Monday, July 31, 2017

The Role of the Church in the Faith at Work Movement

While I was grounded in Grand Rapids for a number of weeks due to illness, I tried to put my time to good use by continuing to coordinate the work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders in different countries, and also spend time reading and reflecting.  Two books that I have been working through are God At Work:  The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement by David W. Miller, and Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World by Miroslav Volf.   These two books have made me think and rethink the work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders.

When I started feeling the call to move the work of business development into the Church, I heard a number of voices that it "couldn't" be done and also that it "shouldn't" be done.  The reasons for those words seemed to me to be unfounded and without depth, casting aside the Church as a broken institution that has lost its way, rather than the people of God equipped by the Holy Spirit to be change agents in the world.

Miroslav Volf's book looks at the often competing visions of world religions and market-drive globalization processes and how they impact lives worldwide.  He looks at the historical relationship as well as what the relationship should be.  He concludes that world religions, despite their malfunctions "remain one of our most potent sources of moral motivation and contain within them profoundly evocative accounts of human flourishing.  Above all by keeping alive the truth that human beings do not live by bread alone, religions can foster hope and global solidarity, bridge the yawning gap between the rich and the poor, and help protect our endangered planet.  Globalization in turn can nudge world religions to loosen ties to particular states, which tend to rope religions into legitimizing violence, and help them rediscover their authentic universality."

We can see from this quote the affirmation that not only can this work be integrated in the Church, but it SHOULD be integrated with the Church.
David Miller's book tells the story of how the faith at work movement has moved through the church for the last 150 years, giving a rich history and context for what has worked, what has not, and some of the reasons for it.  He describes the Faith At Work movement in terms of three distinct waves.  Much of what is in the book is what we have experienced:  there is a lack of theological understanding and teaching from seminaries; clergy are focused on criticizing the problems in the marketplace without appreciating the complexities or the theological possibilities in the marketplace; churches are too focused on an internal focus at the expense of the external focus. While some denominations (Reformed and PCUSA) have a theological tradition of linking Christian vocation and work, most do not move from theory to praxis, or from the structured to the personal.  Another of our consistent findings is the lack of awareness or "unconscious" of the distance between the Sunday/Monday gap, and how the church actually contributes to it.

There have been times when a pastor will tell me how well they are connected to their business people and discipling them.  This book has given me two great question to ask to find out more from these churches:  "As an operational focus, in comparison to other departments, how much staffing and what amount of budget resources does the Faith At Work ministry receive?  Secondly, how frequently are Faith at Work issues addressed theologically, and what is the content of this expression as seen by denominational policy statements and discussion papers?"

For me, it finally gave some depth to critics of the work of DML and confirmed some of the struggles that we are seeing with some countries and some denominations relating to DML. It has been good for me to be reminded that this is part of an on-going battle that will not be completed until Christ returns.  It also reminds me that, of course, this is one miniscule battle in the midst of many battles going on.  But I know with confidence and joy that this is the battle I have been called to, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before.

Next week I leave for Tanzania, where we will be joining many people for the Theological Education in Africa conference.  Dr. Walker and I will be teaching about Discipling Marketplace Leaders and ask for your prayers for those who will be attending to be energized, encouraged, and equipped to continue to work towards building the Church.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Wealth Creation Manifesto

The idea of "wealth creation" has been a difficult one for Christians to get behind if we define that as our goal in the work of business development.  "Poverty alleviation" is a much more palatable term.  That is in part because we equate wealth with Jesus' words that it is "more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle."  We forget that the very next words from the disciples is "who then can be saved?" and Jesus replies that with man it is impossible - none of us can do it on our own.  Or sometimes we have been taught that "money is the root of all evil" instead of "the love of money."

Wealth creation is not the same as making people rich.  Helping people have access to opportunities that will allow them to be creative and productive, and to provide for their families and children, can often only take place through wealth creation, which never comes from handouts.  One of my favorite lines from the Poverty Cure is this, "I have never heard of a third world nation becoming a first world nation because of aid.  That track is wrong and it leads nowhere."

I was happy to see the Lausanne Movement and BAM Global come out recently with a wealth creation manifesto.  I think they have done a very nice job of putting this together.  I have pasted it below and would love to hear thoughts on this.

As the DML team has just completed three different trainings in Nigeria (Abuja, Jos, and Lagos) that apparently went very well.  Close to three hundred pastors and church leaders were trained in Discipling Marketplace Leaders!  I will include some pictures from those trainings at the end of this post.

Wealth Creation Manifesto


The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global organized a Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in March 2017. About 30 people from 20 nations participated, primarily from the business world, and also from church, missions and academia. The findings will be published in several papers and a book, as well as an educational video. This Manifesto conveys the essentials of our deliberations before and during the Consultation. 


1.    Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity. 

2.    We are created in God’s image, to co-create with Him and for Him, to create products and services for the common good.

3.    Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible.

