Keys to Reaching the Diaspora

It was a dreary winter afternoon when I pulled up to Alaat’s apartment. She had invited me over for lunch for the first time and I was excited and a little nervous as I anticipated our meal together. The only interactions we had were over zoom so a meet-up in person was new territory. I entered her home and was greeted with a warm hug. She introduced me to her children, showed me around her home, and then we sat down for our meal. She prepared an incredible meal of Capsa, Fatoosh salad, smoothies, and all the sweets you could ever imagine, just for the two of us.

That afternoon as we sat and talked, she began to share very openly that she was aching for home and struggling to care for her children alone. Her husband had recently returned to Yemen without them, leaving her to be the sole caretaker of their three children. She missed how life used to be and the stability she once had. She always ended each statement with such hope and optimism, but you could hear the struggle in her voice. Things were not easy and there was still a lot of pain.

She is an incredible person with dreams and goals but has had little control over her life for a long time. She is lonely, missing home, and yearning for what life used to be. As I left her home that day I so badly wanted her to understand that she is a beloved child of God. God is her provider, deliverer, and hope. So often I feel like I need to say all the right things and heal her wounds. Offer advice or a way out of the struggle, but that is not my job. My job is to love her, to hear her story, and point her back to Jesus. I am not capable or meant to do any of the healing or transforming power. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in her life and the strength of the Lord that will turn those wounds into beautiful scars.

I have learned that in working with the diaspora I can do nothing out of my own strength. I cannot be the change they need. God is the one true deliverer, I can be a vessel! When I hear the stories of pain, loss, frustration, and struggle, my heart aches and I think about all the other people whose stories could be similar. What can I do to help? I will never understand their pain. I will never experience the same kind of loss. How could God use me?

What I was struck with after leaving Alaat’s house was, she didn't need me or ask me to fix anything. She did not seek a solution or change. What she needed was a friend. She needed a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. She needed someone who would commit to pray for her. All of the things I try and conjure up, fix, and perfect are worthless if God is not in them. Sometimes the one thing God asks us to do might be the hardest. In those places when it feels better to just get to work and fix it, he wants us to sit with it and cry. What could it look like if we stopped fixing and tried listening?

It is in those moments of listening, that Christ-followers can offer the gift of hope. They can help their friends discover that they can leave their pain, grief, and loneliness at the feet of Jesus. If we as believers avoid the diaspora because we do not understand, we miss the opportunity to offer the hope. If we fear offending someone and don’t share, we hide a beautiful treasure from those we love.

Since working with the diaspora, I am learning that being a Christ-follower has little to do with me and everything to do with others. Philippians 2 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” In order to share the gift with our friends, we must submit our selfishness and fully surrender ourselves to put others' needs before our own.

What could it look like to think of others before yourself? What if God put the diaspora in our lives intentionally to teach us about true and humble sacrifice and the tangible hope that Christ has to offer.

 

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The Long Reach of Diaspora Ministry

“I have a confession to give you,” my Yemeni friend told me in his still-improving English. Amir and I were at the local library going through an English as a Second Language (ESL) lesson and practicing some vocabulary. When Amir arrived a few years before, he knew very little English. But since arriving, he worked hard, learned conversational English, became a US citizen, and had just purchased his first home!

“Ok, what’s your confession to me?,” I asked him. He said, “When I first left my country to come to the United States, everyone in my village warned me about people like you.” He continued to tell me that every Friday at the mosque, he would hear sermons about the evil West and the Christians who rule there. Amir was told Americans hate Muslims and, though many Americans are Christians, they don’t really follow Jesus. 

However, the opportunity came for him to relocate to the United States, and despite the warnings, he moved over. His confession to me was that when he first came to America, he was skeptical of “people like me.” However, since arriving, he experienced something very different. Sure, there were many people that rejected him, but there were also many Christians who befriended Amir and loved him well. And that day, Amir wanted to say sorry for believing those things about Christians.

Before we left the library, Amir wanted to take a picture together to post on Facebook. Through the magic of Google Translate, I read the post that he tagged me in and he sent out to his friends all over the world, including the Middle East. He said, “I was told to not trust Americans or Christians, that they only want to hurt us. But, it was the Christians that helped me learn English. It was the Christians that helped me become a citizen. It was the Christians who helped me buy a new home. Don’t believe everything you’ve heard! Listen to me. I know that real Christians love others.”

