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Co-Managing the Earth: The Foundational Work of the Christian Marketplace Ministry

dennis peacockeby Dennis Peacocke

“Do business until I come…”  Luke 19:13

We are now standing at the foundation-laying stage of one of the most significant Christian movements of church history, the advocacy of a Christian values-based economy. How we work with God’s Spirit in helping to lay that foundation will have potentially enormous effects on the global future of the church in the 21st century. It will also signal the emergence of an alternative to the world system’s left-right, capitalism-socialism single paradigm of economic possibility currently available to the nations of the world. The economics of God’s Kingdom is about to appear upon the world stage.

While some may call this emerging Christians-in-the-workplace movement a “marketplace ministries” phenomenon, such a definition is far, far too limited. This awakening of Christian economic theory and practice will do much more than merely legitimize the validity of believers working out a spiritual mission in the workplace. It has the clear potential of radically redefining historic economic theory and catapulting biblical Christianity out of the current stereotype of only concerning itself with sexual morals or abortion-related issues. As vital as those issues may be, they have only served to further isolate and “ghettoize” believers from touching the gears and levers of the economic mechanisms that drive the entire world. Indeed, in a world increasingly preoccupied with issues of economic lifestyle, job, and capital development, for believers to powerfully impact those issues is nothing short of major historic news. Beyond that, it will truly be an unexpected strategic “end run” around the current entrenchment’s biblical Christians now face in the world system’s marginalization of them.

While the majority of Christians often seem oblivious to the effects of their surrounding culture upon them, clear thinking Christian leaders must be highly aware of those forces and their ability to neutralize the vitality of historic Christian faith. Jesus said that man’s religious traditions have the startling ability to dilute the power of God’s word upon mankind. The world system’s values have trapped believers and unbelievers alike in a no-win vise between the values of capitalism and socialism with all its attendant liberal-conservative machinations. What now lies at our doorstep is the possibility to help break whole nations free of this destructive vise, especially Third World nations, which are genuinely seeking alternatives to the First World’s economic corruptions and abuses.

Believers must do more than simply legitimize personal ministry in the marketplace. Only doing that will serve to “baptize” either capitalism or socialism in the process because we have failed to confront either alternative from a biblical point of view. Both Christ and history will then judge us for “missing the day of our visitation.” Let us not miss that day either out of fear of the world system’s objections or the misguided hopes of fellow believers trapped in the desire to be “personally blessed and fulfilled” without addressing the needs of humanity which surround them.

Where We Now Stand

This focusing upon Christian service in the marketplace is an undeniable outgrowth of the vision of a growing number of Christian leaders globally emphasizing the gospel of the Kingdom of God in all its manifold mandates and ministries. As I have said repeatedly, Martin Luther helped usher in the understanding of the “priesthood of all believers.” This present move of God to have believers praying and acting so as refocusing upon the call to see God’s “Kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven” will press upon us all the reality of the “ministry of all believers.” Calling all believers to discover their God-given passion for Christ touching every sector of human life and culture goes far beyond just the marketplace ministry movement. It calls believers everywhere up to the challenge of seeing their spirit-driven passions lived out as unto the Lord, and to the benefit of surrounding people and institutions currently living outside of His values and motivations. The message of the Kingdom is the hope of the world. It is also the passion of Christ for the nations He won at Calvary.

The “movement” will take three general phases, relative to the marketplace dimensions of the Kingdom that we are now discussing. Each of the three phases is critical to the development of the other, and they progress in sequence.

Phase One: The Affirmation of Christian Ministry in the Marketplace

What is now beginning in the church worldwide is the first stage of the Holy Spirit’s “invasion” of the marketplace world of economics and workplace service. Believers are discovering the validity of the workplace as a ministry or calling. It’s not only not carnal to work there, it is actually a valid calling if it is done in faith and as service to Christ and His Kingdom. Work is now beginning to be seen for what God always intended it to be for redeemed man: an activity of creative, active worship.

The scriptures tell us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is the active realization that what we are doing is birthed in God, empowered by God, and directed unto God. Faith in the workplace is the active awareness of this truth and the dedication of its fruit and results back to God with gratefulness and consecration. While work provides food and sustenance for others, as well as ourselves, it is also an activity which allows man to partner with God in an obedient sowing and reaping relationship. This consecrated labor also builds personal character and conviction in the reality of obedience to God’s laws providing both prosperity and creative growth in us as we gain insight into the nature of God’s ways.

No longer left out of “the ministry,” the Christian worker begins to experience the ministry of all believers, and escape what was previously either simply the “drudgery of work” or the soulish thrill of “keeping score in life” by means of money or things. Faith-filled labor thus becomes a vital avenue to God Himself. This is wonderful, but it is only phase one. However, without believers beginning to practice the systemic deeper values of God’s Kingdom in the realm of marketplace economics, it leaves the world’s value systems unchanged at a core level. The world’s two basic paradigms of capitalism-socialism are neither fundamentally addressed biblically nor challenged. We as Christians are being edified, but the marketplace is only marginally changed because we are still not engaged in its redemption until we self-consciously, by faith, engage that “public” dimension of our marketplace ministry. As in all things in Christ, what begins as a private act of faith must mature into a public act which helps redeem both people and institutions. True private faith brings change to the social dimension of man.

