Marketplace Missionaries

Posted on June 14, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

Recent research reveals that over the last decade an average of three countries a year close their doors to Christian missionaries. That is based on an unfortunate perception that missionaries are interested only in proselytizing their people, corrupting their youth and disrupting their cultural traditions through enticements to people to change their religion. They don’t understand that even Christians know there is no benefit in someone simply changing their religious affiliation.

However, without a missionary witness people are deprived of needed humanitarian ministries and ultimately of the opportunity to hear the good news of how one can know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This challenge of impacting closed countries has been met through creative access platforms. With training and experience in fields such as teaching, healthcare, business, etc. Americans have been able to gain access into restricted locations by contributing a value-added service. Having gained access, they are able to build friendships and earn a hearing for sharing their faith.

Governments are becoming more sophisticated and realizing foreigners choosing to live and work in dangerous and economically-deprived places must have some other motivation for leaving the advantages of America to work overseas. “Platforms” are becoming more and more vulnerable for those who aren’t true professionals and do not go under the sponsorship of credible business and educational enterprises.

In recent years more and more missionaries are not the stereotypical pastor, church staff and seminary graduate going to do direct evangelism and start churches. In fact, typical candidates include accountants, computer specialists, building contractors, attorneys, coaches, doctors, engineers and retail merchants and a plethora of other skills. Their “secular” credentials allow them to plug into roles for which they are uniquely equipped to gain access and meet a need among unreached people groups. This trend will definitely continue; the missionary of the future will be out of the marketplace rather than professional Christian ministry.

The IMB, recognizing this reality, has taken a giant step to remaining relevant in this changing paradigm. The department of Global Strategic Mobilization has been created to not only enlist marketplace professionals for key assignments overseas, but to mobilize the massive numbers of Southern Baptist businessmen working for multi-national companies; they have the potential for sharing their expertise abroad as tentmakers to fill the gap where a witness is needed.

Others who are not involved internationally will receive training for short-term mission assignments. This group has natural inroads and influence among leaders in government and industry. They are respected and can readily share their faith at a level to which other missionaries could only aspire. It is anticipated this network of business leaders, intentionally equipped for cross-cultural witness will quickly grow and complement the work of personnel on the field. This is clearly the wave of the future.

The primary obstacle is to dispel the myth that only an elite few who have a mystical call to missions are responsible for fulfilling the Great Commission. The mandate to disciple the nations is to the people of God–every church and every believer. Global Strategic Mobilization is an innovative and timely move in this direction.

3 Comments on “Marketplace Missionaries”

  1. Bill Hogg

    Jerry, you are right on. Creative Access businesses have to be done with integrity, or we become poor incarnational witnesses. Ministry and vocation should go hand and glove together. I have enjoyed your blog updates.

  2. pamela gorecki

    Hello Jerry and Bobbye,
    It was nice to read your update. I just wanted to say that sometimes, “ex-missionaries” can also have an impact if they remain faithful to sharing. I have been a French citizen for three years now and have had my own business for the same amount of time—teaching English in large French companies. I can’t tell you how many times I have had the opportunity to minister to high level executives in France because I am not only a French citizen, but also have been accepted because I am a professional without the title of “missionary”. I can remain in the country because I have French citizenship and I can minister because of the respect that I have earned during my years of service—-seven years as an employee of a French company and three years in my own business.
    All of that to say—I agree—ministry and vocation SHOULD go hand and glove together.
    Thanks again for your updates. I always enjoy reading your news. As always, I hold you two in the highest respect.

  3. Arnold Arredondo

    I wish you would expand your thoughts on this subject. It is good to hear about the changes in the IMB, but our Christian university and seminary system could benefit from organizing around marketplace missionaries proactively.

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