Serving with our spiritual gifts may begin within the church, but it certainly shouldn’t stop there. Jesus calls us to transcend the boundaries of His body in our ministry to Him: “You are the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13)—not just salt within the saltshaker.
Back in Christ’s day, salt 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 inhabitants through the men and women of His church, young and old.
The church is God’s apostle to the world. Jesus told His disciples: “As the Father sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). It is the witness of a church united in love that will persuade our neighbors that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world (see John 17:21).
You may know that the word “church” means a people gathered, or called out. 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 and fellowship only to scatter into the world as God’s representative.
While being gathered, the blood in our bodies is cleansed and oxygenated. Sent out, it fights diseases and energizes. So is the church in the community. In fact, the marketplace is an extension of the kingdom of God. “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.”1
To achieve this mission from God, church members must be educated, equipped, empowered and encouraged in the discipling process. Thus we may share Jesus’ love in the offices, classrooms, stores and factories where we spend our daily lives.
This is not a call to evangelize the workplace in the traditional sense by 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. We exhibit unselfishness, compassion, integrity and humility, so that we bless whomever God brings our way. We become alert opportunists of grace. We love lost people, meeting the emotional and spiritual needs they confide to us, and ultimately assisting their rescue from the kingdom of this world into the body of Christ.
The apostle Paul exemplified such missionality 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. Discipling in the marketplace requires not only wisdom and compassion but intercessory prayer and relational skills—none of which comes naturally or easily, particularly when we are already overworked.
Union president Tom Lemon exemplifies this aptitude. At a recent church ministries convention for North America, he was involved in many meetings—and yet found time to help at one of the ministry booths in the exhibit hall. I observed him patiently answering questions when he could have been enjoying dinner with his fellow presidents.
Why? Because Tom is a servant leader, with a heart to connect with people in meaningful ways. May we all likewise be culturally relevant in our own marketplaces.
1Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King, Experiencing God (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), p. 124.