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Navigator Enterprises

Summary: After noting our early ventures in the US in the 1940s, this article touches lightly on the evangelical history of missional enterprises and then moves into the awakening Navigator interest in such enterprises in the 1970s. To respond to restrictions on traditional missionaries, we moved broadly through three phases: cover stories, relevant employment, authentic contributions to society. By then, we were seeing enterprises as a means of advancing the kingdom rather than only as a vehicle of identity for our missionaries. We embraced the triple challenge of simultaneously generating financial sustainability, social impact, and spiritual transformation.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them
from the evil one.
John 17:1


Early Navigator Efforts and Viewpoints
Enterprises in Church History
Navigator Enterprises: 1970s
The 1980s: Questions of Access, Authenticity, and Integration
Developments in the 1990s
Holistic Enterprises in Poor and Restricted Countries
Financing Ministries
“My Economic History” by James Quist-Therson

Early Navigator Efforts and Viewpoints

From the 1930s onward, Navigators have ministered alongside men and women in their daily workplace contexts. Indeed, during WWII, our main emphasis was among naval personnel on their ships. However, a theology of daily work only took shape slowly and was, as we shall see, as much a response to external pressures as a chosen strategy.

After WWII, almost all our contacts dispersed. Many of them enrolled in colleges and seminaries. The small nucleus that remained around Dawson Trotman wrestled with basic questions of our identity and mission. In the immediate post-war years, Daws had no freedom to make our needs known, so that our various workplace initiatives during 1946-1948 can be seen as attempts to stay economically viable.

Several small businesses were launched. Examples: Reliable Radio Repair and Superior Sign Service.1 Roy Robertson moved to Dallas to work in an automobile dealership for his father.2 Dave Rohrer was “tentmaking up in the valley.” Sanny tried his hand at selling books.3

These early enterprises were examples of “tentmaking,” in line with the Apostle Paul’s practice of his trade when he lacked gifts in money or in-kind.

Daws encouraged the development of productive hobbies. He himself became adept at air-brushing and painting and burning mottoes into leather. His diary records that he spent many hours on perfecting the production of mottoes; by the end of 1946, he was experimenting with sand blasting wood mottoes and, a few days before Christmas, made his first three sales at five dollars each! He had a very practical cast of mind.4

It was Calvin Coolidge,5 some twenty years earlier, who had proclaimed that “the chief business of the American people is business.”6 This cultural bias may have influenced our favorite metaphor in the early days of urging men “to get down to business.” We may also relish a quote from John Calvin, a leader of the Reformation: “The life of the godly is justly compared to trading, for they ought naturally to exchange and barter with one another in order to maintain intercourse.”

Taking business in a broad sense, we also supplemented gift income first from producing printed “materials” and then, after the purchase of Glen Eyrie, from conference earnings. Neither of these was a money-spinner. Recurring deficits in running the Glen were followed by fundraising campaigns and by cutting back on our HQ staff.

Tom Sorrells, a contributor to our early refurbishing of the Glen, launched Global Communications Services as an electronics business in Colorado Springs, using his radio antenna near Eagle Lake.7

Why did we later choose the term “enterprise” rather than business? The dictionary defines an enterprise as “an undertaking, especially one of great scope, complication, or risk.”8 This term allows us to include for-profit and not-for-profit: consultancies, professional corporations, NGOs, manufacturing—the whole range of goods and services. Also, the choice of this term signals that we want to serve Nav entrepreneurs, whether or not they are staff.9

Enterprises in Church History

Missional enterprises have a long tradition, stretching back through the monastic communities and surfacing anew for evangelicals in the skilled team that William Carey10 assembled in India, to help support his pioneering mission. Carey himself arrived in India in 1793 and worked as the manager of an indigo plantation, going on to become a professor of Sanskrit, a reputed botanist, a social reformer (advocating successfully for laws against sacrificing female infants and burning widows). With Marshman (a teacher) and Ward (a printer), they settled in Serampore and “translated and published the whole Bible in six languages, the New Testament in twenty-three others and portions of the Scriptures in ten others.”11

In Nav circles, there was an awareness of the book Today’s Tentmakers by Christy Wilson (Tyndale House Publishers, 1980) which provides a historical overview and then reflects on his own experience in Afghanistan (1951-1973). However, a much more popular text in our community was Profit for the Lord by William Danker (Eerdmans, 1971). This tells the fascinating story of the Moravians and the Basel Mission Trading Company. As his introduction observes:

Fundamentalist missions have generally been extremely reluctant to divert energy or money from verbal proclamation of the gospel to social action. . . . Neither group (sc. mainline or fundamentalist) has shown much interest in helping the national church, to say nothing of the mission, achieve an indigenous economic base. . . . Western patterns of church and mission support have in practice become standard for non-western churches. . . . It was not always so.12

The next treatment to attract wider attention among us was God’s New Envoys by Tetsunao Yamamori (Multnomah, 1987). Yamamori projected that by 2000 some 83 percent of the world’s non-Christian population would reside in countries closed to traditional missionary approaches: we could certainly lower this percentage after the fall of the Soviet Empire and other newer developments, but his point is valid. As the then leader of a relief and development agency (Food for the Hungry International), Yamamori was well-placed to move the argument forward. Thus:

God’s new envoys . . . will be more than tentmakers. ‘Tentmaking’ refers primarily to an economic factor: a missionary’s being financially self-supported. But God’s new envoys will be distinguished from traditional missionaries by much more than financial self-support, especially in terms of training and function and target mission. They will be specialists in every sense of the word.13

Yamamori places his focus, in line with the priority prevalent in the 1990s, on the people groups that have often proved “the least winnable—yielding the greatest dangers, the most frustrations, and the lowest conversion rates.” This is admirable but, as Navigators scanned the horizon, we tended to embrace and work among a much wider group of the unchurched and, certainly, the undiscipled. Nor were we primarily concerned with the agenda of a relief and development agency. Nevertheless, Yamamori presents a motivational challenge and a convincing argument for establishing legitimate enterprises.

It is also worth observing that evangelicals have had the field almost to themselves. David Miller’s God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement (Oxford, 2007) recounts a lasting antipathy to business among the mainline churches. He quotes Robert Wuthnow14: “Even those most concerned about social issues such as peace, poverty, inequality and economic injustice have been surprisingly blind to the economic realm.” The World Council of Churches did attend in the 1990s increasingly to “lay participation” but understood such ministry as participation in the struggle for justice and freedom of the poor, the marginalized and the socially degraded. Development of profitable business models was rather suspect! Miller summarizes his analysis with these words: “The WCC, blinded by its own theological ideology, failed to see any co-creative possibilities, contributions or potential for moral or societal good coming from the marketplace.”15

Waldron Scott, looking ahead in 1970,16 perceptively wrote:

. . . until now we have concentrated on disciple-making, but have interpreted ‘disciple’ for the most part in purely ‘spiritual’ terms. By which I mean we have emphasized evangelism, Bible study, etc. as over against doing good works such as feeding or clothing the poor, visiting the sick and those in prison, etc.

It is clear that these last- named areas are important to discipleship and even crucial (see Matthew 25:31-46). It is equally clear that, in the words of Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits ‘there is not time for everything.’ Nevertheless, can we who serve in Asia amidst such deep poverty avoid rethinking our position on this matter?

The Lausanne Covenant of 1974 brought light to bear on Christian social responsibility. An extract from section 5:

Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, color, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. . . . We affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbor and our obedience to Jesus Christ. . . . The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.17

Nevertheless, as Brian Griffiths observes in The Creation of Wealth, the Christian Church has never found it easy to come to terms with the marketplace.18

Now, having touched on a little of the evolving background, we will note briefly our HQ Business Ministries and move on to the emergence of missionary enterprises, at first through our Missionary Associates program in the late 1970s.

Navigator Enterprises: 1970s

In 1973, Dan Rich was recruited to develop our publications business that became NavPress in 1975. Previously, it had been known as the Materials Fulfillment Department.19 LeRoy Eims, for example, had published seven books (not all through NavPress) by the end of 1978, as well as broadcasting a series of brief radio programs (See also the article titled “Materials and Communications”).

The Glen Eyrie Group is interesting as a study of a business in which it has often proved challenging to balance the spiritual and the financial elements that are required.

In 1977, we introduced our first systematic thrust to place business and professional people in the increasing number of countries for which it was not easy to secure missionary visas. Bill Threlkeld launched and led this Missionary Associates (MA) program.

The concept called for qualified disciple-makers who were also trained and experienced professionals to secure positions that allowed them to invest their skills in foreign countries, as team members with other missionary associates and Navigator staff. Ideally, several associates would work in the same general location for mutual encouragement and support. The intent, not always feasible, was also for the associates to be geographically close to our staff, for consistent guidance and oversight.

