There is no better way to mobilize the People of God for the work of ministry in the marketplace than through the local church.
However, as Doug Spada says, it can be easy for people to view their local churches as being like cruise ships for rest, relaxation, and all-you-can-eat buffets… rather than like aircraft carriers intended for rallying and deploying like-minded people for a specific mission.
If you’re not on the pastoral staff of your church, you may feel like there isn’t much you can do to help your local church get focused on reaching the marketplace for Jesus, the place where 85% of the Christian workforce spends 60-70% of our waking hours.
On the other hand, if you are on the pastoral staff of your church, you may feel overwhelmed by the calling to equip your congregation for ministry in their workplaces. After all, this stuff probably wasn’t taught in your seminary. (It wasn’t taught in mine.)
Whether you’re “in the ministry” like all marketplace Christians or “in the equipping” as a local church leader, here are some tips and strategies that can help you to activate your church for ministry in the marketplace.
(Preliminary note: I tend to use the term “marketplace” when speaking of those who work in for-profit companies, which account for approximately 85% of the Christian workforce… yet have very little discipleship training customized for the nuances of the business environment in which they work. I use the broader term “workplace” when including government employees, nonprofit organization employees, students, retirees, stay-at-home parents, etc.)
It’s likely that your church has a “small groups” program. This provides a perfect opportunity to start a marketplace-oriented discussion group for business professionals through your church.
I started a group for Christian business professionals that meets at my church once per month. At our first few meetings, I would pose a question related to the theme of “business and the Bible,” and each member of the group was then asked to give a 90-second response to the question of the night. After everyone had an opportunity to respond, we would have some open dialogue. Each meeting was opened and closed with prayer.
Although those early meetings went well, as I prayed about the meetings, I could sense something was missing. So I asked the group members one night, “Why do you come to these meetings?”
Without exception, every person in attendance responded with something like, “I come because I want to learn how to build a business.” They weren’t coming for a Bible study. They wanted to learn how to be better entrepreneurs.
Now, our group is called the “Entrepreneurs and Inventors Mastermind.” Here is the exact agenda we use for each meeting:
Yes, we pray and discuss something Biblical at each meeting. Though, the simple fact of helping people with the “nuts and bolts” of their businesses inside our church building sends a powerful message to our people that God cares about and has the best insight concerning their business aspirations and challenges.
Most churches have some sort of class for newcomers to the church (i.e. “new members class,” “connect class,” “growth track,” etc.) that usually consists of 3-4 sessions.
Often, the ideal desired outcome of these classes is for the newcomer to begin volunteering in an area of the church that is compatible with his/her spiritual gifts. Volunteerism is often used as a means to validate a person’s commitment to the local church.
This class presents an ideal opportunity to mobilize your church family for marketplace ministry from the moment people start attending your church.
To help newcomers discover their spiritual gifts and where they might volunteer in our church, my church has adopted the “Your Spiritual Gifts in the Marketplace” assessment that I created as part of the book The Marketplace Christian: A Practical Guide to Using Your Spiritual Gifts in Business. My pastor has allowed me to administer this assessment during the final session of our “connect class” for newcomers. IMPORTANT: We use this assessment as an opportunity not only to encourage the people to volunteer as greeters, nursery workers, etc… but as an opportunity to help them discover how God wants to use their gifts for revealing Jesus in their workplaces throughout the week.
You and your church members and/or small group members can access the “Your Spiritual Gifts in the Marketplace” assessment via this link: CLICK TO ACCESS. The assessment includes access to examples of how 23 different spiritual gifts have been used in a marketplace setting.
Following some basic evangelism training during your church’s newcomers’ class, I recommend distributing a card with five blank spaces in which people can write down the names of five people in their workplaces they’ll commit to reaching with the love of Jesus (e.g. clients, co-workers, bosses, vendors, etc.). They should commit to praying for, caring for, and sharing the gospel message with each of these seven people.
If each workplace Christian reached just five people in his/her workplace with the love of Jesus, the entire workplace of approximately 156,000,000 people in the United States would be reached. No matter what nation you live in, your nation can be reached for Jesus via the workplace.
As each group completes your church’s newcomers’ class—at which they will receive basic evangelism training, discover their spiritual gifts, and explore how God wants to use them for ministry in their workplaces as well as in volunteer areas at church—I recommend facilitating a brief commissioning ceremony for these graduates during a Sunday service.
During the commissioning ceremony, bring each graduate in front of the church, ask each person to say his/her name and occupation, commission them, and present to them a commissioning certificate and/or a special coin. Emphasize that these people are commissioned ambassadors of Jesus in their workplaces, functioning as extensions of your local body of believers.
It’s difficult to do marketplace ministry and be fulfilled in one’s calling while unemployed.
Where do you direct people in your church who are in need of work?
Every week, Northwest Bible Church in Houston provides a place for employers to meet people who are looking for work. It’s a phenomenal ministry called “Between Jobs Ministry.” Every week, hundreds of out-of-work people attend their weekly job search training and job fair event. In addition to helping them land jobs, the church uses the opportunity to help the attendees explore God’s purpose for which He created them.
If there isn’t a Christian jobs-support ministry like this in your area, perhaps God is calling you to start one?
One of the best ways to help people realize that the Christian faith and your local church are not disconnected from their everyday life in the workplace is to have your people share testimonies from the workplace in front of the entire church.
At least monthly in front of the entire church, have at least 1-2 workplace Christians share a testimony of how God is using them for ministry in their workplaces. These testimonies could be pre-recorded on video. I recommend doing a dry run with these people before they get up and speak to the entire congregation.
A great time to launch many of the initiatives listed above and for pastors to preach workplace-themed sermons (or to invite guest speakers who are experts on the topic of workplace ministry) is on the Sunday before Labor Day. I encourage you to put it on your church calendar and commit to making workplace ministry the overall theme for that Sunday.
As you use Labor Day Sunday to mobilize your congregation’s workplace Christians for workplace ministry, consider designating the following Sunday as “Bring a Co-Worker to Church” Sunday.
Periodically, my pastor and I have lunch together where I have the opportunity to share with him what marketplace Christians are facing and how the local church can help.
If you’re a marketplace Christian, I strongly recommend having a conversation with your pastor about how the church can disciple Christians for their work in business. Consider inviting your pastor to lunch or to meet with you at your place of work.
You may even want to share this article with your pastor. Your pastor doesn’t need extra work, so reassure your pastor that you are willing to put forth significant effort toward these workplace discipleship initiatives.
Most of today’s pastors are not qualified to spearhead marketplace discipleship initiatives. When I attended seminary from 2008-2010, there was no teaching on how to mobilize Christians for ministry in the business world. There was no course on the “theology of business.”
Not only that, most pastors spend almost all of their time engaged in other essential duties such as preparing sermons primarily to help people with private-life matters, going on hospital visits, leading church staff meetings, providing counseling sessions, and figuring out how to facilitate better church services on Sundays. They usually aren’t focused on discipling their people concerning marketplace-related issues.
For these reasons, I recommend that the person who spearheads the marketplace-oriented discipleship initiatives not also be responsible for church duties that would take his/her focus away from the marketplace and the public life of the people in the church. There are already enough church staff focused on the inner workings of the church, and your pastor is probably praying for even more people to help with the internal, day-to-day operations.
Unless someone in your church takes responsibility for discipling people specifically for their work in business and other types of everyday work environments, these marketplace Christians will either leave your church or simply won’t discover God’s will for their work.
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re the one God wants to use to disciple the business professionals in your church. God wants to use you to help transform your local church from a comfortable cruise ship to a mission-focused aircraft carrier so that your church can transform your community and disciple nations.