Integrating Ministry & Marketplace: The Temple Template

As mentioned, the vocational life is hard work.

Early mornings, long days, rough nights…if you wear multiple hats and juggle multiple responsibilities…no question, you know the drill.

Yet, as tempting survival/‘just get ‘er done’ mode may be, truth is: we were never meant to live this way.

Yes, strategic compartmentalization can center the gravity of focus and break busy days into doable, bite-sized moments; however, when we consider our identity as effective influencers in light of Jesus’ ministry,  we ultimately find…

a) Work (what we commit our hands and minds to) and faith (what we commit our beliefs to) were never meant to be mutually exclusive.

b) The marketplace can be just as much a hub of powerful, life-changing ministry as the church1.

Take Matthew 21:12-17 for instance…

After Jesus kicks off the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he targets (i.e. the temple – v. 12) and the reason why (i.e. to cleanse it).

I don’t know about you, but when I consider the fact Jesus deliberately went to the temple to make its original intent known as opposed to simply stopping for a cup of coffee and the ‘Daily Jerusalem’…that speaks to me.

Granted, Jesus channels his inner Adele for time, turning tables and all (v. 12b), but the key here isn’t so much Jesus reacting in frustration as much as Jesus setting things right, being fearlessly intentional in speaking truth and breathing life into what had become a lifeless environment.

So while this passage reference may seem random, when we talk about what pastoral ministry in the marketplace looks like and how to rightfully use our spiritual gifts in similar arenas, I believe there’s important application to be found.

First off, to be an effective marketplace minister, we must be courageous and purposeful with the truth. Yes, we can be highly skilled with the gifts God has given us; yes, we can be articulate, persuasive, and emit confidence, but if what we’re divinely given is utilized with limited integrity, it’s like trying to build a sturdy structure on quicksand.

Secondly, when we consider what grieved Jesus most, we deduce how wise marketplace leaders understand the time and place to deal with financial affairs as they understand the providence of God (i.e. the difference between a love for money and a love for God who provides the money2 ;more on this in future posts).

And finally, when we consider Jesus straight up calls the temple “my house(v. 13 – “My house will be called a house of prayer…”), we find the a) confirmation of marketplace as an extension of sanctuary and b) value in declaring God’s original design over an establishment intended for our good.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” not only to reveal the truth of its purpose3 (i.e. a place of dwelling, influence, and vertical communication), but to set the stage for the spiritually/physically impaired to better know that purpose (v. 14).

I-Was-There-at-the-Temple-Image

Hence, it should be no surprise to see a completely transformed temple by the time Jesus peaces out in v. 17.

Bottom line: when we reflect on how Jesus integrated his ministry and spiritual gifts into the marketplace, we see…

  1. Jesus was intentional (in going to the temple courts)…
  2. Jesus was bold with the truth and how he handled conflict…
  3. Jesus lived out the identity he declared over the temple…
  4. Jesus loved at every opportunity…

Thus, I submit if we’re going to thrive in employing our spiritual gifts in our areas of business, we must be willing to live on purpose, be bold with the truth, pray without ceasing, be the change we long for…and most importantly…love at all cost, at all times.

Next time, I’ll look to build upon this foundation with more specifics, more real-life application, but for now, if any of this hits home with you (or if you want to add a point to the list above), feel free to comment below. And as always, if you have a prayer request/praise report, you’re more than welcome to drop us a line.

‘Til then, may you find peace and joy in abundance as you go about your week…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Sure, the church may be the heart of the operation, but what’s to say the marketplace can’t be the hands and feet?
  2. Seriously…how often are good leaders corrupted by sneaky, under-the-table, ‘will do anything to get an advantage’ maneuvers? More than we’d like to admit, right?
  3. As well as His authority

Photo creds: gospelmovements.org (edited by Cameron Fry) & lds.net

One Voice Q&A’s with Cameron & Steve Fry

Cameron & Steve Fry talk Commission U and marketplace/bivocational ministry @ Messenger Fellowship‘s annual summit

Note: Apologies on the audio (especially the first minute); will aim to obtain higher quality when available.

1. Why is focusing on equipping people in the marketplace so vital for the church?

I believe if the church wants to equip people in the marketplace, it must embrace its transitive nature. The marketplace ministry problem, particularly in the western church, isn’t so much a function of not discipling saints to be like Jesus as much as it is not discipling saints to be like Jesus…within their respective spheres of influence. Considering 90-95% of congregations work in secular settings, we must bridge the disconnect and target these settings if we want to better reach the lost.

