Ministry in the Marketplace
By Ed Silvoso
In this article from his book Anointed for Business Ed Silvoso says too many people ignore marketplace ministry.
The marketplace – the combination of business, education and government – is to a metropolis what the heart is to the human body. Through these three arteries flows the life of a city. A city cannot exist without a marketplace in the same fashion that a body cannot live without a heart.
Some of my earliest memories are of the marketplace. I grew up in a two-story house overlooking the main plaza in San Nicolas, Argentina.1 Like in every Spanish town, the plaza was the center of life. The Plaza Hotel, flanked by the Catholic cathedral and the police station, was on our block. On the east side were the courthouse, the National College and the Social Club, where the city fathers gathered. On the north side were Customs, the Italian Club and homes of the leading lawyers and politicians. On the west side were the National Bank, more homes and a popular restaurant that between meals set tables on the sidewalk and doubled as the town café. City hall was three blocks away, but it made its presence felt by the sonorous carillon that faithfully announced the time at 15-minute intervals 24 hours a day.
The plaza was wedged between the port and the city’s two main streets where most of the businesses operated. It was such a vital part of the city that everything of substance happened in or around it. It was there that the military parades and political rallies took place. On Saturday evenings beautiful girls and handsome boys would choreograph the ritual of courtship under the attentive eyes of mothers, who would stand nearby fathers, who would sit at the café and pretend to discuss sports and politics. This area of town was called el centro (the center) because everything revolved around it. In essence, it was the marketplace in a microcosm. Through ages, cultures around the world have fashioned their own versions of the marketplace, but they always included theses three basic components that were found around the plaza in my hometown: business, education and government.
The Marketplace and the Early Church
Early Christians made the marketplace the focal point of their ministry because their occupations regularly took them there. As they conducted business, it was natural for them to present the gospel to the people they encountered. Marketplace people played a vital role in the emergence, establishment and expansion of the Early Church – in fact, most of Jesus’ followers remained in full-time business while simultaneously conducting full-time ministry. This was possible because they saw the marketplace as their parish and their business as a pulpit. To them witnessing was not an occasional activity but a lifestyle.
The book of Acts unfolds the story of believers who did more than tell people about Jesus in the marketplace. They also witnessed a steady stream of signs and wonders. In fact, only one of the 40 extraordinary manifestations of God’s power recorded in Acts happened in a religious venue: the healing of the lame man at the temple gate called Beautiful (see Acts 3:1-11). Most of these spiritual wonders were facilitated by people such as Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, who as ministry and business partners are classic examples of marketplace Christians (see Acts 18:1-3).
Generals, not Privates
Today millions of men and women are similarly called to full-time ministry in business, education and government – the marketplace. These men and women work as stock brokers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, farmers, chief operating officers, news reporters, teachers, police officers, plumbers, factory foremen, receptionists, cooks and much more. Some of them have great influence on mainstream society, others are unsung heroes with low profiles, but each of them has been divinely called to bring the kingdom of God to the heart of the city.
Unfortunately many of these marketplace Christians feel like second-class citizens when compared to people who serve full-time in a church or missionary context. This should not be the case. No matter the occupations, Christians who work at secular jobs need to know that they are not perpetual privates in God’s army just because they have not gone to seminary. They need to discover that they have the potential to become full-fledged generals whose ministry is in the heart of the city, instead of inside a religious building.
It is imperative that they realize that not only is it OK to do ministry in the marketplace, but that God has explicitly called them and anointed them for it. By “anointed” I mean that they have been chosen and empowered by the Holy Spirit for a divinely sanctioned assignment. By “ministry” I mean that they can do more than just witness; they can bring transformation to their jobs and then to their cities – as happened in the first century.
Most marketplace Christians already know that their ministry and their occupation are somehow connected, but they do not comprehend exactly how. Even though they sense that they have a call to ministry, they hesitate about exchanging their secular setting for a religious one. Quite often they are told that this vacillation is due to a lack of faith or, worse yet, an attachment to worldly things. This indictment leaves them confused because deep down they feel that their spiritual destiny is in the marketplace.
Welcome to the Club!
