Marketplace skills are Missionary skills.
I use this phrase a lot. The alliteration flows off the tongue, and it’s just enough out of the box to grab people’s attention. I throw it out in general conversation, when I preach, on videos we produce. And I truly do believe it.
But one day recently, one of our team members challenged me. “I’m not sure that comment is as clear to others as it is to you.” I think he has a point. Since you’re not climbing around inside my head (a blessing, I can assure you), I thought I would expound on the idea this week. What do I mean when I say “marketplace skills are missionary skills?”
Recently, I was invited to Indiana Wesleyan University to speak to a graduating class of senior marketing students. I was asked to walk them through the basic concept of my book, Missional Marketplace, and encourage them to see their future careers through a Kingdom lens as they emerged from the cocoon of college life and headed into the marketplace.
Those marketplace roles, it was assumed, would be entry-level jobs in corporate America, leveraging their newly learned marketing skills to research, develop, advertise, and sell products and services. Those opportunities are fantastic. And as you know, if you’ve been around The Stone Table for any length of time, we believe everyday marketplace work is sacred work when done to the glory of God and the love and service of our fellow man.
But these same business and marketing skills also have incredible Great Commission potential built right into them. All across the world today, businesses are being used as strategic outposts for missionary work – adding real value to local economies, meeting tangible marketplace needs in communities unreached with the gospel, and acting as missionary hubs for proclaiming the gospel and planting the Church where the Church is not.
Travel and tourism companies.
Coffee shops and restaurants.
Farms and agriculture businesses.
Graphic design firms.
Business English schools.
This is just to name a few. All across the globe, the Gospel is being proclaimed in word and in deed through business. What if business students also began to consider cross-cultural ways of using their marketplace skills for the sake of the Gospel?
This is Nothing New
Many people assume Business as Mission is a new “trendy” missions strategy. And while it’s definitely something many traditional missions organizations are just starting to embrace in an official capacity, the concept has been around since the first days of the Church. In fact, while we all know the missionary exploits of Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, and others from the book of Acts, the History of Christianity reminds us that the Gospel’s first-century spread can also be traced to merchants who were followers of the Way. These Christians, traveling from town to town for marketplace work, took the Gospel with them as they went!
We also see Paul, a tentmaker by trade, engaging in both traditional missionary activity and in marketplace missionary work. Look at this verse from Acts 17:16-17:
“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.”
Normal everyday marketplace activity puts Christ-followers in contact with those they are trying to reach with the Good News of Jesus!
The Future of Missions
These sacred opportunities in the marketplace are true wherever Christians go, from our own communities to the far unreached areas of the globe. So while I want to encourage all Christians to engage their everyday work as part of God’s Kingdom work in the world, I also want business students as well as more established Christians who already work in the marketplace to open their eyes to the immense global missions need and opportunity. Your business skills can take the Gospel to place desperately in need of the Good News of Jesus.
The Sacred/Secular divide must die. For followers of Jesus, there is no such thing as “secular work.” All of it belongs to Jesus, great or small. So you can no longer assume that your accounting degree, your advertising experience, your management or entrepreneurial background means you’re not called to the nations. The “called” don’t just go to Bible School. Marketplace skillsets are imperative to the success of our missionary efforts everywhere, especially in unreached parts of the world. The whole Church must take the whole Gospel to the whole world!
This is why I believe future of global missions is sitting in our Bible Schools and in our Business Schools. And that’s what I mean when I say marketplace skills are missionary skills.
How might God want to leverage your marketplace skills for his glory among the nations? Will you ask Him today?