2. What is ‘bi-vocational’ ministry?

Bivocational ministry is ministry that bridges the sacred and secular. Whether you’re versatile in the marketplace working multiple gigs or have a foot in both church/workplace arenas, bivocational ministry not only empowers people to be like Jesus at their desks, but also teaches them to make the best possible use with the margins and bandwidths they’ve been given.

3. What have you seen in Commission U that is so helpful to marketplace people?

One of the advantages of Commission U (and courses like it) is how it acknowledges the priesthood in all believers while shattering the mold of ‘pastors do this/non-pastors do that‘. There’s a false paradigm that suggests only those with liturgical callings can be ordained, but with Commission U, as we experienced last night…

…we recognize all as partners in God’s ministry of reconciliation…all as effective ministers and child-like ambassadors…co-equal in value and diverse in function with a unique set of spiritual gifts designed for deployment wherever we influence. Ultimately, the heart of Commission U is to decompartmentalize faith and work so it becomes faith at work…at our work.

Graphic per Vicki Wilstermann/Ryan Hall

Saturday Night Life

Imagine being Rabbi Schacter moments after Patton’s army had liberated Buchenwald.

The first Jewish chaplain surveying the horror where hundreds of starving men piled in bunks from floor to ceiling. Though they had been freed, they remained in their barracks, numb to the sight of another uniform.

After all, new suits just meant new oppression and new abuse. Why leave camp to be battered and beaten again?

Then suddenly the silence breaks.

“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden, Ihr zint frei!” – “Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!”

Slowly but surely, reality sets in…those sweet words of freedom spoken by one they now knew to be their own…

…the only one who could convince them they were truly free.

World-Gates-of-the-camp-of-Buchenwald-78747408

For some of you reading this, like the prisoners, you’re desperate for release, you’re hungry for life, but past defeats and present turmoil have stalemated you. Like a car in neutral, you’re going somewhere, yet feel inert as life races on.

If you can relate, I want to encourage you to consider what today stands for.

For once upon a time, Jesus felt the same way you did…

…when nailed to a tree…

…he took every fear, hate, and dirty little secret upon himself…

 …and died for the redemption of man.

But that was ~2,000 years ago…yesterday.

As for today, its significance is often lost in the shadow of the cross. For while Jesus atoned our sins on Friday, it wasn’t until Saturday he ensured we could live free from them.

Granted, Jesus redeemed us from sin after judicially becoming it, but he knew sin had to go somewhere. Thus, with joy still set before him (Hebrews 12:2), he carried our sin to hell…so we could permanently be undefined by it.

Unfortunately, for many of us, like the Buchenwald captives, we base our identity in past and present circumstance. We know it’s for freedom Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1), but are still skeptical thinking it’s going to disappoint in the hell of the moment.

However, when we remember Saturday…the day Jesus ripped the gates off Hades’ hinges¹, deposited our sins (past, present, and future), and withdrew keys to our victory…we ultimately find freedom in full where sin is not only confessed and repented, but renounced so we can be free from its power.

For while we’re cleansed through confession and repositioned through repentance, it’s not until we renounce sin we begin walking in freedom’s direction.

Therefore, if you’re thirsty for breakthrough, remember Christ not only shed his blood² for you, but unlocked freedom’s door so your struggle, your shortcoming…would never define you. Yes, there may be times you feel like a hesitant hostage or a fighter with the wind knocked out; however, once you receive the power Christ bought you on Saturday, you’ll find the freedom and strength you need to renounce the bondage of sin’s baggage.

Regardless of where you’re at this Easter, remember freedom is more than cleansing term; it’s an identity term! Hence, why we have every reason to rest in Rabbi Schacter’s charge 73 years in the making…

   “Peace be upon you, all…you are free!

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Cover photo creds: Peg Pondering Again

Footnotes

  1. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/he-descended-into-hell
  2. As the final scapegoat

The True Meaning Behind ‘Spring Forward’ (Part 1)

After last week’s intro on ‘springing forward’, I want to drill down and discuss how this looks when we love with a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5).

But before we dig in, let’s refresh ourselves on where we’re going. As previously defined, to ‘spring forward’ is to allow God’s wellsprings of life to spring up within; however, how this happens, as we’ll unpack in this series, depends on our surrender, or as Romans 1:17 puts it, “springing from faith in a way that awakens more faith“.

Granted, the subject lends to an array of starting points; thus, to simplify, let’s begin with the two greatest commandments as expressed through 1 Timothy 1.

First The Message (v. 5-7)

 “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God. Those who fail to keep to this point soon wander off into cul-de-sacs of gossip. They set themselves up as experts on religious issues, but haven’t the remotest idea of what they’re holding forth with such imposing eloquence.

