This past week, we were privileged to join the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication (GACX) Forum in Orlando, Florida; one hundred and ten organizations intent on fulfilling the Great Commission, planting churches all over the world participated. These people are passionate about God and acting that all may come to know Him! GACX reports that 150,000 people die every day without knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you are from Grand Rapids, our very own Nate VanderStelt serves as the Executive Vice-President of this organization, which functions under CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ). Bekele Shanko is their President, an Ethiopian man who has been a trailblazer for Christ in many ways, particularly in church planting.
GACX has been growing in it’s appreciation of the intersection between the Church Gathered and the Church Scattered (in the Marketplace). DML was invited to hold a couple of workshops as well as lead the Marketplace Engagement Strategy Session. Unfortunately, many church planters, including those attending this event, still believe that working at the intersection of church and marketplace merely amounts to helping church planters become bi-vocational and less dependent on fund-raising. This is very far from the incredible potential that equipping every member for the work of the ministry from Monday-Saturday holds in fulfilling the Great Commission.
As most in the church planting networks of GACX don’t yet grasp this, attendance at our sessions was not what it could have been. We have our work cut out for us. We need to keep preaching this message!
I was reminded this week of a book called Out of the Salt Shaker, written by Rebecca Pippert. We use this illustration often in our workshops as seen in these pictures. Most of us like salt in our food. But we never put the food in the salt shaker. Rather we need to shake the salt out of the shaker so that there is an even and broad distribution of salt throughout the food.
Too many churches try to put the food in the salt shaker. The church focuses all too often on getting people into the building, rather than equipping the saints to be the salt every day of the week, out of the saltshaker and into the world.
I heard a business person once say this: “I only go to church because it’s expected of me. To be honest, I bring little to church and take away little. I’d quit altogether if I could culturally acceptable.” If the church doesn’t find a way to engage business people and employees in meaningful ministry in and outside the church, then business people, and others working in the marketplace will continue to exit the church. We will lose them. And where will they move to? Some will leave the church permanently. Some have and will form parachurch organizations which will serve as their “church.” There are 1200 faith and work organizations in the US alone. Business people are getting their needs met outside the place where discipleship is meant to take place. Parachurch organizations are great but they are not the same as the church gathered, which is called to address all walks of life in holistic discipleship.
Michael Baer writes in his recently released book, The Pastor and the Business Person, that he saw the following on a sign at the missionary training school he was attending:No soul is so poor
As he for whom
Not a single person is praying.
He goes on to say, “How tragic to think that there are many people in the world of work for whom this is true. As a pastor, you can change that!” Most people feel alone in their workplace, and don’t have prayer support empowering them to be a change agent, fulfilling a quadruple bottom line in that place. Workplace believers need specific prayers; prayers empowering them to be mature, passionate persons of integrity, prayers for them to keep a good work/family balance, and more are needed. The workplace is where 99% of church members spend the majority of their time each and every week.
But Michael Baer goes on to say this: “However great an opportunity BAM is to the 21st Century missions, both local and international, I also see it as a great threat to traditional church ministry: If, on the one hand, pastors can get in front of it and engage its practitioners and help lead the movement, the blessing will be immeasurable; on the other hand, if pastors withdraw from it or withhold their endorsement, many practitioners will simply walk past them on their way to serve Jesus as they feel called” (page 57).
At Discipling Marketplace Leaders, we agree. The faith and work movement, which is critically important, has operated outside the church in many ways and the church does not understood both the impact this has on marketplace believers and the missed opportunity this leads to in terms of the church’s impact “out the saltshaker.”
It’s not too late.
Rebecca Pippert in Out of the Salt Shaker, puts it this way:
To get the salt out of the saltshaker begins not with the people but with the pastor. When you get out of your office and into the sales office, when you get out of the pulpit and into the plumbing supply shop, then your world will change, your members’ worlds will change, and then the world at large will be changed. Will you do it?
Jesus did it for eighteen years (from the age of 12 to 30), spending his time as a business man, a carpenter/stone mason, in sales, marketing, and also training his brothers as apprentices. This impacted how he preached and taught, and how he related to people. Let’s continue to pray for opportunities for seminaries and Bible schools to teach church leaders about the importance of making a workplace ministry part of the DNA of every church.