4.    Wealth creators should be affirmed by the Church, and equipped and deployed to serve in the marketplace among all peoples and nations.

5.    Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.

6.    There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.

7.    The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.

8.    Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual wealth.

9.    Wealth creation through business has proven power to lift people and nations out of poverty.

10. Wealth creation must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor, and should be sensitive to each unique cultural context.

11. Creation care is not optional. Stewardship of creation and business solutions to environmental challenges should be an integral part of wealth creation through business. 


We present these affirmations to the Church worldwide, and especially to leaders in business, church, government, and academia. 

       We call the church to embrace wealth creation as central to our mission of holistic transformation of peoples and societies.

       We call for fresh, ongoing efforts to equip and launch wealth creators to that very end.

       We call wealth creators to perseverance, diligently using their God-given gifts to serve God and people.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam - For the greater glory of God

Version 4.0: 23 April 2017

Dr. Walker, Barbie Odom, and the leaders from Lagos

200+ pastors in Lagos, very excited to be together.

After a long and tiring trip, Dr. Walker still teaching with passion.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rain falls on the Just and the Unjust

Pastor Johnfred and his wife, Lydia.
I met Pastor Johnfred Ajwang in the spring of 2014, while living at the Africa Theological Seminary in Kitale, Kenya.  Pastor Johnfred was the pastor of a church he planted in Kisumu through Dove Christian Fellowship, and a student studying for his BA in Theology.  I met him because someone had referred him to me for some marketing that we were doing for ATS and he was reportedly a very good writer.  I was immediately captivated by his great smile, his humble attitude, and his servant heart.  I had the opportunity to teach him two courses (Business as Mission and Accounting for Pastors) and found him to be a serious and dedicated student, while also having a unique gift of bringing warmth into a room and helping people feel comfortable.
Pastor Johnfred (right) was the first to show me Lake Victoria.
Pastor Johnfred was very excited about Discipling Marketplace Leaders and eagerly looked forward to bringing this ministry to Kisumu.  He became a trainer, and then brought a number of church members (business people and church leaders) to also become trainers.  Even though Kisumu was the fourth city we opened for DML in Kenya (after Kitale, Kakamega, and Eldoret), it quickly took the lead in a number of areas because of Pastor Johnfred's passion and energy.  He organized meetings with pastors and business people, and had us back a number of times to do workshops and trainings.  Pastor Johnfred was the first to show me Lake Victoria, as seen in the picture (he is on the right).

I so believed in Pastor Johnfred and the work he was doing that last year Michael and I asked if we could be "members" of his church.  We are members of our church in Grand Rapids but I wanted to be able to go a little deeper with a couple of churches and not always feel like a guest when traveling, so last year we joined his church and one other church.  I have been privileged to watch as a member about the growth and challenges of Pastor Johnfred's church.

But on Saturday, July 1, Pastor Johnfred Ajwang lost his life on this earth after a very brief illness.  He preached the Sunday before on suffering for Christ.  On Monday began to feel sick with some stomach issues.  On Friday they planned to move him to a different hospital that could better address his issues, but early on Saturday, he passed away.  I am told the confusing story that often comes out of health care in developing countries - something was happening to his liver which caused bile to be released into his stomach and bloodstream.  To me this sounds more like a ruptured gallbladder but that is what the family has been told.  As is often the case, it doesn't matter much as it doesn't change the reality.

He leaves behind a wife, Lydia, and four children:  a son aged 14, a son aged 13, and twins (boy and girl) aged 8.  His wife is a primary school teacher in a rural school (which usually means very little pay).  They did not have health insurance or life insurance, and have been left with bills totaling $4500 USD.  The church is struggling to raise some of that money, and I imagine the extended family has been called upon to raise some of it as well.  But my heart goes out to this widow, with four young children, left on her own, so suddenly.  It is heartbreaking.

His death hit me hard on many levels that are obvious (a friend, my pastor, a DML partner, knowing a little of what his wife and children are going through, dealing with a poor health care system, etc).  But it also hit hard as I had been sick with stomach issues for the past six weeks.  I have health insurance, had access to every test (that insurance would allow), and had very good care.  I know I didn't have what Pastor Johnfred had, but I wonder if he would have lived had he been in the US.  And I wonder about the justice of the random chance of where we are born.  And it makes me feel guilty, it makes me want to be more stewardly with my resources, and it makes me want to work harder to end poverty.

Please remember this family in your prayers.  His wife's name is Lydia.  Their children are Shem, Enoch, Ruth, and Japheth - such Biblical names! 

If you would like to give a gift that can be put toward his hospital and funeral expenses, or toward an education fund for his children, please go to, select Discipling Marketplace Leaders from the dropdown, and put "Johnfred Ajwang" in the comment section.

As for me, I am mostly back to normal.  I will most likely never know what it was that I had but I am thankful that it seems to be behind me.  To those who prayed and sent encouraging notes, I am thankful.