“To the ends of the earth” was the theme of this year’s GO Conference, held at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest. The event focused on international missions, but each of the talks addressed the topic in unique ways.
One strategy for doing missions came up repeatedly throughout the Jan. 29-30 conference, harnessing so-called “regular jobs” in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ across the globe.
David Platt encourages GO Conference attendees to consider unique ways to live missionally in international contexts through business ventures.
David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, encouraged attendees to consider the limitless, unique ways to live missionally in an international context through business ventures.
“Could it be that God is calling us,” Platt said, “not just to leave jobs for the spread of the gospel, but to leverage jobs for the spread of the gospel?”
One missionary took a creative approach to financially supporting his evangelistic endeavors. He began buying old, rare rugs made in a specific North African region, Platt said. The missionary arranged for local craftsmen to repair and restore the carpets, making them well-suited for resale.
The rugs go for a premium online to “people in New York lofts,” he said. It has become not only financially profitable for the missionary, but the business interactions generate relationship-building opportunities with local villagers that probably wouldn’t occur otherwise.
Platt said emphatically, “What if God has designed the globalization of the marketplace for the spread of His gospel among the nations?”
During a breakout session titled “Blue Collar Missionary: Missions and the Workplace,” Benjamin Quinn shared a handful of stories that illustrate the importance and biblical foundation of understanding one’s vocation as a missional effort. Quinn, who serves SEBTS as assistant professor of theology and history of ideas, recalled a conversation with his brother that demonstrated the need for all Christians to engage their workplaces with minds set on ministry.
Quinn’s brother, Brandon, was vice principal of the high school where the two siblings grew up. Out of curiosity, Quinn asked Brandon about his daily routine in the administrative role. So, Brandon told him of a recent interaction with a student named Cory*.
Cory had been in and out of trouble for quite some time, and his offenses were frequently related to the possession of illegal drugs on school property. One day Cory was sent to the vice principal’s office for yet another disciplinary issue, and Brandon began to ask a series of questions to better understand the student’s situation.
“Why do we continue to find you with drugs?” he said, along with a few other probing questions.
Benjamin Quinn leads a breakout session dedicated to helping attendees see the importance and biblical value of “blue collar missionaries.”
As Cory spoke, Brandon discovered that he didn’t actually have a drug problem. Cory had used drugs, to be sure, but he did not seem to have an addiction.
Cory opened up about his family circumstances, explaining that he lived in a single-wide mobile home with his immediate and extended family. It was a crowded and poor living environment that was complicated, he said, by the drug addictions of everyone else in the home.
As it turns out, Cory’s father was using him as a drug courier, since minors receive lighter judicial sentences when caught with illegal substances. He placed drugs into Cory’s bag for delivery to other students, who then relayed the drugs to their parents.
Cory was caught in an unfortunate and seemingly hopeless family situation, and he needed help.
“Do you want out of this?” Brandon asked. “Show me how,” Cory responded, “because right now I don’t see any way out.”
Quinn said his brother recounts that interaction with tears. He is compelled to do what he can as a high school vice principal to help Cory and other students.
The potential impact that Christian community leaders like Brandon can have on the lives of Cory and others is profound, but it’s not always obvious that such efforts should be valued as biblical, ministry opportunities. Quinn was taken aback when his brother said, after hearing about his work as a professor at the seminary, “I don’t see how what I do matters as much as what pastors, missionaries and seminary professors do.”
Quinn emphatically said to the conference breakout session crowd, “How can he say that?”
He continued, “There is something that has found its way into our church and into our Christian mindset that suggests … the clerical collar is superior to any other collar.”
Quinn acknowledged the centrality of church leadership in the community of faith, but he said centrality does not mean superiority.
“It is not as though … what your pastors do is qualitatively more important to Jesus and His mission than economists, politicians, nurses, early childhood educators, welders and beyond,” said Quinn.
He used Ephesians 4:7-16 to show that certain leadership gifts – apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers – are given by Jesus “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”
Christian ministry is not limited to clergy. “Everyone who is a follower of Christ is in ministry, according to Paul,” said Quinn. “I think of it as the most massive mission force in the world. … All of us together are the missionaries of God when we put on our welding mask, when we put on our nursing scrubs and when we put on our business suit. You’re suiting up for mission.”