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From the Pulpit to the Marketplace

In the new occasional journal Missions and Vocations, Rev. Ronald Yu, President of China Ministries International, traces his journey from pastor to missional entrepreneur.

The paradigm shift came in 2005 when Yu began reading the Bible through a new lens. The traditional sacred/secular dichotomy views some professions (namely, priests in the Old Testament and pastors and missionaries in the New Testament) as holy while the workplace is not. Yu began to see that Jesus’ earthly ministry was very much directed toward those in the workplace:

He obviously cared much about professional fishermen. However, he did not neglect other groups such as farmers, shepherds, children and women. In his preaching on the heavenly kingdom, he drew on many parables of the workplace. He called upon farmers to sow seed into the hearts of men, and trained fishermen to be fishers of men.

Convinced that this new workplace theology needed to be worked out, not in the library, but in the workplace, Yu later spent two and a half years in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. There he discovered new emerging models of workplace ministry:

There are missional factories, shops, salons, and restaurants, emerging in China. Urban house churches have realized the inadequacy of traditional church-based ministry models. They begin to recognize that the workplace perspective opens up a new dimension for local ministries and foreign missions. Our next goal is to equip missional manufacturers, chefs, beauticians, and hair-stylers to transform their secular factories and shops into missional factories and missional shops.

Yu contrasts the approach of workplace ministry in his hometown of Hong Kong with that of mainland China, noting the great potential for a complimentary relationship between the two:

In Hong Kong, Christian professionals place much emphasis on life witness and workplace ethics. In China, the emphasis falls on spreading of the Gospel and building the church in the workplace. . . .Some missional businessmen build churches in their companies, factories, restaurants, and hair salons. However if the Christian boss does not manifest Christlikeness in life and management, the gospel message he wants to spread would not be convincing or effective. The differences in emphasis on workplace ministries in Hong Kong and China complement each other. Christian professionals and businessmen from both sides can learn from each other and together build more holistic models of workplace ministries.

Yu goes on to explore the implications for Christians from the mainland who are going abroad to work and to serve:

It is our wish that Chinese churches may take up this new direction in workplace missions, with more theoretical and practical exploration. In this way, disciples from different walks of life may become missional professionals to be supportive partners of fulltime missionaries. They can further transform the enterprises owned and operated by Christians to become missional enterprises. . . .To support missional professionals with a missional enterprise could be a sustainable model that enables Chinese churches to do missions anywhere in the world. It will create viable partnership with the traditional mission agencies and fulltime missionaries.

For more on workplace and mission, the latest issue of Missions and Vocations can be downloaded here.

Image credit: 77th Street Plaza underground mall – Beijing by Alexandra Moss via Flickr.
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Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio

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