Unconventional Ministry

The apostle Paul got excited when God opened up new avenues of ministry. He shared with the Corinthian believers that, “a huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here” (1 Corinthians 16:9, MSG). God continues to present new opportunities to us today—new doors through which His followers can step through in order to advance the Gospel and God’s Kingdom.

That’s critical because sometimes the “conventional doors” of ministry are closed—places where “traditional” missionary endeavors aren’t allowed. But just because traditional Christian missionaries aren’t allowed in an area doesn’t mean that the Gospel isn’t spreading. A group of Navigators work with entrepreneurial business people to live out the Gospel in places where conventional ministry can’t gain a foothold.

“God allows us to work with people who are passionate about what they do for a living,” says Navigator John Anderson* “and are, most important, passionate about following Jesus, and helping others to do the same. We help these dedicated disciples to commercialize their professional passion and turn it into something that supports them and delivers value to the community.”

John explains that this kind of ministry provides believers with access to people and places that otherwise would be out of reach. One staff member shared about a couple who had been ministering in a “closed” country for many years. But when they started a legitimate business that they were passionate about (in this case, a coffee shop), amazing things began to happen. “They reported that after they’d opened the coffee shop, they had many more opportunities for ministry than they had in the previous 17 years,” John says.

This integration of business acumen and mission also provides credibility. “People are much more likely to relate to and listen to someone who is providing a legitimate service to the community,” says John. And a business that is having a positive impact on the community is often welcome, even when a missionary might not be.

“It’s also a sustainable model,” John explains, “someone who lives in the community and runs a profitable business there can maintain a long-term presence. Conventional missionaries often stay for a few years and then return home to raise money. A ‘missional entrepreneur’ is self-sustaining.”

Currently, there are approximately 200 of these Navigator-trained missional entreprenuer endeavors in existence, and they run the gamut from small shops to large-scale companies. “The types of business opportunity range from coffee shops, schools, construction companies, manufacturing companies, import/export companies, IT companies, hospitals, freight-forwarding companies, and many other companies in places where conventional missionary activity wouldn’t be allowed,” says John.

Regardless of the size of the company, or the focus of the business, all of them are built on what John and his colleagues call a “Triple Bottom Line.”

Financial sustainability is critical,” says John. “There has to be a viable, profitable business in order for the endeavor to succeed. Social impact is also crucial. The business must have a positive impact on others in the community. The third area of emphasis is on spiritual generations. We’re here to impact future generations for the Gospel.”

We’ve all heard the expression, “When God closes one door, He opens another.” God keeps opening new doors. The Navigators is helping prepare people who are passionate about their work and their faith to walk through those doors.

*This is a pseudonym

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