It has been a joy this weekend for me (Ben) to be commissioned by my church into the ministry of Mission through Business. The local church has the authority and precedent to do this (eg Acts 13), and it was very significant for us as a family to have the church standing as a commitment to pray, encourage and hold us accountable as we move forwards.
In the run-up, the church took time to understand me and the ministry, testing the purposes against the Lord's will. This went through various cycles, with the leaders, the deaconate and the membership all involved. The process will differ at each church, but one of the key tests remains the same:
What do we look for in a worker sent by the church?
Another thread of conversation recently has been the debate on social prejudices in the UK (just by using those words, I probably give away my background and thus potential bias). Do the criteria we use in determining church leaders lead unhelpfully to a single "voice" setting the agenda and conversation amongst the British evangelical church? See our tweets on this below.
Applying this to Mission through Business - per the question tweeted above - and mission workers more generally leads to some interesting discussion. IMB have started a discussion on training requirements from a US perspective here, here and here, focusing on the need for seminary (bible college) training.
How can we ensure that the criteria are biblical, helpful and wise? An obvious answer is to allow Scripture to guide us.
For example, when Peter and John stood up before the Council in Jerusalem, the Council were "astonished."
Peter and John, and indeed many of the apostles, were uneducated common men. A key criteria for their effectiveness in their ministry was noted by the Council, ie that "they recognised that they had been with Jesus".
In exploring how we develop opportunities and equip business people and trades-people to get involved in God's mission to all nations, I think we would do well do recognise the primacy of this statement: someone may not have university education, but it may be discerned that they "have been with Jesus" in their life and therefore can be used powerfully by Him.
Does this mean we do not need education, and particularly theological training? Obviously this statement is also not true. But perhaps it shouldn't be the first "tick in the box", explicitly or sometimes implicitly, as we aim to discern God's purposes for His church, and play our role.
This will be one of the themes of this blog through this year, as we explore the range of opportunities for Mission through Business, and look at who could fit them.
The prayer is that many more people will be able to see their opportunity and fit for Christ's commission. We pray that they will start on the pathway, and that through them, many more people would come to know of the good news of Jesus Christ, that there is "salvation in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 3:12).