Now The Amplified

But the goal of our instruction is love [which springs] from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some individuals have wandered away from these things into empty arguments and useless discussions, wanting to be teachers of the Law [of Moses], even though they do not understand the terms they use or the subjects about which they make [such] confident declarations.

Note Paul’s emphasis on love as life source reminiscent to 1 Corinthians 13:1:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 

Essentially, Paul is reminding us how the evidence of our faith must be rooted in selfless love and a life ready to receive it.

‘Cause truth is: If what we model springs only from good intention, then we risk insulating the sincerity of our faith and the purity of our heart from its overflow1.

Now consider 1 Timothy 1:13b-16

But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus…[who] came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost…I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

Applying our premise to Paul’s testimony, we find if we want to love with a pure heart, we must surrender² with the intent to receive mercy and faith through grace. In this way, we posture ourselves not only to abide in humility, but also to embrace God’s joy as strength while persevering in unceasing prayer³ (see James 1:12).

From there, once repentance4 becomes rhythm, we can better live Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4:8-9 in the sense we’re…

  • Transformed by the renewing of our minds to better discern God’s will…
  • Equipped to know whatever is honorable, true, admirable…and yes, you guessed it…pure
  • Empowered to love and pray for/speak life to challenging, unreciprocating personalities.

Remember the ultimate goal is to allow God’s life to spring up within our wellsprings. Therefore, to purify our flow, we must purge the contaminants of insecurity, offense, fear, anxiety, and self-reliance while filtering in Psalm 51:10/Matthew 5:8 through the heart-cry of…

“Lord, create in me what will allow me to see AND reflect you!”

…a pure heart surrounded in steadfast spirit.

In closing, I encourage you…

  • Draw near to God with a true heart (Hebrews 10:22) in full assurance of faith…
  • Cleanse yourself from what is dishonorable…fleeing youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:21)…
  • Purify your wells by substituting any form of worldly reliance (performance, excellence, likability, even perceived integrity) for a Holy Spirit reliance through which you can discover what you were made to long for: love from a pure heart
  • Continue pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace…along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).

tenor

Stay tuned next time when we’ll tackle part 2 in our ‘spring forward’ series: maturing faith from holy confidence. In the meantime, if you have any questions and/or need prayer concerning this issue, feel free to contact me or Lys at your convenience and we’d be delighted to offer our support.

Here’s to the journey…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. For which it was designed
  2. As “a life open to God”
  3. As a blessed (happy, spiritually prosperous, favored) man/woman of God
  4. Repentance = not only confessing our sin, but repenting and renouncing it

Cover photo creds: Yelp

The True Meaning Behind ‘Spring Forward’ (Intro)

It’s a snowy night as I drive in a galaxy far, far away…

…a dusky night lit with flakes blasting the beams of my Millennial Falcon.

Low on tread, but high in spirit, my mind goes warp speed as I reset the clock.

Why do we spring forward on a Sunday morning, anyway? 

The seconds tick to the beat of the ‘shield.

And then it hits me…

…how we spring forward¹ on the day of rest…

…set apart so we can drink from whom springs up living waters within us (John 4:14).

Constantly flowing, always satisfying…even in the grayest doldrums.

For many of us, springing forward in spiritual terms is easier said than done. We crave the refreshment of God’s living water yet to a lesser extent what gets us there.

For instance, we may be thirsty for God’s grace, but not so much letting love spring from a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5), faith from holy confidence (Romans 15:13, Hebrews 10:19) or cutting off springs of resentment (Hebrews 12:15).

However, when we consider God’s wells spring life for our wellsprings of life (i.e. heart; Proverbs 4:23), we ultimately find all his springs are in us (Psalm 87:7)². As a result, we can spring forward when we allow God to spring up.

Granted, this leveling up process takes time, discipline, and koinonia. Yet, even if you think you lack one of these elements or don’t have what it takes to ‘cross the river’, remember it’s not what you have, it’s what already dwelling inside you…

…the very reason Israel sang, “Spring up, O well” (Numbers 21:17).

Looking ahead, I want to unpack how we can better abide in these springs of life³ so we can spring from faith and lead in faith in a way that awakens more faith.” (Romans 1:17)

In the meantime, as we near Easter in this season of lent, let’s position ourselves for God to spring up new life so we can spring forward.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. And fall back
  2. Whether in mountain or valley (Psalm 104:10).
  3. God’s righteousness reveals

Photo cover creds: 4K Spring Field Flowers Image