Slowly, I watched comments trickle in. Some agreed with what Amir said, based on their own experiences. Still, others rejected his claims saying Christians were only helping him to convert him or brainwash him. It was beautiful to see Amir engaged with them all. Comment after comment, Amir was speaking of the love of God shown through His church here in Southeast Michigan. God’s famous love was being scattered throughout the world!

We now routinely ask people we meet what they heard about the United States and Christians before they arrived. They all share some similar version of what Amir said. When I consider the number of people God has allowed to resettle in communities around the US, I wonder how many more share the same worries and fears.

I am learning that reaching the diaspora can have an immediate and distant impact. What the church has before us is the opportunity to either fulfill the stereotypes that others say about us, or we can show our immigrant and refugee friends what true, Christian love looks like. Consider this: What if even just one person read Amir’s post and began to believe that maybe not all Christians are bad? The ripple effect could be huge. 

What if God has placed diaspora people around us, not only so we can love them well, but, through the help of the Spirit, begin to lay the groundwork for the Gospel in other places and people we do not yet know?

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Megashift - Foreign Missions to Diaspora Missions

"Jesus commands us to go.

It should be the exception if we stay.”

Keith Green’s classic song is compelling – too bad it’s not true!

The problem is that Jesus never commanded us to go. The great commission (Matt.28:18; Mark 16:15) certainly seems to begin with a command to go, but both versions of the commission really only have one command – “make disciples” in Matthew’s gospel and “preach the gospel” in Mark. The “command” to go in both versions does not appear as a command (imperative) in the original language but as a participle. It could be more accurately translated as “Going . . .” or “As you go . . .”

Unfortunately, this misreading of the great commission has led to an overemphasis on going as being the way one is obedient to the commission. Our obedience should be judged by whether or not we are making disciples (of all nations) and preaching the gospel (to all people).

Yet going is part of the great commission. If not a command, how does going relate to the tasks of making disciples and preaching the gospel?

Could it be that the natural patterns of human migration (going) present significant opportunities for reaching the unreached that we have not adequately recognized? The early Christian church rapidly spread throughout the expanse of the Roman empire in the first century in part due to the missionary journeys of Paul and others but also to a great degree by the natural movement of peoples. The church got a “jump-start” in global growth on the day of Pentecost through converts from all corners of the empire (Acts 2:9-11) who returned to their homes taking the gospel with them. Subsequently, persecution of the church in Jerusalem caused the believers to scatter and “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4) Similarly, the believers in Antioch to escape persecution “traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.” (Acts 11:19) Yes, the early church commissioned and sent Paul and others, but that is only half of the story behind the expansion of the early church in the first century.

The Seoul Declaration on Diaspora Missiology declares, “That the sovereign work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the gathering and scattering of peoples across the earth is a central part of God’s mission and redemptive purposes for the world.”[1] But it has not been a central part of GP’s strategy and mission.

Just as in the book of Acts, believers are being scattered around the globe for many reasons – including into places and among peoples where doors are closed to traditional missionaries. In the past, the Wesleyan Church of the Philippines recognized this reality and sought to make its members equipped to take the gospel with them wherever they went in the world. The emergence of the “Marketplace Multipliers” movement within the North American Wesleyan Church could be a catalyst for similarly equipping American Wesleyans for global outreach wherever they may go.[2][3]

Also, as in the book of Acts, unreached people are being gathered into places where they are more likely to come into contact with Christ-followers, making them more accessible for gospel witness. For example, “At 51% foreign-born, with 232 nationalities represented, Toronto is considered the most diverse city in the world. In Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park community, the top ten languages spoken in homes are: Urdu (3,975); Persian/Farsi (765); Gujarati (700); Pashto (465); Tagalog (460); Bengali (300); Spanish (295); Panjabi/Punjabi (255); Arabic (225); and Greek (205).”[4]  According to infographics produced by Missionexus, there are 1,500,000+ unreached people in Toronto[5] and 4,000,000+ unreached people in New York[6]. (See https://globalgates.info/ for more mind-boggling and heart-wrenching information about unreached people groups in North America.)

Again, as in the book of Acts, people who come to faith in diaspora may be the instrument God uses to bring the gospel to their home country. For example, the Wesleyan Church in Mozambique has its origins in the evangelization of migrant miners in South Africa. Converted miners returned to their homes at the end of their contracts and won their family to Christ and planted churches.  

The move of the Holy Spirit in the first century to establish the church across the known world was accomplished through a combination of natural human migration activity along with intentional missionary sending by the church. Could it be that we need to return and embrace that same formula today? What shifts would need to take place in GP if we embraced a focus on diaspora ministries?

