After spending my early 20s helping to rebuild my church’s youth ministry from a dwindling group of 15 jaded young people to a healthy, growing community of more than 80 believers, I was certain my life’s calling was to build the church.
Coming from a background of backsliding and almost walking away from the Lord as a teenager, then finding myself catapulted to the frontline of ministry as one of the youngest elders in the local Methodist Church in an unexpected turning back to Christ, I had developed a heart for building the lives that make up the Church and seeing young people walk in their destinies (1 Corinthians 3:10).
Older adults constantly told me to consider heading to seminary to get ordained.
The confusion started when I received two differing prophecies within the span of a few months in the year of my graduation. Someone told me I was called to full-time ministry and had a very strong pastoral and apostolic call over my life. I had always interpreted the calling I felt as a shoo-in to full-time church work.
But it was the second prophecy that threw me off-guard: That I would be a king in the marketplace. And my success would lead to the success of others.
How could these two prophecies, each made by great men of the faith, make any sense together? When I clarified this with the pastor who prophesied of my calling to full-time ministry, he simply said it didn’t have to be in the church, as I understood it to be.
I wasn’t convinced by his explanation. You’re probably just trying to make excuses, I thought to myself.
But he was right, as I would learn during my early years in the marketplace. As a fresh graduate in a cybersecurity firm, I found myself constantly surrounded by the other young people in other departments. I found that my passion for building lives didn’t stop even as I stepped out beyond the church.
Because it was always a natural inclination to get to really know the people around me, to talk about things other than work and organising outings to help friendships grow, I soon myself in a position of friend, counsellor and, at times, even a father to my young friends.
After I left for another company, my ex-colleagues told me that the office became a different place, more similar to the one it had been before I’d entered: Cold, unfeeling, people just doing their own jobs and not talking. They told me I was the first one to really care.
My heart was moved with revelation. No, I wasn’t in church as I’d expected my ministry to take me. But yes, I was as full-time and walking in my pastoral and apostolic calling as I could imagine being, even in the marketplace.
Recently, I learnt that there has been a shift in the global Church. That many young people with pastoral callings are increasingly being sent, against traditional wisdom, out into the marketplace instead of into the local church. I wasn’t alone in the strange prophecies made over my life.
All the more, we must arise as kings and priests in the places where we work (Revelation 5:10). More of us will find ourselves standing in the gap as ministers for the people we work with. Here are some handles to help us gain perspective for the task at hand …
5 THOUGHTS ON MARKETPLACE MINISTRY
1. The marketplace is where the end-time Church will be built
In the words of Pastor George Annadorai, the world will not be evangelised by missionaries but by the marketplace. Even in the early church, right after Pentecost, it is believed that many of the first believers were merchants who had gathered to listen to the disciples preaching (Acts 2:41).
Traders and trade routes have always moved faster across the globe than traditional missionaries, as their work constantly takes them to different parts of the world. With more and more young businessmen and women spending most of their lives at work and travelling for business, so will the Church and its ministers be increasingly built beyond the walls it is used to.
2. Pre-believers are the future Church
The call of the marketplace minister is to build the Church right where he or she works. And the Church really means the people of God, not a building or organisation.
There also has to be less of a distinction between Christians and non-Christians when choosing to minister. I like to think that pre-believers are just one (sinner’s) prayer away from becoming a part of the future Church. In fact, they are the future Church. Church-building plans in the marketplace must include them.
3. You are never too young to be a father to someone
There are many who are in need of a father’s love and guidance just within our professional radius alone. They could be your subordinates, or if you’re a young person, even your peers. In the same spirit of Elijah in Malachi 4:6, when we turn our hearts towards them as fathers would to their children, we usher in an atmosphere of divine love and restoration. And when their hearts likewise turn toward us, the spiritual climate in the workplace changes and business prospers.
4. Make other people’s success your priority
Being salt and light in the marketplace doesn’t always have to be an attempt to slide in the Gospel between coffee breaks. I believe making the success of others a priority, over your own comfort or benefit, is what Jesus would have done if He was ministering in the marketplace today.
It’s counter-intuitive to the cut-throat, survivor mentality of the corporate world and speaks of an other-worldly love and grace reflective of the Good News. You could be the only Jesus they might ever meet. That’s where eternal value can be found in the place you spend so much time in: In the souls of your fellow men.
5. Your attitude carries your anointing
Another commonly overlooked evangelistic tool lies completely in your hands: Your attitude. How you show up, behave and perform at work can be more telling about your faith than the 4 Spiritual Laws you try and share with your colleagues.
In Tim Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavour, he refers to the “Ministry of Competence”, where simply doing your job well and in benefit of others –“even if our jobs are not, by the world’s standards, exciting, high paying, and desirable” – we are both loving and serving God and our neighbours: That is, our co-workers.
Without an attitude of servitude that Jesus Himself modelled, where the one who wants to be first must be last and servant of all (Mark 9:35), we cannot wish to carry the anointing of the marketplace minister.