In meetings with the operators of his Chick-fil-a restaurants, CEO Dan Cathy asks these business leaders, “What are your aspirations?” Inevitably, at least one of them will respond, “To be in full-time ministry.” What they mean by this is that working in a local church or in a more traditional nonprofit ministry role would be a more legitimate form of Christian ministry than leading a for-profit business.
Dan Cathy takes these opportunities to explain that being a business leader is an important “ministry” role in the Church. He tells them that the front counter at their Chick-fil-a restaurants is their “pulpit.” He reminds them that the thousands of people who frequent their stores each week are their “congregations.”
As a Christian in the marketplace, are you “in the ministry”?
Approximately 85% of the Christian workforce works in a for-profit company. Why is it that very few of these Christians seem to view themselves as being full-time ministers? When business professionals don’t view their for-profit work as ministry, here are a few of the consequences:
These Christians have been conditioned to think that ministry is only supposed to happen in church on Sunday, yet…
There has been a general sense in institutional church culture that, if your salary isn’t paid for by a Christian organization (i.e. local church, missions board, parachurch ministry, etc.), you’re just a “crowd Christian.” Again, this is no small issue as about 85% of the Christian workforce works in a for-profit company.
Observing that the concept of the laity didn’t emerge in the Church until the Third Century, Alexandre Faivre writes, “The layman is a strange being, subject to mutation, born the prisoner of an analogy, conditioned by a climate of the conflict and formed in a cultic environment.” Let’s unpack this statement.
Faivre said that the layman is a “strange being.” That’s because nobody knows what a layman is. We only know what a layman is not—that is, a Christian who doesn’t get paid by a Christian institution (i.e. local church, mission board, parachurch ministry, etc.). The term, laity, was invented by Church leaders in approximately the Third Century not to identify what these people were but to identify what they were not—deacons, priests, bishops, etc. The term comes from the Greek word, laikos, meaning, “of the people.” A layman was just a part of the crowd. Today, the term has become synonymous with ignorance (i.e. “the layman’s guide,” etc.). At best, a “layman” is considered a second-class outsider.
Faivre said that the layman is “subject to mutation” because the role of the laity continues to be modified to suit the preferences of the nuclear church leaders, not necessarily to activate their spiritual gifts and mobilize them for ministry among the extended church in the marketplace.
When he says, “born the prisoner of an analogy,” he is speaking of the Old Testament analogy in which there were priests… and then… there was everyone else. Some prominent church leaders teach that there is still a “king and priest” distinction in the New Testament Church. In this dichotomy, the local church leaders are the “priests” while the business professionals in the marketplace are the “kings” that exist primarily to give money to their “priests” (pastors) and “temples” (church buildings).
All Christians are “priests” in the New Testament sense. In fact, the Apostle Peter taught that all born-again Christians are “royal” priests (1 Peter 2). We’re not either kings or priests. We are, at once, kings and priests.
Being a royal priest may mean that you are supposed to help out at your local church on Sunday as a greeter in the parking lot… or by helping with the setup and teardown of the equipment used for the Sunday service. At the same time, don’t minimize your role as a priest. You’re not a junior priest, a second-tier priest, or a backup priest. You are the only priest many of the people in your workplace will encounter on a regular basis.
There are two core functions of a priest. Approximately 85% of the Church is called to exercise these duties in a business setting.
First, priests “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5b). As a marketplace Christian, what spiritual sacrifices do you make to God through Jesus Christ?
Do you offer the sacrifice of personal holiness in the marketplace through the way you live and conduct business?
Have you ever had to forgive someone in business? I’m sure you have… probably multiple times. Each time you forgive someone, you are making a sacrifice that is pleasing to God as you reflect the character of God Himself.
Do you sacrifice your financial earnings to God on a regular basis?
Have you ever had to sacrifice extra time at the office to spend time with your family?
Your work itself should be a sacrificial offering to God. In fact, work (in its different forms) is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible, more than all of the words used to express worship, music, praise, and singing combined.
The second role of a priest is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9b). In the Old Testament, the priest was responsible for going to God on behalf of the people. Then, he would go to the people on behalf of God.
D.L. Moody once said, “Of 100 men, 1 will read the Bible… the other 99 will read the Christian.” As marketplace priests, we are called to “proclaim the excellencies” of Jesus in a business setting, sharing who He is and what He has done for us. This involves modeling and teaching the ways of God through how we conduct business. Peter said, “If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it” (1 Pet. 3:15). The way in which we conduct ourselves in the marketplace should make people curious enough to ask us about our Christian hope.
You’re not merely a “layman.” You are both a king and a priest called to offer spiritual sacrifices to God and to share Jesus with your co-workers, customers, vendors, bosses, board members, shareholders, etc. You are a frontline Christian. If you are called to the marketplace, don’t wish you were the pastor of a local church or a missionary overseas. As a marketplace Christian, you are hereby “in the ministry.” God has called you to represent him right where you are.
 Alexandre Faivre, The Emergence of the Laity in the Early Church, Trans. David Smith. (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), 21.