The MA committee20 began work in May 1977 by setting up a screening process. From the start, we were committed to genuine professionals who would do good work and would, in their contexts, have access to colleagues and clients and others who were beyond the natural reach of Navigator staff.21 Teachers formed the largest contingent, followed by engineers and computer specialists.

The program grew quickly. After five years, twenty-four couples and thirty-eight singles had been sent out as associates, of whom twenty couples and twenty-eight singles were still on station.22 Seven countries had participated by sending: twenty-five countries had received associates. By the end of 1989, we had sent out 310 MAs into some fifty countries, with 175 still on station.23

The committee maintained a high standard, in line with Threlkeld’s concept paper. Most of those not accepted had not yet become disciple-makers. The last, who entered Ethiopia, began to serve in July 1986.

Although the Missionary Associates program eventually had processed many participants, most of them were not employed in restricted countries, nor were they typically those who had the leadership ability as well as the cultural fluency to develop team ministries.

It would be wrong to imply that the flow of ideas was only, or even mainly, from the center to the periphery. We were learning as we came to know the stories of Navigators who had found their own ways through the economic and political turmoil of their own countries. A vivid example was our leader in Ghana, James Quist-Therson. Extracts from the story of his economic initiatives are at the end of this paper.

In Ghana

In fact, Ghana held many lessons for us. I was familiar with the economic chaos that erupted in that country in the early 1970s, having been asked by our International Leadership Team (ILT) to assess whether we should withdraw in light of the phenomenal rate of inflation.

We had begun in Ghana when Marvin and Georgette Smith arrived in Accra in 1974. They were soon joined by Craig Goldfain and Linda Dunn. Dave and Sherry Hall had relocated in Ghana after the barbarities of president Idi Amin forced them to evacuate from Uganda. Navigators were warmly welcomed by hospitable Ghanaian believers.

However, Ghana was in a desperate financial condition. In 1975, two additional missionary reps were requested, but the ILT refused these allocations as financially unsustainable. Indeed, we projected that these two families would require an additional c$180,000 increasing at 30 to 40 percent per year. Though we appreciated the cost-cutting efforts of our resident team, we knew that our alternatives had to be some mix of tentmaking, withdrawing our team, using currency adjustments, working only in one city, developing a different style of ministry. An investment appraisal24 was carried out on site by Donald McGilchrist in February 1976 and the International Leadership Team accepted option 8 which froze our team at the existing level on the field of three ARs, one WCS, two ITs on condition that the mission in Ghana should again be reviewed by the ILT no later than April 1977.

During the 1970s, two significant enterprises were launched in the developing world. Their trajectories were very different. We look first at the Philippines and then at Egypt.

In the Philippines

In the Philippines, Gene and Helen Tabor arrived as Nav missionaries in 1962, working closely with the Denlers. By the early 1970s, faced with the multi-faceted needs of Filipino families, Gene was moved to begin developing small self-supporting farming and business operations, so that he could minister to economic as well as spiritual needs. The first farm was in the rural district of Pandi. God prospered this vision which Gene later described as maturing into four interlocking components: to the whole person, to indigenous leadership, to the poor, to disciple-making. Here we see the emergence of what was later called “holistic” ministry.25

This took Gene well beyond the traditional content of our ministries in those days, and some difficult tensions arose. With the Filipinos taking sides and some strong reservations among our international leaders, Gene decided that he should resign from The Navigators. He founded Reach in 1976, after stepping down as our country leader.26

Reach gave birth to Lakas-Angkan,27 the crucible for an integrated movement of contextualized disciple-making, missions, and justice, with a bias towards socio-economic development.28

The Tabors and the Filipinos they influenced were pioneers, not always understood but always sacrificially faithful to the Lord of the harvest. Much later, in 1992, at our first international consultation on microenterprises, Gene was welcomed back as an experienced resource by the Nav practitioners who gathered to strengthen our commitment to holistic ministry.

In the Middle East (some names removed for security reasons)

We turn next to the Middle East. A publishing company was founded in the region in 1978 by two local Navigators.29 They had moved to another MENA nation to help the couple who launched a ministry in 1975. Their aim in starting the press was to produce high-quality printing that would be profitable and from which they as co-owners could covenant to donate 50 percent of their net profit to the strengthening of our ministries in the Middle East. Their foundational text was Deuteronomy 8:17-18. They carried the perspective that they were receiving from God rather than giving to God. Working closely with a Navigator leader in the region as their coach, they delighted in running their business expertly as a partnership with God. The press trained a dedicated staff and built an excellent operation. It functioned profitably for more than twenty years, during which the staff were able to provide all the financial needs of our indigenous ministries in that nation. Eventually, because of changing market conditions, the press closed in 2006. However, it is worth recording some guiding principles30 that John Eames of US NavPress observed when he visited the press in 1988:

  • Commitment to work very hard and sacrificially in the startup stage of the business
  • A strong and enduring relationship between the two local partners
  • A counseling relationship with our country leader for accountability and conflict resolution
  • A recognition that the press was itself their ministry: it was owned by God, their master
Work in Restricted Countries

We had ministered in restricted countries since at least 1972, when we first assigned staff to Eastern Europe.31 Our subsequent commitments to major countries with access challenges included India in 1976 and China in 1981.32

By the 1980s, the need for sustained ministry in restricted countries33 was becoming acute. Our commitment to the nations did not permit us to ignore the more “difficult” countries. In five34 of our twelve ethno-religious blocs, we were using what we called “cover” occupations that usually appeared to be legal, but to which we typically gave little investment in time or money. They provided pragmatic and often “hollow” identities. By the middle of the decade, we had seen such occupations challenged or refused registration in several countries. We knew that we had to pool our experience, to learn from others, to solidify our presence. We were facing a proliferation of problems which we were trying to tackle in unconnected ways.

Therefore, Jerry White took up the need for what we called Project Access35 “to develop all possible means of access to closed or closing countries in addition to the traditional missionary presence.” It was noteworthy that Project Access assumed that the solution would be business-related access. As he put it, however, “We Navigators are experts in ministry and novices in business.” Therefore, we must involve experienced businessmen.36

White gathered comments from Nav-related business leaders at our President’s Conference at the beginning of 1986. Their recommendations ranged from buying a controlling interest in existing exporters to our target countries to using nationals who were not Americans, especially immigrants in the USA from such countries. A recommendation to improve our means of access to restricted countries was approved by INC 5 in March 1986.

From the perspective of our extensive investment in Eastern Europe, this was hardly a new concern. As our Eastern Europe (EER) leader Dave G. had written in April 1983:

We are in the midst of wrestling with this issue and, since more and more missionaries will be needing good cover occupations, this issue will not leave us. . . . One basic question is the degree of freedom and flexibility we have to use ministry money to establish, protect, and continue the credibility of a cover occupation.

He submitted a paper from Al Bussard on “Principles for the Financing of Cover Occupations.”

Our EER team was attempting to develop solid cover occupations for our on-field missionaries. Grissen reported that, “A has a tour cover . . . B an animal vitamins cover . . . C & D a medical technology cover . . . E a shipping cover . . . and so forth.” Note the ubiquity of the term “cover.”

An extreme example of the ways in which we struggled to provide “cover stories” for our missionaries in Eastern Europe is the experience of Americans Don and Lois N. during the fifteen years from 1982 to 1997. Don’s summary is eloquent:

Fifteen years, seven international moves, five foreign languages, eleven questionable or phony or tent-faker identities, three real development identities and one that I would call an integrated identity. Another way to summarize it is that the first nineteen years of my life I was a secular person who lived more or less without an awareness of the invisible world. The next nineteen years I lived in a kind of sacred other-worldly sphere denying the reality of the physical world.37

Even well-placed enterprises fell victim to the obstructive nature of Communist bureaucracies. For example, in 1985, we had begun designing Wings of Access, a business that would import day-old chicks and feed from the Netherlands38 into Poland, setting up a legal foundation in the former country and operating a barter arrangement, through which the imported chicks would be brought to maturity or “fryer stage” in Poland and then sold for consumption on the Polish market, or exported. The Polish income would buy raw materials or manufactured goods which were to be shipped back to the West and sold for Western currencies, thus completing a financial cycle that would purchase more chicks in the Netherlands. During the planning period of eighteen months, several unforeseen blockages arose:

  • Polish government revoked license of our import/export agent
  • Barter agreements now required clearance by Polish Ministry of Trade
  • A new IMF loan to Poland required barter to be reduced from 50 percent to an eventual 5 percent of foreign trade
  • New trade regulations: our farm must contract with the Polish state chicken farm
  • Polish government imposed new pricing structure which would necessitate applying for a state subsidy
  • Quota limitations imposed: no business possible before 1988

How many more obstacles might occur when the project began? It is good to note, however, that our cautious financial controls meant that only $14,000 of the $125,000 raised externally by investors had to be written off and that our missionary had been able to carry on ministry in Poland, despite the above distractions.39

The 1980s: Questions of Access, Authenticity, and Integration

In 1985, Jerry White began to respond to concerns raised by Al Bussard and Dave G. Their focus was on affiliating with or creating business identities. We were experiencing problems such as “the cost of setting up businesses, embarrassment when their products do not sell, diversion of the energies of our missionaries into maintenance of their covers.” We recognized that we needed outside help. We were novices in business, trying to reinvent the wheel. Meanwhile, the number of restricted countries was growing.

