I believe we are living in a day of unprecedented time of change in the Western Church. As the world has “flattened” as noted by Thomas Friedman the face and focus of missions has be changing to embrace this reality. The day of missionaries deployed on “slow boats to China” is a relic of the past like the telegraph in the day of text messages. I suspect the role of the traditional mission sending organizations like the International Mission Board must and will change dramatically over the next decade. These changes will have much more to do with vision, methodology, and strategy than theological lines in the sand.
As the world has flatten the Western Church has been force to come to grips with the harsh reality that “missions as usual” will simply not cut it in a world with billions walking this planet having never even heard the name of Jesus, much less having a face to face relationship with a Christ follower. The enormous cost of deploying thousands of career missionaries will continue to be a daunting task as denominations and local congregations struggle to make ends meet financially. We cannot entrust the future of missions to the Cooperative Program alone in a day when cooperation at the denomination level is being increasing more difficult and rare.
I realize my ideas proposed here are not ground breaking nor cutting edge, but I would like to add my voice to the chorus for meaningful change in how we pursue the Great Commission of “making disciples of all nations” in my lifetime. I believe the Baptist General Convention of Texas has a unique opportunity to forge new vision of mission for tomorrow with a strategy partnership between our Baptist colleges and seminaries and tapping into the financial and business strengths of our people.
Here is a rough draft of someone sitting in the bleachers analyzing the game on the field. I propose our schools intentionally seek to equip and deploy young men and women to the mission frontier as business leaders and mission strategists. I don’t even know if this degree would be possible, but I propose the creation of a MMBA (masters. The young men and women who come out the program will be train strategist in both business models and church planting movements.
The components of the basic strategy are as follows:
- Train and equip our students to be well versed in establishing success international businesses and also how to plant churches overseas.
- Encourage the students to hire on with Fortune 500 companies or international companies that will send overseas on their payroll, or create a business platform organization for missions that provides the seed money for new business ventures. The business/missionary will enter the country as a business man or woman, and will work hard to establish a success business that will continue to provide the financial backing to help them remain in country, but this business venture will also allow for networking within the business community for the establishment of new churches.
- The “Business Platform Organization for Missions” (BPOM) would work with highly trained business leaders to help them establish “Christian” companies. The goal will be for the BPOM to provide the financial and oversight support to help these businesses to be established. Depending on the industry the financial support will vary. As a novice I would suggest a three to five year phase out of funding. In other words, if the new business does not make within three to five years the endeavor will be terminated, but hopefully a Christian presence would have been established that would continue long after the failure of the business platform. However, if the business platform succeeds it will then provide the financing of the church planting movement for many years to come. In addition, the business platform could hire additional trained MMBA Christian business men and women to further the work of the mission.
- So mission organizations have explored this model but from my perspective too often the business platform was nothing more than “hanging a shingle” but the business side of the project was either poor pursue or intentional ignored. In some cases I am aware of this “fake” business platform has raised some real ethical and legal difficulties for the missionaries. I fear the deception involved often opened us up to needless attacks from the “enemy” of our mission.
Granted to establish this model of missions could be very expensive. To launch a BPOM could cost in the millions of dollars, but I believe in the long run it would be a great investment in long-term missions. On the positive side, we already have the finest Christian colleges in the land. Many of these schools have some of the finest theologians, mission strategists, and business leaders in the state. If these great minds work together can you imagine the impact of this wave of young leaders coming out of our school could have on the world?
By principle I tend to be a “both/and” kind of thinker and dreamer. I am not suggesting the end of career missionaries as we have known them; I am only suggesting that we deploy a new breed of mission/business leaders for the new flat world we must embrace.