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Leadership: Practice

Marketplace Missionaries

Four ways to prepare believers on Sunday for their work on Monday.

By Svetlana Papazov

The excitement was palpable as pastors and marketplace leaders began filling our church for a one-day conference on whole-life discipleship and the value of work. The morning training focused on the redemptive mandate of every Christian in the workplace. The idea that any work can be evangelistic challenged my new friend.

He had walked in with his mind made up to quit his job and go into full-time ministry. My friend enjoyed his work as an inventor, but thought the only Kingdom value was in the tithes he gave the local church.

Because of what he had heard — and hadn’t heard — from the pulpit, this sincere believer was struggling to see a connection between his faith and his calling. My friend’s attitude toward his Monday-through-Friday job reflects that of many congregants who faithfully attend church on Sundays.

A week has 168 hours. On average, people who work full-time spend fewer than two of those hours on religious, civic and organizational activities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But they devote about 44 hours weekly to their jobs — more time than they spend on any other waking activity.

Every day, churchgoers work alongside people who are skeptical of religion. According to Pew Research Center, 54% of U.S. adults seldom or never attend services.

The American Church has sent many missionaries abroad, but there is also a vast mission field in our own backyard. To evangelize anew those who might not otherwise hear the gospel, we need to empower our congregants to become marketplace missionaries.

Believers have an opportunity to build a bridge to grace for people who never hear from a pastor. But they may not recognize their potential to make an eternal difference without the support and encouragement of their local churches. Barna Group reports that 72% of Christians “don’t fully connect the importance of their faith to their mission at work.”

To help parishioners begin to see their workplaces as mission fields, pastors should regularly affirm Monday work as a calling that’s just as important as Sunday work. Here are four ways to do that:

1. Intentional Language

What you say as a leader matters. If you associate God’s calling only with the work of full-time pastors, missionaries, and church staff, you communicate that these are the God-chosen and blessed vocations. What about the truck driver, mechanic, office manager, farmer, chemist or business owner?

Intentionally acknowledging on Sunday the redemptive value of vocations outside the church will change the way your people think about what they do on Monday.

2. Workplace Visits

Arrange to meet up with congregants for lunch at their office buildings, construction sites, and factories. Ask permission to deliver coffee and bagels for the entire office or work crew. Pray with police officers and hospital workers before they begin their shifts. Show up to support a military family when a member deploys. Bring several church staff members and some colorful baskets of supplies to help a teacher prepare, and pray over, the classroom before the start of the school year.

When pastors build into their weekly schedules this vital function of shepherding, it allows them to connect the two worlds — the church and the marketplace — and convey to congregants, “Your work matters to God.”

3. Celebration

People often sit in church for decades before they see someone from their profession on the platform. Set aside a special time to recognize and celebrate God’s call on marketplace workers. Give it a creative name, such as Monday on Sunday or This Time Tomorrow.

Ask parishioners interview questions that focus on their workplace mission: What has God called you to do this time tomorrow? What are the joys and challenges of being a follower of Jesus where you work? How can we pray for your work?

4. Commissioning

To help congregants integrate faith and work, consider commissioning them during a service.

Labor Day is a natural time to recognize the work congregants do. You may want to commission teachers and school staff in the fall.

Just as you might do when sending out vocational ministers, invite those who agree to be marketplace missionaries to come to the front of the church. Then have elders, pastors and members of the congregation extend hands and pray over them. Release these workers to advance the purposes and presence of God outside the church walls.

I’m happy to say my inventor friend left the conference encouraged that most Christ followers preach from behind the desk, not the pulpit.

Pastors can make a pivotal difference by affirming the unique contributions and callings of Christian lawyers, baristas, architects, forklift operators, doctors, and teachers, and sending them out as marketplace missionaries.

These workers can translate the gospel for the unchurched in word and deed, reaching their respective mission fields with the hope of Christ in ways no one else can.

This article was first published in the November-December 2020 issue of Influence magazine and appears here by permission.