Missionary platforms– a necessary evil, or a tool for launching a Disciple Making Movement (DMM)? Good question!
There is a lot of talk in missions circles today about Business as Mission (BAM). Can BAM and DMMs go together? Are they a good fit? Another good question.
Ignoring Platform Issues- Not An Option
We sent a team to a new area. It was a national team, though they would be focusing on another people group. They quickly faced the issue of platform.
“What do I tell people when they ask me, ‘Why are you here?’” they asked in a coaching call.
Even when you don’t need a visa to live in a country, these issues come up. We need to be able to explain why we live somewhere and what we do. Otherwise, we create barriers of mistrust. We call this way of explaining who we are and what we do our platform. Finding the right one is a real challenge.
“Finding the right one is a real challenge.”
As followers of Jesus, we must walk in integrity and honesty. We don’t want to say we are doing something we are not.
Yet, it is a genuine reality in many locations, that we can not just come out and say, “I am here to share about Jesus with you and your people.” Or can we?
In many cases, directly calling yourself a missionary is not a good idea. But not all platforms are equal. Many do not fit well with the goal of a DMM. They can become a significant obstacle to seeing the DMM launched.
Those who want to launch a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) must carefully examine this issue. They need to evaluate their platforms in light of the results they desire. Otherwise, your platform could easily become a major obstacle to the release of a movement.
The Unending Language Learner
When we tell people back in America how many languages we speak, they are pretty impressed! In Asia, it is no big deal. We certainly wouldn’t have learned quite so many if it wasn’t for needing a platform.
In one country where we lived, my husband took every class at the University in every language they offered! It gave us a visa though and only required 2 hours per day of class time.
“Each one must examine his own work…” Gal. 6:4
Examine Your Platform
How do you go about examining and evaluating your platform?
First, make sure your church planting goal is clear. Is your goal to do some church planting on the side, or to start a DMM? Many platforms can work if it is the former. But if it is the later, you will need to ask yourself some hard questions.
1) Evaluate the time, energy and money it takes.
How much time, money and energy does your business or development platform “cost” you? Is it worth that investment for the amount of Kingdom fruit you are getting out?
Disciples Made & Churches Started
One successful DMM trainer I interviewed said this. “Once I saw the amount of time I was putting into the businesses in comparison to the fruit, I stopped doing them. It was hard because I enjoyed doing business! I needed to be freed to do the main things. Things like seed sowing, finding the person of peace, training disciples, and raising leaders.”
He went on to say, “Very, very few people can get the balance of business and missions right.”
I have to agree with him. There are some who do. But there are many examples that have not worked out well. The business or development project has hindered rather than furthered the DMM goal.
2) Evaluate synergy.
Look for a platform that has synergy with your DMM goal. What that means is: by doing that platform, you also further your ministry.
One example of a platform with synergy is having a small tailoring shop. Through this, you can build many connections in the community. Another example is selling a product door to door like coconut oil for hair, or cloth from the city, etc.
Does your missionary platform help you build meaningful relationships where you can share the gospel?
3) Regularly submit your platform to God and be willing to change.
Don’t assume that what God spoke to you 5 years ago is still His way for you today.
In his excellent book, Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud mentions the principle of “Sunk Cost.” The more you have invested in something emotionally the harder it is to let it go.
This can be true of our platforms. We work so hard to develop them. Even if they are not giving us the opportunity to do what we want and aren’t giving us the fruit we desire, we struggle to change. It is because of our “sunk cost.” You’ve already sunk a lot into this!
Many missionaries invest huge amounts of time and money in their platform development. One missionary I talked to said he thought he had invested almost $100,000 over the years in his platform business and projects. That is a lot of money!
Could the level of investment (whether time or money) you’ve made be hindering you from an honest assessment of it?
4) Consider “out of the box” or unusual options
A coach can help you explore options. It is easy to get stuck and feel like you have no other choice. That is usually not true.
Take time to consider options you had already ruled out as impossible or impractical. Are you limiting your options because of money, lack of faith or lack of skill?
Talk to people in similar situations but other contexts. What creative ways have they found to share the gospel while still having a good answer for their community (and the government)?
What Options Do You Recommend?
I would love to hear your recommended options for missionary platforms. Comment below, in the Facebook group, or write to me.
As we discuss this on FB this week, I will throw in my top 3 platform recommendations and 3 platforms I suggest you stay away from!