The B-I-B-L-E…

25 Mar

Here is part 3 of this series of blogs dealing with the direction of the church.  Today deals with the biblical warrant for this type of ministry model.  I think that you will find this very informative and reassuring.  Let me know what you think.

The idea to do ministry in a marketplace venue may seem radical or new, but, in fact, it is nearly as old of an idea as the church itself.  Throughout the Bible we can see that God wants His followers to be involved in the world around them.  It begins in Genesis.  God creates all of creation including humanity.  He then tells Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28).  This is known as The Cultural Mandate given from God to humanity to go out into the world and create culture and rule over all of creation.  God’s desire from the beginning of time was for His people to create and cultivate culture in His name and for His glory.

This is reiterated in the covenant that God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai.  It is while Moses is up on the mountain with God that He says, “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6).  This is the centripetal aspect of God’s mission that Pastor Josh has been talking about recently.  The people of Israel were called to be on mission in the middle of the world, and as they obeyed God’s voice they would act as a light to the world around them to draw other nations to God.  This is the mission that we are wanting to live out by being involved in market place ministry.  As we do business and work in the community in the name of Jesus, other people will see the way that we do business and be drawn to the godly business practices that we follow.  We truly are called to be in the world but not of it.  This sentiment is echoed in the New Testament by the Apostle Peter as he writes,

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pt. 2:9-10).

It is almost the identical verbiage that was used back in Exodus.  If we are followers of Christ, then we are called to live our lives and behave in a way that shows the world around us that we are in this world but we are not of it.

If we are followers of Christ, then this world is truly not our home.  Our home will be in heaven one day, so we are exiles in this world.  When the nation of Israel was in exile in Babylon God told them through the prophet Jeremiah,

“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:5-7).

Even though the people of Israel were not in their homeland, they were still commanded to live as though they were so that those around them would see and notice the difference in them, drawing attention to God.  We are going to be about seeking the welfare of the community in which we live by advancing the Gospel to the city using small businesses as one of our platforms.

Jesus is a great example for this mode of ministry.  His incarnation and willingness to put on flesh and be woven into the fabric of culture, ‘rubbing elbows‘ with sinful man, magnifies and displays what incarnational ministry is all about (John 1:14, Phil. 2:5-11).  He chose to be among His creation in order to live a perfect life and draw people to himself.  He was totally countercultural in His approach to the world.  Everything He did and said was an attempt to redeem the culture for God, but most importantly to redeem mankind by seeking to save the lost (Luke 19:10).  We strive to follow that example and be a countercultural force to redeem the culture and people around us in the name of Jesus.

The greatest missionary of all time, Paul, was involved in marketplace ministry.  There were two aspects to Paul’s marketplace approach.  First, after having sought out a synagogue, he would then go to the marketplace.  In The Book of Acts, we read, “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and  the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17).    While in Thessalonica and Athens, Paul spoke with a reasoned with the leaders and philosophical thinkers of the city.  While he was in Ephesus, Paul used the Hall of Tyrannus, a public place that had nothing to do with the church, to speak about and proclaim the Gospel (Acts 19).  He immersed himself in the culture in order to change the culture of a given city.

Second, he would go into business in order to fund his ministry.    Also in the Book of Acts we read that as Paul was in the city of Corinth, “He found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.  And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade” (Acts 18:2-3).  We can read in the two letters that Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church that he used the money he made from making tents to fund his ministry instead of asking the church there to pay him when he preached, even though Paul had every right to ask the church to pay him.  Not only did he use his business profits to fund ministry, but it is very logical to assume that Paul also used his business as platform to share the Gospel with his customers.  We would have the same opportunity with our marketplace ministry.

What is evident, particularly from Israel, Jesus, and Paul is the utilization of the Cultural Mandate and extending God’s Kingdom by living in the world, but not of it, as a vehicle to radiate and bring the good news to a city and community.  In his book, The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark writes, “Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with urgent urban problems.”

This is the kind of hope, revitalization, and renewal we want to bring to our city as well.

 

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