After much discussion, both with business friends and among the International Ministries Leadership Team (IMLT),40 our council accepted Jerry White’s recommendation in February 1986 that Project Access should become a global project. A Task Force Access (TFA) was called together in June, projected across two phases:

  • Phase 1 would last for four months, led by Paul Stanley. Objectives: develop guidelines; identify needs; set up facilitating procedures. TFA1 comprised primarily Nav leaders.
  • Phase 2 would last for two years, led by Dr. John Cassidy.41 Objectives: find access facilitators; respond to field needs; coordinate access teams; recommend long-range organizational solutions. TFA2 was primarily businessmen.

The project statement accepted by the council had clearly stated that the need was “to develop means of business-related access.”42

The phase 1 group met in June 1986, with Charlie Dokmo as TFA administrator. Five field leaders were complemented by three IET members and an attorney. It was quickly agreed that a missionary’s access identity should:

  • Be seen as a bona fide operation by the local government
  • Meet an on-going societal need
  • Have a low vulnerability to political and economic disruption
  • Fit the missionary’s personal and professional qualifications

Cassidy’s proposal was that we should structure Project Access teams in which Nav missionaries and business/professional facilitators were linked. He emphasized that we cannot use facades, nor can we use a strategy that ties up our missionaries with encumbrances. A first round of prioritizing our businesses (often struggling) and our target countries was drawn up. The financial and legal considerations which the US Navigators required were examined.

A central principle of the access strategy that Cassidy formulated raised questions among some of our missionary staff. For example, he argued that most of the time and energy of our staff should be spent in ministry rather than in business activities, and that our staff should maintain a distance from direct business responsibility. Thus, in each case, the external (non-staff) facilitator would initiate and assume responsibility for the business or professional activities in a country.43

Around this time, the use of the term “bi-vocational missionary” was increasing. Strong resistance to this term developed among Navigator leaders, mainly from the theological perspective that a person should not have two vocations and that this would foster the notorious sacred–secular split in the minds of our staff. It assumed that “ministry” and “business” are separate spheres. By the early 1990s, the phrase was almost extinct among us as we began to deepen our theology of work.44

John Cassidy served us well during his two years of guiding Task Force Access. However, we found it hard to accept his foundational approach that ministry and business do not mix, so that our missionaries should not be tentmakers but be freed up for ministry. This conflicted with our emerging understanding of the nature of “ministry.” He had also encountered difficulties in that he stepped into a mix of individual initiatives already begun; of expectations that were too high; of internal changes within the Navigator structure; and, finally, with his own declared commitment that he could not give us more than half of his time.45 One can observe that this experience illustrated, again, that it was hard for Nav leaders to work constructively with business or other external leaders. At our worst, we tended to manifest a certain exclusivity. This is a downside of our focus on “growing our own” rather than hiring staff. An additional challenge was that the TFA was a centralizing solution in a decentralizing organization which had adopted the turn towards our Global Society in 1988.

TFA was launched as a facilitating mechanism, not a bureaucracy. However, expectations were pitched exceptionally high and, concurrently, we were working through our evolution into a Global Society.

At the same time, the task force firmly pursued three principles which did not always find a ready response in the field:

  • Time Partitioning: The majority of Nav missionary time will be invested in ministry (freedom of time).
  • Business Responsibility: The Nav missionary will not have primary responsibility for the business (freedom of responsibility).
  • Employment vs. Contracting: We will seek to have the Nav missionary operate as an independent contractor, rather than an employee for the access company (freedom of allegiance).

In light of various tensions and misunderstandings, John Cassidy felt the need to make it clear, when TFA1 reconvened in November 1987, that the TFA program was not intended as a permanent organization handing out global solutions to every missionary’s access problems. It was an investigation; a depository of ideas, possibilities and cases.

Lessons Learned from Project Access

Nevertheless, significant progress was made in facilitating our missions thrust. Paul Stanley summarized five results that had been learned during the two years of TFA:

  • Better understanding of the access problem or challenge
  • Need for overall strategy and philosophy of Project Access
  • Need for unified and global effort, not central control
  • Need to rethink the Nav missionary, in terms of preparation, selection, and training
  • Need for a separate Project Access corporation

Learning how to manage our own businesses helped to draw us into the mainstreams of society. It better prepared us, in natural settings, for access to the hearts of people. Also, increasingly, we were starting to see the value chain in which we worked—clients, customers, suppliers, professional advisors and their families—as the relational networks that God wished us to cultivate. We did not want to be isolated from these natural networks in order to “do the ministry” elsewhere.

By 1987,46 we listed forty-nine access projects in twelve countries, which made it imperative to pool lessons learned and sharpen our approaches.

Task Force Access ran its allotted course of two years, concluding in August 1988. At the closing meeting, Cassidy reviewed the history of TFA over the two years and the lessons learned. He pointed out that our Nav culture, our grow-your-own mentality, hindered our partnership with business leaders.47 One conclusion was that we needed more occupationally prepared missionaries who had earned the credentials to function authentically in foreign contexts. We need to rethink “the Nav missionary” in terms of preparation and selection. This, of course, was radically different from our traditional habit of discouraging potential staff who wished to acquire advanced degrees.

This was a turbulent time, as we struggled to agree on the strategic and to empower the operational aspects. For example, the European perspective (e.g. Clayton) was that we must settle the why before immersing ourselves in the what. And yet Fischer’s response, as the American leading a team of five missionaries in Yugoslavia, was that urgent field-empowering initiatives were required to strengthen their precarious presence.48

A strong critique49 of how TFA did not “deliver” from his perspective as a Field Missionary was written by American Don N., whom we already noted as having struggled to move toward an authentic occupation. He identified several failures, some of which are mentioned in this paper. He put forward some recommendations that we largely adopted when TFA ended. Basically, Don was tracking his experience with TFA from the time of the Yugoslavia team’s decision in June 1986 that he and Lois should pursue resident access through the months of dialogue with TFA until they had to return to the US in June 1988 on the expiry of their visas.

Access to Restricted Countries by 1989

As regards what we called restricted countries, the status in September 198950 was as follows:

  • There were seventy-nine significant restricted countries. By the year 2000: 66 percent of the world’s population; 36 percent in China and India alone; 86 percent of the world’s unbelievers
  • The Navigators had a sustained ministry commitment to twenty-four of these countries containing 76 percent of the population of all seventy-nine restricted countries.
  • Committed to these twenty-four restricted countries were: 227 of our 3021 staff (8 percent), including wives; thirty-two of our 139 Missionary Associates (23 percent), including wives; of these 227 staff, 172 were residents in the restricted countries (76 percent)

While we recognized that Navigator enterprises had a far wider application than merely restricted countries, our existential need focused on countries in which it was not practicable to secure missionary visas or to settle into the fabric of society as religious professionals.

Relationships with Nationals and Money

Our trajectory was becoming clearer, as we absorbed the extent of the need. In summary, we had launched Project Access in order to get American staff set up in restricted countries. We were beginning to help missionary staff from other countries. We then considered helping national staff and we moved through a predictable series of expansions of our concept until we eventually found ourselves helping national lay laborers in open countries. Thus, we began to speak of “access to the hearts of people”: Project Access was much more than a vehicle for sustaining a presence in a country but should also be a vehicle for carrying out relevant ministry among the local inhabitants. Access implies a solid theology of work, not merely a cloak of temporary identity.

Many other agencies tended to “buy” national staff with foreign money, thus removing the discipline of putting down national roots and letting money rather than demonstrated effectiveness become the motor. We were alert to the dangers of this. We would not buy national staff to serve as our representatives. Instead, we would invest in the work of their hands so that they are enabled, not owned (Titus 3:14).51

Deeper Understanding of the Term “Access”

Out of the TFA closing discussion in 1988 emerged the decision to form an Access Central Team (ACT) led by McGilchrist.52

ACT I drew from the fresh “Statements Leading Towards an International Structural Model” (one of the Global Society outcomes) and from the reading of Profit for the Lord by William Danker, which explores the history of economic engagements by the Moravian Brethren and the Basel Mission Society.53 The Moravians, for example, were committed to the concept that missions and business are to be distinguished but not separated from each other.54

Access settled into an international partnership of commitments to help secure and sustain an authentic presence for ministry among peoples in contexts that would not accept traditional identities as Christian workers.55 In support of this, the work of ACT I-III was to build the infrastructure and vehicles to adequately support such missionaries.

