I had the privilege this past week to spend time in Kansas City with a number of like-minded people who are focused on building capacity with the Church through equipping and unleashing business people to be the Church every day of the week. Not surprisingly, we were a small group of about 25. Most people either take the church route or the business route and not very many people are committed to equipping workplace leaders through the church.
It was nice to be in the company of like-minded people for a few days. Most of them are focused here in the US, and I heard a lot of stories that reminded me of my times with Restorers in Grand Rapids, and doing community development with a holistic view of working with the community.
Our purpose in being together was to record 15-minute talks, like Ted Talks but focused on Sustainable and Transformational Missions (SAT talks). While there, I heard Larry Sharp of IBEC Ventures say, "We need to move from professional missionaries to missional professionals." As a former missionary himself, I appreciated his words.
I often cringe a little when I hear people talk with a good amount of disdain towards missionaries and the costs that are spent on relocation for missionaries. I remember my former pastor said to us before we moved to Liberia that we should rather invest in a national person rather than move ourselves. I'd like to think that while that may have been a cheaper investment, there was a needed information/technology transfer that needed to happen through these ex-pats called the Reeds.
I have had a few choice words myself for missionaries over the years, as I have seen missionaries who live in very sheltered communities, living in houses that they likely couldn't afford in the US, with househelp doing a lot of the work at home. They tend to mix only with other missionaries and often talk down about the people that they are there to love and serve.
But there are many, many missionaries who do not live and work that way. Many sacrifice family, friends, comfort, safety, not to mention having to raise support, and have lost a lot, in the process.
I do agree that the model of missions is changing, however. There is not as great a need as there was at one time for people to move permanently to a place. There can be found great capacity in nationals, and it is important for our model of missions to change.
The SAT talks (www.sattalks.org) is a great resource for Church mission groups to learn about what others are doing in these changing times. Significant Matters (the organization behind SAT talks) does workshops called Missions 3.0 to help people adjust their missions model to these changing times. Take a look at this chart to see the changing population of Christians by continent from the 1900s and through a projection in 2050 (sorry about the poor quality photo).
But I do love the concept of Missional Professionals. Every person on mission in their place of work, not just to make disciples (which is important!) but to love their neighbor/co-worker/customer, to do quality work that allows others to flourish, and to be stewards of this earth and its resources as managers, not owners.
I continue to dream about what that would look like if the 2.3 billion Christians did their work as an act of worship every day, and every church equipped the saints for the work of the ministry, not in the church building but in every corner of the marketplace.
The times, they are a'changin. And we need to keep pace.
Update on travel: I was supposed to leave this week for Cameroon, but after three weeks and three attempts at a visa, the Cameroon Embassy in Washington DC denied me for reasons that made no sense. So we had to cancel the Cameroon portion of this next trip, and so next week we will leave for Nigeria for our West African Regional DML meeting, and then on to Burkina Faso after that.