Pastors long for members to serve with their spiritual gifts within the body of Christ. And dedicated men, women, youth and children across Mid-America are committed to doing just that. Yet results at best are limited. And actually, even total success in such ministry would fail to achieve the full purpose of spiritual giftedness.

How might that be true? Because limiting our service within the boundaries of the body of Christ does not fulfill the New Testament mandate (see Eph. 4:11-12). Spiritual salt is merely reoriented within the saltshaker, whereas Jesus commands: “You are the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13). Salt in Christ’s day was sufficiently valuable that ancient Romans often paid soldiers with it; hence the term “salary.” So, in a sense, Jesus wants to provide a salary to the world’s marketplaces and classrooms through His church.

The church is God’s apostle to the world. Ekklesia is a people gathered, or called out.[1] But this is not all there is to the church. As blood is drawn to the heart only to disperse again throughout the body, so the church gathers for worship only to scatter into the world as God’s representative.[2] Gathered, the blood is cleansed and oxygenated. Sent out, it fights diseases and energizes.[3] So is the church in the community.[4] In fact, the marketplace is an extension of the kingdom of God—and there is no difference between the scattered community and the dispersed community as God’s prophet, priest and king. Jesus said in the Great Sending: “As the Father sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).[5]

The authors of Experiencing God admonish believers who work outside the home: “Your job is not just a place to earn a paycheck. It is a place God wants to use you to influence people for the kingdom’s sake.”[6] To achieve this missio Dei (“mission of God”), church members must be educated, equipped, empowered and encouraged. Only thus can they become the regents[7] of God’s kingdom in the offices, classes, stores and factories where they spend their daily lives.[8]

This is not a call to evangelize the workplace in the traditional sense of confronting colleagues, with courage yet discomfort: “Are you saved?” Instead, members “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside” (Col. 4:5) as ambassadors of God’s peace and love in the dog-eat-dog corporate kennel. They exhibit unselfishness, compassion, integrity and humility, blessing whomever God brings their way, as  alert opportunists of grace.[9] Metaphorically, this is surfing whatever waves God stirs up in the workplace so as to love lost people, meet the emotional and spiritual needs they confide, and ultimately assist their rescue from the kingdom of this world into the body of Christ.[10]

Being missional in the marketplace and classroom requires not only wisdom and compassion but intercessory prayer and relational skills—none of which come naturally. Education and equipping for the church’s missio Dei is essential and must be at the top of our ecclesiastical priorities.[11]

In future postings we can discuss how such a program might be implemented.

[1] This is the equivalent of the Old Testament qahal, translated “congregation.” R. Paul Stevens, The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing), 54.

[2] In baseball, runners don’t score unless they cross home plate. Several missiologists (Edward V. Hill, Robert W. Pazmino, Rick Warren) have employed the baseball metaphor to illustrate God’s purpose for His church. For Rick Warren, accepting Christ as savior brings one to first base; the next stage in spiritual life development is maturity (second base), where one discovers and employs spiritual gifts to commit to ministry within the body of Christ, which takes him/her to third base. But to come home, one must employ spiritual giftedness beyond the body of Christ in missional service. Only at this point does the kingdom of God score. Only then does the church fulfilling its calling as missio Dei, the apostle and epistle of Christ to the world.

[3] Stevens, Other Days, 211.

[4]”The church is not the sending agency; it is the sent agency.” Stevens, Other Days, 97.

[5] “Sent” here is apostello, although Stevens uses the New Testament diaspora to describe the scattering of the church into its community (p. 157). But never is this word used in a strategic proactive sense. The New Testament only seldom uses diaspora, and only reactively, typically in response to societal persecution. It is missional only in the sense that God in sovereign grace overrules evil for good, as the church scattered by persecution spreads the gospel (see Acts 8:1,4; 11:19). To represent the proactive mission Dei, I would suggest instead apostello. This is the dominant missional word of the NT, employed some 135 times, more often even than agape, and it is applied not only to the apostles themselves but to “lay members.” I discussed with Dr. Stevens the replacing of apostello for diaspora, and he expressed support for the idea. Conversation after his seminar at Regent College, Oct. 19, 2001.

[6] Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King, Experiencing God (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 124.

[7] Stevens, Other Days, 231.

[8] According to Darrell L. Guder, we are called to represent God’s reign, the real presence of His kingdom and His collective agent engaged in reconciliation.  This is the witness model of the church in its relation to the world. (Donald Anderson, class lecture, September 14, 2001, slide 19.) The kingdom of God does not transform the kingdom of the world but draws out of it (see Rom 1:4-5, 12:1-2; Luke 4:18; Eph. 3:9-12).

[9] The apostle Paul himself exemplified missio Dei in the marketplace. While working his tent-making trade, he met the Jews Aquila and Priscilla and proceeded to evangelize them, after which he discipled them (Acts 18:2-3, 18). They in turn reached out to Apollos (verse 26), and so the kingdom of God rippled throughout Asia Minor, drawing adherents ultimately throughout the Roman Empire. God’s plan hasn’t changed for His church.

[10] “They pray and watch to see how God is working in the lives of others. When they see or hear someone seeking after God, that becomes their invitation to bear witness.” Blackaby, Experiencing God, 124.

[11] Guder asserts that the function of apostolic leadership is to “reestablish the reality and vitality of missional congregations.” Guder, Missional Church, 216.