits, in creation abuse, energy overuse and debt formation.
  • That the growth and consumption paradigm’s unintended consequences are unlikely to be solved by the economic theories that created it; and that we may move from Market world to Fortress world to Water world, unless we forge a new path through the woods to Transformed world.
  • That the Gospel of the kingdom was and is an invitation to join a vanguard that will follow Jesus’ way out of the exile and crisis we’ve created for ourselves, and recreate our world from the inside out.
  • That the Great Commission was and is a call, based on the work of God in Jesus Christ, to join a new community that follows the Great Commandment. These two mandates must find their place in the higher order call to the Great Work, which insures humanity will survive its folly.
  • Therefore, Business as Mission will be effective to the degree it recovers this earliest Gospel, and uses this post-crisis story to shape the story of 21st century society navigating toward a post-growth economy.

Presently thinking on Business as Mission rarely weighs the advantages and disadvantages of multinational corporations (MNC) and the global monetary system, and prefers instead to champion the role of small and medium enterprises (SME). In building my case, I draw on missiologists (Bosch), theologians (Hans Kung), global system thinkers (Donella Meadows), futurists (Herman Kahn), NGO organizers (David Korten) and Jesus scholars (N.T. Wright).

Business as MissionJoin me in rethinking the role of mission in the 21st century, and how to link both mission and business to create sustainable enterprise and society.

I am happy to say that EMS has published this paper. The citation is:
Gary, J. E. (2006). The future of business as mission: An inquiry into macro-strategy. In T. Steffen & M. Barrett (Eds.), Business as mission: From impoverishment to empowered (pp. 253-273). Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.


Discussion Questions.

1. Evaluate Gary’s premise: “Business as Mission will be effective to the degree that it recovers the earliest Gospel, and uses this post-crisis story to shape the story of 21st century society navigating toward a post-growth economy.”

2. How might game changers like terrorism, climate change, peak oil or crushing debt either stall or shut down globalization? How would this affect both Christian business and Evangelical missions?

3. What can we learn from Jesus’ approach to the 1st century, that might help us navigate the 21st century?

4. What does Gary mean by “the Great Work” as a call to mission? Evaluate its usefulness as a macro-story for Business as Mission, in reference to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

I look forward to hearing from you if you are writing in this area.

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