We’re back with Part 2 of the Brett Snodgrass Podcast. Hear from Erik Cooper as he shares his heart for ministry in the marketplace and our responsibility in The Great Commission.
Brett: But with the Great Commission I mean; do you think that that’s been lost a little bit? That we don’t take those words seriously. As Christians, or maybe you can talk to, you know, talk to the owners out there or the business owners and why you know, I don’t know. Let’s dive into this a little bit but that’s a rich question. but.
Erik Cooper: Yeah, no, it is right. But I tell you. There’s always a tension line to be held, right, and I think, unfortunately, part of our broken sinful humanity. We tend to over we overcorrect, and then we overcorrect again. And then we swing this pendulum back and forth. And you know, you could probably say to some extent. You know I may have grown up in an environment where we thought about missions as an over there thing maybe to maybe, especially as marketplace people ignoring the responsibility we had to the Kingdom just through how we do business each and every day, right? So missions wasn’t an over there thing. Thing we send money over there we send people over there and you know I think there was an awakening, probably to gosh, I mean the Kingdom is about living it out in our in our local context too, right? And so I think. Then there was a swing of the pendelum back to focusing more in our local communities, more on impact investing in poverty alleviation in our in our local communities. And all of that is fantastic and wonderful, and Kingdom and vital and important. But I I do fear a little bit that we have lost that Great Commission heart. You know, Barna study from 2018-2019 would tell us that that 50, I think is 51% of churchgoers. Regular attenders of church could not identify the Great Commission, but they’ve never heard the concept before. They’ve never heard it in context, and I think even more disturbing. I think it was a year later. Barna came out with another study that said. 50% half of millennial Christians. So these are practicing millennial Christians said that sharing your faith with another person was morally questionable. They debated whether it was OK to do right and so I do fear that in this tension between embodying the gospel. And proclaiming the gospel that we tend to swing the pendulum kind of back and forth. And really, those things need to be held in tension. I mean, we, we need to be Kingdom people here and how we run our businesses and how we interact with the culture. How we add value through the marketplace. All of those things. But we can’t forget that there are 3.1 billion people on the planet that have no access to the Gospel. And that should bother us. It should bother us as believers, and so that is part of what drives me.
Brett: Yeah, yeah, now that that’s awesome. And I know that one of your passions. Obviously is using the Great Commission and implementing it into the marketplace and you talk a lot about that on your website, the Stone Table and I love the Stone Table. I get your blogs and there’s a lot of articles that you put out which is amazing, and you talk about work being a ministry How do you implement the Great Commission in the marketplace? Obviously, that’s probably. You know there’s some fine line there but that’s also your passion. So, you talk to your talking into business owners, entrepreneurs about how to do that. So, what’s been your feedback on that? I mean, you’re very, very passionate about it. But what’s been some questions, I guess that business owners ask you like you know. To do this.
Erik Cooper: well you know I think you have to be careful today i mean the reality is the culture has shifted greatly in the west and then i think we have to be careful when you talk about it. You know I’m in a unique position here. I mean, we’re an openly faith based nonprofit housing organization. You know, we tell all of our staff regularly. You don’t have to believe what we believe to be a valued member of this team, and I think we’ve done a good job of modeling that. But we don’t really apologize for who we are, so it’s not abnormal. We have a conference call every week where you know we have all of the staff call in and give updates on the properties and you know we’ll share a challenge from Scripture, we’ll pray over everybody. I’ve found as long as you’re I guess open handed with that, you’re not dogmatic, you’re not condescending. People actually respond to it, and so you know, I know not every culture, not every word culture is. I’m able to embrace that the way we do, so I’m trying to be careful about, not just extrapolating our situation and laying it over top of other people, but I think people are are hungry and I think the marketplace. The marketplace is actually a value. The marketplace creates sustainable, replicable, renewable relationships. I mean, that’s what the marketplace does, and I think that’s why it’s such a valuable and vital mechanism for the Gospel. Missionary friends that are in businesses, missions, context overseas would tell you that that the marketplace that the business place actually creates relationships for the Gospel to go forward, and so I think we always think about business as just a way to make money. and money is a byproduct of good business, but business is about serving, adding value, pouring your life into other people, making two people come together in a business relationship with less, and they both should leave with more, right? And so what a better mechanism for the Gospel to go forward. And so you know, I think some people have a harder time with it than others. If they work in large corporate environments that have hard HR rules and things, I mean you said to respect the culture that you’re in, but I find that the gospel tends to fit with the marketplace very well.
Brett: Yeah, Thanks for answering that. What would you say to this? cause I’ve had this happen even to myself. I gave my life to Christ when I was 30 years old. It was eleven years ago now and I had a pretty good business. You know, wasn’t what it is today; But it’s funny because right at that moment you know you have that honeymoon with Jesus and the next couple of years, you’re just, you know, on fire. but the thought always comes into your mind. Like wow, I’ve given my life to Christ. I’m a business owner, right? I give my life to Christ and I should become a pastor. What do you say to that to the business owner? That said, it gives his life to Christ and he says I need to become a pastor.
Erik Cooper: Yeah, no I think. I think that’s something everyone wrestles with, right? I mean, you know I’ve had people actually say to me. Well, if I really love Jesus, then I’ll quit my job or I’ll sell my business and I’ll go into full time ministry and I would say I guess to you is that what Jesus is asking because? I do know business guys who have a calling and they end up going into ministry or they end up going on to the mission field and if that is where God is calling you then I think that is something you’ve got to wrestle to the ground. But this idea that sacred work is only ecclesiastical work. I’m going to say ecclesiastical I mean like. Within the context of the church. You know that this is very special in a very unique calling, but all work is sacred, really. I mean, all work is redeemed by the Gospel. All work is a manifestation or can be a manifestation of the Kingdom of God in the culture around us. And so I think we’ve got to break down that sacred secular divide. And so I would just say. you know if you’re in the marketplace and encountered Jesus and he’s done incredible things in your life and he calls you to go Pastor or he calls you to go be a missionary. You better go, I mean obedience is obedience, but don’t assume that your marketplace work is just this secular thing that you do, no, the marketplace is part of God’s Kingdom. Work in the world as well and so you can engage that sacred calling and your passion for Christ, right where you’re at.
Brett: No I love that I was actually talking to my pastor when I lived in Noblesville and I was a business owner. He was a pastor and he had graduated from seminary school and went in and talked to his mentor Pastor and his mentor Pastor asked him, you know, you sure, you really want to do this and he was like yeah definitely and he said why would you ask me that question? He said well, I was in the marketplace before I became a pastor I felt like I had made more of a difference for the kingdom when I was in the marketplace so I don’t know that shows that that’s just a question and I love your answer with that all work is sacred that we can reach marketplace people that would have never walked into a church to begin with.