2011 January

It’s time for another installment of the Communication, Misunderstood tour, where I offer completely unsolicited advice to missions organizations about their communication strategies.

I first stumbled upon the Ask A Missionary site while I was researching, well, questions people ask of missionaries. I was curious if anyone had compiled a sort of “frequently asked questions” for missionaries. It turns out, they have.

According to the site, Ask A Missionary was started by missions mobilizer John McVay in 1998. The site was assumed by Missions Data International (M-DAT) in 2009. Though it has a section for questions about short-term mission trips, Ask A Missionary is geared toward those who are considering long-term service. It’s basically a Yahoo Answers for long-term missions (with the answers being provided by missionaries rather than teenage girls.) The concept is pretty straightforward– users can submit questions about missions, and missionaries provide answers.

First, the good: the site is a brilliant way to make missionaries accessible to everyone. Many believers truly have no connection to a real live missionary, and the site makes it possible for people to ask very specific questions (like “I am a meteorology major and I want to serve overseas. Is there any way I could use this degree in missions?” and “How does a male, non-medical spouse fit in who raises the children? My wife is a healthcare professional and we want to serve overseas long term.”). Nothing about being a steampunk Civil War reenactor wanting to become a missionary blacksmith in Viet Nam. Yet.

The site is well-designed and easy to use. The “Ask,” “Answer,” and “Search” sections are clearly marked. Posting a question is easy (you’ll have to guess which one is mine), and it’s easy to peruse answers already given. Twitter and Facebook, integration are everywhere, and the site includes some resources for those who are ready for next steps.

There are other “Ask a missionary”-type sites, such as Urbana.org‘s  Ask Jack. But these sites use more of an “ask the expert” format, where “Ask A Missionary” seems to allow pretty much anyone who claims to be a missionary and doesn’t use foul language to post an answer. That said, I’m pretty sure answers are screened and edited before they can be seen by the public. I won’t tell you what research may have led to that conclusion.

And that’s the problem with Ask A Missionary; something about the answers on the site seems too, well, nice. In response to the question, “How can I prepare for missions when others try to discourage me?”, missionaries to Colombia and New Zealand answered with encouraging notes about having patience and self-esteem. If I were to write for the site, my answer would be more like: “Take the hint! Maybe the reason people are trying to dissuade you from going is that you’d make a terrible missionary. The last thing we need on the field are more uninteresting Lifers with no social skills.” But maybe that’s just me.

Ask A Missionary doesn’t feature many photos, but the few it does use are some of the most sterile and generic I’ve seen. I’m not sure what it is about missionaries and stock business photos, but surely an open, wiki-style site could solicit a few photos from the field. A video answer would add some visual interest, as would some photos from the field or profiles of question-askers.

Also, because answers are provided by a variety of “missionaries” from different perspectives and approaches to ministry, the site lacks a consistent voice, tone, and mood. The result is a collection of answers that lack a certain credibility or honesty that make other “expert” sites so appealing. The reason USA Today’s “Ask The Captain” works so well is that users can get to know Captain John Cox by reading the column. This builds expectations for the answers, just like call-in radio advice shows like Dr. Laura‘s or Dave Ramsey‘s. Ask A Missionary doesn’t necessarily lend itself to that sort of personalization, and suffers because of it.

Furthermore, it’s clear that some missionary responders on the site are mobilization specialists and agency recruiters. This means that their participation on the site is primarily PR. Though most of them have previous missions experience, they’re expanding the online presence of the organizations they represent. (By the way, if you are an organizational representative, you really should take advantage of Ask A Missionary as a platform and weigh in with answers to at least a couple of the questions posed there.)

If I were going to develop Ask A Missionary’s communications strategy, I would build a bullpen of several missionaries that each have some specialty. I’d then develop their personalities on the site and have them tell more of their stories as they answer questions. This would help build credibility and establish a more personal connection between “askers” and “answerers.”

In an attempt to be a bit more proactive, I’d add a section of “Questions Users Don’t Ask, But Should,” where missionaries ponder questions they wish they’d asked or known to ask.

I would approach multiple major missions sending organizations and ask them for money in exchange for links and representation on the site. When a candidate for missionary service has a question about missionary service, they go to Ask A Missionary to get quick answers from an “actual” missionary. Most organizations have layers of bureaucracy to go through; it can take several hand-offs before a curious person is connected to someone who might be able to answer their questions.