________________

[1] Rijnhart, C., Tira, S., Krason, F., TV Thomas, J., & Eriksen, S. (2014, September 22). The Seoul Declaration on DIASPORA MISSIOLOGY. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://www.lausanne.org/content/statement/the-seoul-declaration-on-diaspora-missiology

[2] Schmidt, W. (2021, February 08). Mega Shifts - Marketplace Multipliers. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://gpafrica.org/index.php/en/blog/52-mega-shifts-marketplace-multipliers

[3] Ward, B. (2021, February 17). Does GP need a new model for sending M’s? Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://gpafrica.org/index.php/en/blog/54-does-gp-need-a-new-model-for-sending-m-s

[4] Tira, S. J. (2018, November 23). A diaspora mission strategy for local churches. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://micn.org/diaspora-mission-strategy-local-churches/

[5] https://missio-graphics.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Volume+8/Diaspora-Greater-Toronto-Area.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0H1JZIZBfh056lPuw43Wt0rfR1T__fQuWLsxyL_gR5uXvQng3tSHuIyPU

[6] https://missio-graphics.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Volume+8/Diaspora-New-York-Metro.pdf

 

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WHAT COMES AFTER THE 5 PHASES?

Recently while using my phone as a GPS my battery died and I was left not knowing about what road to take. It had served me well for a journey of several hundred miles, but now at a critical point in my journey its blank screen offered no suggestions for the way forward.

Similarly, GP has been guided well by “The Five Phases” to reach the point where we are today with the international church increasingly becoming engaged in missionary outreach. “The 5 Phases” has led us to the explosion of “Everywhere to Everywhere” across the Wesleyan Church. It has served us well. But where do we go from here?

Up to this point, international missions work in the Wesleyan Church has been primarily unidirectional (from North America to the rest of the world) and unicentric (with the North American church at the center). As illustrated above, E2E changes the picture radically. What the illustration fails to provide is any sense of how communication, cooperation, collaboration, or coordination between global sending churches should take place.

“The Five Phases” provides no help at this point – this is a step beyond.  Maybe it is the sixth phase of mission. We need something more than a blank screen, and that need is becoming increasingly urgent.

Instinctually we sense that GP and the North American church need to take a step back and allow the international church to engage as full participative partners in providing leadership. At they same time, we also sense that we too should remain engaged as full partners in the process without dominating or setting the agenda.

One might argue that the International Conference of the Wesleyan Church was designed to fill this role. But to this point it has not demonstrated the capacity or inclination to provide global leadership at the level that will be needed. GP continues to be the primary source of focus and direction for the ICWC. (One is reminded of businesses in post-colonial Africa where Africans man the front desk, while white men sit in the back offices pulling the strings.)

So, if not the ICWC, what other mechanism or structure can provide connection for the E2E movement with appropriate levels of engagement from across the international church? How does such a structure come into being without GP introducing it? How can we facilitate the process of moving into phase six without directing the process?

We need directions for getting to phase six; and we need them now!

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Emotional Health and the Facilitator M

How could tools like the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (EHS) course benefit the Facilitator M?  Is it worth the effort as individual Ms and as the sending organization, Global Partners, to promote and offer the 8- or 9-week modules?  There are so many tools at our disposal today.  Individual Ms scour the internet looking for the latest missiological tools.  We attend seminars, listen to podcasts, take advantage of shared leaning opportunities, and conferences, along with reading or listening to the latest books.  So why take the time and invest the effort into committing to an 8-week course?  I would propose that we cannot afford to not make the investment of time and effort.  I also believe that we can garner a number of tools from EHS that apply directly to the idea of Facilitator M and that a number of the ideas, tools, and skills related to EHS make us better facilitators.  Passing on these tools to those we work alongside of may make our co-laborers better facilitators as well.

EHS allows us to take a look at ourselves and the true nature of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  It focuses on who we are, who God is, and the nature of His love for us.  So, how could that make us better facilitators, better missionaries, better friends and co-workers, better and more Christ centered children of The Father?  Let me propose a few ways EHS might help. 

It allows us to focus on that which is unseen.  It enumerates the top 10 symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality and brings to light the emotional and relational luggage we bring into our new life in Christ from our own earthly family.   It helps bring to light how we deal with problems, criticism, confrontation, celebration, fear, anger, and many other emotions and circumstances as well as giving us insight into some of the why’s concerning how we react and respond to others and to situations and to how we view our own failures and successes.  It does more than just point out the problems by suggesting the pathway forward to emotionally healthy spirituality.  

