The Next Wave of Missions
I am convinced that the next wave of missions (at least coming from the Western World) is going to happen on the wings of business.
This has a strong biblical and historical precedent. Luke seems to go out of his way to show that the gospel got to some places in the ancient world faster via the hands of Christian merchants than even Apostles. He notes that the first time the church “went everywhere preaching the word,” the Apostles were not engaged (Acts 8:1). He also notes that when Paul finally arrives in Rome to preach Christ there, he is greeted by “hospitable brothers,” who seem to have been there for quite some time (Acts 28:15). As Steven Neill notes in his classic History of Christian Missions, of the three great church planting centers in the ancient world (Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome), not one was founded by an Apostle.
In the same way, Christians in the marketplace today are able to gain access more easily to strategic, unreached places. Globalization, great advancements in technology, and urbanization have given the business community nearly universal access.
Others have seen this potential, and there are new, encouraging conversations about “Business as Mission.” In our view, however, current discussions have yet to lead to sustainable, efficient, effective, and reproducible platforms in unreached areas.
We believe that at least four different types of individuals will be especially effective in this movement, and want to devote ourselves to the equipping and training of these kinds of people. Could it be that God has already placed in his church the skills necessary to penetrate the most unreached parts of our world—and that those skills are business skills? We believe that churches should encourage Christian business people toward a two-part vision: Whatever you are good at, (a) do it well (for the glory of God); and (b) do it somewhere strategic (for the mission of God). Furthermore, we believe missions organizations like the IMB (the International Mission Board) ought to consider a more comprehensive and catalytic approach to missions that focuses on working through churches to identify, equip, and train these people.
So here they are:
1 . The gifted entrepreneur:
This would be a man or woman with a proven track record of starting new companies in the United States and decides to do this overseas in an unreached area. This is extremely difficult to do because just to succeed in business in the 1st place is difficult. After all, many talented entrepreneurs who intend to start businesses in their home context fail!
Conducting business overseas exponentially multiplies this difficulty. What we don’t need are a bunch of seminary students with no business training and no real entrepreneurial ability thinking they can simply move to an unreached people group and start a new business. This will end up being even more of a drain on the church finances than traditional missionary approaches, because no longer are we merely having to support a couple on the field but we’re pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into a non-profit making businesses.
But there are some who have the capacity and the skill proven by what they’ve been able to do here. We should encourage them to think about how they could leverage that skill into places where the gospel is not known. We also need investors who can spot good profit-making potential and invest in these businesses that will carry the gospel into unreached places. I know of a couple guys who have done this successfully overseas.
2. The kingdom-minded business owner:
This is a successful company that is led by somebody who gets the vision and is able to expand their existing business into an unreached area. Again, the numbers of people in our church who would fit this criteria is very small–either because their product doesn’t have an international market or they are not in a position to direct their company to pursue such international endeavors. But there are some, and they need to be given vision for this; a support network of other people who are doing it; and, investors who will seed their ideas. We have one guy at our church who has done this successfully. We need more of him.
3. Kingdom-minded people who work for a large multi-national company:
This is the man or woman who works for a large company. Think Sara Lee, IBM and Coca-Cola. This business person is able to pursue overseas transfer for the purpose of living missionaly in an unreached area. My father is one who pursued this option. After he retired he was hired back by his company to lead a project to help establish a factory in a very unreached part of the world. From that position he was able to present the gospel and lead people to Christ that traditional missionaries may never have been able to get close to. These people do not need funding. They need vision and training about how to effectively and ethically pursue kingdom interests while they are on assignment from their company.
4. College graduates seeking jobs in unreached places:
This is a variation of model number 3, except here you have someone who is not yet established well in their career. A recent graduate simply says, ‘I need to get a job somewhere. Why not try to find a job where my church is involved in church planting efforts already, or in the midst of an unreached people?’ If your church does not have a work within an unreached group, look for U.S. based companies that are expanding outside the US (e.g. Living Social). There are jobs in some US company in almost every unreached country.
We have a lot of college students in our church pursuing this very option and we are trying to connect them with the right people.
What we need to preach to our people is a two-fold vision: Whatever you are good at, (a) do it well (to the glory of God); and (b) do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.
Again, I suspect this is the future of missions to unreached people groups. And I hope that we can bend our missions paradigm to tap into what is arguably the greatest potential mission force in the world.
Written J.D. Greear
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