Finally, I’d have the site include commentary and questions about missionary service that are being asked on other websites. In other words, scour the internet for questions that are being asked, and address them as though they were being asked on Ask A Missionary. Then link to the original post and interact with the answers that were given. For example:

“Over on Missions Misunderstood, a commenter recently asked about the viability of business as mission in the Middle East. Our business as mission specialist, John Smith, had this to say about it…” Ideally, Ask A Missionary could then comment on E.Goodman’s answer to the original question: “Goodman advised the commenter to look into opening a Subway franchise. This is a terrible idea, because Subway sells bacon….”

You get the idea.

Though Ask A Missionary didn’t ask me, those are my two cents about their communications strategy. To M-DAT, Ask A Missionary, and all the contributors to the site, I thank you for offering such a valuable service to the church.

If there’s an organization you’d like suggest for my next Communications, Misunderstood post, please leave a comment.

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“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.” –Acts 16:6-8

Here we read about the kind of connection we need in order to walk in obedience. Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect only missionaries, and not regular Christ-followers, to be so in tune with the Spirit. Most Christians in the west would not fit into the story:

“Rob and Kristine left Phoenix for the Portland area because of Rob’s job transfer. Wanting to feel safe and comfortable, they were drawn to the suburbs. Because Gresham schools were notoriously bad, they moved to Beaverton, and a neighborhood where they got a great deal on a great house.”

For some reason, Christians often use the world’s criteria to make decisions about where to live. The familiar list (cost, square footage, neighborhood, good schools, low crime, return on investment, etc.) is heavily informed by the American Dream and sometimes in conflict with Kingdom values. When we adopt the world’s values, following Jesus is entirely accidental.

That’s not to say that God doesn’t direct His people to move into safe, quiet neighborhoods; He does. I’m also not trying to over-spiritualize the decision-making process. Paul seemed determined to go “where the gospel had not been proclaimed,” and it took supernatural intervention to change his plans.

When believers are faced with a decision about where to live, we need to add a few things to the list of values that go into our decision making process. Three come to mind:

Be a Blessing– Since the first covenant, God’s people are blessed in order that they may be a blessing to others. As we decide where to plant our lives, we need to ask, “Where can I be a blessing?” The truth is, we’re all exiles. Our citizenship is not of this world. Jeremiah 29:7 tells exiles to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” where we live.

Community– The world’s values push us toward isolation. It takes some intentionality to insure contact with neighbors, but our commission is to make disciples, and discipleship is a relationship. Where we live can either help or hinder our efforts to get to know people and build community.

Incarnation– Christ is our model of incarnation. Our role- our very purpose on this earth, is to be meatspace representatives of Jesus. It’s not about showing non-believers how it looks for us to follow Christ; our role as sent-out ones is to model what it would be like for our neighbors if they were to have a relationship with Him. This almost always requires us to give up some of our preferences in order to minimize the differences between us and people in our communities.

If we add these Kingdom values to our decision-making process, they may replace some of the other things on the list. We may end up in a small apartment rather than a big house. We may not get the biggest “bang for our buck.” We may have to tutor our kids to supplement their educations. We may have to learn a new language, develop new habits, or enter a new culture, but isn’t that what missionaries do?

Let’s be mindful of what goes into our decisions about where we live.

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Sharing a hookah. Smoking a peace pipe. Drinking to a toast. Dressing in ceremonial robes.

Missionaries constantly face the edges of contextualization. Incarnation requires that she constantly ask herself: “What should I do to minimize the difference between myself and those to whom I want to minister?” Every cultural difference hinders the communication of the message, and serves to emphasize the “foreign-ness” of the faith.

Of course, contextualization means looking for ways to say and to show, “I’m like you, but different.” I’m like you— in that I’m human, sinful, and in need of a savior, but I’m different— in that I’m in Christ and therefore have purpose, hope, peace, and salvation.

Some cultural adaptations may not be the most comfortable, but are expected for the missionary. These are rarely controversial. Most missionaries eat local food (in public, anyway), learn local language, follow social norms. In Europe, they greet with a kiss (or two, or three).  Western believers living in the Middle East often wear a burqa or head covering. In Asia, they avoid open conflict, show respect, and eat with chopsticks. These things say, “I want to join your culture.”

