It is time to change the language associated with missions.
When you hear the word “missions” what do you think? Do you think of unusual people who go off to wild parts of the world to spread the gospel? Do you think of organizations who collect water and food to send to area’s of the world in need? If you answered yes to these questions, go ahead and nod your head in acknowledgment, and know that you are not alone. In fact, when I hear the word “missionary” I think of a gutsy family moving to Saudi Arabia, or some dangerous part of the world to bring those people real hope through the gospel.
What would cause this?
While I am sure there are many reasons that the average person believes that this is all missions is, the church should be concerned that this is the perception of missions work. Pastors and various ministries are now working diligently to promote the idea of taking the gospel to work, and are having a hard time gaining any traction. The next couple of posts will focus on the concept of marketplace missions and hopefully will begin to present some of the challenges that the church has with it, and why it is crucial.
The church organization does not align to the language of the church.
Pastors have done an increasingly excellent job at preaching to the idea of marketplace missions. This idea of taking the gospel to work has been gaining momentum, but the organizational support for this has been lagging. In fact, very few churches have the organizational structure to support a dedicated effort to the most common missions field in the United States and Europe, the workplace. For those of you in ministry, imagine being asked to build a building, but not being given any money or architectural plans to make it. Now, can you imagine our frustration.
To a trained eye in business, this is plain to see. You can see it in mission conferences where the sole focus is on oversea’s missions. You can see it in missions meetings where the focus only appears to be for those who are willing to travel to exotic locations. The call that pastors continue to make to 75% to 80% of those who are, or have the potential of being marketplace missionaries, are excluded. How can these working professionals be expected to view themselves as missionaries in their “Jerusalem” when the church they attend only promotes missionary work in the context of leaving Jerusalem? If church language encourages missionary work as being exclusive to traveling somewhere, how can those that choose marketplace missions be expected to see their pivotal role in the Kingdom as being missional?
How can this be fixed?
The book on marketplace missions is still being written. No seriously, I’m about halfway through it at this point. Because the marketplace missions concept is in its infancy, there is no proven method, no simple answer, and no marketplace missionary guide for dummies. What I can present is an idea based on business principles that have been written about and executed by people like Steve Jobs and Jack Welsh. It’s called aligning the organization to support the mission.
Consider this, if part of the mission of the church is missions, then ALL of the missions must be supported by the organization. This support would include the concept of marketplace missions work. It must be promoted and supported. Money must be allocated to it, and educational resources dedicated to it. In fact, I would argue that since 75% to 80% of a church congregation has the potential of being a marketplace missionary, that 75% to 80% of your missions budget should be solely dedicated to this effort.
Also, any missions conference must make room for, and give prominence to based on its potential, marketplace missions. When you get a chance, google and look at any missions conference you can find. Do you see anything associated with marketplace missions? No? I didn’t either.
When you walk through your church, there is no doubt that you see the posters, signs, and cards to support overseas missions. Take the time to count the number of posters, educational offerings, missions meetings, etc. for marketplace missions. Can’t find them? I couldn’t either.
The point of this isn’t to shame your local church or condemn them for the way they are approaching missions. But, if the church is genuinely looking for a paradigm shift in missions and evangelism, this is it. And it all starts with aligning the organization to support all missions, foreign and domestic.
Why is this important?
Can you imagine what a missions effort would look like if the organizational support arm of the church swung around to help business professionals by any means necessary in taking the gospel to work? Think of the relationships that have been built by the Christian professional through years of working in the same company. What a missionary would have to train for and work at for years, the business professional has already accomplished. Think about the number of cultures wrapped up in one master culture of a company where a Christian works. What would take a missionary years to master, has already been learned by the Christian business professional.
In other words, the church has thousands, maybe millions, of marketplace missionaries, who have excellent relationships and are embedded in the cultures of multiple people groups at work. The unsaved in the business world is the most significant field to harvest, and the workers are standing in the barn waiting for leadership to take them into the field.
In the next post, I will review why marketplace missions is a natural extension for most of the congregation of a church.