From Gutenberg to Google, for the last six centuries the church’s ability to utilize innovation has led to further expansion of the Gospel. Whether a missionary’s ministry takes place in modern cities or third world countries, the process of sending money across oceans can be equally as difficult. Whether because of lack of technology or an oppressive government, money transfers are often slow and expensive. The properties of Bitcoin allow a monetary network that is global, permissionless, and pseudonymous; three attributes that Christians in both hostile and friendly environments should welcome. Christians adopting technology to spread the Gospel would not be a new development, and in adopting Bitcoin they will be empowered to take part in cheap, instant, and borderless transfers of money that does not need the consent of any government or third party.
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus gives The Great Commission before His ascension, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.”1 Nearly two thousand years later there are an estimated 2.3 billion Christians spanning every continent and country.2 In countries like the United States, evangelism comes with minimal persecution, while believers in African or Asian countries may lose their life choosing to follow Jesus.
Missionaries, led by the call of The Great Commission, put themselves and their families at risk for the sake of making disciples. Many will leave their home to go to the ends of the Earth to teach others the message of Jesus. Missionaries in hostile and non-hostile environments depend on churches, organizations, and personal relationships to fund their missionary efforts, which can often cause a loss or delay in the receiving of funds.
Today, it can be extremely difficult to get money to missionaries overseas. Even in modern countries, a transfer can take days to receive and the fees associated with it may be high. Sending a payment to a country that is hostile to the Gospel can be dangerous, expensive, and time consuming as well. This is where Bitcoin is able to save people a lot of trouble. This use case is quite common across the globe. For example, currently many immigrants who come to the United States will send money back to family in their native country to help support them, using companies like Western Union which charge high-percentage fees for smaller transactions.3 The families who receive the money also deal with privacy concerns, long travel, bus fares, and the threat of gangs who prey on those who depend on these services. Bitcoin is already being implemented to give these communities instant and nearly free transfers back home.
Activists in Hong Kong, Nigeria, and Russia also use this technology to fund their protests. People from around the world are able to send money to support these undertakings without any government being able to stop the transfer. In Venezuela, citizens are able to sell their possessions, store their wealth in bitcoin, and flee across the border without the government confiscating their life’s savings.4 All of this is possible with nothing more than access to a mobile device and an internet connection. While the technology is still fairly young, mobile devices and internet access are expanding quickly across the world, leaving the opportunity for the church worldwide to benefit from this innovation.
Looking back on the history of the church, she is no stranger to taking advantage of technology to advance the Gospel. Around the year 1440 the Gutenberg Press was invented, providing an exponentially quicker way to produce books.5 This advancement in technology allowed the Bible to be in the hands of the average man for the first time ever. Christians no longer depended on the Catholic Church to hear the Word of God; they could read it for themselves. For the first time, these men and women were not reliant on the papacy to learn, but were able to come to conclusions for themselves and as a result the Reformation rapidly spread across Europe.
At the time of the Reformation, the great reformer Martin Luther said, “Printing is the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one.” At the time, the majority of Europe was illiterate and did not have access to books, therefore the Catholic Church essentially held a monopoly on information. The invention of the printing press allowed information to be transferred around the world at a faster rate than ever before, putting power in the hands of people. This new technology made it possible for reformers to bring to light the lies and abuses of power within the Catholic Church. When Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press, he gave mankind the ability to spread information, via books, faster than ever before. When Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin, he gave mankind the ability to spread information, via a monetary network, faster than ever before.
Over the last century, technology advanced at a much higher rate, and in many cases the church used the opportunity to reach lost souls because of it. The invention of the television for example, brought Billy Graham and his crusades to millions of homes across the world. The invention of the internet brought and still provides thousands of translations of the Bible, an incalculable amount of resources, and it gives those in the mission field the ability to communicate on a daily and instant basis.