Phase Two: Evangelism through Service

As we all know, service to God and others is the most basic of Christian ethics. The ultimate service is to empower others by helping to lead them to Christ as the source of life and truth. Evangelism in the marketplace will therefore become the second mark of the movement following the legitimizing of marketplace ministry as a valid form of Christian service.

Dualism, the Greek-based philosophy of separating “good spirit” from “evil matter,” has been the Achilles heel of Christian practice for centuries. Whereas biblical Hebraic theology is wholistic, that is, it recognizes no inherent separation in God between spiritual life and secular life, dualism has polluted evangelical Christianity in grievous ways. The marketplace was “carnal” because it dealt with “earthly things” like business and money. Church and Sunday were “spiritual.” Adultery was properly viewed as sinful, but the worldly realm of economics was viewed, like politics, as some kind of “neutral zone” where Christianity had no real place trying to affect the system of economic production, management, or distribution. Hence, no Christian ministry was possible in that realm. All that kind of thinking is now changing as a truly biblical, wholistic Kingdom worldview is emerging in the evangelical world. The “marketplace ministry movement” is in reality simply a specific branch of the larger sweep of the theological rediscovery of the Kingdom of God and Christ’s passion to see it gradually impact God’s earth before He returns.

Workplace evangelism will force believers to walk their talk or shut up until they grow up. No longer a “neutral zone” where Christians can believe in Jesus but practice business the world’s way, the workplace will properly be seen as our most fertile evangelistic field. Our witness, however, must be one of ethics, attitude, and actions rather than simply Bible verses or religious platitudes. Evangelistic “programs” must give way to lives that demonstrate a difference. For years I have taught two things: One) Whoever creates capital will lead the 21st century, and Two) The marketplace and Christian economics will lead to the world’s largest evangelistic harvest in the 21st century. Both of these inter-related phenomena will be led by the motivation to empower people by demonstrating the superiority of Christ’s values in every dimension of human life.

Phase Three: The Systemic Reformation of Christian Economics and Business Practices

Christ came to save souls and redeem God-given institutions such as the family; the role of civil government; ecclesiastic life; and commercial and work-related enterprises. Work was ordained by God before the Fall. It is His idea, just like marriage, and Christ came to restore for God what sin and the world system claimed falsely as their own domain. True Christianity not only changes lives, it reclaims for God what scripture says has always been, and always will be, His and His alone.

As I stated at the beginning of this article, if believers only go through the first two phases of this “marketplace movement” and limit their spiritual work to authenticating their workplace ministry and evangelistic service there, without actually touching the fundamentals of the economic system itself, we will have sold Christ short. What then, in summary form, are some of the specifics of this systemic change I am advocating? Let’s look at them now.

Broadly speaking, socialist thinking is driven by the desire to focus all things around the central idea of security. The need for security itself is a God-given need, but ultimately only fulfilled in Christ through His grace and man’s obedient responses to His laws and principles. “Security” is not a wrong concept in and of itself, but like all things, Satan and the world system offer man a false and unattainable security and violate numerous principles of God in the process. Confiscatory economic redistribution, the centralization of civil government acting as a false “god” and ultimate provider, the loss of efficiency and creative productivity through “tenured positions” are but three of those multiple violations.

Capitalism, on the other hand, is equally driven by God-originated ideas falsely filtered and corrupted by the world system’s alternative economy to God’s Kingdom economy. The driving concepts of “opportunity,” “gain,” and reward for faithful labor, risk, and investment have likewise produced some highly undesirable systemic results. Among them are the marginalization of human beings both economically and in terms of turning them into “units of disposable production”; false and unethical financial reporting and rigged trading practices driven by insatiable greed; destructive rather than enlightened competitive motivations; utilitarian production and markets which prey upon man’s vanity, need for superiority, or destructive uses of people and the environment, to name but a few of the “headline issues” common to all of us.

Kingdom economics, on the other hand, is driven by obedience to God and a recognition that His goals and motivation for mankind are to drive our spiritual life in all areas as we, like Christ, only seek to do “what we see the Father doing.” God, our Father and pattern, is motivated by the systemic values flowing through His Kingdom of empowering others through gift discovery and development; character formation; power and resource sharing as faith and initiative progressively reveal the ability to handle power; relationally-driven organizations rather than utilitarian-driven organizations; investment banking services rather than usurious, interest-driven banking practices; resource-backed currencies; and goods and services driven by long-term generational thinking rather than short-term maximized profits, creating unstable and non-sustainable enterprises. The list could go on and on, and it is these kinds of things we at Strategic Christian Services seek to address in our schools and seminars.

What an incredible challenge we now face as believers. Our world is shrinking rapidly due to technology and globalization. While these phenomena are filled with a myriad of evil potentialities, they can be used the more so to spread God’s Kingdom to the realm of the marketplace and Kingdom economic practices and policies. But we must act out of a concern for the big picture, God’s picture, rather than thinking either too small or too privately. Unlike Joash, we must not strike the arrows sparingly, or in single-generational ignorance. God is putting a quiver of truth upon our backs and a Spirit-led bow in our hands. Let us shoot, my brothers and sisters, and not one arrow less than the Master has given us!

By Dennis Peacocke. Originally published in Nov/Dec 2003 edition of Business Reform magazine.