From Boats to Airplanes to Laptops

EMQ » July–September 2023 » Volume 59 Issue 3

South Asia: A laptop displays Bible translation work in progress. PHOTO BY MARC EWELL. COURTESY OF WGA.

Summary: Today’s technology, powered by our collective pandemic experience using it, is accelerating online connections and collaboration. This shift is the backstory for a new platform that is matching Great Commission Organizations (GCOs) with Kingdom Consultants (KCs). These fruitful connections are exponentially increasing kingdom impact.

By David Daniel 

From boats to airplanes to laptops. We’re witnessing a shift in global missions. 

My wife and I spent seven years serving as missionaries in Asia. During one of our trips, I read a biography of a missionary who served about 150 years before me. They traveled from Europe to Asia by boat, and at one point, they had to wait six months for the winds to change before they could continue.  

Here I was, sitting in an airport, waiting for a connecting flight, and I was reading about someone whose layover was so long they had to not only find housing but got a temporary job before continuing.  

I literally laughed out loud. 

… Then I paused and said a prayer of thanksgiving for airplanes. 

Today’s Emerging Technological Shift 

The introduction of the airplane has been a crucial part of missionary efforts during the past hundred years. Technology drove a shift that made the mission field more accessible to hundreds and eventually thousands of missionaries – and made short-term missions possible. 

Today’s shift centers around the way the internet is powering online connections and collaboration. Even though the internet and distributed teams have been around for a while, our shared pandemic experience expanded what people consider possible regarding online connections and collaboration.  

Pre-pandemic, I knew very few people would consider seeing a counselor on Zoom. They thought it wouldn’t be as effective. But now, a few years later, I know quite a few who say it’s what they prefer. They have access to broader resources, and scheduling is way easier.  

If I had told someone in 2019 that this shift was coming in the next three years, they probably would have laughed at me. 

Similarly, I’ve been on a distributed team for about eight years and have experienced the benefit of available talent and flexible schedules. Many friends or colleagues were skeptical that distributed teams were effective pre-pandemic, and that model is now normalized across the workforce. 

The mission field even more accessible to millions. What the airplane did for missions a hundred years ago, the internet is doing today. This shift is opening the door for new kinds of Great Commission engagement.  

  • Are you an accountant? You could help someone doing business as missions improve their bookkeeping skills. 
  • Do you enjoy writing? You could help a missionary on the field tell the story of their ministry. 
  • Are you a builder or structural engineer? You could help a ministry discover what options to consider when building a new dormitory at an orphanage.  

Time to Connect 

This shift is the backstory from which the Switchboard story originates. We began with the question, “How can we more effectively connect ourselves and our peers with faith-based organizations working to advance the Great Commission?” 

This question led us to experiment and iterate on a process to identify people with needs and people with skills and then effectively match the two together. The matching process was initially a fully manual, concierge-like service. We wanted to see what kinds of connections were both valuable and scalable before we did the work to automate it. 

After the initial pilot program, we saw connections clearly at the center of the story God was inviting us into. For those on the field, knowing someone who can help is mission critical. When we can make these connections, we see Great Commission engagement. 

Who are we connecting? 

As we build a platform for Great Commission engagement, we find distinct audiences on each side. On one side, we have believers with skills and experience who want to make a Great Commission difference but don’t see a clear opportunity.  

Much of this experience and expertise comes from personal vocations, so let’s break the audience down into three seasons of their vocational journey.  

  1. A recent grad who wants to use their major to make an impact.  They considered going into ministry but at least want to give back and be proud of what they do. 
  1. A mid-career professional who wants a fulfilling career, doing work that means something and makes a difference. They want to give to the mission from their expertise, not only their checkbook. 
  1. A recent retiree who wants to steward the rest of their life well and would love to act as a sage, sharing from their experience. They hope to leave a legacy and seek ways to be more involved in ministry beyond financial giving.  

When mobilized for Great Commission impact, we call this group Kingdom Consultants or KCs ( 

On the other side of the platform, we have field workers who need help but don’t know who to ask or don’t feel confident in what they’ll get. This broad and diverse audience is collectively referred to as Great Commission Organizations or GCOs (  

We’ve identified three GCO personas representing early adopters for Great Commission connections. 

  1. A Business as Mission (BAM) worker who wants help to level up their mission. They know what help they need and could even potentially pay for it, but they’re interested and curious about working with volunteers. 
  1. A missiopreneur (mission entrepreneur) who is launching a new thing and wants help with their many needs. They have many tasks requiring skills they don’t possess but are needed for the mission to move forward. 
  1. An early adopter in a larger ministry who wants quick help with essential strategies without going through all the hiring red tape of their organization. 

