Fruitful laity: The church’s razor’s edge
Adeola1 inspires me. Frankly, it is odd for me, a missionary, to say that about a process engineer working for an international chemical firm, but it is true. I have recently realized that fruitful laity is the razor’s edge of the church.
We met just once—at the 2015 General Conference session in Texas. I was passing out fliers about GoTential (Adventist Frontier Missions’ tentmaker ministry),2 and this African woman walked quickly past my booth. I interrupted her flow as I held out a pamphlet, saying, “I am teaching professionals how to witness in their workplace.” She stopped, turned, and listened with a sincere curiosity that showed I had struck a nerve. She began to ask questions about exactly what we were offering. She requested our coaching and gave me her contact information.
At that moment, I did not realize that I had found live dynamite. I discovered that she was from Central Africa, was university educated, and spoke several languages. She and a group of other professionals had decided to use their educational specialties to form an evangelism strategy to reach unreached people in their own country. If that is not a big enough goal, their aim is to “change the continent of Africa by instilling a missionary volunteer spirit in every African Seventh-day Adventist young adult, to create missionary movements across Africa.”
Adeola lives in France and works at the corporate headquarters of an inter-national chemical firm. Upon clocking out, she returns to her apartment each evening to use her skills as a process strategist to organize and structure the team of lay professionals working as Tentmakers back in Africa.
I set up a time for coaching with Adeola by Skype. Introverted but ambitious, she began trying to witness in Paris by putting tracts under people’s doors. Parisians are, in many ways, an “unreached” people group and seemed nearly unreachable to Adeola.
It was her boss who first opened up and asked whether she would consider being the godmother of his daughter. It was a great honor and one that told much of shy Adeola’s spiritual aura. The daughter was being baptized into the Catholic Church, and Adeola didn’t know how to capitalize on spiritual opportunities such as these. She had only been trained in giving Bible studies in the traditional sense. What could she say, and how should she say it?
Working with someone so gifted and involved reminded me that we all have blind spots based on the context of our own conversion, gaps in our discipleship mentoring, and limits based on our personality.
Over many sessions, I trained Adeola how to ask questions, how to listen, and how to build spiritual conversations. I coached her through issues related to working in the French context. I counseled her through some of her personal struggles of living in such a spiritually dry place after coming from high-energy, spiritual Africa.
The coach, or mentor, relationship with Adeola has been rewarding for me as I have seen her succeed and heard her say over and again, “Thank you! You have been a great help to me.” I pass on that thanks to those who support our ministry.
I mentored Adeola, but I have also learned from her. I was deeply inspired by the thousands of prayers being sent up night and day as the movement fasted, asking for “more of the Spirit to arrest their full attention.”
Adeola’s giftedness in strategic planning has also made me realize how effective our local conferences could be if we were better able to apply the knowledge used by the professionals in our membership in their secular jobs to the advancement of God’s work. Finance, marketing, communication, and business savvy—how can we tap into the gifts and education that these members use on a daily basis?
I wish you could hear the raw enthusiasm pressed through Adeola’s French accent! She talks of billboard campaigns and radio work, evangelistic meetings and follow-up teams, strategic prayer schedules, Bible worker coordination, and inner-city mission planning committees. There is a gospel-work universe in her mind that is rapidly unfolding into a reality she has helped to orchestrate. Yes, Adeola—an engineer by day and a global gospel minister by night. That’s a real Tentmaker.
— B. W. Parks is the Tentmaker director for Adventist Frontier Missions.
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