Other customs are avoided by most missionaries because participating in them would only validate the lies, idolatry, and sin within the culture. Missionaries do not participate in ancestor worship, sexual rituals, or pagan ceremonies. (Neither should they ride those little scooters through the dangerous streets of Bangkok, but that has more to do with sanity than contextualization.) Doing these things would undermine the vital differences between life in Christ and life apart from Him. Conspicuously abstaining shows what redemption within culture would look like.

Which brings us back to the edge.

The Bible isn’t silent about these “edge” issues. In  1 Corinthians 8, Paul teaches the church about the contextualization problem of eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. Though idols have no real power, he says, we should not eat food that has been offered to idols if it would cause someone else to think that by eating the food we were somehow honoring those idols.

The principle is the same for other “edge” practices that we may not have any particular conviction about. Though you have every “right” to kiss your wife in public, don’t do it if that’s considered sinful in your context.We can see pretty clearly that contextualization of the gospel is likely to require us to deny ourselves of some things that we otherwise would be free to do.

But contextualization works both ways. It sometimes (often?) requires us to do some things that we may not otherwise do. Some of those things, like eating rotten cabbage or growing a beard are simply matters of taste. Others, however, aren’t so cut-and-dried. Should a follower of Jesus prostrate himself alongside Tibetans? Bow toward the East during the call to prayer ? Pay a bribe? Does it matter how these things are interpreted by local society?

And this is where things get sticky: when someone presumes to know the cultural meanings and spiritual implications of particular actions in a context they know nothing about. The truth is, finding the edges of contextualization is a difficult, energy-intensive endeavor. It can be fun, scary, and dangerous. Some people do, in fact, fall over the edge of contextualization, and this is very unfortunate. But being a missionary is a dangerous thing. Jesus likened it to being lambs sent to the slaughterhouse.

missionshoft-1783319I’ve been watching an interesting, if asymmetric, discussion on Ed Stetzer’s blog about MissionShift, the book he co-edited with David Hesselgrave.

Participants were given copies of the book and asked to post their thoughts on their own blogs and discuss them in the comments section of Ed’s post. We started by reading the first section of the book, written by Chuck Van Engen, and the accompanying response essays written by various missiologists and theologians.

The book itself is a thoughtful discussion of mission past, present, and future. It begins with an exploration of the definition(s) of mission. Though it seems like a simple thing to do, defining the mission has proven very difficult for evangelicals to do; interpretations of “therefore go” have ranged from social justice work with no gospel proclamation to open-air evangelism with no contextualization to baptized syncretism with no transformation.

Some reject the idea of missions. Others carry on under a new title (Van Engen refers to a church that replaced its “missions” program with “global outreach”). Others still hold tightly to the word, but apply it to everything from feeding the homeless to cleaning up the local schools.

What’s a missionary to do?

Part of the problem in defining the mission is that we’ve elevated it to something that is, for most of the church, (and, ironically, for most missionaries,) out of reach. As an academic discipline, missiology sits somewhere between theology, sociology, anthropology, and communications theory.  The words we use to talk about our motivations and methods in mission can be pretty intimidating. The result is a church that has a fuzzy picture of what missions is or else doesn’t talk about it at all.

For some time now, more culturally-aware churches in the U.S. have been talking about being “missional.” This conversation has, for the most part, happened without any meaningful input from practicing missionaries on the field. The missional church has therefore been left to learn the hard way, missiological missteps and all.

It’s time for a more accessible missiology. It’s time to stop using lofty words that prove we know more than everyone else and start wrestling with what God is currently doing around the world and how that fits into our understanding of the scriptural mandate to “go unto all nations.”

I’m thankful for Ed Stetzer (don’t tell him- it’ll go to his head) and what he’s doing to further the conversation by bridging the gap between academic and armchair missiologists. I’m proud of all the missionaries who are mindful to share lessons from the field with the people in the pews.

You don’t have to be a scholar to talk about God’s global purposes or how you fit into it all.

Most missionaries see themselves as having been sent to a particular people group or population segment. This makes sense, as each subculture requires a unique methodology to church and gospel translation.

Most missionaries establish themselves as advocates for their people. They promote their work by highlighting the needs, both spiritual and physical, of the group. They present statistics demonstrating their “unreachedness” and relative separation from Christ.

