A Call to the Marketplace
“I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” – Jerome K. Jerome
“I do not like work even when someone else is doing it.” – Mark Twain
“Work” does not always get favourable press. It is often viewed as a necessary evil, simply there to provide for our leisure, which is erroneously understood to be the goal of life. But that was never God’s intent. From the very beginning work was a part of the good creation in Eden. Mark Twain was wrong when he said: “Let us be grateful to Adam: he cut us out of the blessing of idleness and won for us the curse of labor.” Labor in the garden was not a curse, though the curse of the fall later impacted labor. In fact, working the land was part of God’s design before the fall. Work was one of the first tasks given to humanity as part of the perfection of the Garden of Eden.
Gen 2:15 says: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
When God wanted sponges and oysters He made them and put one on a rock and the other in the mud. When He made man He did not make him to be a sponge or an oyster; He made him with feet and hands, and head and heart, and vital blood, and a place to use them and He said to him, “Go work.” – Henry Ward Beecher
For too long we have not treated work, especially work outside of the church, with the respect and sense of calling it deserves. Marketplace work, professional careers, and vocational labour have sometimes been viewed as less honorable or less spiritual than the calling to work inside of a church or a mission agency. But the bible knows of no such distinctions. The truth is that you find farmers in the Garden of Eden but not pastors and teachers. This does not in any way invalidate God’s calling to pastors and teachers, but it does help us understand the value of marketplace and professional workspaces. In God’s economy all our work is a response to, and expression of, our relationship with God and a part of building his kingdom.
“There is no work, however vile or sordid, that does not glisten before God.” – John Calvin
Indeed all work can be a calling from God. That means that marketplace is ministry, or at least, it should be. Granted, it is a different kind of ministry, less “organizational” than it is “organic.” But still it is, and should, be ministry, as a platform for the advancement of the work of God and for the expression of the love of God.
Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A once said, “Chick-fil-A is not a church or a ministry; I’m not going to put scripture on packaging or on the bottom of cups. We’re not going to put evangelical material in our restaurants. I want people to discover what we believe because of how we treat them. Jesus didn’t say, ‘I expect you to be a bullhorn.’ He said, ‘I expect you to be salt. I expect you to be light.’ I have never seen a conflict between biblical principles and good business practise. Where my career was not just a job but a platform to serve others and to serve Christ, not as an evangelist or a preacher or a teacher, but as a businessman attempting to live out the gospel of grace and truth.”
As a “platform to serve others and to serve Christ,” I would suggest Chick-fil-A is a ministry in the most important of ways. “Marketplace” done right is ministry.
Our less than robust picture of Marketplace ministry requires that we need to increase our attention and equipping for such “works of service” (Eph 4:12) The works of service that build up the body of Christ are not found only within the walls of the local church, they can also be found behind the sales counter, in the board rooms, in the carpenter’s or mechanic’s shop, in the sales offices of marketplace and in professional environments. And it is important for Christian leaders to be equipped for that ministry.
That is the acknowledgment and burden that is at the heart of the Marketplace and Ministry Leadership programs at Steinbach Bible College. It is our task to equip servants of God in whatever vocation God calls them. Most of our graduates will end up serving in vocations outside of the church. Additionally, there are scores of people serving as marketplace leaders, entrepreneurs, service providers, and professionals who want to be better at serving God by serving others in those places.
It is our hope that our Marketplace and Ministry Leadership program will communicate to existing marketplace ministers the value of that ministry. God is using you, and wants to use you, right where you are — maybe especially where you are. Marketplace ministers have opportunities a pastor will never have.
In recognizing the role marketplace leaders play in God’s work advancing His kingdom, Steinbach Bible College continues to develop our Marketplace and Ministry Leadership studies through several offerings.
First of all, students in a variety of programs are given the opportunity to have some “marketplace as mission” training included in their program. This is intended to help students understand the missional opportunities in marketplace and professional environments, equipping them with an understanding of the biblical value of work, a Christian worldview to anchor them, and insight to know how to use such a worldview in an effective way in their vocational environment.
Secondly, SBC offers 1, 2 and 3 year programs that focus on Marketplace Ministry. We are even able to combine these studies with some specific technical programs students may take in other institutions to equip them to serve in specialized environments. SBC can help students grapple with a variety of issues that will impact their workplace: ethics, environment, evangelism, pastoral care, and more – all part of applying a Christian worldview in an effective way in the workspace.
Thirdly, people who are already active and serving in the marketplace, or in a professional environment, are invited to take classes to help them grow as marketplace ministers and leaders. To make this accessible, some of our marketplace courses will be available in evenings or online.
Then finally, we are hoping to develop opportunities for marketplace internships where students can learn “hands on” from Christian leaders who are in serving in their marketplaces and vocations.
So how might this impact you more directly?
Well, firstly, you are invited to consider taking a class on Marketplace Ministry. This winter we will have a “Business (Marketplace) as Mission” evening class running for 4 consecutive Thursday evenings starting January 14th. That course can be taken for credit or as an audit. We also have a full 3 credit hour course on “Intro to Marketplace” that will be running from January to April. These are by no means limited to people in a specific chapter of life or to full-time students of SBC. Whatever chapter of life you may be in you can benefit from joining a class to help you grow and learn in your ministry. And younger class members will be blessed by your participation and insights. You can also join the 2021 SBC Leadership Conference on March 19 & 20. Watch for upcoming details, but this is a great opportunity to increase your skills as a Marketplace Minister. As a Marketplace leader we also ask you to consider encouraging your staff or co-workers to take a course or program, and maybe even help facilitate that for an individual by supporting them.
Secondly, you can be ready to embrace students who will be entering the workforce. If you have interest in “interning” students within your workplace I would ask you to reach out to us. I also encourage you to consider being a mentor to someone and help to multiply godly leadership.
I also invite you to talk to me about your experience if you serve in the marketplace or in a professional environment. Our program will only get stronger as we hear from you about your needs, your ideas, and your experiences. You can also support what we doing by financially supporting the ministry of SBC. Help us equip people to serve God in all the places He sends us.
Finally, we want to encourage you to accept the call you have from God into the career or business you are involved in. Make your work, whatever form it is, a testimony to Jesus.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” (Colossians 3:23–24 NIV)
“May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:16–17 NIV)
[This article was originally published in SBC’s Fall/Winter 2020 issue of In Touch.]
Terry Kaufman, MA
Professor of Marketplace and Ministry Leadership