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24 October 2018

Avoiding the Secular-Sacred Divide: Missional Business for the Glory of God

Returning to Geneva in 1537, Calvin stated: ‘I consider the principal enemies of the Gospel to be, not the Pontiff of Rome, nor heretics, nor seducers, nor tyrants, but bad Christians… Of what use is a dead faith without good works? Of what importance is even truth itself, where a wicked life belies it and actions make words blush?’

There were Christians of that time who believed that the vision of an urban social transformation shaped by a biblical worldview was something worth pursuing. As David Smith has pointed out, ‘like many of the refugees who resided in Geneva during Calvin’s time, [John] Knox carried the vision of the city as a “holy commonwealth” back with him to his homeland, with significant consequences for the social and cultural history of Scotland.’[1]

Aspects of Calvin’s vision of the city have relevance for those of us concerned for missional business in the 21st century.

Firstly, we too need a vision for the city that is shaped by a passion for the glory of God.
The majority of people in the world now live in cities, and urban values impact those not living in cities in unprecedented ways. Recent estimates for China are that by 2030, 221 cities in China will have more than 1 million people (Europe has 35 cities that big). These cities provide amazing opportunities for Christian entrepreneurs to pursue God’s glory in the world of business.

Secondly, we need an understanding of mission as the universal proclamation of the Lordship of Christ.
Hwa Yung encourages us to ‘reclaim “Kingdom” categories’ so that Jesus’ Lordship is proclaimed ‘over all of life – individuals, as well as whole communities; in every sphere of human life, be it spiritual, psychological, socioeconomic or ecological…’[2]

One of the clear challenges that came from the Lausanne Congress at Cape Town in 2010 was for us to recognise how the ‘secular-sacred divide’ has been ‘a major obstacle to the mobilization of all God’s people in the mission of God.’[3]

Thirdly, we need a whole-life approach to discipleship.
All of life is the context for working out the Lordship of Christ, and that includes the place where most Christians spend most time with non-Christians – the workplace. For this to happen we need many more women and men in the workplaces of East Asia – not just in ‘full-time’ Christian ministries. Whole life discipleship, as the Cape Town Commitment puts it, is about living, thinking, working, and speaking “from a biblical worldview and with missional effectiveness in every place and circumstance of daily life and work.”[4]

Fourthly, we must recognise the missional effectiveness of ordinary Christians in the workplace.
In OMF we continue to see God calling men and women to be sent and received as itinerant missionaries. But most Christians are not sent out to minister in this way, in the UK or in East Asia.

However, if those of us who are missionaries in that former sense can model authentic patterns of life and ministry, along with a whole-life approach to discipleship, might that not be one of the most effective ways of encouraging what are described in the missions world as ‘indigenous mission movements’?

The most fundamental mission movements are not those with Western-styled mission organisations at the heart of them, but rather those whose catalysts are ordinary Christians living out their faith in the workplace, using their skills for the glory of God and – often at great cost in many places in East Asia – demonstrating Kingdom values in the public square. These brothers and sisters need to know that their daily work matters to God.

Chris Wright puts it so well: ‘If it contributes in any way to the needs of society, the service of others, the stewardship of the earth’s resources, then it has some place in God’s plan for this creation and in the new creation. And if you do it conscientiously as a disciple of Jesus, bearing witness to him, being always ready to give an answer to those who enquire about your faith… You are engaged in the mission of God’s people.’ [5]

Perhaps you’re experienced in business or blessed with entrepreneurial gifts, and you would like to take hold of the evangelistic opportunities that exist in East Asia (and not only in urban situations). If you wish to influence local believers so they can do business well and exercise missional effectiveness in their wider community, then start praying and get in touch with OMF.

Dr Peter Rowan
OMF (UK) National Director

This article originally appeared in our Billions magazine Commerce & Culture edition, January – April 2013.

References

[1] David Smith, Seeking a City with Foundations: Theology for an Urban World (Leicester: IVP, 2011), 63.

[2] Hwa Yung, “Strategic Issues in Missions – An Asian Perspective”, Evangelical Missions Quarterly (Jan 2004), 38-40.

[3] The Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action (The Lausanne Movement), 35.

[4] The Cape Town Commitment, 36.

[5] Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 242-243.

Will you pray for Missional Businesses?

  • Pray for Christians in workplaces across East Asia, that by their conduct and words they would be a great witness to their colleagues.
  • Pray for Christians considering taking their profession overseas, for God to guide them in their next steps and how they could best serve in East Asia.

Opportunities

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The Task Unfinished

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