Redeeming the Marketplace

in god we trustI don’t know how many of you have seen the “Transformations” videos. Probably your church has shown them at a Sunday night service. But they are a series of documentary videos on revivals that have happened in the past 50 years around the world. If you haven’t watched them, you should. They are incredible.

Anyway, the reason I’m bringing up the “Transformations” videos is that in every true revival that effected a city or a region, something amazing happened. Not only were the people transformed, but the economy of the city was transformed too. And what is even more astonishing is that the land was even redeemed.

On the first “Transformations” video, you learn about a city in Guatemala that was completely transformed by a revival that swept through the whole region. But not only were the people changed—the businesses prospered, and all of a sudden the land began to produce 10 to 100 times more than it ever had. The same thing happened in the Arctic. When revival came to the people, both the marketplace and the land were changed.

Because I have a passion for seeing my city redeemed, I’ve been studying marketplace revival for the past fifteen years. It has been interesting to me for several reasons. First, because I live in an area where there is a church on every corner, but the city is woefully unaffected by Christianity. Second, because I so firmly believe that in order to change a city, its heart (the marketplace) must first be transformed, just as the heart of an individual must first change in order for that person to be changed. And there are three main components of the city’s heart: business, education, and government.

So how did we get to this place of having a church on every corner and 40% Christians in the marketplace, but having so little impact on our communities? Os Guinness, in his book, The Call, gives us some insights. They have to do with our mindset about business.

During the early Middle Ages, the Catholic church elevated the spiritual at the expense of the secular, creating a dualism (two worlds) of belief. This belief said the spiritual had greater value than the secular. This is where the term, “full-time Christian work” was introduced.

Much later, Protestants contributed to the problem by creating another form of dualism: They elevated the secular at the expense of the spiritual, creating what we now call “the Protestant work ethic.” This severed the secular from the spiritual altogether and reduced vocation to an alternative word for work.

The result of these two major changes has led to the separation of church and state and the sacred versus secular view of work and calling.

In the face of centuries of “separation” between the sacred and the secular, the challenge for Christians is to remember that God calls us first to Himself and then to do everything for Him.

What would happen if everything we are, everything we do and everything we have is lived for God? Could it be that our work could also be our ministry?

Since statistics show that only 4% of Christians are truly called to “full-time Christian work,” what about the other 96% of us? What are we called to?

Well, I believe that a lot of us 96% are called to marketplace ministry, and the reason we don’t see what we do as spiritual is that we haven’t had any models for passion for Jesus in business. So we think the only way we can express an intense passion for the Lord is by going into some sort of full-time Christian service.

Believe me, I’ve been there. I was in full-time Christian ministry for 20 years because I thought that was the most “spiritual” thing to do—and it was never “me,” because God hadn’t designed me to be one of the 4%.

The reason it wasn’t me is that God has put a desire in my heart to build businesses and wealth for His Kingdom and to help others who have that same desire.

Viewing Work As A Ministry

In the movie Chariots of Fire, the Olympic runner, Eric Liddel, understood the concept of everything we do being a form of worship. “When I run I feel His pleasure,” he said.

I believe that God calls us to see our work as worship to Him. Both words—“work” and “worship”—in the Old Testament come from the same Hebrew word,avodah.

If you are in the workplace, your mission field is as great as any mission field in the world.

In fact, if you are a business owner, you have a distinct advantage when it comes to missions, because many countries that forbid missionaries welcome Christian businesses.

I hear so many Christians say, “I’m just working to make money so I can be able to minister to others.” I don’t look at it that way. Even my making money is a form of “ministry” because that’s what God has put in my heart to do. And, by having a business, I have reached more people than I ever did while I was in “ministry.” The Elijah Company and Home School Marketplace have affected tens of thousands of lives, and have also provided financing for many hundreds of individuals and ministries.

In fact, I believe money can be used to “buy” souls. I don’t mean this in terms of bribing people to believe in Jesus, but, for example, do you realize that in Nepal there is a horrendous slave trade in women, and for $200 you can “buy back” a woman who has been sold into slavery? Did you know that Iris Ministries in Mozambique feeds over 10,000 orphans a day, and I can literally “buy” a soul by providing food to keep one of those precious children alive? And when I was in Sierra Leone, I saw firsthand how little money it took to provide an operation for a young woman who had been turned out on the street by her husband because she was incontinent due to being forced to have children before her body was mature enough to deliver one.

The love of money may be the root of all evil, but the compassionate use of wealth can literally mean the difference between life and death.

It’s Bigger Than Just Your Family

So, this longing you have to start your own business, or to “bring Dad home,” or to teach your children to become entrepreneurs is more than just something for your own family. It is part of a bigger revelation that many people across the Body of Christ are having that they are actually called to redeem the marketplace.

I’ve had lots of people write me since I’ve started this entrepreneurial focus and a few of them seem to believe that anything having to do with commerce or money or creating wealth or making a profit is greed and somehow akin to “the root of all evil.”

When I get e-mails like that, it makes me wonder what these people will do when God actually brings the wealth of the nations and lays it at our feet like He promises to do. Are we going to refuse it, because we think money will corrupt us or that it is somehow evil? Or are we going to be able to put it to good use for the Kingdom of God ?

So, has this been your mindset? “My job (or business) is a necessary evil. It’s just a way of paying the bills so that I can serve God in my free time. One day I’d like to quit working and serve God full-time.”

If you’ve ever had entertained that line of thought, I encourage you to consider a renewed mindset: “Me starting (or having) my own business is an expression of God’s call on my life to advance His kingdom. It is my full-time ministry.”

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