One can sketch our emerging approach with some broad brushstrokes, as follows:

  • In the 1970s, we used various cover stories (pretending to be what we were not). The outcomes usually were bankrupt businesses sustained by donor income.
  • In the 1980s, we realized that, to serve the Prince of Truth, we needed to have legitimate occupations so that we could justly claim to have valid work, real jobs, a true identity. The outcomes were legal, but often had a limited impact.
  • In the 1990s, we came to see that not all real jobs brought us into incarnational contact with the mainstreams of society. Thus, we moved more into employment that contributed to the peace and prosperity, the shalom, of the places where we lived (see Jeremiah 29:7). The outcomes included an authentic presence, a steep learning curve, successes and failures.

Access means more than a visa. It invites us to connect with the hearts of the men and women whom we yearn to reach.

A further generalization from our experience is that microenterprises have served best in countries where the issue is survival, such as Ethiopia or the Sudan, and Training Institutes have worked well in countries where the issue is development. Most of the world’s young people want to learn English and to acquire computer skills.56

Developments in the 1990s

As ACT III in August 1990 wound up the process of dialogue on our lessons and opportunities as regards access,57 we were gaining clarity about what kinds of projects we should pursue. Although a solid theology of work would have to wait for several years, we were broadening our attention beyond merely restricted countries. As ACT III concluded, “Our commitment to the nations brings us increasingly into contexts where the quality of life is so limited that we are impelled to pursue our vision in a context of social and economic development.” Several initiatives were adding to the ferment, offering potential for synergy but also a danger of confusion. During the year 1990 alone, beginnings included:

  • A corporation (name withheld for security)58 was registered in March 1990.
  • Frontier Ventures, sponsored by Asia, was communicating the needs of a different people each month and originating in Doug Sparks’s teaching on “Claiming the Promise of Genesis 12:1-3.” Editor: Selva Rorabaugh, launched in July 1990.
  • We enabled exchanges that had the concept of bringing face-to-face our “senders” and “receivers” by continent. These field exchanges focused on the Middle East, Africa, EER in turn, all in 1990.
  • US Professional Resources was initiated by Charlie Dokmo.59
Professional Resources

In concert with the broad conceptual approach of ACT and the business orientation that had marked the TFA, Charlie Dokmo founded US Professional Resources60 with an emphasis on educational entrepreneurship, especially vocational training. This was attractive. Education is a valued asset in most developing countries, and our staff can be very effective in such settings.61

The mission of Professional Resources included supporting existing missionary teams engaging in enterprises, developing authentic and viable platforms for missionaries, networking resources from the business and professional community, and assisting nationals also in forming viable support structures.

In light of Dokmo’s gifting, we networked with other evangelical organizations; given his background, we paid more attention to Russia.62 Though other nationalities were also resourced, it was natural for US missionaries to receive the most attention. For one thing, it was vital to reduce our legal and financial exposure, while trying to increase staff freedom to initiate.

Our International Council in February 1991 devoted four days to Project Access, exploring several case studies:

  • A leather company in Colombia
  • A company in the Middle East
  • Human Resources Consulting in Czechoslovakia
  • International Language School in Japan
  • A gem resources company in Asia

After drawing out from these case studies and other contributions, some requirements for an effective Project Access venture and some issues still to be resolved, we recommended practical steps to move Project Access forward.63 The council concluded with five commitments, of which the first was “To communicate throughout The Navigators the vital strategic importance of Project Access for our mission in the 1990s.”

In February 1993 in Malaysia, our council took note of what were then the seven objectives of US Professional Resources, under their overall mission: “to facilitate placement of US missionaries in the ninety-four restricted countries of the world, enabling them to gain an authentic presence amongst the people to whom they are called to ministry.” As regards demonstration projects, “We have selected Dave G. and the Eurasian Crescent Venture as our main project to help bi-vocationals . . . to gain an authentic presence in their respective countries.” Meanwhile, the interlocking nature of our initiatives around that time is illustrated by another objective: “to launch, guide, and establish the ministry of [corporation mentioned above], so as to ensure the fulfillment of its stated purposes.” By that time, Paul R. had been appointed as CEO of [the corporation], serving Doug Sparks in an Asia project.64

During 1994, the World Evangelical Fellowship published Working Your Way to the Nations: A Guide to Effective Tentmaking.65 Paul R. and Bruce van Wyk had participated for several years in the conference of the US Association of Tentmakers, which became Intent and adopted Kingdom Professionals as a descriptor. However, the global body continued as Tentmakers International Exchange (TIE).66 A fruitful and extensive article was published in the approach to this congress, entitled “The Tentmaking Movement in Historical Perspective.”67 This article starts with a look at some of the tentmakers in the Old Testament before proceeding through the centuries. It contains the unattributed comment, “In the first Reformation, the people of God were given the Word of God. Now we need a new reformation when the people of God are given the Work of God.”

Much of the impetus, among evangelicals, for “tentmaking” had been stimulated by the networking that took place at Lausanne II in Manila in 1989.68

Influence of Western Missions

During 1990, our Eurasia Director Al Bussard wrote an influential Paper entitled “The Dilemma of Western Energy.”69 The dilemma, as he saw it, was that Western missions were riding the wave of the recent triumph of Western democracy with remarkable energy while, on the other hand, low-profile and poorly financed examples of courageous creativity in contextualization from the developing world were being overwhelmed or at least co-opted into the powerful Western momentum. He contrasted two models of missions:

  • Typical Current: technology, standardized curriculum, projection, wealth
  • Desirable Future: community, spiritual apprenticeship, incarnation, orientation to poverty

The above hardly does justice to a well-argued paper. Note that Bussard is describing what he calls a “dilemma” rather than attacking a “problem.” As he wrote, the issue is extremely complex. Western missions would obviously continue to be deeply needed.

After his year at Regent, Bussard returned to Bratislava and set up Integra (with help from two co-founders) as a structure to serve Navigators who were urgent to launch businesses in their own Central European countries. Bussard (Interview October 2011) recalls that some eighty to one hundred Nav-related people had such needs.

Missionary Identity and The Navigators

Our Europe Director, Gert Doornenbal, also presented a paper on “The Face of The Navigators” at the February 1991 Council.70 He opened by noting that we should already be “faceless” in restricted countries. However, what about open countries? He distinguished between image (how people perceive us) and identity (how we perceive ourselves). Then, he asked whether our problem with our image was subjective or objective: was it an internal issue for the “missionary” or a real issue in society? Exploring Jesus’s words in Matthew 16:13-16 and his strategy in verse 20, Gert argued that Jesus did not want his disciples to change his image. “The image of a prophet was more in line with the way of suffering that he had to go than the popular image of a Messiah. Jesus was honest, while keeping secrets.” The reason for his command to secrecy was “to prevent misunderstanding of the Messianic claim in a political sense.”71 This was precisely what some of us were trying to do: avoiding the open use of a title, in order to prevent misunderstanding. The paper then traced our history as society changed around us and identified three possibilities for “the face of The Navigators” in certain countries:

  • Being “faceless”: This is practicable until we experience success in numbers or influence, at which point we have to organize and become known the way we prefer.
  • A Christian organization for “faith questions”: The traditional model. Still valid, where there are enough people who can relate to the local Navigator.
  • An organization for “life and faith questions”: This introduces life questions as a shared interest with those who are not, or not yet, open to questions about faith. It starts where people are, and faith questions later emerge naturally.

This was not a simple matter. For example, Gert’s experience was that our full-time student workers in Catholic France freely communicated that they worked for a Christian organization, without hindrance, as long as they did “not identify as church-related and that there was an atmosphere of open honest dialogue.” However, when working among adults, there was much more fear of irrelevance and awareness of the way in which our “teacher complex” was resisted. In the words of J?rgen Moltmann:

The more theology and the church attempt to become relevant to the problems of the present day, the more deeply they are drawn into the crisis of their own Christian identity. The more they attempt to assert their identity in traditional dogmas, rights and moral notions, the more irrelevant and unbelievable they become.

