Introducing the Aquila Initiative for Training Marketplace Missionaries
In the summer of 2017 my wife and I came to Bonn, Germany, for a three-month research exchange. I was working on my Ph.D. and our family plans were clear: go to England for a Ph.D. and get back to the U.S. Above all the plan was to get hired in a nice and safe academic job, stay clear of the ministry.
But in all His humor, the Lord had other plans for the Campbells. That summer, Beth and I met David Martin, pastor of IBC Cologne and became fast friends with him and his family. It was that year that the idea for an NGO called Aquila Initiative was taking root in his mind and a few other men in IBC Cologne. The concept intrigued me as did David’s plans for planting a church in Bonn.
Over the next two year we kept in touch, and as is God’s pattern, despite our best-laid plans, my family and I moved back to Bonn on 27 August 2019. This time, however, we came with no plans to go back to the U.S. We moved this time because I had accepted an offer for full-time employment as Academic Director at Aquila Initiative. On top of this, I am also serving as pastor of that now one-year-old church plant, IBC Bonn.
Over these past years, God has been at work leading and directing the Aquila team. This has required a lot of faith, patience, and trust. But we believe Aquila is finally at a point that we would like to tell the IBC community about it and ask you to pray for us and to pray about how you and your church might partner with us to train up more church planters for Europe.
The vision of Aquila Initiative is “to establish a network of like-minded churches who partner together to engage in church multiplication by apprenticing leaders who will establish community through marketplace missions.” Contained within this vision statement are the three pillars that make up our method of sustainable church planting: Ministry Partnerships, Practical Apprenticeships, and Engaging the Marketplace. Aquila believes that what is needed in Europe is leaders who are able to sustainably fund their church planting efforts with the support of a network of local churches.
In order to address the colossal need for more Bible-believing, church-planting churches in Europe, many different efforts will be required and the most successful will utilize strategic partnerships. Aquila, too, is working to develop partnerships both in Germany and abroad (U.S., Canada, Romania, and the U.K. to name a few). Although some of these partnerships include financial support, we envision our partnerships extending far beyond this.
We are developing partnerships with individuals to serve as mentors (our apprentices will each have three), academics, business advisors, and prayer partners; with churches to sponsor church-planting teams to be trained by us and mission teams to aid our churches here in the Rhineland; with universities to give oversight and accreditation to our program; and with non-profit organizations to assist us in developing our curriculum and extend our influence.
All of this is done within the context and for the benefit of the local church. Classes, seminars, and lectures will be open to the public. Our apprentices will be serving and gaining experience within our churches. They will be preaching, teaching, discipling, attending elders’ meetings, etc., etc., etc. By the time they leave, we will know they are competent for ministry because they have demonstrated that they are competent, not because they have taken our classes.
The second foundational element of Aquila Initiative is the training of these marketplace missionaries through an apprenticeship. We call this the Aquila Institute. The apprenticeship includes training in Bible, theology, ministry, and (most distinctively) entrepreneurship. This approach suits the vision of training marketplace missionaries because it allows us to provide students with practical experience within the context of local churches that will both prepare them for a lifetime of ministry and equip them to help support themselves for years.
In many cases, these apprentices will live here in the Bonn/Cologne region, but in other cases an apprentice will stay in his/her home church elsewhere in Europe while going through the Aquila Institute. Apprentices will have three mentors, one of whom will be based in the church where he/she is serving. Together these mentors will each ensure that the apprentice has demonstrated competency before being sent out to plant a new church.
Importantly, this apprenticeship model fits the context in which we serve. According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany only around 40% of German students will take the university entrance exam (the Arbitur). The majority of the remaining students will enter the workforce through an apprenticeship (Ausbildung). This includes those entering nursing, banking, management, realty, and many other fields. So, in our European context, a practical apprenticeship approach is both recognized and seen by the wider population as an effective mode for training.
Engaging the Marketplace
Across the globe there is a growing interest in what is called by some, Business as Mission. Related terms include Marketplace Missions and Tentmaking Missions. These terms reflect a growing desire among secularly employed Christians to use their skills within the marketplace to advance the Gospel of Christ. This can mean going abroad to teach English in a country unfavorable toward Christianity and the church or staying in one’s home country and being an intentional Gospel witness in a secular job.
Because of the many challenges that face church planters in Western Europe (including the cost of living and the cultural malaise toward the Gospel), Aquila is convinced that training marketplace missionaries and church planters is not only an exciting opportunity for a more sustainable ministry but also presents exciting opportunities for reaching the lost with the Gospel.
We at Aquila call this Business in Mission, a multiplication of small businesses as a means of marketplace ministry offering Christ-exalting community. The goal is to be the salt and light in different communities by sharing and living out faith in Jesus Christ. The hope for every new business endeavor is that Bible study groups and (eventually) churches will be established through the Gospel impact of these Businesses in Mission. The desire of Aquila Initiative is to train and equip teams of church planters to start new businesses that reach their communities for Christ and assists in their church-planting efforts.
Early Signs of Fruit
To be clear, Aquila has not yet opened a Business in Mission, and we have not yet started teaching any apprentices in any official capacity. We are still laboring with God to lay the foundation for what is to come. Before arriving here in Germany, I was advised by a seminary dean in the U.S. to take two years to develop the Aquila Institute program. We are trying to do it in almost half that time. We are praying that God would open doors so that we can begin our own Business in Mission by the end of summer 2020. But this does not mean that we have not seen fruit from our labors yet. In that, God has been extremely kind and generous to us.
First, in 2018 Aquila began assisting a church planting effort in Bonn and on 22 September 2019, I was installed as its pastor. Secondly, we have been greatly encouraged by the positive feedback we have received on our concept and the progress that we are making in moving forward with our institute. In fact, it appears likely that we will be able to offer a fully accredited M.A. degree by the time our first apprentices begin enrolling. Thirdly, we have developed a partnership with a church in Texas that has already scheduled its first mission trip to come and train/assist IBC Cologne and IBC Bonn in evangelism and outreach. Fourthly, we are already beginning to plan our first conference on the topic of marketplace missions. This will be open to anyone who is interested and will be a great encouragement to our churches and communities. Fifthly, as our academic program takes shape, these seminars will also be open to our churches. For all of these blessings we praise God alone.
Call to Action
Without a doubt the thing we need most is prayer! We are undertaking a mammoth task, and we need prayer for endurance, patience, increased faith, and an eschatological vision. Secondly, we ask you to pray and discern how the Lord might be leading you or your church to partner with us. Do you have expertise that you can share? Do you have individuals in your church that would be good candidates for church planting but need training? Do you have interest in lecturing or mentoring apprentices? Do you have individuals in your church that would be interested in learning more about Aquila? Finally, we are praying that the Lord would provide the finances required for Aquila to be freed from the need to raise funds in the future. We are praying for fiscal sustainability and the financial capacity to invest in the entrepreneurial endeavors of apprentices. All of this is possible with our God. To Him be the glory!
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1)
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by Stephen D. Campbell
Pastor, IBC Bonn, Germany, and Academic Director of Aquila Initiative