The audiences on both sides of the Switchboard platform are broader than these user groups, but we believe that if we serve each of these groups well, then we will serve the whole well. 

The Challenge of Scaling Personal Connection 

Connections are nothing new. God designed us for relationships, and as members of the body of Christ, we’re uniquely equipped to serve one another and others. But when we served everyday believers in our churches and missionaries on the field, we found they faced common challenges: 

  • Many believers want to be part of the Great Commission but don’t see a clear path other than writing a check or buying a plane ticket.  
  • Many missionaries need help but struggle with where to find it.  

These believers have experience and skills they would love to bring to the mission field but don’t know how or where. This dilemma isn’t solely a problem of distance. We see this challenge even in local churches where it can be hard to identify opportunities to apply our skills and experience to kingdom work.  

But distance is still a challenge. Most people serving in ministry on the field don’t have a personal network large enough to include people from all the areas where they need help. So if one side of the relationship wants to help and the other side needs help, why are connections hard at scale? We found the core challenge. We needed a common language – a language used to describe the problem or the expertise available.  

A Common Catalog and a Simple Starting Point 

We found the best way to begin these connections is a conversation focused on a specific topic. In response to this, we are building out a catalog of topics and subtopics for conversations ( that will continue to grow in breadth and depth. We’re taking an iterative approach as we observe what topics are more frequently requested and where there are gaps.  

When we identify a new topic, we first find a core group of KCs who will help build a community and a catalog of subtopics. These KCs are the subject matter experts and insiders to their fellow KC communities. Our strategy is to empower the believer to not only make a Great Commission impact but to mobilize their communities as well. 

Connections Begins with Conversation 

When you sign up to be a KC (, you’ll complete a profile outlining the topics you’re interested in connecting with a GCO about. All you’re committing to is a willingness to have a one-hour conversation to help a GCO.  

These short, focused conversations can be powerful. It’s not uncommon for a GCO to know there is a problem but not know precisely what kind of help they need. These conversations clarify both the problem to be solved and the best next step toward finding a solution. 

The KC on the call may be the best person to help with that solution, but they also may not be. We don’t make any assumptions or requirements; we just ask people to commit to one-hour conversations.  

We want to keep it simple. If the KC wants to further the conversation, they’re free to do that, but there’s no pressure. A KC can connect with as many GCOs as they want, making a Great Commission impact and moving the mission forward. 

Joel and his father Carlos run both a construction company and a nonprofit organization that serves the impoverished in Juarez, Mexico. Their ministry, Amigo Fiel (, needs a new website to better communicate ministry information and mobilize people and resources to greater impact.  

They have a lot going on, and neither of them feels confident to design a new website. They needed help for their mission to move forward, but they didn’t know who to ask. I was paired with them through the Switchboard platform. We connected for an hour to talk about what problems they hoped a new site would solve and how they envisioned using the site.  

After that initial call, I agreed I could help them clarify their message and design a new site to communicate it. We’ve communicated a lot through emails and a handful of video calls. The message has been clarified, and we’re putting the finishing touches on the site.  

Recently someone asked Joel what he thought about Switchboard, and he described it as “a great tool to connect to the right people.” There are thousands of missionaries like Joel who are working hard to make an impact but to move forward need to connect to the right people.  

We’re almost done with the site, and I’ve spent about 20 hours on it. Typically, I would bill around $2,000 for this kind of work. Because of Switchboard, Joel gets access to that kind of value for free. 

Now, what if we could mobilize less than 0.1% of Christians? Let’s say that figure is 200,000 for nice round numbers. Now let’s say they could contribute 4 hours a year providing services that average $50/hour: 200,000 × 4 × $50 = $40 million. That’s the kind of impact that’s possible when even a small part of the body of Christ is mobilized to bring their best to the Great Commission. 

We continue to make improvements to our platform. If you want to join the platform as a KC or GCO, sign up now at

David Daniel ( helps people in ministry close gaps so they can continue in their calling. Splitting most of his time between onmission ( and Switchboard (, he focuses on missionary coaching, resourcing and connecting. 

Possible Pull-Quotes Include (choose no more than 3) 

  • Even though the internet and distributed teams have been around for a while, our shared pandemic experience expanded what people consider possible regarding online connections and collaboration. 
  • Could be shortened to: … our shared pandemic experience expanded what people consider possible regarding online connections and collaboration. 
  • God designed us for relationships, and as members of the body of Christ, we’re uniquely equipped to serve one another and others. 
  • Most people serving in ministry on the field don’t have a personal network large enough to include people from all the areas where they need help. 

EMQ, Volume 59, Issue 3. Copyright © 2023 by Missio Nexus. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from Missio Nexus. Email: