Radstock (Steve Palframan) have been making the case for church-centred global mission in their blog posts recently (see here and here). What they're saying is of course nothing new. Crossing boundaries to plant churches is the focus of many organisations, from individual churches and church networks (such as New Frontiers / Regions Beyond, Elim, Acts 29, Radstock) to countless mission agencies set up with the purpose of seeing new churches start and flourish.
An intentional focus of mission to establish churches is 100% in line with the New Testament, particularly as seen through Acts and the Pauline letters. As the blogs above point out, if missionary's ministry leads to a local church, this should be a) sustainable even if the missionary returns and b) contextualised for the local culture as that church develops.
[Another post is needed to discuss the relationship of church planting to "showing God's love and serving the community." They are not antetheses, as some would imagine. They just answer different questions.]
So if church planting is a good thing (and ultimately the preeminent thing) in the work of mission, how do business or business-people fit in? Does mission become only for theologically trained experienced pastors and church planters?
It will not surprise you to hear me say "no"!
Six reasons to ponder more on the relationship between missional business and church planting:
- We are a priesthood of all believers. Each one of us is called to follow and share Christ, in our own sphere and place of influence. In that sense, there is no difference between clergy and laity, or MTh and MBA.
- Each of us is also called to know Christ intimately. Peter and John were not educated, high society men, but they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13) and it showed. Whilst we must understand Scripture, doctrine and its application, we should not confuse a degree with mature intimacy with Jesus. The church should be looking to send missional business people (including trades) with this sort of intimacy.
I am not saying there is no value in formal training. Indeed, business people have for too long neglected their ministry role in their vocation, and not thought it necessary to know the Scriptures to a similar extent as a pastor/teacher. We should be challenging ourselves as business people.
- The work of planting a church requires a range of skills, which God provides as he brings individuals in Christ's body together. Whilst the lead role of preacher/pastor is key, elders (and deacons or other ministry leads) are taken from various walks of life and backgrounds. We give honour to those running the church (1 Tim 5:17), but that does not mean there is nothing for others to do. On the contrary, whole church discipleship and whole church mission is required for gospel impact in our communities. That is no different when engaging across cultural boundaries. The greatest "impact" in a new church may come from the business person adept at building relationships and sharing Christ freely.
- The work prior to a church being planted is critical to its sustainability once started. Prayer and dependence on God is primary. Relationship building is next. Those relationships may be harder to come by for the preacher, particularly when dealing with new cultures. Business gives a credible means of relating to others. As we go where the church currently is not (a phrase representing >2.5 billion people), we need to think through this phase in more detail.
- Access to communities may be downright difficult as an accredited preacher. If the only thing on your CV is BTh MDiv, many countries are closed to you long-term. But they are wide open to business people and trades, with NVQs or MBAs or management qualifications. Starting a church in such an environment may take years rather than months. Are we willing to make the effort and sacrifice?
- The finances of a church plant are a) an opportunity for prayerfulness and faithfulness and b) very real issues in many situations. God provides in a myriad of ways, and is faithful to His purposes. One of the ways we've seen His provision is through people with vocations, using those to fund the planting work. That could be at a distance, or it could be up close and personal, as the business person moves to the city where the plan is to plant a new church. There are many in the Global South church who espouse this model.
This is intended to start a conversation as we explore how Mission through Business can serve and support church planting more intentionally. We aim to see more people know Christ, being and making disciples, as His Kingdom is declared.
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