painting by Evelyn De Morgan.
Positive & Negative lessons from church history and missions.
When greed becomes man's god, his fellow man becomes the sacrifice. Selfish desire has corrupted man for so long it has its own personification,“Mammon,” but its negative effects are compounded when it hinders the gospel. When Europe set out to make the whole world Europe in the 18th century shows how few did so for the gospel, but for trade, conquest, and exploitation.
Greed didn't even need to leave the continent to hinder the gospel as the profit driven Industrial Revolution used inhuman working and living conditions that spread disease. Stress fractured families and spread a moral decay that fostered prostitution and worse. The pursuit of wealth found its way to the Americas where indigenous populations were subjected to forced labor if they weren't exterminated. In Africa exploitation was the driving motive as greed fed off racism to create the slave trade. Even after abolitionism the developed markets were used to extract the wealth of African nations. Under the Raj in India, the East India Trading Company didn't bother to hide their greedy exploitation as they kept missionaries out of the country lest they shatter the thin colonial veneer they'd established. The gospel has suffered greatly in Japan when Dutch traders helped persecute Japanese Jesuits to protect their trade deal and again in 1853 when Matthew Perry's Black Ships reopened trade by force. China's response to the gospel is only now recovering from the effects of western greed that wasn't satisfied with trade in Macao and inflicted the populace with opium and captured Chinese ports just to buy tea.
An ever growing heart of materialism and a corresponding theology arises when greed trumps the gospel. Today the stakes are even higher as nations interact continually within a global economy and international politics muddy the water. Believers and the local church must step out to ensure that more people have heard the name of Jesus Christ than that of Coca-Cola.
Conversely, the pursuit of profit can pave the way for the gospel message, just as the Persian silk-roads of old did when merchants took the gospel from Judea into India and Asia. Business can open doors for the gospel that traditional missionaries can't allowing the gospel to access formerly unreached and closed areas. Then workers can lead local leaders to lead themselves, or allow ministers to support themselves as tent-makers like the apostle Paul did.
Business motives of the Great Century educated boys in the trade languages which led to the rise of independent African leaders who founded entire nations and the Independent African Churches have formed. After decades of spreading the gospel and its principles of universal love, brotherhood, and human rights on their own some have even started calling for no more missionaries. In 1910, the Japanese invasion forced Koreans to turn from missionary support and to support themselves. When Christian Koreans fled south during the Korean Civil war, they found jobs and have seemingly found a balance between the gospel and capitalism. When India became a secular state in 1947, it put a limit on the number of missionaries visas. Only Indian and non-church related businessmen had an easier time entering the country to spread the gospel. With the rise of China's Communist party all missionaries were evicted from the country by 1951. The Three-Self Peoples movement allowed the church to survive on their own as local Chinese ministers supported themselves in order to support a growing Christian faith.
Money and its power is like fire, capable of blazing a trail and fighting bitter elements, but always ready to burn its user or destroy their labor. Business as mission can thus prove to be an effective method. It allows a reproducibility that full-time minister church models can't, and can incorporate western assistance within local structures without letting them dominate as the Koreans did. However, the danger remains that business will become the mission.
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