How Missionaries Should Think About Economics

How should missionaries think about economics when they see poverty, corruption, or systemic injustices? Matthew Arbo answers.

“It’s the economy, stupid.” Economics is complicated enough already, but injecting a Christian perspective adds a new layer. How do we think Christianly about economics? And specifically, how should missionaries think about economics—especially in that critical moment where they arrive in a new country and see poverty, corruption, or systemic injustices that are completely foreign (literally)?

To answer, we spoke with Dr. Matthew Arbo of Oklahoma Baptist University, where he serves as Assistant Professor of Theological Studies and Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Dr. Arbo is the author of Political Vanity: Adam Ferguson on the Moral Tensions of Early Capitalism (Fortress Press, 2014) and, more recently, Walking Through Infertility: Biblical, Theological, and Moral Counsel for those who are Struggling (Crossway, 2018). His essays and articles on wide-ranging moral and political questions appear in several edited volumes and top-tier journals, including Political Theology, Studies in Christian Ethics, and the Evangelical Review of Society and Politics. Arbo is an active participant in the scholarly community, contributing as an invited panelist or presenter for conferences at Princeton University, University of Notre Dame, and Tyndale House (Cambridge), among others. He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, Society of Christian Ethics, and Evangelical Theological Society. Dr. Arbo is an appointed Research Fellow in Christian Ethics for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Arbo’s wife, Ashli, is an attorney and together they have two sons, Henry and James. The Arbo family are members of Frontline Church, Oklahoma City, where Matthew also serves as an elder. Follow Matt on Twitter.

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Alex Kocman & Scott Dunford

Alex Kocman is the Director of Communications and Engagement for ABWE. He serves as general editor for Message Magazine and co-hosts The Missions Podcast. After earning his M.A. in Communication and B.S. in Biblical Studies, he served as an online apologetics instructor with Liberty University and a youth pastor in Pennsylvania, where he now resides with his wife and three children. Read his blog or follow him on X/Twitter.

Scott Dunford is the pastor of Western Hills Church in San Mateo, Calif. Previously, Scott served as Vice President of Mobilization and Communications for ABWE and as a missionary in East Asia. Scott graduated from Northland International University (B.A. in Pastoral Studies), earned his M.A. in biblical studies from Central Baptist Theological Seminary, his M.B.A. from Cornerstone University, and is currently enrolled in Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s D.Min. program with an emphasis on missions.