Stefan Carlson: Why Business can Change the World
There's no question about it: Our generation wants to make a difference. It's a good thing, too. According to World Vision, half the world - 3 billion people - live on less than $2 a day. One-seventh of the world goes hungry; one-fifth of all children living in developing countries don't have access to clean water and there are still 6,898 unreached people groups - 2.91 billion people - according to the Joshua Project.
As we contemplate the world's most pressing needs, I suggest we consider the emerging role of business. In his book, "The Forgotten Ways," missiologist Alan Hirsch asserts that the global economy and the market are the most dominant forces in our day. Although greed and exploitation pervade the market and have made tremendous contributions to the poverty in our world today, I believe the market can be redeemed for the good of society and the proclamation of the gospel in the nations. Global realities like the immense job deficit and the fading of the traditional full-time missionary demonstrate the significance of this opportunity.
The emerging role of business
The idea that business can be used to alleviate poverty has been circulating for awhile, but I believe it is has more traction now than ever before. In 1997, John Elkington coined the phrase "triple bottom line" which can be defined as a profitable business that measures its results not only on the basis of profit margins, but also in terms of social and environmental impact. The idea has gained so much popularity that there is now a certification corporation called B Corps, which has certified 967 businesses in 32 countries and in 60 industries for successfully making a positive impact on society and the environment in addition to making profit.
More recently, Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, founder of the Grameen Bank and the idea of microlending, has introduced the idea of the social business. The social business is one that is financially sustainable but identifies a social issue rather than profit as its primary objective. The business is started with investments by investors who receive no return on their investment beyond what they originally invested. Their only return beyond that is the satisfaction of knowing they have helped to make the world a better place. Yunus believes this idea has the power to eradicate the poverty created by capitalistic greed in the first place.
The emerging potential of business is also signaled by the fact that some of America's most distinguished universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Duke and Princeton have all launched social enterprise and entrepreneurship programs that equip students to address the world's most urgent problems with business solutions.
BUSINESS AS A MINISTRY
Not only does business present an opportunity to help those who are impoverished and oppressed, but it also presents an opportunity to make the glory of God known in the nations. Mats Tunehag, founder of the Global Think Tank on Business as Mission and senior associate for the World Evangelical Alliance and Lausanne Movement, says business as mission is an "emerging movement" that is gaining ground exponentially. According to the GTTBM, business as mission is a business that is sustainable and profitable, seeks holistic societal transformation by meeting economic, environmental, social and spiritual needs, and strives for kingdom impact among the world's poorest and least evangelized peoples.
In a recent conference called Gospel at Work, pastor and author David Platt explained how God used dayworkers to spread the gospel all throughout the book of Acts, and is currently using people in the marketplace to rapidly spread the gospel all around the world. He challenged the audience to believe God can use business people in the same way in America if we pray fervently and weave the gospel into our work relationships.
Are you an aspiring pastor, missionary or social activist? Don't believe the lie that the biggest contribution anyone else can make for the kingdom is to give money. Instead, encourage your friends who work in the marketplace to see the opportunity. Root them on! Tell them to go for it!
Are you an aspiring business person or professional? You will have opportunities that no pastor or missionary will ever have. Don't underestimate the gospel purposes God has for you in the marketplace.
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