By Rene Alvarado
In 1978 I was graduating from Blaine Elementary school and on my way to Lane Tech high School where a friend would introduce me to Billy Graham for the first time. While I was trying to figure out how to navigate my way to classes with a 4-minute pass, Billy Graham was having a crusade in Singapore that year prophesying that Singapore would be the “Antioch of Southeast Asia”. A reference to the ancient city in modern-day Turkey that was a key apostolic base in the early days of the faith.
Here I am, 40 years later, working with Resource Global with a mission to encourage young professionals to develop their cities of Singapore, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur into “Antioch’s”. Specifically, encouraging them that there is no difference between the sacred and the secular and that the marketplace is the key to fulfilling Dr. Graham’s prophesy.
Missions work is much different than the vision of missions I thought of when I chose to accept Christ as my savior sophomore year in college. I had heard of the Jim Elliot stories of missionaries’ who had traveled to unknown parts of the world to bring the gospel to peoples for the first time. The way I interpreted “taking up your cross” meant disconnecting with the western world and living off the fruits of the earth.
Our trip to Southeast Asia was different. Instead of the jungle, I was meeting people in Board Rooms, Shared Office spaces, and cafes. Instead of traditional places of worship, I was worshipping with others in high rise community rooms and leased office spaces in professional buildings.
Instead of meeting with indigenous people who had never heard of the gospel, I was meeting with people who had graduate level education and corporate world experiences. People who had better command of the language than I had. People who had heard and followed many of the faith leaders that I follow and listen to back home.
This missions work is more of investing in God’s economy of multiplication where the investment is placed into instructing others who would then be “qualified to teach others”. This missions work is about discipleship, or what contemporaries call mentorship. It’s about investing in a co-hort: A group of Jesus followers who desire to apply those teachings in the marketplace.
A model that provides shared experiences much like the disciples had with each other.
This missions work includes the work of Mentors. Much like Eli helping Samuel decipher God’s voice in 1 Samuel, mentors are helping to re-train the mentees to hear and respond to the voice of God and His voice only. Instead of helping young disciples apply God’s truths at home, this mentoring is intentional about the field where these disciples spend most of their time and interact with others the most. The field for this new mission is the marketplace that offers a substitute for what are taught from scripture where identity, idolatry and meaning are the ploys of the evil one trying to pull God’s elect from connecting to the “true vine”.
This missions work is about relationships. The same relationship that God offers us in the midst of our suffering and joys. God favored relationships at every turn. Relationships with a Field Coordinator who is applying his/her gifts in administering the program at a local city. Relationships with mentors who volunteer their time getting to know and encourage the mentees. Relationships with co-hort members. Relationships with other co-hort groups throughout the world. Relationships with Board members who have graciously given their time, talent, treasures to develop and implement a vision for each city. And, relationships with church and faith leaders who are willing to provide the teaching form God’s word on it applies Monday through Friday.
It’s a mission that has a “heart for the city” where each co-hort member lives. A heart that cries out for the shalom and brokenness of the city. A heart that desires its city to be like Antioch. It’s mission work that is looking to make in impact from the inside out. From the places of work where most spend the majority of their waking hours. Cities where Jesus followers are a remnant. Cities where more trust seems to be given to the government and officials. Cites that claim Christ but were much integrity is needed. Where corruption is more of a business practice than integrity and honesty. Cities where trust of government is broken and that brokenness has become the operational norm. Cities where westerners come and go with a message of Health and Wealth and leave the locals with the broken pieces left behind. Cities on hills, shorelines, mountain sides. Older cities. Man-made cities.
Cities that have a disparate level of wealth. Cities where indigenous people are favored and are still not able to compete. Cities that employ and emigrate other peoples to do menial work and labor. Where these same immigrants seek community and purpose in their lives and work.
Cities that look beautiful on the outside with great buildings, malls and public places. Cities where sites of cranes provide much hope for the future.
But .. cities like my home town that need to hear the good news of the gospel to provide redemption and restoration from its own brokenness. Cities that are waiting for a hero to reconcile itself to what was lost.
This new mission field, like old ones, still needs the work of the only “true vine” that says “apart from me you can do nothing”. I am not sure that this is the kind of missions work Mr. Graham had in mind but I can’t help but think it would have made his heart glad to see that his work continues past his time here on earth.
Rene Alvarado is an independent management consultant who has been a long-time friend of Resource Global and has helped visit multiple cities as we have looked to start our leadership cohorts.