Practical guidelines for marketplace ministers
In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul outlined some practical guidelines for Christians in the workplace:
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.
Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 3:22-4:6 NIV)
Paul is writing here to Christian households, and to slaves and masters. He tells them how to behave toward each other. And then he goes straight on to say ‘devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful‘. I suggest that this instruction is clearly for the same readers Paul has just been addressing.
Being watchful in prayer
If we are to be watchful in prayer, we must be aware of what is around us, in the spiritual and the physical realms; we must see the need so that we know how to pray.
Through the workplace we are perfectly placed to be watchful. The felt needs of our community, town, and nation are expressed to us every day. When we see our roles as ministers in this environment to be watchful and thankful, it will affect how we listen and respond to conversations, news reports, local government, and everything around us.
Can you think of a time when you have become aware of a need in the workplace or marketplace of some kind, that you could pray about? Have you ever shared that need with others in the church, to stand in faith together?
Reconciling our roles
When we successfully reconcile our roles in the workplace and the church to see them as one and the same thing, it can transform the way we think about our work and the way that we do it. I have illustrated this to Christians in business, showing a progression that a Christian in the marketplace might go through, to start to touch the environment around them with the kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Your workplace role in context
The illustration below might also be a helpful way to see how the principles we have covered so far apply to your workplace role.
Here we see, across the blue section at the bottom of the illustration, various workplace or marketplace roles. This is not an exhaustive list, of course – there are many more. These roles are interconnected and have an impact on each other. Business, for example, has an interest in or connection with education; government has an interest in local business; and so on.
Across the top, in green, we see the heavenly realms, where we are seated with Christ (Eph 2:6) and where we know that our struggle, or wrestle, is (Eph 6:12).
Now, connecting these two is the church, illustrated in purple – seated in heavenly places and operating practically in the physical realm. Through the workplace, we can touch every area of our towns, cities and community. We operate as peacemakers (Luke 10:1-9) and we change the spiritual climate (Luke 10:17-20).
As we operate day to day in the workplace or marketplace setting, we do so in the power of the Holy Spirit to touch people, systems, cities and nations.
Meanwhile, because of our deep connection with our community through the workplace, we are able to gain insights into the needs around is in our places of work, our city, region and nation. This enables the church to be watchful as it prays (Col 4:2), aware of the needs around it and praying for those in authority (1 Tim 2:1-4), so that we might live a peaceful life (note that this reconnects us with our role as peacemakers).
So, through you, the kingdom of God is at work in your workplace. When we pray “your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven” we can be sure that we have a part to play in this!
I encourage you to apply these principles and see your role in this context. Do you have a dream for your role in the workplace? What is your biggest challenge to achieving that right now?
Our walk of faith
One thing we can be sure of is that the walk of faith is anything but mundane! I love how the writer of Hebrews reminds us of so many heroes of our faith and what they went through for the sake of the promise that they hoped for.
“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…”, he writes (Hebrews 12:1), referring to Abel; Enoch; Noah; Abraham; Isaac; Jacob; Joseph; Moses; the people of Israel; Rahab; Gideon; Barak; Samson; Jephthah; David; Samuel; the prophets. By faith, he writes, they…
- conquered kingdoms
- administered justice & gained what was promised
- shut the mouths of lions
- quenched the fury of flames
- escaped the edge of the sword
- their weakness was turned to strength
- became powerful in battle
- routed foreign armies
- women received back their dead, raised to life
- were tortured and refused to be released
- faced jeers and flogging
- were chained and put in prison
- were stoned
- were sawed in two
- were put to death by the sword
- went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated
- wandered in deserts and mountains, in caves and holes in the ground
Because we have that cloud of witnesses, he writes, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
What an encouragement to persevere! Now, what is the race marked out for you? What is your dream for where God has called you? I encourage you to seek God for that dream. Spend time with God on this, let Him pit His dream for you on your heart. Write it it down.
We’re walking this out together. church@work is about NOT living in the mundane, just like those witnesses didn’t. It’s about walking out God’s plan for you, the race set out for you. And it’s about doing that together, encouraging each other, learning and growing.
So seek God. Expect Him to put a vision in your heart. Trust Him to lead you.
This post was inspired by teaching in one of our Marketplace Ministers meetings during 2012.