I’ve written before about the need to love your city. But I would love to see missions advocacy take a more positive turn. Why not set up a website promoting what your people group has to offer the world? Rather than focusing on their great need (let’s face it, the vast need is overwhelming), emphasizing the potential contribution of your group?

Perhaps your long-lost tribe in the Amazon could teach hunters in Arkansas a thing or two about bow hunting. Or maybe the women in your village in Sudan would give a mean seminar on basket weaving. The Yi of southwestern China are expert nomadic cattle herders, and could advise on land-sharing initiatives. From art to cooking to justice to living in balance with the environment, every people has something to offer humanity. Why not advocate for your people group by promoting their assets rather than lamenting their lostness?

To be clear: I’m not talking about exploitation; you should not be making money off of your people group. I’m not talking about starting business ventures, either. Some groups may be interested in this sort of thing, but many entrepreneurial Westerners have sold out their people in the name of community development.

Instead, I’m talking about establishing a platform from which those who do not know your people group might be able to relate to it. If you were to promote your work among the gemu otaku in Tokyo as having a tremendous ability to build and interact in virtual worlds, you’re building bridges for interested churches to connect with them. The Adyghe in the Northwest Caucasus all carry swords yet live peaceably with one another. Churches could ask them to speak into the U.S. gun control debate.

Leading with the need may raise awareness and pull at the heart strings, but advertising  a people’s skills provides a starting point for dialog. It would truly serve the church on mission if advocates would help them see people groups not at projects, but as people.

Now that it’s 2011, many missionaries have embraced the 2000s and started blogs. Fortunately, there are hundreds of opportunities to stay in touch with what’s happening on the field. I try to monitor lots of these blogs in order to know what God is doing around the world (and so that I can make fun of missionaries).

As I scan the missionary blogosphere, it seems like they tend to take one of four distinct approaches to blogging. I summarize each of them here for your information and entertainment:

1.) Newsletter blogs. In the missionary snail mail era (pre-2004), missionaries took great pains to fire up Microsoft Word and put together a collection of thoughts, updates, Bible verses, clip-art and low-resolution photos. They would then print these out, fold them into thirds, and mail them to everyone in their address book (which, back then, was an actual book). The newsletter served as a sort of “don’t forget about us” message that hardly anyone read, but nobody had the heart to opt out of receiving them.

So when email came into regular use, workers everywhere started sending electronic versions of their newsletters (sometimes literally printed out and scanned back in to the computer). And when Geocities started offering free web hosting, missionaries around the world jumped at the opportunity to save some postage by transitioning their newsletters into map-themed websites with large hit counters and animated GIFs.

You can still find these sites, but now most of them use Blogger. The idea is the same– snapshots of the missionaries and their eight children, eating strange food, singing during a worship service, celebrating a birthday. The stories included are carefully selected to show that the need is great, they’re making progress, but the work isn’t done yet. They almost always conclude with a list or prayer requests and a reminder of where to send a check.

Look for blog names like: “Come 2 (Country Name),” or “ (Country Name) for Christ,” or anything with words from the local language.

2.) Every post is a theological treatise. These missionary blogs are easily identified: no images (with the exception of the occasional stock photo to illustrate a point) and lots of theology in a sea of text. Maybe it’s because they used to be preachers and still need to put together a sermon each week; maybe they’re working through a personal study of the book of Ecclesiastes and just thought the world would be interested. Whatever their motivation, treatise bloggers use their blogs like long-winded preachers use their pulpits– to bore their audience with content that we’d feel guilty to disregard publicly.

It should be noted that Missions, Misunderstood has always fallen into this category. Nine-part series. Lots of scrolling to get to the end of a post. Preaching to the choir. At times, even I was bored with my posts.

Look for URLs that include Ancient Greek, the name of an obscure Biblical place, or a veiled scriptural reference.

3.) Diary blogs. Sadza and cabbage for dinner. What the kids got for Christmas. The contents of a recent care package.Diary bloggers spare no detail to give you a front seat in the action of their daily lives. They want you to feel the frustration of a trip to the post office and to know the humiliation of language mistakes. These blogs walk the fine line between and LOL and TMI.

Look for blog URLs that include the word life– as in “Life In Ecuador,” or “The So-And-Sos In Someplace“.

