Perhaps one of the great shifts in an apostolic culture is that the marketplace becomes a valid mission field for the believer. A pastoral culture gathers and creates an expectation of attendance at church and upward promotion through the ranks of volunteers, deacons and elders. There is nothing wrong with that so long as the value system recognises the importance of the day to day ministry in the marketplace. The apostolic looks to ‘go’, which means it ‘sends’ and is directly linked to seeing God’s kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven – not in church as it is in heaven. It’s worth noting, however, that if you get the earth you will get the church.
We have the great privilege of seeing Christians find fulfilment in every legitimate career and occupation. This is not a new theme. It has occurred at many times in history, starting with the people of Israel for who work was worship. Other than the priests, there are few examples of what is often called “full time ministry” in the Bible. Many biblical figures were bi-vocational, having jobs alongside their ministries. John Calvin made a significant contribution and lasting example of excellence through the Geneva marketplace. I could include also Hans Nielsen Hauge of Norway. The point is that this concept isn’t new. A true apostolic emphasis with more than the occasional engaged person or church is vital for the reformation of society which we pray for.
As ministry extends into the marketplace, one danger is the temptation to appoint ‘marketplace apostles.’ This is misguided. Ephesians 4 is clear that the fivefold offices are gifts to the church for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry. The apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher all equip the marketplace worker. Appointing ‘marketplace apostles’ creates a secular/sacred divide at a higher level and tends towards the most successful Christian in a sphere becoming the ‘apostle’ without necessarily being apostolic in their thinking and behaviour. What we need is apostolic doctors, nurses, teachers, receptionists, computer operators, government leaders, artists and so on. They would know that they are sent into the marketplace to do the work of ministry, whoever they are, whatever they do and wherever they are.
The inner awareness of the teacher in the classroom or the office manager that they are sent, and legitimately represent Christ, even though it will look very different from what is seen on a Sunday in church, will empower and free them to greater accomplishments in their field of ministry. I would also suggest that by being fulfilled in their career choice, they are also more likely to want to contribute to what has been seen as more traditional ministries in the church.
Isaiah 61 gives us a powerful foundation. It begins with the statement of anointing – anointing to set captives free and bind up brokenhearted people. There is perhaps no more universal captivity than that of feeling a second-class Christian because we don’t see our work as a first- class ministry. Perhaps only 3% of church attendees are paid to go to church, which means that 97% find their income elsewhere. If they should feel less valuable then we will have a disempowered army of believers. Isaiah 61 goes on to talk of emotions and experiences reversed and then that they, the previously captive ones, become the restorers and rebuilders, not the anointed priests.
I love this sequence and have many times prayed commissioning prayers over the ‘ordinary’ churchgoers, sending them as glory carriers whether they are police officers, finance managers, computer developers, builders or gardeners.
The apostolic creates an army of ‘sent ones’ and the result will be transformation in the world and in the church.