The example of Jesus was intriguing: he wanted his disciples to know his identity, but charged them not to change his image as a prophet.72
What should be “the face of The Navigators,” as Gert put it, in countries or among peoples where Christian organizations are suspect, given that we usually wanted to reach modern, secularized people, often the mainstreams of society?73

Responses to Cultural Disinterest in the Scriptures

Reviewing our history, one can sketch a simple arc of development: from reaping much fruit (1960s and 1970s) to helping people, from our posture as Christian workers, get to know the Scriptures (1970s and early 1980s), to discovering that most people were not interested in the Scriptures (1980s). This led some of us to concentrate on serving existing believers and others of us to try to develop relevant help in maturing as human beings. For example, for us to become counselors or language experts or social workers or businessmen. Our image was drifting away from our identity.

Gert highlighted the choice that would face us as we expanded: either we openly present ourselves as Christian workers or we set up, individually or in clusters, as an organization specializing in such areas as “human development” or “life orientation” or similar.

If we were to choose neither, we would become (at best) a movement that was “faceless” and could not be supported by an organization. We would be back to cover stories, hardly authentic. We would be alienated, powerless spectators!74 Many of us, confused by the political and economic tumult of the early 1990s, claimed Psalm 32:8-9, which says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding . . .”

Doornenbal sums up his study of the Gospel by commenting that “Jesus knew how to tell the truth while keeping secrets” and leaves with us a question: “Isn’t this integrity, when image and identity cannot fully match because of where people are in their capacity to receive and understand?” Access means, therefore, that we need different “messages” for different cultures, the core of each message being the Gospel: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).

Meanwhile, of course, we were trying to adjust ourselves to the astonishing new realities in Eastern Europe. In 1989, we had seen the revolutions cascade through the satellite countries, followed by the formal end of the USSR in 1991.75 It was easy to anticipate the citizens of Eastern Europe turning toward the “freedoms” embedded in our economic system and technologies and wealth. However, this giddy euphoria did not last long.

As if these realities were not enough, the seminal research studies called the Scriptural Roots of Our Ministry first appeared in final form in January 1990 and gradually spread, eventually to be productive in more than forty countries.

Holistic Enterprises in Poor and Restricted Countries

By 1992, we had ministry in forty restricted countries: 303 staff and sixty-three associates were working in these countries, 289 residents and seventy-seven traveling in regularly.76

It soon became apparent that there were already numerous small enterprises led or coached by Navigator staff. It would be very productive to pool our experience and compare lessons and challenges. Therefore, invitations were issued to our practitioners to gather at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in March 1992.

Our Microconsult 92 was designed to analyze case studies, assimilate best practices, strengthen the Nav commitment to holistic ministry and transformation. The theme was expressed in Isaiah 61:1-4.77

At the start of a fruitful week, McGilchrist was able to assure participants that our International Team (the twelve leaders who worked directly with Jerry White) were strongly supportive of microenterprises, because they were committed:

  • To a Gospel that embraces both word and deed
  • To contextualized approaches that meet local needs
  • To serving men and women where they are, including the unemployed, deprived, marginal, those without hope or dignity in this world
  • To the nations, including the restricted and hard places

He added a caution: We certainly do not want to start another crusade in The Navigators. Maturity is knowing clearly what God is calling you to do, without imposing it on others or judging their responses to His will. We must give others the space that we ourselves covet. M92 would allow us, in humility, to become a learning community of practitioners.78

Many papers and studies were accessed,79 among them the Oxford Declaration on Christian Faith & Economics.80 The mission of Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA)81 was particularly challenging:

As Christians in business, our mission is to honor God in the world of work and economics by extending his reign to all our activities. With Jesus as Lord of the marketplace, our task is to love, serve, preach and heal. We use our faith, skills and resources to correct inequities, work towards economic justice, seek righteousness, bring hope where there is no hope and make all things new.

One stimulating outcome was a collection of more than three hundred brief insights offered by participants. It was becoming clear to us that “poverty” is not only economic but flows out of lack of access to power, and has many symptoms and causes.

Eurasia and Central Europe

During the early 1990s, the instabilities caused by the revolutions in Central (previously Eastern) Europe spawned quite a few initiatives, in some of which we were strong contributors. An example was the Transylvanian Business Forum. Mark Bonham, our leader in Hungary, had established a business consultancy in Budapest called ACCESS Ltd. As a means of serving and drawing close to people who needed help in business management and in their development as leaders. He sponsored a seminar with Hungarian Csába Kálman in September 1992, at which Csába decided enthusiastically to bring the content of the seminar to his business friends in Tirgu Mures, Romania.82

Another example was Mission to the East, stimulated by Nav staff Malcolm C., from which our first Polish couple pioneered a ministry in Central Asia in 1993. They were followed by missionaries to Tatarstan, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. However, rampant inflation gradually made the support of such missionaries by Polish gifts almost impossible, so that a new paradigm of indigenous missions resulted from partnership between Mission to the East and several other agencies. Malcolm C. explains:83

We are trying to model through Central Eurasian Partners (CEP) the concept of integrated ministry . . . to create work platforms across the region, to penetrate societies with the Gospel in deed and word, to integrate work and ministry. We create schools of various kinds, small businesses, associations, charities, training and counseling organizations. These provide jobs and income for indigenous and foreign laborers with professional talents and qualifications, and relevant, holistic, kingdom-oriented ministry contexts through which people naturally flow.

Here is a helpful comment by author Ken Eldred:

Kingdom business professionals see their mission as multi-fold: They seek to influence employees, partners, suppliers, customers, and the local community for Christ. They use business itself to demonstrate biblical business principles and set values. They serve others through quality products and helpful services. They seek to provide a venue for people to use their gifts and earn a living. They desire to create a culture of light in and around the businesses that they develop through good, biblically based business principles and the love of Jesus Christ.84

In Central Europe, the Integra Venture continued to stimulate small and medium business formation, extending later to East Africa.

In Africa

Given the rapidity with which Nav-related enterprises were spreading in Africa, our Africa Leadership Team hosted a microenterprise consultation at the end of 1993. A dozen case studies were explored, drawing from Ethiopia and our three partnering countries.85

Under Mike Treneer’s leadership, each of these four leading countries would form a projects board to evaluate proposals and ensure accountability. A resource center was set up to act as a communications node and local business networks would strengthen practitioners.86 The Navigators of Kenya established an Economic Development Projects Trust Fund, launched in October 1991 and led by Wanjau Nduba. He became very effective in coaching and resourcing Nav alumni who felt led to start small businesses.

In Africa, the focus of economic ministry was the financing of the Navigator work and helping people live productive lives (Titus 3:14). There is a strong testimony when men and women integrate the totality of their lives and let the Gospel permeate their daily work. At the consultation, stories of faith and courage in adversity were deeply moving. “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us . . .” (Romans 5:3).

The example of Ethiopia shows a fruitful collaboration between missionaries and local leaders, after the Marxist government was overthrown in 1991. We set up a company to manufacture fiber-reinforced concrete tiles. Danny R. was chosen as our manager in this business, for which our missionaries had aspects of technical expertise.87 Though our product was far superior to the traditional use of zinc sheeting for roofs—and at the same price—it was hard to secure orders. We switched to building blocks, then to wall tiles, then to paving slabs. We had to be nimble because government regulations changed unpredictably.

We also set up an architectural practice (Malcolm M.), a building company, and an electrical engineering company. Later, in conjunction with SIM, we launched a travel agency which became the fourth largest in Addis Ababa.

Microenterprises became an integral aspect of our ministry in Ethiopia; all the principals were Navigator leaders, people of integrity, “social conscience driven entrepreneurs.”88 The manager of our concrete business, for example, seeks to develop his workers so that, if they leave, they are better equipped to face life.89

Developing Scriptural Foundations

Internationally, we had agreed a set of desired requisites for effective access.90 These unwrapped the profile of what we called an Access Vehicle (e.g. planted in the mainstreams, financially viable, embodying Kingdom ethics) and the mentality of the field team (e.g. a learning spirit, solid theology of work). Several unfortunate experiences had shaped our thinking, along lines such as divided purposes among a single team, lack of creativity, lack of relevant expertise. We learned of the danger of investing money without investing in relationships.

In the early 1990s, another contributory stream arose in The Navigators, launched by Californian entrepreneur Al Lunsford and our International Executive Team (IET). How might the Scriptures support business people in their daily lives in the workplace? Around a dozen business leaders then met regularly with the IET to develop both a theology of work and practical applications that flowed from their understandings. The aim was to stimulate a biblical worldview.

Coming to terms with the content of work and ministry was especially necessary, because many in our constituency had grown up in a pietistic milieu in which there was a sharp divide between the spiritual and the material.

This crystallized into the Global Commerce Network, which published six interactive modules (study guides) by the end of the decade. It proved to be a very productive journey, the first Forum on Commerce & Christianity taking place at the Glen in 1995.91 The tag line was that the Bible is “a book by workers, about workers, for workers”92 opening with the description of the creative work of God.

