|Photo by Asian Development Bank|
Let's pick up again on our missiological musings of coffee and missions in the 21st century. [Catch up on the whole series here.]
Today I'm pondering whether coffee can become a financial engine for world missions.
A fact that has increasingly disturbed me as a missionary, missions executive and missiologist is the ever-increasing struggle of simple missionaries to secure financial support for their endeavors. It seems that more and more of the proverbial pie of missions funding is being consumed by short-term projects and trips conducted by local churches. Many moons ago, when I was a youth minister, the prospect of taking a youth group on a summer missions trip was considered "cutting edge" and "extreme". Nowadays, its part of the standard job description for many churches. I've met people who have been on dozens of mission trips and count it as a sign of their commitment to the Great Commission. I might even be tempted to agree with them except that I've seen far too many promising long-term missionaries forced to leave the field due to a lack of sufficient funding. It is very difficult for me to celebrate when I know that a week-long overseas trip by a small group of short-term missionaries could easily fund a year's salary or more for someone who was willing to spend their entire life on the mission field. As I step down from this particular soapbox let me just say that the Western Church has yet to take seriously our responsibility to teach stewardship alongside mission mobilization.
Well, as the Nepalis say, "Estay chha" (it's like that). I don't see it changing soon and I am very tired of waiting for rich, wasteful Christians to condescend to support people that are sacrificing so much every day for the cause of Christ. If they are determined to spend more on coffee than on world mission - and they totally are - then I think it's time to get missions into the value chain.
Simply put, I am determined to see our venture into the coffee industry become extraordinarily profitable for the sake of mission. It feels odd to even say it, but I want to make lots of money so that I can pump lots of money into missions. I dream of funding ridiculous projects that bring lasting change and supporting crazy, wild-eyed missionaries who are ready to do whatever would be the modern equivalent of packing their belongings in coffins on their way to the ends of the earth. Beyond that, I find myself musing about other business ideas too because I'm tired of limping along dependent upon the charity of people who could afford to give in seriously game-changing ways but who simply can't be bothered.
I'm sorry if I seem upset. The truth is, Katherine and I have enjoyed the generosity of a very small handful of supporters for years now. But many of our supporters have been elderly saints who believed in a "pray, give, go" paradigm of mission mobilization rather than the newer "take, spend, and tour" mentality that seems to dominate the stage today. As these surrogate grandmothers and grandfathers have gone to be with the Lord, they have not been replaced by a younger generation of supporters. And we are not the only ones who have experienced this.
I fully believe that the best thing is for most followers of Jesus to be in the workforce and to sacrificially give as they pray for the minority who are called into missions as a career. I pray that we will experience a global renewal of that very biblical model (Paul did NOT make tents everywhere he went!) but until then, I'm challenging the brothers and sisters that I work with, mentor and oversee to seek sustainable sources of income which will not only provide for their personal needs but actually create significant streams of funding which they can direct towards strategic mission.
It was an eye-opening moment when I finally came to terms with the fact that I and the folks that I have been working with for years are men and women who are highly skilled, creative thinkers, gifted entrepreneurs and hard workers who have the potential to create and run businesses that were holy, excellent and highly-profitable. And if I was sitting across the table from you right now, I think we'd talk about the untapped value that God has put into you. You have skills and expertise that could be used to generate the income that your family needs. There are ideas that could result in funding streams which could transform the community to which God has called you. To return to an earlier metaphor, I'm just saying that you can wait around and beg for those who should be sharing their pie with you to actually do so OR you can go make your own pie.