In short this course asks us to 1)know ourselves so that we might know God better, 2)break the power of the past by looking backward in order to go forward, 3)move on through the walls that are holding us back in our emotional/spiritual lives by letting go of power and control, 4)accept/embrace grief and loss by surrendering to our limits, 5)discover the rhythms of daily office and sabbath in order to stop and breathe the air of eternity, 6) grow into an emotionally healthy adult, 6)develop and clarify our rule of life that is realized by loving Christ above all else. 

Within the areas of realizing and clarifying the problem, self-examination, and the pathway to emotional health we’ll discover  practical tools that help us see ourselves as God sees us, relate in love and communion with God through Christ, feel free to “be” instead of the constant need to “do” in order to earn or gain God’s love, act out of love and intention instead of react out of past experience, rest regularly in order to do more,  realize our love for Christ out of being with Him instead of doing for Him (the Mary/Martha principle), embrace God’s desire to see us grow and mature and actually move forward in this instead of entering a push forward then being thrown backward cycle.

You may say, “well that is all well and good, but how does that help us as facilitator Ms?”  First of all, being emotionally healthy and the day-to-day difference that would bring to many of us would be sufficient evidence that it would help us to be better facilitator missionaries.  But on top of that, in our facilitator M roles, we would be able to truly model rest in the Lord, Sabbath taking, healthy problem solving, dealing with disagreements head on and in healthy ways, faith in God and not in ourselves, delegation, giving away power and responsibility, not having to control or be tempted to retake control, allowing failure in order that true success may be achieved, and removing our ego from the ministry that God shares with us.  This allows us to really let God be God in our lives.  It allows me to decrease and Him to increase so that day by day we reflect more of Him and less of ourselves to those we serve and serve with.  It allows us to ask questions we don’t have the answers for and not be anxious that we may appear to be weak or not always right.  This allows us to truly say “how can WE?” and accept the answer, release the control, give away the responsibility, love the person, pass on the baton and in the end hear others ask the question “how can we?”.  Isn’t that what the facilitator M is all about?

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ALWAYS. JUICEBOX. FOREVER.

 

My son's Nicaraguan kindergarten teacher, a sweet Catholic nun that wasn't much taller than her students, smiled at me meekly as she gently pushed a small note with three words written in all caps into my hand. The bell rang and a flood of sweaty five year olds streamed out of the classroom into the open courtyard where mothers were waiting in what little shade they could find in the mid-day sun or under their brightly colored umbrellas. 

Abel rushed out and squeezed my side, his white uniform shirt untucked and stained with dirty fingerprints from playing in the dirt at recess. "Do the kids in your class all drink juice boxes?" I asked. "Yeah! All of them. Except me. The teacher buys me one every day. She's so nice." 

I sighed, a bit embarrassed. It was a small "mom fail" but it still was disheartening. Abel's teacher had her hands full with a student that didn't speak Spanish and a mother that didn't either. 

- - -

We were weaving our way through the snarling traffic of Managua, dodging horse carts, expensive Land Rovers, street vendors, and the constant swarm of motorcycles. 

Abel was bleeding profusely from a cut on his forehead and needed stitches. We hurried him into the ER but I struggled to communicate. How could I explain, with the few Spanish words that I had, that my son was running through the house in a Spider man costume that was too big for him and he had slipped on a pant leg and hit is head on the toilet? I couldn't. They stitched him up and we were on our way. He didn't need a major surgery but it was unsettling to know that I didn't have the vocabulary to clearly share my son's medical history with a doctor. 

- - -

"He won't write his name," Abel's teacher patiently explained to me in a slow but non-patronizing manner. We were back in the kindergarten room and I glanced down at some of his papers. "MAX" was scrawled on at least a dozen of them. 

I grinned. Abel adored the book "Where the Wild Things Are" which is about a boy named Max that loves to wear costumes, go on adventures, and make mischief. I often read him the book at night and sometimes we teased about how I knew a boy that also is very similar to Max.

I wanted to explain Abel: to demonstrate that he wasn't just being a naughty kid and show how he had a huge imagination and identifies deeply with a character in a book but my grammar level didn't allow for it. I said that I would talk to Abel and nodded. I knew how to solve the immediate problem with the teacher but couldn't solve Abel's (perhaps my?) problem of being misunderstood.