4.) Devotion blogs. Somewhere between the Treatise blogs and the Diary blogs are the Devotion blogs, where every interaction is an object lesson and every life experience has deep spiritual meaning. Posts start out as an entertaining account of some daily-life experience, but then quickly take a turn for the spiritual, where the author reflects on what happened and how God must be using it to teach him something. Finally, Devotion blog posts end with a prayer, scripture, or both.

Look for blog titles that include the words: ramblings, musings, rantings, thoughts, or something to do with coffee.

To find all types of missionary blogs, visit the appropriately-named missionary-blogs.com, where you’ll find lists of missionary blogs according to country of service. Also, be sure to follow the link-trails from one missionary blog to another. Missionaries’ blogs are part of an ongoing conversation among workers around the world. The more missionary blogs you follow, the more you’ll be able to see the big picture.

Exploring her new city, the missionary located concentrations of her people group by scanning each block through a virtual reality heads-up display that showed demographics, statistics, and points of interest. She had only just started learning the local language, so she depended on her visual translator to read signs and labels. Her social networking application helped her meet young women in the area who shared her love of cooking and were willing to meet for coffee and practice English. A few text messages allowed the ladies to connect in a local cafe. When the missionary had an opportunity to share the gospel, she pulled up the book of John in the local language, and then showed a clip from the Jesus film, also in the heart language. As she Tweeted her experience, some supporters (who had been praying in real-time) were moved to give financially to her ministry via Paypal. That evening, the missionary sat down to edit the photos and videos she had taken throughout the day into a podcast and prepared for a video call to her church back home.

Your missionary needs an iPhone.

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It’s funny to think that not long ago, missionaries were only seen once every four years or so. Communication consisted of letters and care packages, which had to travel by boat (slow, expensive) or by air (faster, even more expensive). Locally, the missionary had only word-of-mouth and find nationals who might be interested in knowing Jesus. Scripture translations were few and hard to come by.

The separation meant that churches were less likely to be directly involved in the missionary’s life, less engaged in what was happening on the field, and less informed by the lessons learned though the missionary endeavor. Those days are gone, and now, there’s no excuse.

Your missionary needs an iPhone.

What once would have been science fiction, is now part of everyday life for millions of iPhone (or other smartphone) users. The device facilitates much of what missionaries do: navigating, mapping, and communicating. Downloadable apps (even the free ones) make short work of producing a continuous stream of information that keeps supporters actively involved.

Despite leaps in technology, not much has changed for most missionaries on the field, who rarely have access to things like iPhones. Overseas, smartphones sell for hundreds of dollars, and require either expensive and restrictive contracts or technologically-challenging “jailbreaks” and SIM-unlocks in order to work.

Sure, in some places, missionaries can’t justify carrying a luxury item like an iPhone. In other places, the iPhone’s poor signal reception would severely limit it. And far be it from me to send a missionary something that would cause the natives to worship him as the god of Angry Birds or something. But as iPhones and iPods become increasingly common, they are less conspicuous. Cultural acceptance move them from opulence to curiosity to “does anyone around here not have an iPhone?”

Now, more than ever, we have to tools to bring our churches in regular direct contact with what God is doing around the world.

Why not include an iPhone in the next care package you send?

Last year, Francis Chan left the Southern California megachurch that he planted for reasons that weren’t clear to anybody (including Francis). Last Fall, he announced that he and his family were heading to Asia to visit the churches there and to get an idea of what God is doing around the world.

Mark Driscoll thinks Francis is crazy for walking away from his Cornerstone. Francis says he left his church because he wants to live a life that fits in the context of the Bible. His point is that leaving a healthy ministry and the comforts of home in order to be part of what God is doing is a relatively tame move in light of scripture. He jokes about how his life would fit into the New Testament: “James, killed. Peter, imprisoned. Francis goes to Asia.”

I’m proud of Francis and his family. Not because we need to seek out suffering. Not because we’re in a race to see who can “give up the most for Jesus.” But because they have stepped out in radical obedience, even when others didn’t understand.

Francis didn’t want his church to depend on him. He didn’t want his audience to think that planting a church in an affluent suburb was the standard of success. But now, more than ever, I wish they would imitate him. As a prominent pastor in the U.S., Francis is doing something that others should consider. Rather than building a kingdom, why not plant and move on? Why not leave what you’ve built in order to have your worldview influenced by first-hand accounts of what God is doing outside your cultural context? Why not venture out beyond a short-term mission trip to allow believers from other parts of the world to influence your perspective on faith, church, culture, money, and life?