However, the GCN lay somewhat outside the mainstream of Navigator engagement with business and commerce. It did for some years maintain an instructive website, under Al Lunsford’s leadership, and Dan Wooldridge gave consultancy services to several corporations on behalf of the GCN.

Financing Ministries

When our International Team met in 2003, we reviewed the issues that we had identified the year before in Vancouver as generated especially by the adoption of The Core. Notably, five of these fifteen issues concerned money, namely:

  • Financing our ministries
  • Financing the functions of international leaders
  • Financing some of the strategic and needy areas of the world
  • Financing ministries that are on the edge and not understood by supporters
  • Theology and use of money in a global movement/organization

We then spent a day digesting the responses from the discussion groups at our recent Council,93 believing that whatever we developed should meet four tests:

  • Flows out of our Calling
  • Biblically rooted, not pragmatic
  • Connects with field issues
  • Progressive, tackles first what we are able to handle

Mike Treneer continued to place a helpful emphasis on what he called financial health. In 2003, when our International Council had their final meeting, McGilchrist laid before them a proposal for a project on “Money and The Navigators” (MATN) which was welcomed. The development of this project was assigned to David Lyons. Four focus groups were organized. It is worth quoting the remit that related to enterprises,94 because it shows how our thinking had progressed:

Our Calling confirms the importance of a kingdom orientation that pursues holistic or whole-life ministry. Navigator enterprises, therefore, are more than “platforms” or “vehicles” for ministry, but should constitute ministry in themselves. They should not only be authentic and sustainable, but contribute to the shalom or welfare of their communities. Enterprises, especially commercial enterprises, are highly relational in extending the stakeholders with whom we can enjoy fruitful and redemptive interaction. Enterprises should help people flourish, with integrity, in a context of practical discipleship.

This group convened consultations of Nav enterprise practitioners in Mexico95 and Kenya, exploring how we could help Navigator business enterprises function effectively within the context of The Core. They worked through four new study guides96 on The Scriptural Roots of Enterprises, which were built around the concept of God as the original entrepreneur. God, of course, is seen throughout the Scriptures as supplying and sustaining as He invites us, in all our dysfunctionality, to be His partners.97 These studies began by looking at the eight stages of what we may reverently call His start-up. Thus, He:

  • Capitalizes
  • Assigns Functions
  • Stimulates Productivity
  • Differentiates
  • Names what He has created
  • Blesses
  • Evaluates
  • Delegates

Four case studies of Nav enterprises were considered:

  • A leather manufacturing company (Colombia)
  • A college (Asia)
  • An oil company (Eurasia)
  • A roofing tile company (Africa)

These case studies yielded a plethora of lessons that had wider relevance. For example, in the case of the failure of the leather company, vital lessons in what was an exciting initiative included:

  • Lack of coaching, although the company director persistently sought help from experienced businessmen.
  • No agreement on an exit strategy
  • Difficulties arising from international commerce rather than locally based business
  • Lack of effective operational procedures
  • Rapid growth for which the team was unprepared

Meanwhile, a detailed survey98 of some seventy-five of our enterprises around the world proved to be a rich source as regards the motivations and degrees of success and need of our practitioners. Here is a compressed summary of what the respondents saw as their primary purposes.99

See Table 1

The four MATN core groups presented their reports and out of the enterprise recommendations came the formation of our Global Enterprise Network, led by Jack Benjamin.

And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!
(Psalm 90:17, The Message)


It seems good to end with a description of a business which was clearly an enterprise that must have pleased God.

My father is a seller of fish. We children know the business too, having worked from childhood in the Great South Bay Fish Market on Long Island, New York, helping our father like a quiver full of arrows. It is a small store, and it smells like fish. . . . My father is in full-time service for the Lord: prophet, priest, and king in the fish business. And customers who come to the store sense it. Not that we always have the cheapest fish in town! Not that there are no mistakes on a busy Friday morning! Not that there is no sin! But this: that little Great South Bay Fish Market, my father and two employees, is not only a clean, honest place where you can buy quality fish at a reasonable price with a smile, but there is a spirit in the store, a spirit of laughter, of fun, of joy inside the buying and selling that strikes an observer pleasantly; and the strenuous week-long preparations in the back rooms for Friday fish-day are not a routine drudgery interrupted by “rest periods,” but again, a spirit seems to hallow the lowly work into a rich service, in which it is good to officiate. When I watch my dad’s hands, big beefy hands with broad stubby fingers each twice the thickness of mine . . . when I watch those hands delicately split the back of a mackerel or with a swift, true stroke fillet a flounder close to the bone, leaving all the meat together . . . twinkling at work without complaint, past temptations, struggling day in and day out to fix a just price, in weakness often but always in faith consecratedly cutting up fish before the face of the Lord: when I see that, I know God’s grace can come down to a man’s hand and the flash of a scabby fish knife (Calvin Seerveld, as told to Paul Marshall in Heaven Is Not My Home).

“My Economic History” by James Quist-Therson

See also articles on:
International Trainees
Missionary Associates
International Specialists
Workplace Ministries
Cross-Cultural Missions
Travel-Training Ministries
Scriptural Roots of our Ministry

My Economic History

By James Quist-Therson
(Navigator Ghana country leader from March 1987 until he died in April 2004)

I graduated from the University of Accra, in electronics. At that time, evangelical churches were appealing for people to attend Seminary. I observed that the most committed Christians were those who had not done well at University, so they decided to become evangelists. Christianity seemed to be for the dropouts. This filled me with sorrow. I asked the Lord to let me take my part in the general community and to be a committed servant of Jesus Christ.

By 1975, I understood that the central problem for Ghana was not lack of education, but sin. My first job was in the Police Service. I saw how rampant sin was: men in high places, for example, sending out into the streets for girls to enjoy.

I switched into electronics. I designed simple equipment that we could make in Ghana…and could ourselves export…rather than always importing. I tried to set up an electronics design section. My General Manager didn’t like this, because for us to make such items meant that he would no longer be able to travel abroad enjoying a comfortable life and signing foreign contracts.

So, from 1975, my perspective was that I would use any talent God had given me to put food on the table, my basic commitment being to serve God. I Thessalonians 4:11-12, “. . . to work with your hands, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (NIV). I got out of the hierarchy and set up my own company. It was an agency for Kenwood and for loudspeaker systems. I imported these products and sold them. I made money. This lasted until 1979, when such activities became unprofitable, because we could not obtain foreign currency.

In 1979, the economy was getting rapidly worse. We were being reduced to food, clothing, shelter . . . the basics. What should be my contribution? Research is vital, to study the economy and to investigate opportunities. I visited libraries frequently. Proverbs 20:15 says, “ If you know what you are talking about, you have something more valuable than gold or jewels” (GNB). I selected food. Chickens. I avoided large-scale farming because it would need capital to buy land and because I would have to leave my ministry in the city. However, chickens could be raised in my house compound. An hour in the morning and an hour in the evening would do it. Also, I could control the number being raised, I started with two hundred birds, increasing to seven hundred. My chicken business was profitable until 1982. Then, prices started changing very fast. To stay in business, one would have to plow everything back. There was no longer any margin.

Then, I dug a pond in my garden, to raise tilapia and flat fish. This covered my expenses, but not those of my family. So, I turned my car into a part-time taxi at night, until 1985. How did I learn the taxi business? I asked my cousin to try it out for a week, and to try various schemes. I was fortunate to have reliable assistants. God had given me such men, because of years of investing in them. My cousin, for example, was an employee with a paid a salary. Then, the petrol crisis came.

Around 1986, I was asked by Dave Hall, who had begun the work in Ghana in the early 1970s, to become our Country Leader, the first Ghanaian on staff. The Navigators respected my convictions and did not pressure me to raise gift income, as was customary.

Later, an Indian friend told me that he was returning to India and asked me to manage his factory. I worked there for three months, the product being elastic for use in clothes. Soon, my friend returned from India, but refused to raise my salary even though inflation was rapid. So, I realized that I had to be my own employer. I decided to do this. An elastic machine would cost $10,000. Because I had a network of friends and a business reputation, the Indian gave me his machine and allowed me to pay him back over the years. What about the raw materials, rubber and yarn? Suppliers gave me these on credit.

In my elastic company, I had four employees: a manager (Sammy), two machine operators and a driver. I only employed believers with an inner motivation to be honest. They were my partners in ministry. I spent unstructured time helping them.

Then, the economy changed again. An opportunity arose to buy used cars for almost nothing. I increased my taxi fleet to five. This was profitable until the price of petrol more than doubled.

In 1981, we had a Marxist revolution. Skilled people left the country. In 1984, a severe drought, Russia wouldn’t supply us with grain, our government turned to the West. Result: cheap goods from Asia flooded the market. My elastic business couldn’t compete.

