As marketplace Christians, we are called to help the marketplace to reveal the glory of God, beginning with the industries to which God has called each of us.
You may be wondering, “To what industry has God called me?”
Now that we have clarified the primary purpose of our work in the marketplace, let’s explore three criteria we can use to identify the specific industries to which God has assigned each of us.
When I was in business school, I attempted to start a website that would be a “one-stop shop for purchasing fitness services” (i.e. gym memberships, exercise classes, etc.). I lost $5,000 in the process by paying a poorly-vetted and untrustworthy web developer to build the prototype of the website.
As soon as I lost that money, I decided to learn how to build the website myself. As I started to list the various fitness service providers on the website, I quickly realized that I wasn’t as passionate about the fitness industry as I thought I was. Or, at least, I didn’t enjoy the industry enough to build a company in it. Although I exercise six days out of most weeks and had been studying the fitness industry rigorously throughout the year prior, only when I started working in the industry did I realize it wasn’t the “right fit” for me.
Primed and ready to start a company, I asked myself, “Which industry’s mission am I passionate about?” My answer came back almost immediately: the publishing industry, whose mission is to help people by sharing literature and information online and offline (i.e. books, podcasts, courses, etc.). I love books, learning, and teaching. This was an important clue about my industry calling. Working with authors and books is wonderfully fulfilling for me.
God wants us to be fulfilled in our work. King Solomon wrote, “I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot” (Ecc. 3:22).
What is the mission of the industry you’re working in currently? Get clear about that. In the publishing industry, it would be foolish for a printing company owner to assume printing is the primary mission of the publishing industry. No, it’s about publishing information, which increasingly is happening digitally rather than through print… as many newspapers, magazines, and book publishing companies now are finding out the hard way.
Once you have identified the mission of your industry, ask yourself, “Am I passionate about this mission?”
As an example, if you work for an airline company, you are in the transportation industry whose mission is to move people and things where they need to go. Are you passionate about improving people’s lives by providing this type of service? If not, you’re probably in the wrong industry.
Discovering my calling to the publishing industry came through reflecting on my past professional experiences. I considered that I already had published a book, majored in English in college, taught writing at the university level, edited several doctoral dissertations, and served as a marketing director. With these experiences, I was prepared to make an impact in an industry focused on publishing and marketing information.
While I was majoring in English in college, I had no idea how to answer people when they started asking me, “What are you going to do with that English degree?” Now, I realize that God was using that experience to prepare me to start a publishing company.
In many cases, God has allowed us to have these past experiences to equip us for and lead us into the industry He has called us to transform for His glory. The Bible says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Rom. 8:28). “All things” includes all of our past professional experiences.
In what industries do you have experience?
As I discovered, the only way to verify that you are truly passionate about the mission of an industry is to gain experience in that industry. If you think God might be prompting you to explore a new industry, it could be the next step toward identifying the industry to which He has called you.
Our unique abilities to create economic value are linked to our God-given spiritual gifts, which have been given for accomplishing the work of the Church in the marketplace. (Refer to my book, The Marketplace Christian: A Practical Guide to Using Your Spiritual Gifts in Business, for a spiritual gifts assessment as well as 23 specific examples of marketplace Christians who have applied each of the 23 spiritual gifts I describe in the book.)
Two of my top three spiritual gifts are knowledge and teaching. The books published by my company, High Bridge Books, are inherently teaching and knowledge tools for which people pay money. The primary way I use my gifts of teaching and knowledge is through coaching authors, helping them to craft and spread their messages in the most effective ways possible.
My spiritual gifts certainly are in great demand in the publishing industry, which enables me to create economic value, make money, and make an eternal impact daily.
Without a doubt, your spiritual gifts are also in demand in the industry to which God has assigned you.