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Hometown Missions by Wayne Cerullo

A Business Missionary Travels Abroad to See with New Eyes at Home - By Wayne Cerullo

As Americans, we are used to being in the lead.

Our economy is the largest in the world. In 2008, the U.S. GDP totaled $14.6 trillion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Likewise, Wal-Mart Stores ranked number one on Fortune 500’s list of top ten corporations. And how about the number of gold medals Michael Phelps took away from the last summer Olympic Games when he broke world records? In America, we are used to being top dog, and we are used to good ideas getting traction and taking off.

So in our hometowns, when we discover an empowering truth—the good news that our God is the Master-of-Monday-as-well-as-of-Sunday—and that truth is met with no more enthusiasm than it is in Muslim-dominated Indonesia or in the Hindu nation of India, we are humbled. It may be puzzling and even stop us cold. After all, nearly 80 percent of Americans identified themselves as Christians in a recent Barna poll. Why the chilly reception—especially from businesspeople who follow Christ?

But, because God is good, infinitely creative, and loves to breathe life into dead things, this does not have to be the end of the story. God is strengthening me with new vision and a renewed purpose as my Christian faith stretches to impact businesses in America.

In October 2006, I ventured to India on a business missions trip with rēp, a San Francisco Bay Area organization devoted to mobilizing mid-market companies around the world for the Kingdom of God. Prayer and pocketbook support were a blessing and an encouragement, as I spent three months training as a voluntary business consultant in the U.S. and then trekked to this “foreign land” to serve businesses in the name of Jesus.

I stayed in the city of Chennai for two weeks, working with local Christian business leaders to help them expand their view of business and to show them how their businesses can be used to impact their society and sphere of influence. I witnessed firsthand some stark contrasts to my daily life—poverty, undertones of the latent caste system, the daily challenges of corruption, a population that has outpaced the growth of infrastructure and the ostracism of first-generation believers from their family and friends.

Life in India is hard. But when it comes to business missions, I’m finding the same is true in America.

When I returned from my consulting trip with rēp, the real work began. As part of a larger business missions group, I started consulting with Christian-led companies here in the Bay Area, along with a fellow rēp colleague of mine.

We found that Christian business people here weren’t too interested in exploring how God wants to transform their businesses and use their companies as a vehicle for His Presence and Purpose. 1 (footnote: 1 Presence and Purpose are two components of The 10-P Model®, a framework from The Institute and rēp in which ten elements of a business are examined through the lens of Scripture.)

However, in this process, we also found a treasure for ourselves: a new, long-term assignment in domestic missions. God gave us a vision to reclaim and transform the world of commerce in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I saw God at work in India. And I always believed God could work in a place like Chennai, or even Mozambique, so why not in my town, Walnut Creek, California?

God is sovereign and the answer is in his hands, but I do know one thing for sure: I now recognize that I am on God’s mission board. It was easy for me to see (and believe) this when I was abroad. Now I have to re-imagine God working every Monday morning in the “here and now” and not just in the “over there.”

I am also reminded of Jesus’ frustration with the people around him as he grew up. The locals saw him only as a carpenter and not as a carpenter with a mission. I remember the time Jesus taught that “only in his hometown does a prophet have no honor.” It is also noteworthy that Jesus did few miracles in that place due to his neighbors’ limited expectations (i.e., “See, he IS only a carpenter like his father Joseph! I told you so!”).

Even though I wonder if the Christians in the “Indias” or in the “Mozambiques” of the world have more faith than the Christians in places like Walnut Creek, I am choosing to focus on building my own faith in businesses right in front of me—and I’m not waiting until Sunday morning to do it.

Why do you think there is resistance for believers here in America to integrate their faith more fully with their business?

Wayne is a rēp consultant working with companies in India and the U.S. His ministry aspirations led him to start a local workplace fellowship, Vocari. He also practices workplace ministry principles in his marketing group, InSighting Ideas. rēp is the business missions arm of The Institute, a management consulting firm that mobilizes, equips and deploys businesspeople to use their skills to build the kingdom of God.

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posted by Justin Forman | 6.23.2009 - 7:14 AM

2 Comments:

Wayne,

You close with a question. Part of the answer is compartmentalization. Our culture encourages us to break things down into smaller pieces and then specialize. This spills over into our lives and we separate faith from work, family, and pleasure. But the biggest issue is our view of discipleship is skewed. We tend to have a knowledge-based definition of discipleship, while Jesus calls for an obedience-based discipleship. When the Word calls us to work as though we are working for the Lord, God expects us to put that into practice. When the Word calls us to approach our stuff as stewards, rather than owners, God expects obedience. Jesus' parable in Luke 12:13-21 really addresses the business person who "is not rich toward God."

John King
commented by Blogger John Kenneth King, 5:42 PM  

Why is there resistance to integrate faith and business?

We have learned the fine art of compartmentalization. Our capacity to break large complex processes down into small pieces and then specialize works against integration. Combine this with our sacred/secular language and we build a wall of separation.

But I think the greatest challenge is our view of discipleship in America is not biblical. Most have a knowledge-based discipleship. We become good disciples by learning more about God, more about Jesus, more about church, more about missions, etc. But Jesus says that when we hear his words without putting them into practice we are like the fool who builds his house on a foundation of sand (Mt. 7:24-27). His parable about the business man who was not rich toward God rings an ominous warning for the situation you describe (Lk. 12:13-21).

Keep at it! Search for those who are receptive and pour into their lives. Their successes will become avenues to reach others who are resistant--if they can be reached.
commented by Blogger John Kenneth King, 5:53 PM  

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