Unfortunately many of these marketplace ministers fail to fulfill their divine destiny because they are often derided as untrained or uneducated. This is not a new accusation. Peter and John would say, “Welcome to the Club!” In the account we find in Acts, this is exactly what business-men-turned-ministers were called by the religious clique. This should never happened because the requirement to be a minister is not religious education; rather, it is the spiritual conditioning that comes from “having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
It was such conditioning that allowed the apostles to fill Jerusalem with the good new in just a few weeks by leading thousands to the Lord (see Acts 5:28, 6:7). As a result, Jerusalem experienced transformation at the deepest level: The needs of the poor and the widows, two very vulnerable groups, were met (see Acts 6:1-7). The hungry were fed and the sick were healed (see Acts 2:45, 3:8). The gospel even had a positive influence on the Sanhedrin, the most powerful forum the Jews had (see Acts 5:33-39). Solomon’s Portico became the place for a steady stream of signs and wonders, giving the emerging Church favor with the people (see Acts 5:12-15). The movement was so dynamic that eventually the streets and sidewalks of Jerusalem were turned into evangelistic venues where sick people lined up hoping that the healing shadow of Peter would fall upon them (see Acts 5:15). Soon multitudes from nearby cities flooded Jerusalem (see Acts 5:16).
What a change! This was the city that had previously grieved Jesus to the point of tears but was not giving Him tremendous joy (see Luke 19:41-42)! It began on the Day of Pentecost when the disciples left the enclosed confines of the Upper Room and went to the open space of the marketplace. On that day Peter, the fisherman, became the first fisher of men, setting a pattern soon to be replicated throughout the Roman Empire. This movement was led not by individuals notorious for their religious acumen, but by people known for their roles in the marketplace: fishermen, tax collectors, farmers and more.
Three Business Partners
It did not take too long for these enthusiastic preachers to transform myriad towns and cities, culminating with Ephesus, site of the most dramatic power encounter recorded in Acts (see Acts 19:1-13). This city, with a demon-driven economy and a marketplace that was the citadel of evil, experienced a radical transformation. It is not a coincidence that at the center of God’s move were Paul, Aquila and Priscilla. Their dual ministry/business status connected them to the religious community through their teachings and to the marketplace by their tent-making enterprise.
Jesus’ Recruiting Grounds
Jesus, a recognized craftsman, found the marketplace to be familiar territory (see Mark 6:3). He recruited His disciples there, not in the Temple. None of the Twelve was a member of the professional clergy or a leader in the synagogue. Paul, who joined the group later and was a rabbi (see Acts 9:1-6), was not a stranger to the marketplace. In fact, on many of his ministry trips, he also ran a profitable business. In Ephesus his for-profit operation was large enough to provide for him, his team and even the needy (see Acts 20:33-35).
The elders of emerging churches often were marketplace leaders who had experienced dramatic conversions –for example, Dorcas, Lydia and Cornelius. Due to their prominence in their cities, they, in turn, produced salvation movements (see Acts 9:36-43, 10:1).
More Than a Layman
Today, in general, religious leaders have little interaction with unbelievers, even less with prominent ones. The Church does not command the attention or respect of the marketplace. In fact, quite often it is considered irrelevant and seen as some sort of social parasite. To compound this misconception, Church members who do have relevance in the city on account of their position in the marketplace tend to disqualify themselves from leadership in spiritual matters. The most common self-inflicted put-down is “I am not a pastor-I am just a layperson.” This is all part of a clever satanic scheme to neutralize apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers along with the entire army of disciples, already positioned in the marketplace.
God calls some people to serve inside the Church, and this is a precious call. Pastors and full-time ministers are the modern equivalent of the Old Testament priests who ministered in the Temple. They clearly play a vital role in the spiritual leadership, since they are the ones who, through their examples and Bible-centered teachings, equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Their God-given role cannot be overemphasized-it is crucial. We would not be the Church without them.
With this in mind, we need to see that there are others who are anointed to minister in the marketplace, like the kings, officials and other functionaries who were the contemporaries of the Old Testament priests. The call to serve in the marketplace and call to serve in traditional religious settings are both valid and interdependent, since they involved ministers who respond to the same divine calling. Whether people are priests in the Temple or kings in society, God has called each one of them. Unfortunately the former has been exalted to the detriment of the latter. It is about time that people who are called to serve in the marketplace be validated as full-fledged ministers because the last revival, the one predicted by Joel and quoted by Peter (see Acts 2:17-21), will happen all over the city, not just inside a building. It will be an outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all flesh.
