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‘Untapped source’ for missions discussed

ST. LOUIS (BP) — Professionals — people with experience in business, education, sales, medicine and more — can help start and grow churches in places career missionaries cannot go by using their skills to network with other professionals in cities around the globe, a panel of Baptist leaders determined June 13 in St. Louis.

“We want to encourage any professional and soon-to-retire professional to consider this,” said Sebastian Traeger, executive vice president at the International Mission Board in Richmond, Va. Traeger was part of one of 18 Cooperative Program panels held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. “They’ll be in the context of the city they’re in, and could be most effective…. We’re talking cities of 5 to 25 million people or more.”

In Japan, Tokyo has a population of 37.8 million people. It is the largest city in the world, according to the World Atlas, which was updated in March 2016. Jakarta, Indonesia, is next at 30.5 million. Topping out at 25 million is Delhi, India. Metro Manila, Philippines, has 24.1 million people. Metro Seoul, South Korea, has 23.5 million. Cities that follow in size include Shanghai, China; Karachi, Pakistan; and Beijing, China. New York City, at 20.6 million, is ninth on the list of the nation’s largest cities. Sao Paulo, Brazil, rounds out the top 10 with 20.3 million.

Seventy-five cities, Traeger said, have a population of more than 5 million, and all of them are under-reached by an evangelical witness.

“Three to five million Americans are working overseas,” he noted. “We have in them a completely untapped source.”

Explaining marketplace missions, Traeger said a lifestyle using naturally-generated, work-related networks can result in churches planted and existing ones strengthened.

Traeger was joined on the panel moderated by Micah Fries, vice president of LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tenn., with Jamie Dunlop, associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and Charles Fowler, pastor of Germantown (Tenn.) Baptist Church.

“Churches are encouraged to raise up and equip their members to join church-plating teams in global cities or in harder-to-access areas,” Traeger said. “Think about taking a season of your life to serve God in this way.”

Germantown has a commitment to using marketplace strategies to plant churches and engage lostness in Germantown, Denver and Belize, Fowler said. The church, which focuses on disciple-making, has developed conferences it calls Missional Marketplace Summits to encourage participants to live out the Gospel 24/7. The church also facilitates relationship-building lunch groups and online networking.

Fowler said he is leading Germantown church members to advance the Kingdom of God through their specific careers, business networks, gifting, and/or skills.

“Building gospel ministry on the foundation of personal experience in the marketplace allows missions and church planting to happen more naturally and facilitate a more consistent life at home, at work and on mission,” Fowler said. “It is one life, lived missionally, whenever and wherever.

“These marketplace strategies attract people who were never engaged in more traditional church planting strategies,” Fowler noted, “to not only get involved, but to lead evangelistic and church planting efforts.

“It is incredibly exciting to see the Gospel come alive in the hearts, lives and careers of church members who for years supported missions but never committed to be an active part of how the Gospel is advanced,” he said. “Today, that is a very real experience for our church family.”

For more information on marketplace ministries, go to imb.org/send. The Cooperative Program panel discussions were held during the SBC’s annual meeting to highlight missions and ministry funded through the Southern Baptists’ unified giving channel.

Watch the entire panel discussion here: