International (MNN) — Interest
is growing in marketplace or tentmaker-style missions. For centuries, Christian missionaries have
used business as a vehicle for sharing the Gospel in other countries. John Brown, who works with Greater Europe
Mission to facilitate marketplace missions, said the strategy fits very well
with today's missions climate.
"Due to access issues in
countries, due to financial realities in the missions community, a lot of
people are taking a new look at this," he said. "And we're seeing this expand incredibly
throughout the missions movement right now."
Marketplace missions can take a
few different forms. It includes
short-term missions as well as missionaries who start their own
businesses. Brown is "extremely
encouraged and excited about" a third form, which is a "tentmaker class of
service, where people go with companies overseas…and those companies give them
greater access to people, and oftentimes greater missional success."
It's a strategy that dates all
the way back to the apostle Paul and other tentmaker missionaries in the Old
Testament. Even William Carey, "probably
the father of the modern missionary movement," incorporated business into his
missions work, Brown said. More
missionaries are now doing the same, because it has become increasingly
difficult for them to raise support.
"I think mission agencies are by
necessity, but beyond necessity: probably by God's providence, are looking at
alternative ways," Brown said.
Although working a professional
career does take a lot of time, it also leads to greater opportunities to share
"The type of church that people
are being drawn to is a very missional church, and so outreach happens in
non-traditional locations like office boardrooms or restaurants or in homes,"
Brown explained. "And the tentmaker, or
the marketplace professional, is well-positioned to interact with people in
that environment. Often they have access to people that traditional
missionaries would not."
Marketplace missions is not for
everyone, but people who approach it the right way can have great success.
"We find that people in the
marketplace, if they have an integrated mindset about their ministry, they'll
be very successful," Brown said. "So
they view their job not just as 'this is my ability to get into the country so
that I can do ministry,' but they view their job as the vehicle for
accomplishing ministry. We see a lot of success."
GEM trains tentmaker missionaries
in key elements of missional success, such as church planting, teamwork, and
the spiritual disciplines. It has four
or five missionary units already working as tentmaker missionaries in Europe.
"They're opening up a new class
of service, where people who might be employed by an international company can
be trained, can be part of a Greater Europe Mission team, can have a missional
strategy that's going to engage culture and make a difference in the location
that they're planted in, and really see some amazing things happen for the Lord,"
About 30 more people are
exploring the possibility of doing the same kind of work with GEM. Some of them already have job opportunities
in Europe, and some are still looking for opportunities. They are seeking God's leading for their
future ministry in Europe, a continent that desperately needs the Gospel of
"Less than 2 percent of people in
greater Europe right now are followers of Christ, so it's quite a difficult and
challenging mission field," Brown said.
Brown is excited about the way
that GEM and other missions agencies are using marketplace missions. He encouraged Christians to pray for the
development of the strategy.
"Just pray for wisdom that as we
carve out training and develop strategies to effectively use marketplace
people, that ultimately the church in Europe, North Africa, Turkey, Russia, and
other places would grow," said Brown. "And
pray that God would call out the right people for this. It's not for everyone, but there are many
people who are restless right now and don't know exactly how to respond to that. God is calling them out through the marketplace to see
God's church expand throughout the world."
You can join the discussion about marketplace missions at www.mktplcmin.wordpress.com.