Christians should embrace Bitcoin as a monetary network in the same way. In the early days of the telephone, when there were only two, it was not a great system of communication. However as phones became more mobile and accessible they also became more useful. The same is true for the internet, as well as networks on the internet such as email, Facebook, and other applications that connect people. Bitcoin is still a new technology, and over time interacting with users worldwide will only get simpler as its network expands. Using bitcoin as a means of trade does not mean one needs to speculate on the price, in the same way someone 600 years ago did not need to speculate on the adoption of the printing press in order to enjoy the reading of the books it produced. Let it be clear, the church has nothing to lose and only something to gain in using this technology to fund those who are making disciples whether in peaceful or hostile corners of the world. It will bring these missionaries more anonymity, more safety, and faster access to money to pursue their ministry.
Before going further it is important to separate the idea of bitcoin the asset and the use case of bitcoin as a payment tool. Bitcoin is a permissionless and decentralized monetary network that cannot be controlled by any one person, organization, or government. This is different from a centralized currency like the United States dollar, because there is no government or central entity that gets to dictate policy.
The decentralized nature of Bitcoin means that it is borderless and can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection. Therefore, someone living in Kansas City can transfer wealth instantaneously from his or her digital wallet across the world to a missionary in China without the use of a third party. The implication is that it is no longer necessary to use Western Union, Visa, PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, or any bank; a bitcoin transaction is simply a peer-to-peer transfer, i.e. digital cash. The use of this technology gives missionaries the freedom to transfer funds freely using bitcoin, without worrying about a government or corporation freezing their accounts. As the technology advances it is also becoming quicker and nearly free to convert one’s money from bitcoin to local currency and vice versa.
At its base layer, any form of money is a ledger of transactions and information for the people who ascribe it value. Money has taken many shapes across time, with societies trading cattle, rocks, salt, gold, and as of late paper printed by the government.6 The advancement of credit card technology over the last few decades has reduced the use of paper money and put the ledger of transactions in the hands of companies, banks and governments. The control over money by institutions has led to increased corruption, which can be seen by the debasement of currencies and the breaches of privacy by hackers. Because of Bitcoin’s decentralized properties, there is no need for third parties to intervene in the transfer of money and the keeping of ledgers. In fact, because the Bitcoin ledger is spread across computers all around the world, it makes it more secure and more private than any monetary network today.
The fact that it is decentralized makes bitcoin a perfect tool for the church to aid and support missionaries. In the current system, Christians are left to trust governments or other third parties for the transfer of money. With many missionaries living in areas unfriendly to Christianity, trusting these third parties is an unwanted, but necessary risk. Missionaries who plug into the network will be able to avoid these risks and operate in a more protected and secure manner. The smaller the risk involved in conducting transactions, the less time that must be committed to it and the more time that can be committed to the mission. Bitcoin frees up time and energy for those in the mission field.
Although only 13 years old, Bitcoin is the next ground breaking technology that can be used for Christians to obey the Great Commission. While the asset’s price is currently volatile, the ability to give Christians more freedom and security in their ministry is undeniably real and certain. Missionaries across the world face the danger of death and persecution every day, but this is an invitation to take part in a monetary system that would minimize danger while also relieving a large portion of fiscal stress. Bitcoin provides the same opportunity for missionaries in Africa as it does in Asia and the United States. It empowers missionaries to send, receive, and hold their finances with less risk and danger.
This is a guest post by Brian. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.
1. Esv Bible. Crossway, 2013.
2. Diamant, Jeff. “The Countries with the 10 Largest Christian Populations and the 10 Largest Muslim Populations.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 1 Apr. 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/01/the-countries-with-the-10-largest-christian-populations-and-the-10-largest-muslim-populations/.
3. “Western Union Fee Table.” Free Tracking, https://www.wikibacklink.com/search/western-union-fees-2020.
4. Gladstein, Alex. “Check Your Financial Privilege.” Bitcoin Magazine: Bitcoin News, Articles, Charts, and Guides, Bitcoin Magazine: Bitcoin News, Articles, Charts, and Guides, 12 May 2021, https://bitcoinmagazine.com/culture/check-your-financial-privilege.
5. Woodbridge, John D.; James III, Frank A.. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day (p. 203). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.
6. Ammous, Saifedean. The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking. John Wiley & Sons, 2018.