I’m now refurbishing and renting out buildings, remodeled as homes.

What have I learned? When profits begin to narrow or when the business takes too much time, I withdraw. This happened with electronics and with chickens, with taxis and elastic. It may happen again. I will deliberately limit myself, so as to have freedom for ministry.

The principle of identification is crucial. When unbelievers perceive Christian workers exposed to the same problems and difficulties that they have, it tells them that you understand, that they can trust you. Also, having to work for yourself builds credibility.

Jesus shared in our humanity and was “made like his brothers in every way” so that he is able to help those who are being tempted; and he offers mercy and grace (Hebrews 2:14-18 and 4:15-16 HCSB).

Too many educated young Ghanaians are buying homes and cars before they have established themselves in the working environment and developed demonstrated competence. Proverbs 24:27 (GNB) says, “Don’t build a house nor establish a home until your fields are ready and you are sure that you can earn a living.”

One final lesson. I helped people and later they were willing to help me (Ecclesiastes 11:1).

Source: Notes by McGilchrist from a verbal presentation by James Quist-Therson, February 1990. He passed away from Sickle-Cell Anemia in April 2004.

By Donald McGilchrist

Word Count: 14075


  1. RRR drew from the expertise of Cec Davidson, SSS from the marketing mindset of Rod Sargent. Also, we represented Van Kampen Press and sold Mottoes through Scripture Outlet. Detailed accounts may be found in Rosenberger’s memo of August 22, 1947. His summary: “By February 1948, all four secular activities in which we are interested could be under way. There is an interdependence among them . . . Van Kampen Press, to be profitable, depends upon correlations with Scripture Outlet Mottoes: the Mottoes, to get under way, depend upon the productivity of SSS; SSS, for the present, depends upon RRR for business location and occasional minor financial help; and RRR appears to be on its feet but requires promotion to increase its volume.”
  2. L. R. Robertson Motors, selling Hudsons.
  3. Source: Sanny Sessions on History, July 1959.
  4. It is interesting to note that Bill Bright, after his early encounter with Daws but before Campus Crusade for Christ was founded, earned money through launching Bright’s California Confections and, following his conversion, continued to expand his candy business. Turner, Bill Bright & Campus Crusade for Christ, University of North Carolina 2008, Pages 18-19.
  5. “The chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.” Address to Newspaper Editors in January 1925.
  6. Chuck Farah’s report on Training Programs at Glen Eyrie identifies the need for a library of say 2,000 volumes: “We do not need a bunch of theological books, but those which are geared to Bible-related subjects or business management . . .” Text of July 28, 1959.
  7. Source: Jim Downing November 2012.
  8. A stimulating treatment may be found in the small booklet The Entrepreneurial Vocation by Robert A. Sirico, Acton Institute 2001.
  9. By way of contrast, the phrase “Business as Mission” (BAM) is incoherent and the term “bi-vocational” is theologically misguided. It is pleasing to recall that C.S. Lewis once spoke of the grand enterprise of God.
  10. Carey’s seminal Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (1792). Drawing from Isaiah 60 (KJV), he concluded that, “in the latter days, commerce shall subserve the spread of the Gospel.” And, almost forty years later, he wrote, “We have ever held it to be an essential principle in the conduct of missions that, whenever it is practicable, missionaries should support themselves in whole or in part through their own exertions.” See Christy Wilson, Today’s Tentmakers, page 32.
  11. Christy Wilson (loc cit) has an excellent chapter 4 which traces the history of tentmaking.
  12. Profit for the Lord, page 13.
  13. God’s New Envoys, page 56-57.
  14. See Miller loc cit, page 87 and 89 and incorporating Wuthnow’s comments.
  15. This mention of “co-creativity” reminds us of the Seven Verbs of our Mandate in Genesis 1:26-28 & 2:15. R Paul Stevens identifies the human vocation as communion, community-building, co-creativity which he develops at length in The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work and Ministry in Biblical Perspective, Eerdmans 1999, page 199.
  16. Taken from his paper on “Some Reflections on The Navigators.”
  17. An exposition and commentary by John Stott, published by World Wide Publications, Minneapolis (1975).
  18. Published by Hodder and Stoughton, 1984. Incidentally, the literature is very extensive. One of the best treatments is Wealth and Wisdom: A Biblical Perspective on Economics by Jake Barnett, Global Commerce Network, 2015.
  19. Design for Discipleship studies were published in November 1973 and our first book followed in 1975: Her Name is Woman by Gien Karssen. Betty Skinner’s Daws was published by NavPress in August 1974.
  20. Initially, with Jim White and Donald McGilchrist, later adding Jerry Bridges and George Sanchez. The first three candidates approved as MAs were Tom Ferrell, Craig Goldfain, John O’Hair.
  21. See Threlkeld’s paper in April 1977 ILT notebook. Later, the program was renamed International Associates. MAs were allowed to supplement their professional income with up to $500 per month of receipted gift income.
  22. Source: Luers’ study of April 14, 1982.
  23. Source: Threlkeld memo to McGilchrist of January 18, 1979.
  24. Out of this appraisal (February 1976, twenty-six pages and sixteen appendices) emerged the concept of an impersonal Ghana Fund which we soon broadened into what we called the Mefrica Fund. For several years, this attracted additional money that was distributed not only in Ghana but to cover needs in both Africa and the Middle East.
  25. From the Greek holos, was coined by Field-Marshall Smuts in 1926. The dictionary defines holistic as “an approach that views the situation as a whole.” Among evangelical agencies, it has variously been used to mean both discipleship and development, into every segment of society, to and among the poor, involving the whole person.
  26. Reach = Resources, Employment And Community Horizons. This ministry in the Philippines prospered and, twenty years later, it was estimated that “the ministry of Reach has seen more than 20,000 Filipinos turn to Jesus Christ and begin the process of becoming Christian disciples” (The Whittier Daily News, October 1997).
  27. Lakas-Angkan means “power of the clan” in Tagalog, a term coined from Isaiah 60:22.
  28. The progress of this movement is well written up in Tabor’s paper for the Innovative Development Conference in 1983 and published in 1991.
  29. In June 1979, Bob V. as our Middle East director, wrote that “we may encourage our converts to start business or enter professions where they can serve society, provide jobs for the unemployed and contribute financially to both the local Nav ministry and the poor.” He deepened his argument in a 1987 paper on “Alternatives to Gift Income.”
  30. Eames memo to Dokmo and van Wyk of November 2, 1988.
  31. Dick and Marj Fischer began to live in what is now Croatia.
  32. Our China Task Force had formed earlier and was preparing to enter the mainland from their base in Taiwan.
  33. As of 1980, there were more than sixty countries classified by the World Christian Encyclopedia (Oxford, 1982): twenty-five were closed; twenty-four were partially closed; sixteen were restricted. Together they accounted for 70 percent of the world’s population. We speak of restricted countries to embrace all three of these categories. In many of them, we already had a Nav presence, sometimes precarious (WCE, Global Table 17, p. 778).
  34. Arab-Muslim, Black Africa, East Asia, EER, South Asia.
  35. Based on proposal of December 6, 1985 on closed countries by White/McGilchrist.
  36. For example, Jack Greener had taken early retirement from Caterpillar Tractor in order to help Al Bussard and the Russia Team.
  37. McGilchrist interview with Don N., October 7, 2011. See also Don’s poignant story in his August 1988 paper which carries an alternative title of “I was Wide Open in the End Zone but Nobody Threw me the Ball.”
  38. Source: Prospectus of March 25, 1986.
  39. See G. Letter of August 1, 1987.
  40. International Ministries Leadership Team, chaired by George Sanchez.
  41. Cassidy was a financial and corporate venture specialist from Minneapolis who had already worked on Project Access issues with CCC and BEE in Vienna. He was serving on the Missions Committee of Grace Church in Edina.
  42. Material taken from “Access: Review of our History” by McGilchrist for February 1990 International Council.
  43. Correspondence between Al Bussard and John Cassidy November 20 – December 10, 1986. Bussard, from his field experience in Eastern Europe, doubted that such a clear distinction between the missionary and the lay facilitator could be productively maintained.
  44. See, for example, Towards a Priority List for Bi-Vocational Missionary Outreach, published by the Midwest Center for Intercultural Studies. McG Box 8A, Access 1.
  45. Source: Notes on John Cassidy’s session August 30, 1988.
  46. Source: Dokmo Letter of September 9, 1987. Two years later, 8 percent of our staff were committed to twenty-four restricted countries.
  47. The final TFA Meeting in August 1988 had swollen to twenty-nine participants, a measure of the urgency. But only three of those present (Cassidy, Greener, John Stanley) were businessmen.
  48. Fischer to Dokmo, September 23, 1988.