- - -

It's been nine years since those first challenging and overwhelming times that left me uncertain and vulnerable. Thankfully my Spanish has improved and I can go to parent teacher conferences and to doctors' visits with ease. Abel's Spanish is even better than my own and he has found his way. He's still imaginative and once in a while gets into mischief of one sort or another, but he has the cultural skills to explain himself. I am no longer shouldering the awkward and sometimes terrifying burden of having adult responsibilities with toddler level language skills.

But there have been times lately, maybe due to the pandemic, maybe due to raising four teenagers, maybe due to the isolation of being cut off from flights, teams, family, and friends, that I have felt the weight of having adult responsibilities but at times what has felt like toddler level faith. I have been pushed to new limits and it's uncomfortable. I need to grow and to learn but it's humbling and not in a way that is beautiful like being quiet at sunset and realizing how small we are in the universe, but in a way that's like being sunburned with skin that is peeling, raw, and ugly.

This Lenten season maybe you are like me, not exactly the poster of missionary parent perfection. Maybe you are shouldering adult responsibilities but with toddler level coping skills due to burnout, toddler level theology to deal with the profound suffering, political division, and angst around you, or toddler level patience due to having kids on Zoom classes in subjects that you never even took in high school. Maybe you were even too tired to acknowledge Lent let alone give something up. 

God is with us in our weariness. In our weakness. In our crankiness. We are understood and we'll come out of this season differently than when we entered it, hopefully deeper in our faith and love for each other. 

"We always come at Lent like we are going to shape God. Like we are going to tell him all about our willpower and our devotion to Him...God takes our plans and pushes them further this season. He pulls them apart and puts them back together. In so many ways, Lent is the season when Jesus shapes us." -Sarah Condon

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Asking Questions and Providing Information

A key role of a facilitator is to find a balance between these two activities. And their unique relation can make this challenging.

Questions grow out of two sources. One of these is the information that a person receives which creates in them questions. They want to understand the information better. They want to know how to apply and adapt it to their world.

Another is the desire to find information. There is an awareness that information is missing and the person asks questions with the purpose of filling in the blanks, to get the information they seek so they can ask more questions. And so they can evaluate what they know, what they have learned, and how it relates to their world.

Truthfully no question is formed in a vacuum. They are always formed based on what is known or what is not known. Children are famous for the latter when they start asking how and why and so on. They know there is information they need and they ask questions. At times so many questions a parent gets a little frustrated.  

Providing information then is the process of providing what is needed so that questions can be formed and answered. 

This is the aspect of questions from the side of the one seeking information.

Then there is the person who has information. They have several options, provide the information requested, provide some information and help the person find the rest, and ask questions to explore what the person already knows, what information they have, and to help process how to use what they know. This process can also help define what information needs to be provided for the process to continue.

There is a danger in the forming of questions. And both sides have to evaluate this issue. Both those involved have background, experience, knowledge and so on which will impact how they formulate their questions. This creates a context which is also deeply rooted in the culture and history of both parties.

The one seeking knowledge will formulate their questions from this context. The authority, the one being asked with do the same, no matter if it is in supplying the information or asking other questions. And the authority needs to be aware that even in asking questions they will reflect their preferences and concepts of what is needed. This cannot be avoided. It is not wrong. It is life. We never ask a question in this setting without some kind of background noise or expectation. The key is to not let it take control if the conversation goes down a different path than the one expected or desired by either party.

I have heard many talk about how Jesus was great at asking questions. And yes he was. But he was also very accomplished in providing information. The sermon on the mount is filled with information. He told parables and when the disciples asked him to explain he did so. One of those was his explanation of the sower. He also provided information on the kingdom of heaven. He also instructed the disciples in what to do when he sent them out on two occasions to proclaim the coming of the kingdom. Then later he revised that instruction related to how they should carry out the same task after his resurrection.

He was asked what the greatest commandment was and he answered that question and then added more information than was requested. When with the disciples for the last supper he provided extensive information for them to consider and remember.

Yes he asked questions and he also answered them. He also provided information that would open the door to the disciples asking questions which he often answered. Jesus was not afraid to provide the information which would create the background which opened the way for the disciples to ask questions. Often in areas they had not been thinking about.

One interesting one was when he was teaching on loving your neighbor and was asked who my neighbor is. He answered that question by telling a story and when he finished, he asked the person who the true neighbor in the story was. When the person answered Jesus then gave a further instruction to him to go and do the same. This combination of questions and information changed the concept of who my neighbor is.

