This post is from the managing partner of The Barnabas Group Chicago, Tommy Lee. Tommy is passionate about connecting leaders and organizations to meet goals and strengthen the gospel message. You can find Tommy on LinkedIn, Facebook, or his new radio show, UpNext.
We hear this term, "marketplace leader", often but do you still find yourself wondering exactly what it means and why nonprofits are suddenly jumping to connect with these people?
A marketplace leader is born out of an individual actively seeking to discover and pursue their God-given purpose.
I recently had a conversation with someone at church. He told me, "I feel really guilty when I'm at work, like in order to be obedient to God I should quit my job and either go into full time ministry or head off to the mission field." It was an interesting thought, and one that left me wondering why he could not be obedient to God in his work. What this individual did not recognize, and what many people never realize, is that when you equate "service to God" with "working at church" you are really putting your faith in a tiny box.
"What is it that God has gifted you in?" I asked him, adding, "God has gifted you with different passions, just like he has gifted a designer with certain skills and passions, or a banker or an accountant." It was important for me to help him understand and see that his career was, in fact, bringing glory to God and enhancing the Gospel. I encouraged him to identify the characteristics that have led him to excel in his current work and consider how they might be used by God in other capacities. "What do you like about your job?" I asked him. "What are the things you are doing at work that you just love, where time flies by and you enjoy every moment of it?" This, I told him, could be God slowly showing him what He has created him to be. I then took it a step further: "How do you begin to use those skills and those passions and what he has given you to not only serve your work and make your work and your city better, but use those skills to also serve the church, your family, and all of this?"
Looking into the Old and New Testaments, we are reminded that the life stories God writes for us are tied to the unique abilities we have been given.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. He interacted with Jesus, and stayed a tax collector. What changed was how he used his gifting. A self-serving attitude shifted to a desire to serve the poor.
Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king; he was a government official. When he received news that the walls of Jerusalem were down, he took leave to use his skills to organize his people to rebuild the wall. When the task was done, he returned to his responsibilities in the palace. The interesting thing to note is that Nehemiah would not have been able to do what he did if he was not a government official.
Peter was a fisherman.
Daniel and Joseph both worked in the government.
The list goes on...
Marketplace leaders are Christian business professionals.
"How can we mobilize these individuals towards ministry in the marketplace?" is a question that is inspiring nonprofit organizations around the world to not just support the spiritual growth of young global leaders, but to encourage them to pursue marketplace careers that create opportunities for evangelism and discipleship in secular fields.
In a recent radio interview I did with Dr. Michael Easley, my former boss and the former President of Moody Bible Institute, he said to me, "I'm one of these outliers that doesn't believe in a specific call from God." This view can, and does, upset some people. "I didn't have some experience, or some, you know, intervention, or some, 'Boy, I think God wants me to be a pastor.'" Instead, Dr. Easley points to our innate, God-given wiring as an indicator for what we are created to do. "I do think we have gifts, calling, abilities, talents, interests, passions, wiring, and when you put all that together and you have a sense of 'I was made to do X,'...I think we need to pay attention to those basic things."
Dr. Easley has reminded me time and again, "Tommy, just do the next thing and the next thing."
Careful personal consideration and insightful feedback from other people are valuable tools for self awareness. Sometimes we want a certain thing so much that we confuse God's calling with our own desires. I think we have all been there. We have to continually ask ourselves, is it His will, or did I just convince myself that this is God's will for me because I want it so much for myself?
This even happens to people who know they are called into full-time ministry. Take Pastor Mark Jobe's story as an example. Pastor Mark is the Senior Pastor of New Life Community Church in Chicago. When Mark was 21 years old, attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in 1986, he received an invitation from God that he knew he could not turn down. "A pastor had planted a seed in my heart," Mark explained to me during an UpNext radio interview. " He said, 'Mark, you know, the nations have come to the city. If we can reach the cities, we can reach the nations.'"
Mark resisted this initial message because he was not crazy about Chicago and longed to return to his family in Northern Spain, but God challenged him during a personal prayer time, saying, "I love people. I love the city. Would you love the city?" God softened his heart, and soon Mark began to see the people of Chicago as individuals that God loved. He accepted a call to pastor a small church of 18 people. Now, thirty years later, he is the lead and founding pastor of New Life Community Church, and his congregation has planted 24 other churches with over 40 services in multiple languages.
Mark now says, "I see a city that Jesus loves, that has tremendous potential to be a turnaround city that shows the whole world that there is a powerful God at work in Chicago."
Marketplace leaders have the potential to change the world, too.
If God has called you to serve in the marketplace, he has bestowed upon you a great honor. Almost all non-Christian Americans are in the marketplace. This is not to say that they are unreached with the Gospel, but instead have access to churches and Christians, yet are still living in darkness. As Theology of Business describes it, "The local church is like the showroom for Christianity. The marketplace is the test drive." Consider your daily life and how you react under pressure, how you treat your neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends, because the people around you are watching.
If you are in the marketplace, or considering entering the marketplace, because you have considered your "gifts, calling, abilities, talents, interests, passions, and wiring" and found that that is where God wants you, then I want to assure you that you have no reason to feel guilty like the individual I talked to at my church for not being in full time ministry. As Theology of Business so aptly puts it,
"The marketplace is where our unbelieving co-workers get to see if they really want what we have."