In the past few months I had the privilege to help launch a new initiative, called “Firstfruits.” The vision is to inspire and equip entrepreneurs in Israel who will use biblical principles, prosper in the marketplace, and be a credible witness.
This week we are holding our first ever “Business and Investment Forum.” We invited successful business entrepreneurs from around the world to Israel to meet local Jewish and Arab believers who sense a call to launch new business ventures. Exciting stuff!
In Judaism there has traditionally been a high regard for the marketplace. Even a rabbi learned a trade.
The greatest rabbi of all time, Jesus of Nazareth, worked in his father’s building business. And it was this same marketplace professional who announced the Great Commission to people with mostly business or civil service backgrounds.
Throughout the Scriptures we find business people whom God chooses to carry out his mission. Some were shepherds, some farmers, some soldiers, and some merchants.
If anyone had the right to get his entire financial support from “ministry,” it was the apostle Paul. He says, however, in 1 Corinthians 9:12: “If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.”
So if Paul didn’t exercise his right to receive full support as a “minister,” how did he supplement his living? At various times, Paul worked as a tentmaker.
There’s a place for full-time “ministers” and they deserve fair compensation for their service. But most often God uses people in the marketplace to spread the gospel and make disciples.
This shouldn’t surprise us. Why? Because those who work in the marketplace are able to reach people in their world more effectively than local church leaders. Full-time clergy easily lose touch with “outsiders” as they devote all their attention to shepherding the “insiders.”
Here are 3 reasons why more of us need to be in the marketplace….
1. To see transformation in our societies, we need more followers of the Master who will model godly, biblical principles in business and still succeed. In a world so often characterized by self-interest and greed, we need people of God who both “SHOW and tell” the better way.
Paul did that. This is what he said about his own “modeling” a lifestyle of diligence in the workplace: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10)
We have too few models like Paul. I’m reminded of this conversation:
Employer: “Sorry, I have no job for you. I couldn’t find enough work to keep you busy.
Applicant: “But you have no idea how little work it takes to keep me busy.”
2. The number of people around the world who still have not received a credible presentation of the good news is so huge, that there will never be enough money to send out “full-time ministers” to carry out this mission. On the other hand, if we send tentmakers (or should we change this to “techmakers” for the 21st Century?) who are mostly self-supporting, we’ll have all the resources needed to do the job.
3. Many nations in the world are only open to people with specialized education and skills. Professional clergy are often refused visas for engaging in “religious” activity. These same countries, however, may gladly welcome doctors, teachers, dentists, oil drillers, agricultural specialists and accountants to add value to their society.
You don’t have to be a seminary or Bible College graduate or a full-time “minister” to expand the Kingdom. You, like Paul, can be a marketplace professional–using your specialized skills to open closed doors to the gospel message. More than ever we need people like you to help reach the billions who have yet to see and hear the good news.
Have you been able to be an effective witness in the marketplace? Do you know others that have modeled marketplace “ministry” and produced good fruit for the Kingdom? It would be great to hear some fresh testimonies that I can share with other readers.