There is more and more talk these days about people who are exploring alternative pathways to missions. Some of those pathways include:
finding a job overseas
creating a job or company overseas
doing contract work while living overseas
studying overseas (college or masters level)
Thus, church leaders may find themselves wondering, ‘How do we assess church members who want to live and work overseas with gospel intentionality?’ In most cases such members’ full-time work day will be in the marketplace. What an amazing access point to lost people all over the world!
However, most of their time will not be devoted to the usual rhythms of full-time missionaries. That means it is rare for them to take the lead in a church or missionary team setting. Nevertheless, they can still play an important role in engagement and support.
In my book The MarketSpace: Essential Relationships between the Sending Church, Marketplace Worker and Missionary Team I write about common themes church leaders should look for in potential marketplace sent-out ones. Yes, church leaders, strive to get them connected to a national church and/or missionary team to provide accountability, community, and strategic engagement. But you have even more to offer than that!
When my church sends a member overseas as a vocational missionary, we ask them to fill out an application that provides a good amount on information on their character, theological formation, and mission skills. We do this in order to help assess their readiness and also to develop them as they prepare to go. This can be done for potential marketplace workers as well. As you do so, ask open-ended questions, paying close attention to some of the following themes. And remember, past behavior is often the best predictor of future success.
Spiritual vitality – How do they demonstrate a love for Jesus Christ that is primary in their motivation?
Discipleship ability – Are they discipling anyone? If so, what does this look like? If not, why not?
Sense of calling – How did they come to sense this was God’s direction for their life? If married, is this calling shared?
Healthy marriage – How have they developed a strong bond of love for one another? How has it been tested and proven?
Healthy family – If parents, how do they exhibit a commitment to love and nurture their children?
Adaptability – How have they demonstrated the ability to adapt to a variety of settings?
Flexibility – How do they handle change?
Humility – How do they demonstrate humility, especially among co-workers and supervisors?
Teachability – How have they shown themselves to be lifelong learners? What are their hobbies? What are their reading habits?
Servant spirit – How have they exhibited servanthood in their community and the church?
Team player – How do others experience them in a team setting? When have they demonstrated being able to work alongside others and follow the lead of another person?
Self-awareness – What is their understanding of their gifts/abilities/strengths and how are they using those gifts to currently build up the church? Do they have clarity on how they could see themselves using those overseas? What is their understanding of their weaknesses and limitations?
Larry is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Upstream Collective. He and his family have lived in Europe for nearly 20 years, where he has served in a variety of strategy and leadership roles. Prior to moving to Europe he was a church planter and pastor in the US. He is a co-author of Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission, The First 30 Daze: Practical Encouragement for Living Abroad Intentionally, and The MarketSpace: Essential Relationships Between the Sending Church, Marketplace Worker, and Missionary Team.