Before I explain what this word means, let me take you on an “advennture” to Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, to witness one of the most innovative ministries I have ever encountered. The Kale Heywet Church, with 10,000 churches and 10 million members is Ethiopia’s largest evangelical denomination. Pastor Yoseph Bekele was a youth pastor and owned several businesses. In 2017, Yoseph was appointed to be the Director of business and discipleship for the Kale Heywet Church. When he started, Yoseph shared that businesspeople were considered “sinful people” in his context. There was no understanding of a Christian or biblical perspective on work. His challenge was to help the church membership to understand whole-life discipleship, including worship and work as critical for Ethiopian Christians.
In three years, Yoseph and his team of trainers have reached nine of the eleven regions of Ethiopia with the message of faith and work. His teams of trainers help pastors and church leaders understand the call of the local church to equip all of God’s people for the work of the ministry from Monday to Saturday. They believe that every church should have a workplace ministry, just as they have a youth and women’s ministry.
As part of the training, everyone learns the three Great Directives. The Great Commission’s (Matt. 28:18-20) outcome is proclamation. Jesus tells us to go and make disciples, beginning in Jerusalem and reaching the whole world. The Great Commandment’s (Mark 12:30-31) outcome is relational. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is about loving God whole-heartedly and loving our neighbor as ourselves. But the outcomes of the Great Commitment (Gen. 2:5), which are to fill the earth and steward it, are economic and ecological.
Today, God is raising up a movement of Christians in Ethiopia who see all of life as an opportunity to live out their calling of discipleship – at home, at school, and at work.
Our travels could take us to other far-reaching corners of the globe, where we could meet passionate Christ-followers who are demonstrating that faith and work are not separate boxes in life but converge together in acts of faithful service. In the Philippines and China, India, South Sudan, Lebanon, Bolivia, Cuba and throughout Latin America, these folks are a living testimony that church on Sunday (typically) is actually a place where God’s people can be equipped and enabled to be salt and light in the world for the other six days of the week.
So back to my word VENNTURE:
Many of our readers know what a Venn diagram is: two-overlapping shapes that demonstrate the logical relationship between two or more sets of ideas. It was named after a British mathematician, John Venn, in 1880, who was trying to help people understand how seemingly opposing concepts can actually be closely linked together. So a simple version could look like this:
Now hold that thought for a minute and let’s share what God has been showing us here at CBM. For many years, we have seen the phenomenal impact that ‘ordinary church-goers’ were having on helping shape local communities, often through their daily work. They were teachers and health-care workers, government employees, tradespeople, truckers and farmers, business-people, merchants, and day-labourers. They understood that God had called them to live out their faith in and through their work. And they innately knew that they were Christ’s disciples in the marketplace.
But conversely, too often the church-leaders, usually pastors and evangelists, were sending a confusing message that God’s work was what was being done in the church; singing in the choir, teaching Sunday school, being a deacon, serving on a committee, or sometimes, just being a means of generating income for what they understood to be God’s work (i.e., in the church). These people felt like they were second-class citizens in the kingdom, sometimes denigrated for choosing what was labelled as ‘secular work’ vs the spiritual work of the church.