Scholars Needed: The Current State of Business as Mission Research
Great strides have been made in recent years to challenge the “sacred-secular” divide that is so deeply entrenched in the church, and to raise awareness of business’ potential to serve the common good. Yet the resources produced thus far offer little in the way of practical help for Christian business professionals. Few resources—whether books, websites, blogs, etc.—go beyond what might be called “cheerleading,” that is, encouraging Christians to “take their faith to work” or to embrace business as a vehicle for positive community impact.
As valuable as such “cheerleading” may be, there is a growing chorus of complaints by practitioners and educators about the lack of helpful resources, especially the lack of rigorous research that takes an unvarnished and critical look at what’s working, what’s not, and why. This is more than an academic problem; without quality research—and the resources that are generated by it—practitioners are forced to “figure things out” on their own, and the long-term impact of business as mission (BAM) will continue to be mixed.
One way to stimulate the production of such resources is by creating an association of BAM scholars. Such an association would include outlets (scholarly conferences and journals) for such research. Another way to address this need is by drawing from the closely related field of social entrepreneurship (SE). SE is similar to BAM in its emphasis on multiple “bottom lines”. The main difference is that SE accommodates all religious perspectives, including non-religious and humanistic perspectives. Still, there is much that can be learned through respectful dialogue between the two fields, and BAM scholars should actively engage this field by attending SE conferences and contributing to SE journals.
The following review is intended to help scholars get quickly up to speed on the research that has been done and what is still needed. This report is a slightly modified re-publication, with permission, of an essay previously published in the Journal of Biblical Integration in Business entitled “‘Business as Mission’ Hybrids: A Review and Research Agenda.”