Spiritual Warfare in the Boardroom
As ministers of God, marketplace Christians need to know that spiritual warfare is a central component of their daily routines, whether they are aware of it or not. Satan and his evil forces constantly try to destroy lives and enterprises in the Church but even more so in the marketplace. The extraordinary opposition Christians experience when putting deals together in a godly way is no different from what pastors face when counseling people who are contemplating suicide or divorce. Since Satan is the source of both challenges, the solution is the same: servants willing to turn the spiritual tide by ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit and setting free people who are opposed by the devil. The location is ancillary.
When marketplace Christians are reduced to second-class status, the Church is automatically deprived of its most strategically placed soldiers because they are the ones closest to Satan’s command and control centers. If properly equipped, they can do lethal damage to the systems by which the devil holds people captive in our cities (see 2 Cor. 4:4, Eph. 6:12). This is why he allocates so many of his resources to make marketplace Christians feel unqualified and inferior in spiritual matters.
Four Lethal Misbeliefs
The combination of four major misbeliefs usually neutralizes God’s calling on those anointed for marketplace ministry:
- There is a God-ordained division between clergy and laity.
- The Church is called to operate primarily inside the building often referred to as the temple.
- People involved in business cannot be as spiritual as those serving in traditional Church Ministry.
- The primary role of marketplace Christians is to make money to support the vision of those “in the ministry.”
I have written this book to expose these unbiblical misbeliefs and to show, from the Scriptures and from history, the central role of Christians in the marketplace. While it is true that in Old Testament days there was a division between the clergy and the laity and that most religious activities took place at the temple, Jesus’ New Covenant abolished the old order. In fact, the temple in Acts does not equate with the Church as we know it. The reference to early Christians praying in the temple simply means that they prayed where it was customary. The New Testament replaced the Levitical priestly order with the priesthood of all believers –in other words, ever Christian is a minister. That is why today, Church should happen all over the city, everyday, all day long as Christians replicate the model presented in Acts 2:42, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Nowadays there are multitudes of believers in the marketplace who hold strategic positions in business, education and politics. They need to know that they are called to play a vital part in the establishment of God’s kingdom on Earth. Without their active participation and leadership, our cities will not be transformed and the Great Commission will not be fulfilled in our generation.
Getting out of the Bleachers
Too often ministry in the Church resembles a final match in soccer’s World Cup that has gone into overtime: A handful of players, all in desperate need of rest, run all over the field while hundreds of thousands of spectators, who could use some exercise, watch from comfortable sears. The players are the ministers who exert most of the energy, and the spectators represent the laypeople whose participation is limited to a secondary role, mainly making the whole enterprise financially feasible.
This unbiblical classification of believers results in first-and second-class statuses within the Church. Such distinctions should not exist because Jesus Himself was not an elitist. Even though He recruited 12 apostles and appointed them to positions of leadership, he was always inclusive. When he spoke, except when he addressed specific situations pertaining to the Twelve, he invariably spoke to and for everybody. If we are to fulfill the Great Commission, we must follow Jesus’ lead and eliminate class division.
No one is better placed in the city than Christians who operate in the marketplace. God has already given them jurisdiction in businesses, schools and government circles. The promise that “every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you” (Josh. 13) applied to them also-and they tread all over the city on a daily basis! The Lord is in their hearts. The Hold Spirit is imbuing their spirits. The Word is planted in their minds. All they need now is to realize that they are anointed to minister in the fullness of the Spirit. When this happens, they will be able to push back the spiritual darkness that envelops our cities. As marketplace Christians begin to move in their anointing, the whole world will hear the voice of God. This is what this book is about!
1. San Nicolas, Argentina, has a population of 130,000
Adapted from Ed Silvoso's book Anointed for Busines(Regal Publishing). Ed Silvoso, founder and president of Harvest Evangelism, is widely recognized as a missions strategist and solid Bible teacher who specializes in evangelism, city reaching, marketplace transformation and gender reconciliation. He is the author of the best-selling books That None Should Perish and Woman: God's Secret Weapon.
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