To be honest I have lots of questions and I have received a lot of information over the years via, classes, books, seminar, conversations, and personal study. I don’t accept every answer at face value. But I am not afraid to receive answers so that I can think more clearly about how to answer the questions I was asking.

We need both. We need information to help get us going in forming and answering questions. And we need questions to help define the information needed to move forward in answering the question.

It I an important balance that must be developed each time we come together to do any planning and development. It is especially important as we look at the process of being facilitators. To learn to match information to questions and questions to information so both parties can grow and own the process of doing the best kingdom work possible.

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Does GP need a new model for sending M’s?

The Facilitator M blog has been engaging the conversation on global macrotrends and their impact on missions sending. This post continues that theme. Specifically, it is part 2 of a miniseries on Marketplace Multipliers, following Dr. Wayne Schmidt’s post.

Lately, I’ve been a part of several conversations that have led me to ask the question, “Does GP need a new model for sending M’s?” Here is a sampling, with names changed:

  • George and Erika were a couple mobilizing through GP. They were going to a creative access country to start a business that had the potential to be profitable, but would require some startup capital. They found it stressful to raise both their personal support and raise a large sum of project funds for their missional business. Also, if the business was wildly successful, it seemed to create a dilemma – would supporters question why they were providing missionary support so a couple running a successful business? Does the missionary support paradigm—which ensures a consistent salary—dilute the profit motive necessary for a small business entrepreneur to be successful? 
  • Tom was part of a small missions organization in Korea. He was a recent graduate of Wesley Seminary who wanted coaching and accountability. He wanted to join team GP. At present, the only way for him to join our team would have been for him to mobilize and raise his support. But, he already had his salary needs covered, so our current model didn’t really fit his scenario. 
  • Jack and Cindy wanted to go to another creative access country. Cindy was an ordained Wesleyan Pastor, and she wanted to join team GP wherever she landed. Jack worked for a multi-national tech firm, and he was confident his boss would honor his request to place him in this creative access country. However, once again, this couple would not fully fit the assumptions in our current mobilization pathway, because they would not need to raise support and only one spouse would be fully team GP (this has since been alleviated by the “Covenant Spouse” category). 
  • David had a successful background in the finance industry. He and his family were doing well financially when they decided to move to Rwanda to start an investment fund designed to promote kingdom businesses. David asked what it would take to join GP – he wanted the accountability of a network of missional thinkers. Once again, our current pathway didn’t fully scratch the itch for David’s situation.

There are a lot of things our current mobilization pathway does extremely well. The issue is not that our current model is not working; it’s that our current model is not designed to serve the broad kingdom force we want to platform. 

In order to see the Marketplace Multiplier movement reach its full potential—where both clergy and lay are living out their God-given purpose—we need an additional pathway. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll call the new proposed model the “Marketplace Multiplier” (MM) pathway.

 

Global Realities Calling for The Marketplace Multiplier Pathway

As we step back to consider global macrotrends that are impacting GP, there are several that suggest an additional sending pathway is in order. These realities include:

  • The majority of unreached people live in countries closed to our traditional pathways.
  • Religious worker visas are becoming increasingly rare. Most countries look more favorably on expats who contribute to the economy, create jobs, or meet an identified humanitarian need. Even countries without a history of hostility toward the gospel are making it harder for missionaries to obtain long-term visas.
  • The costs of sending long-term missionaries are increasing.
  • The number of missionaries deployed through GP’s current pathway is declining.
  • We are not positioned to optimally serve a growing market of people from a variety of vocations who want to engage in the global mission.
  • In the context of Everywhere to Everywhere (E2E), our traditional sending org model may seem unattainable and irreplicable for developing churches. As others posting in this series have mentioned, we need to help national leaders visualize what we mean when we encourage them to start sending missionaries. If there are

 

Proposed Solution: Create a new missionary-sending pathway, designed specifically for professionals and entrepreneurs.

The Marketplace Multiplier pathway would be available to those who are passionate about Global Partners' mission, but who do not fit our typical funding model.

The benefits to the Associate Missionary include support in preparation, mobilization, fundraising, leadership coaching and accountability, wellness services, and teamwork. The benefit to GP is that it moves us closer to having a transforming presence in every community.

This initiative could represent several positional shifts:

  • Revenue: GP operations funding would shift from fee-based to subscription-based.
  • Purpose: GP shifts from providing oversight to providing training and services.
  • Market: We shift from attracting ministry majors/vocations to a wide variety of vocation.
  • E2E: We position ourselves with more replicable model for new sending countries to emulate, or perhaps even franchise.

