We know that nowadays Church does not interest a lot of people. Americans don’t wake up on Sunday morning, thinking which church to attend. Greg Surratt, president of Association of Related Churches, says that on any given Sunday only 15 to 20 percent of people attend church in the United States. That averages one church per every 950 people.
If we truly aspire to make a difference in our culture, it’s time we start doing life with people, not simply doing things for people in our communities. In recent years, the Holy Spirit has stirred the Church to recognize that He is a God of all life and that a sharp divide between the sacred and the secular does not fit His agenda.
What if, we enter the lives of our neighborhoods in order to engage them in authentic conversations? What affect can believers have on the marketplace, if we intentionally practice holistic Christianity that incorporates faith in the whole life by uniting work-ministry-worship-family? Could it be that when the Church engages God and society on a new level transformation of culture may result?
A Place to Unite
The marketplace is where we enter economic exchange with each other. It is the environment where human beings contribute and take away material and cultural goods.
One of my favorite contemporary theologians, Christopher Wright, says that it is not so much that God has a mission for His Church, but that He has a church for His reconciliation mission. God is actively involved in all spheres of life in order to bring people to a flourishing relationship with himself. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Church should intentionally engage the marketplace and enter all of life in order to connect people to God. The Holy Spirit forms missional communities to incarnate the gospel in particular places, to bear living witness to Jesus Christ.
If that is the case, then when it comes to engaging life in the marketplace, do we look for “missionary” works to do once in a while—or do we take all of our activities as our worship to God and as a direct reflection of our lives on mission?
The Corporate “Go” of the Great Commission
There are a number of ways people can begin to see the marketplace as their mission. I can tell you how we envision this at Real Life Church, a soon-to-be-launched church plant in Richmond, VA.
We’ll integrate faith community, entrepreneurial leadership education and small business incubation in order to affect transformational community development. We believe the intentional marketplace engagement will lend our church credibility and eventually earn us the right to influence our community’s culture. To fulfill our church’s missional role, we are looking (at time of print) to lease a retail space in a highly visible and easy accessible location, in close proximity to other cultural, social and business functions such as malls, shopping plazas, city halls, etc. People who usually don’t go to church are likely to use our entrepreneurial services.
The vision for Real Life Church—as for any Christian who is present in the marketplace—is to become a contemporary, contextualized expression of the corporate “go” part of the Great Commission. We hope to empower the believer to fulfill their unique calling in order to become a credible witness to God and a blessing to the city. During the week, we will still be the Church. Through our coworking space and our entrepreneurial incubator, our daily lives will be lived outward in the city—in commitment to godliness, stewardship and creativity. We’ll help people discover God’s purposes for them, so they can be equipped and released back into the public square to both cultivate and create cultural goods. Whether we serve the greater Richmond area by encouraging innovation or developing small business owners that create jobs, we will make sure that we actively contribute to the development of our local communities and see people transformed for Christ.
Reaching others is all about building real relationships with real people in the real world. Customers, employees, investors and vendors are all real people. Wherever you work, lead or minister, you can approach even a secular reality in a sacred way.
God isn’t just calling us to bring Christian ethics into the workplace, but also to bring his culture of light into all of life. His Church is to establish the presence of faith communities throughout the marketplace, so we can model the Jesus-way of leading a company for the benefit of the “least of these” and enter into economic exchange to be a blessing as God has blessed us. God did not create you to live in survival mode, but to thrive in doing the greater works He planned for you to do (John 14:12). He created you to live in the fullness of your potential in Him, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).