Sunday, February 10, 2013

Business as Worship?

I have a confession to make.  I have called a missionary for over seven years and yet I have never taken a missions class.  Of course, I grew up in the CRC and memorized 87 Q&As from the Heidelberg Catechism for my profession of faith; as a Calvin grad, I took the requisite courses on Biblical Theology and Reformation Theology; I've read many books, attended conferences and workshops related to missions...but have never taken an in-depth missions course.  Up until now.
The first Business as Mission class at ATS!

[I have to also admit, however, that I have never liked calling myself a missionary.  On my landing cards for immigration, I almost always write "business consultant" under profession.  There is something about the title "missionary" that makes me feel uncomfortable.  But I digress...]

One of the requirements for International Christian Ministries (ICM) staff is that they take a course called, "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement."  This involves a 768 page text, online audios, papers, and online quizzes.  I just completed my second lesson and I am really enjoying it.  I think the timing is especially right considering the change that I went through in this last year regarding my calling and a shift in view of my work.

There are a few statements from my most recent reading that captured my attention and caused an involuntary "Amen" to escape.  Most of these quotes refer to the concept of missions in general, but also the presentation of missions to the world:
It is not primarily out of a compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is first of all, love for God...We should never be Christian humanists, taking Jesus to poor sinful people, reducing Jesus to some kind of product that will be better than their lot.  ~John Dawson
Missions is not a recruitment project for God's labor force.  It is a liberation project from the heavy burdens and hard yokes of other gods.  (Matt 11:28-30)  ~John Piper
The weakness of much current mission work is that [we] betray the sense that what is yet to be done is greater than what [Christ] has already done.  The world's gravest need is less than Christ's great victory.  ~P. T. Forsyth
So many conflicting and competing missions cry for our attention.  We're so easily drawn and quartered by the pull of divergent needs and calls.  Without a central understanding of the Biblical emphasis on the Kingdom of God, our terminology becomes one of, "I bring you bad news of sad problems"...These things are important, but the gospel begins with, "I bring you good news of great joy!"...Instead of relying entirely on presentations of need, we must begin inviting people to participate in God's work by making known to all people the "mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Pet 2:9)  ~Tim Dearborn
Through these readings, I have come to identify more clearly that the people group that I am reaching out to are business people - those in the Marketplace, which we define as business, education,and government.  Piper states that the ultimate goal of the Church is worship.  He says, "Missions only exists because worship doesn't...Mission is the means to get people to the greatest activity in the world, which is worship...Worship is the fuel and goal of missions." What these readings have helped clarify for me is that my overall goal is not to make the businesses more successful...or to create jobs...or to build the church by building its members (those can be sub-goals)...but my overall goal is to bring worship into business, or people in business into worship.   Up until this time, I have been working with the term, "Business as Mission" but maybe the term should be "Business as Worship"?  What would the world look like if people recognized that labor is worship and they entered the Marketplace each day with an attitude of going to worship?

Business people need to be reminded that they can be called and anointed to do business - that God delights in work and in business.  He has a great purpose on earth for business in terms of providing needed resources that allow individuals and communities to flourish, as well as to create jobs where people's God-given creativity has an outlet to make this world a better place.  My goal is to free people from the burden of work and rediscover the joy of work - the worship of work - a calling that comes from the Creator - which will allow people to worship while they work.   This helps me better define my goal and my focus.  I have the privilege of traveling to Thailand in April to take part of the Business as Mission Congress and I hope to engage in further dialogue about this with like-minded colleagues.

Henry Blackaby reminds us that,  "when God is about to take a further step to advance His mission, He comes to one or more of His servants.  He lets them know what He is about to do.  He invites them to join Him, bidding them to adjust their lives to Him so that He can accomplish every aspect of His mission through them."  I am beginning to more clearly see God's hand in hindsight as it relates to how I have come to teach Business as Mission at the Africa Theological Seminary (ATS).  In fact, two of the pastors stated over and over how this class was an answer to prayer as it dealt specifically with an area in their church with which they had been wrestling.  Lord willing, I hope to be able to do a pilot project with each of these pastors - it seems that God has already taken steps with these two churches and I hopefully can join Him in the work.  How exciting is that!

Thursday was a game day of ATS staff against a non-profit located here on campus, Water Missions International.  All the people in this picture played...even the women in their dresses!  It was fun to watch them play and laugh together.
A little football (soccer) action...ATS (in yellow) won...
A little volleyball action...ATS won (Dean of Theology is the one in black pants up in the air)...
Good ol' Tug of guessed it...ATS men won...although the women lost:-(.  (Assistant Principal of ATS third from the end on the right; Director of Counseling Program first yellow shirt on left)