The above shifts are overly simplified generalities. We would in fact continue to invest most of our resources in supporting our current pathway. But I think it’s helpful to succinctly and clearly differentiate how the new model could look compared to our current model.

Examples of those who could be mobilized:

  • A well-financed entrepreneur from the US developing sustainable business in Africa
  • A recent college grad teaching in a developed country
  • A couple starting a Cross-Fit gym in a creative access country
  • An executive with a large software firm that gets a job placement offer in Asia
  • An independent Wesleyan minister seeking to join a larger team and leave a more lasting legacy

These are all people that see their work as missional and want some of the benefits we offer to missionaries. However, unlike most missionaries, they don’t need to raise their salary. Launching the Marketplace Multiplier pathway allows us to equip and engage a workforce we are currently not able to serve. This shift could provide structural and systematic support to our best intentions to launch a kingdom force of many different professions into cross-cultural missional engagement.

 

What are your initial reactions to the idea of a new Marketplace Multipliers pathway? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments.

 

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Mega Shifts - Marketplace Multipliers

I am thankful for every opportunity I get to learn from missionaries and the global Church.  The shifts in the practice of missions that you are now seeing, or anticipate seeing in the near future, are valuable for those of us serving in North America as well. Those shifts include the development of nontraditional sending pathways, and may include “mobile marketplace multipliers” (globally mobile Christ-followers) who are intentionally seeking to be kingdom multipliers in the workplace wherever they may be.

Over the past few years, and especially the past year, a “Marketplace Multipliers” (MM) movement is gaining momentum.  It is led by MM’s who every day seek to integrate their faith with their work and steward their influence in order to make disciples through workplace relationships.  You can sense their joy in each spiritual conversation, each opportunity to pray with someone, each open door to share the Gospel, and each investment in someone to deepen and strengthen their ability to “keep in step with the Spirit.”

The MM Strategy Team is truly a Kingdom Force – multigenerational, multiethnic, multieconomic, women and men, lay (with pastoral encouragement and “sending”), everywhere to everywhere. 

I’m privileged to work alongside them.  I grew up in the home of a “marketplace multiplier” – my dad was a blue collar craftsman who specialized in building custom cabinets for our family construction business.  I started working with him when I was 12 – and in the workplace watched him leverage his credibility developed through personal integrity and professional excellence to influence others to take a next step with Jesus. 

For over 36 years my accountability partner and I have met every other week.  Paul is definitely a white collar guy who owns a wealth management firm.  Conversations about money have a way of opening doors for spiritual conversations, since where your treasure is, there your heart is also.  He is as called to making disciples through workplace relationships as I am in the context of the Church.

So all my life I’ve seen the difference a person can make in the marketplace.  It’s a ministry approach at least as old as the book of Acts. 

Our MM movement is rooted in the local church.  A local church “chapter” meets quarterly, co-hosted by a pastor and a MM in the church.  We view it as an “Ezra-Nehemiah” partnership. An MM chapter includes people in all kinds of workplace contexts and roles, who with intentionality and creativity transform everyday places into ministry spaces.

As I write this blog we have 36 local church MM chapters – over 10% of them Spanish-language.  In their quarterly meetings they seek to “spur one another on to love and good deeds.”  They pray together; engage in peer learning opportunities related to integrating their faith with their work and stewarding their influence to make disciples; and fan the flames of their calling to make disciples beyond the walls of the church as they are “sent out” by their church.

The global spread is already happening.  Yaremi Acevedo (a global marketer with a large pharmaceutical firm) is connecting with Rev. Hector Perez in Colombia for the MM movement in Iberoamerica.  Earl McJett (who works for the U.S. government with a focus on IT access for those with disabilities) is connecting with Seema Justin in India. 

We’ve yet to “publicly launch.”  We refer to our present chapters and global relationships as our “launch team.”  The book Marketplace Multipliers: Stories of Faith and Influence in the Workplace with Dave Drury is 17 MM’s each telling their story to inspire others (available in English and Spanish).  A podcast featuring MM’s and including the affirmation of their pastors has released its first 10 episodes.  A webpage is morphing into a website (www.marketplacemultipliers.com) .  The North America “virtual launch event” is April 17, with international versions following shortly thereafter.  All accomplished by volunteers and donors believing God for a marketplace disciple-making movement.

