HAMILTON, Bermuda — This year, instead of helping a missions team build a church sanctuary in Honduras, Bill Taylor of Open Bible Church in Wichita is evangelizing at beach resorts in Bermuda.
"Now this is missions work," says Taylor while striking up spiritual conversation with wealthy resort guests.
As more church-goers tire of spending vacation time in the Third World, churches are taking a break from poverty and targeting the luxury class with the gospel.
"Our worldview had gotten too narrow," says one pastor. "Rich people need Jesus, too."
Grace Family Church of Littleton, Colo., recently started a ministry called Higher Calling and sent a missions team to tony boutiques in Milan’s fashion district. The group reached out to watchmakers, jewelry store workers and super-wealthy patrons.
"People who were never interested in missions trips are jumping at the chance to go," says the pastor.
Team member Joyce Andrews says the salespeople "will tolerate a lot of evangelizing if you are committed to buying a diamond necklace or a watch." Andrews says she felt vastly more effective evangelizing luxury jewelry shop employees than on her last three trips to Central America.
"I feel useless in poor places," she says. "But I found I fit very well in wealthier environments. Striking up spiritual conversations at the perfume counter is right up my alley."
Pastor Brent Keefauver says his congregation in Miami was suffering from "poverty fatigue" because of the malnutrition and generally dismal motif most missions trips offer.
"We were gaining a global perspective, but losing the joy of the Lord," he says. "We had to switch gears fast."
So he started the Yahweh Yacht Club Ministry to reach a neglected global constituency — yacht owners. The church rented a 40-foot sloop for missions trips. The waiting list to go is now five years long.
"It has totally re-energized our missions program," Keefauver says.
This year twelve team members took the yacht to exclusive ports and held deck parties for other yacht owners.
"As an unreached people group, the rich have to be handled differently," says the group leader. "But they’re just as needy as anyone else. They’re intrigued that evangelical Christians are suddenly appearing in their world."
On the beaches of Bermuda, the team from Open Bible Church says wealthy vacationers are open to spiritual conversations, especially after they’ve had several drinks. One team member breathlessly recounts evangelizing the vice president of "some big tech company" at the pool bar.
"Nothing against the poor people we evangelized last year, but this time we’re influencing influencers," she says.
At a super-luxury resort, Taylor roams the pool deck wearing a big t-shirt that declares, "Jesus Made Me Rich." When people comment on it, he replies that Jesus made him rich in heavenly blessings, then quickly goes into his testimony.
"Last year I was hefting cinder blocks, trying to relate to orphans and sleeping in a church with no roof," says Taylor. "But now I’ve found my calling."
--source, Larknews.com, Ritzy missions trips aim for wealthy.