Francis didn’t do anything crazy, he just went first.

Who’s next?

Six people were killed on Saturday, and thirteen injured, when a gunman entered a townhall meeting held by Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D–Arizona), and opened fire. The congresswoman was among the injured. Today, politicians are calling for an end to gun rhetoric that has become popular among pro-gun public figures such as Sarah Palin and others. Each side, of course, blames the other.

Some are saying that the shooter was incited by the militaristic rhetoric of conservative pundits. While the gunman’s motives are yet unknown, the discussion got me thinking about some of the militaristic terminology we use in missions today. We “mobilize” missionaries when we mean to “send them out.” We “enlist” the “support” of “prayer warriors” as we “strategically” “engage” the people of our “target” audience. Might the words we use lead some, both believers and unbelievers, to come to the conclusion that Christians are warring against non-Christians?

The problem with thinking of ourselves primarily as “Christian soldiers” (rather than “Christian peacemakers”) is that we’re always looking for someone to fight. The spiritual enemy is very real, but we’re easily distracted by the human ones (both real and suspected). The Bible includes militaristic imagery (Ephesians 6 tells us to “put on the full armor of God”), but it’s clear that our war is a spiritual one. In the scriptural analogy, unbelieving peoples aren’t the enemy, they’re the captives.

I’m choosing to replace the militaristic terms in my missions vocabulary with words that better communicate my intentions. In any land, among any people, I mean no harm. I’m not that sort of soldier. I’m here to bless, reconcile, and bring peace in the name of Jesus. That’s my mission (okay, so that’s one military word I may have to keep!)

…or is it Pepsi?

Surly you’ve heard this rumor repeated as evidence the the widespread and subversive influence on American culture. It was repeated to me recently during a conversation about missionary businessmen. Several church leaders were talking with a young man who is starting an internet research company so that he and his family could live wherever God sent them without having to raise support or look for a job. A noble concept, for a businessman. As soon as he’s up and running, I’ll post a link to this entrepreneur’s website.

The church leaders were intrigued. The idea of developing a business that would make money while fulfilling the Great Commission seemed like the silver bullet to “getting the job done.”

That got me thinking. If the rumor that Mormons own Coke was actually true, how awesome would that be for, you know, the Mormons? A single share of the Coca-Cola Company is worth over a billion U.S. dollars. That would buy enough white shirts, black ties, name tags, and bicycles to put pubescent Latter-Day Saints elders in every city in the world (with enough left over to keep their families in trampolines and special underwear).

The biggest problem in missions today isn’t a lack of willing workers. In this economy, any eight-year seminarian would jump at the chance of a full-ride to missionary superstardom. Nevermind what the Bible says, the problem isn’t people, it’s money.

Missions would be a lot easier of the churches didn’t hold the purse strings. Churches who get no say in what happens on the field, or even who is sent, but are expected to bankroll every initiative missionaries want to push– clearly, they are the problem. If churches are too stingy to fund strategic requests (church planting among some people groups require a Range Rover), I say we go Silicon Valley on them.

Why not start a business (or network of businesses) that would support the work around the world? Something that would fund missionaries while allowing them the flexibility to travel, plant churches, and disciple nationals. A legitimate business that would secure access into closed places and help develop community in positive ways without requiring them to do any actual work. Something like Google, but without all of the programming; like Coke, but without the overhead. Like Amway, but respectable and not so predatory.

Insurance comes to mind.

Why don’t we own anything that might help fund our missionary ventures? Why don’t regular old missionaries get in on the business-as-mission game? Banking, for example, would be an obvious choice. Or stocks– shares of Google, Apple, or even The Clapper, would buy a lot of plane tickets and ship a lot of peanut butter (everyone knows that Skippy is the key to retention of field personnel).

The answer is simple: most missionaries on the field today (and nearly all of the students coming out of the seminaries) are not business people. Many are talking about business as mission. It’s a great way to show businesspeople that what they do can have kingdom value. Whether it’s coffee shops, agricultural irrigation specialists, or pharmaceutical consultants, we need more businesspeople on mission. Folks who run and own companies naturally think strategically. They tend to be very good at networking (business often depends on it), and, except for the occasional used-car salesman or investment banker, they understand the need for a good work ethic.

Missionaries, not so much.

“Start a business” is not the answer to decreased giving, a right relationship to the sending church is.