  49. Don’s paper was poignantly entitled “Why Don and Lois Are Now Living in the United States” or “I Was Wide Open in the End Zone but Nobody Threw Me the Ball.” Four pages, dated August 1, 1988.
  50. Status report for February 1990 International Council (McGilchrist). Also called “Closed or Hard to Access Countries.”
  51. Source: McGilchrist to Stanley of March 21, 1988.
  52. Responsibilities included: developing a conceptual framework, launching working groups, supporting countries with Access Programs, and integration with national and international strategies. ACT I convened in December 1988, followed by ACT II in September 1989 and ACT III in August 1990.
  53. The Society has lost much of its reibungsflache – its “friction-surface”—that is, its power to influence and make a spiritual impact upon society.
  54. William J. Danker, Eerdmans 1971. See relevant excerpts by Curt Rhodes.
  55. Definition adopted by consensus at ACT III in August 1990.
  56. We identified eight principal avenues of access. The other six were larger enterprises, educational services, capital investments, humanitarian & medical, international corporations, local corporations. Most of these would have required extensive investment.
  57. Brief summaries of our history and of the evolution of our concept of history (January 1990) and of the evolution of our concept of access (May 1990) may be accessed in McGilchrist archive box 17, file ACT 3 August 1990.
  58. See concept paper on “International Resource Exchanges,” dated December 20, 1988 in S10 of agenda for International Council 2 in February 1990.
  59. The first Professional Resources gathering, led by Dokmo, took place in November 1990: Twenty-four participants produced “Keeping in Touch” for internal connections and project updates.
  60. See lengthy but undated plan for US Professional Resources in April 1989 Access Agency binder in McGilchrist archive box 24.
  61. An early success was helping a field leader in the Middle East establish a computer training school. Other education institutes were being planned for Bulgaria, Indonesia, Yugoslavia.
  62. Joined student exchange to USSR with Young Life, presence at the Moscow Book Fair, assistance in setting up the Moscow Fellowship House.
  63. We have concentrated not only on microenterprises but also on larger businesses. A pioneer in this was the Korean international company E-Land which by 1994 employed more than two thousand workers operating strictly in accord with biblical principles. Nav staff Peter H. was their Vietnam director for several years.
  64. Progress report by Bruce van Wyk, quoting objectives 3 and 6.
  65. Ed. Jonathan Lewis (Wm. Carey Library, 1993): Twelve chapters including two by Navigators Jim Chew and Jonathan Cortes. See McGilchrist Archive Box 68.
  66. The third TIE Congress took place in 1999 in Cape Town. We were represented by Chris Oliobi.
  67. John Cox, International Journal of Frontier Missions 14:3 July-Sept. 1997 (twenty pages).
  68. See Proclaim Christ Until He Comes (LCWE 1990), especially track 160 on tentmakers led by Ken Touryan and J. Christy Wilson with more than one hundred participants from the congress.
  69. Discussed by Regent College faculty March 1990 (sixteen pages). Accessed in S14 agenda for International Council 3 in February 1991.
  70. Accessed in McGilchrist archive box 69, under “Image & Identity,” eleven pages, February 1991.
  71. New Bible Commentary.
  72. Compare his image (Matthew 16:13-14), his identity (Matthew 16:15-16), his strategy (Matthew 16:20, Mark 8:30, Luke 9:21). There were, of course, other approaches that he used, but we observe the words of the New Bible Commentary—the reason for this command to secrecy was to prevent misunderstanding of the Messianic claim in a political sense…Jesus’ concept of his function was so different from that of popular Messianism that he avoided open use of the title.”
  73. This paper was a thoughtful contribution in exploring our image, identity, and integrity as it relates to access in “open” countries, eleven pages, February 1991.
  74. John Stott, Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today, Fleming Revell 1990, page 63, “No single word captures more accurately, or expresses more eloquently, the modern sense of impotence than the word ‘alienation.’”
  75. The Communist regimes collapsed in the sequence Poland, September 1989; East Germany, November 1989 (Berlin Wall) to October 1990; USSR, December 1991; Czechoslovakia, November to December 1989; Romania, December 1989; Yugoslavia, June 1991; Albania, 1991.
  76. Access Progress Report December 1992. The 303 staff comprised 165 resident missionaries, eighty-two resident nationals, fifty-six non-residents. A decade later, in 2002, our commitment to such Countries had not increased.
  77. M92 was led by McGilchrist with an organizing committee of Jon Halverson, Fred Horrox, Iliya Majam, Carol Rebell, Terry Slobodian. Resource persons who contributed deeply were Ron Braun, International VP of the Mennonite Economic Development Associates and Chris Sugden, Director of the OCMS. There were forty-three participants of ten nationalities.
  78. Statement by McGilchrist on behalf of the IET, April 1992.
  79. Case Studies of Nav enterprises ranged from furniture manufacture in Nigeria to fabricating agricultural machinery in the Philippines. Tom Crompton contributed a “Theology of Economic Development.” John Cassidy was present, which provided continuity.
  80. Issued jointly by more than one hundred theologians, economists, ethicists, development practitioners, church leaders and business managers in January 1990. Preparatory Papers published in Transformation 4.3 & 4.4 (1987). Around the time of the ferment from the collapse of the USSR, two other major documents on our faith and economic life were published: the encyclical Centesimus Annus by Pope John Paul II (1991) and Economy as a Matter of Faith from the World Council of Churches (1991). Dr. Donald Hay, fellow and tutor in economics at Jesus College, Oxford, from 1970 to 2000, helpfully contrasts the three documents in the April 1992 issue of Transformation. He observes that “The fundamental problem for Christian economic ethics is how to make the transition from fundamental, doctrinal or ethical insights to the complex world of economic phenomena. Different solutions to that problem almost certainly reflect differences about authority in the church.”
  81. The Mennonite Economic Development Associates.
  82. Mark traveled frequently to Romania after 1979, working with Csába. In March 1993, they held a microenterprise development seminar for three days for those of Reformed and Catholic backgrounds, the intent being to support indigenous Christian missions within Romania and to reach people with the Gospel through their professional employment. A monthly forum was initiated.
  83. See Malcolm C’s article “Self-Sufficiency—A New Way of Doing Missions—Central Eurasian Partners” (July 2012). For more on Central Eurasian Partners, see
  84. Ken Eldred, God is at Work, Manna Ventures, 2009.
  85. More than fifty participants (thirty being Africans) led by Mike Treneer affirmed five reasons for investing in microenterprises, under the rubric of Titus 3:14.
  86. This followed the model established in the Ghanaian towns of Swedru and Kumasi. A British banker, Kent Sparks, was active in coaching us.
  87. Country Leader Fred Horrox had a background in building construction, Field Leader Malcolm Macgregor was an architect, Paul Arnold was a civil engineer. Paragraphs on Ethiopia largely based on “Abba Roof Tiles Case Study” by Fred Horrox, January 2008.
  88. A phrase used by Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.
  89. Some of our people have gone on to take senior positions in NGOs like Dorcas Aid International, Action Aid, Save the Children and World Vision. Some work for the UN Economic Development Program, are elders in their churches and hold senior posts in missions and embassies.
  90. Source: February 1991, International Council.
  91. Other forums followed in 1996 and 1997, the last in the series being “More Than Money” in San Francisco in 2009. The GCN had established an active website with a flow of articles and blogs in the years up to 2006. It was resurrected in 2012, with six revised study books, under the leadership of Nav staff Glenn McMahan. See
  92. This statement by Yale theologian Paul Minear came from his Images of the Church in the New Testament, Westminster Press, 1960.
  93. See Note 14 and Appendix B of May 2003 International Team. Our aim was financial health.
  94. Group Leader: Lyons. Participants: McGilchrist, Horrox, Sipple, Benjamin, Nduba, Teo, Uhles. Source: Lyons Summary of July 2006. From this emerged an emphasis on the “triple bottom line”—economic, spiritual, social.
  95. See extensive notes in papers for the Enterprise Consultation in Aguascalientes, March 2008.
  96. Four Bible studies were produced by McGilchrist in 2008 exploring the powerful metaphor of God as the supreme entrepreneur.
  97. In Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:15, God’s mandate to us is rule, be fruitful, to increase, to fill, to subdue, to work, to take care of. Essentially, these call us to shape nature into culture.
  98. Seventy-five out of the 128 contacted responded. Of these, 80 percent were commercial businesses. Historically, they had been launched by decade as follows: 1970s, 2; 1980s, 3; 1990s, 34; 2000-2006, 35.
  99. This is table 12. The actual products or services are excluded. Quite a few of the enterprise leaders specified more than one purpose as primary, thus generating 148 primary purposes among seventy-five enterprises.
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