I’m thankful Ben Ward will provide a follow up post to put it in a missions/global context.  Our MM’s love working and learning together with missionaries and nationals so that the MM movement might spread everywhere to everywhere.

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Mega Shifts - More About Polycentric Missions

Poly and Mono – sounds like a disease (I did it again. Changed the terminology. In this case from Uni to Mono. Works better for my illustrations but concept is similar, one)

It is not a disease or two forms of a disease. Well maybe for us it could be. It would be like two viruses. One with a single manner of attaching itself and so easier to control and the other with multiple avenues to attach and so more difficult to manage.

Before we go any further we do need to make something clear. Missions is a mono centric structure. There is only one head of all that we do no matter where we do it and that is the Lord. He is the head and coordinates all that happens. And the body of the church is a bit poly centric. Many pieces with their individual skills working together.

Now that we have that clear in our minds let us look at the idea of mono centric. In general, the concept here is a top-down structure where authority and decision making is in a centralized location. A mission agency directs the activities of missions in multiple countries and establishes protocols so that major decisions and actions are submitted up a chain of command type structure for approval.

This is how many missions have operated in the past. A church or denomination has a department of missions with a person as its head. And even the head in certain situations must seek the approval of the governing body for that organization. This department is the main or only source of missionaries to all the fields in which it works. They do teach local missions in the form of church planting but very little international or cross-cultural missions.

The idea of poly centric is to move this decision-making process, authority to act, and sending of missionaries to a number of bodies or structures. So instead of just the north American missions as the head we might have multiple regions or countries that all work independently and only come together when it relates to something that all must approve of or act on. So all are equal and all have equal input into any major denominational decisions.

But is there only one type of poly centric structure?

This is the obvious one, where each region or country functions independently of the others. Each working out its own vision, its own finances, and own training programs. Everyone has to duplicate everything in order to function.

Could there be another type of cooperative poly centric structure? One that allows those with key abilities to develop that area and then make it available for the use of others.

In this format multiple entities work together pooling their resources to accomplish a given goal. An example of this would be the Regional Conferences of Iberoamerica. Here 19 countries have come together to pool knowledge, resources, and people to accomplish what one country alone could not do. There is a central council and a central missions board to help coordinate the activity.

For my illustration I will use the missions board. The focus of this board is to facilitate the activity of missions in all of the countries of the conference to accomplish two central tasks. The first is to provide critical resources for all to use. All of the countries contribute to this and all benefit. This will allow the region to provide training from a central system that will be available to all. It also provides a guideline for preparation of cross-cultural workers inside and outside of the region.

Another aspect of this is the development of a new youth/adult camping program. The central idea is the teaching of missions and preparation of people to serve at home and outside of their country. Each country that adopts the idea is free to adapt it to their setting. And while there are different ways to do this, the vision is the same, preparing people for missions. The result is that a whole new generation is being exposed to missions.

It is also making possible uniting these many countries to send missionaries to places where the resources of one country is not enough. The current example is the plan to send missionaries to a Muslim country. There are two candidates from two countries being financed to go by the region.

The second aspect of this is to strengthen the ability of individual countries to do missions. There are multiple examples of this which involve work among indigenous groups to foreign missions. Locally Colombia is establishing training sites to aid in training people to work among Muslims and Indigenous groups. Brazil is planting a church in East Timor. Costa Rica and Nicaragua have combined to send missionaries to Honduras.

Another way this could play out is countries with resources working to help those that don’t have that resource and seek help in developing it. This takes the form of people from those countries visiting those wanting to establish or develop a specific area or ministry to improve their ability to do missions internally and externally. Or it could be summit events where key leaders come together to share their knowledge to help each other.

The point is the source of the activity is no longer mono centric but coming from multiple centers.

The poly centric can be everyone doing their thing. But I would prefer to see a poly centric structure that allows all to contribute to the central work of missions. A system that values the input of all and builds on that.

This idea could help us greatly in the areas of cross-cultural training, missions development, literature development, and theological education. There maybe other areas but these stand out.

We are seeing these types of structures develop in Iberoamerica and the Southern Africa region where a group of national churches have and are coming together to help each other carry out the E2E.

A key issue will be letting go of the mono centric concept of everything flows down from above and consider how everything can well up from below. Rain falls down but the source of rain is the process of the water evaporating from below to replenish what has been given. Maybe a poor analogy but that is the idea. No one functions without the input and help of the other.

Our task then would be to focus on helping more of them be able to stand on their own and be able to make contributions to the whole process involved in making this shift.

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