Unleashing the Church to Disciple Marketplace Leaders

by Dr. Phil Walker and Renita Reed-Thomson

There is a story told about a frog in a kettle. The frog is placed in a kettle of cold water. The frog does not notice that the water temperature is being turned up gradually until it is too late. He dies from the heat of the water, not realizing the danger he was in.

The Global Church is suffering from the “frog in the kettle” syndrome. As people increase in financial security, they tend to decrease their dependence on God. It is time to get the frog out of the kettle! In many parts of the world the local church has moved from an evangelical, spiritual force in the community to a closed off social activity in the corner. This move away from the vitality of government, education and business is slowly making the local church irrelevant to the community it is called to serve as a light. Like the frog in the pot, we are slowly reaching a boiling point from which we will not recover our critical role and calling. The dropping statistics of church attendance in both Europe and North America is alarming. Failure to make Jesus relevant in the marketplace will lead to a failure of mission. While business as mission has found a niche in the Christian community, it is not fulfilling its potential.

In 2004 the Occasional Paper on Business as Mission from The Lausanne Movement called on the church to disciple and release its members to be lights in the community.

We call upon the church worldwide to identify, affirm, pray for, commission, and release business people and entrepreneurs to exercise their gifts and calling as business people in the world—among all peoples and to the ends of the earth.

In the same proclamation it called on the business people to live out their calling as Ambassadors, moving out of the four walls of the church into the four corners of the marketplace.

We call upon business people globally to receive this affirmation and to consider how their gifts and experience might be used to help meet the world’s most pressing spiritual and physical needs through Business as Mission.

Unfortunately, the call to mutually strengthen the relationship between church and business has largely been unheeded. Renita Reed-Thomson worked in the field of business development through Christian non-profit organizations in West Africa for seven years. While the work was successful, with business people growing in wealth and creating jobs, there was little connection between business and church. The concern was about building good businesses without making good disciples.

Deuteronomy 8: 18 says, “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.” It became especially difficult when someone gave Renita this warning, “Be careful that you are not fattening people’s bellies on their way to hell.” It was during this time that Renita met Dr. Walker, President and co-Founder of International Christian Ministries. He encouraged and challenged her to take the work into the church.  He invited her to come to Kitale in Kenya and teach pastors at Africa Theological Seminary about their role to disciple business leaders.

ICM 1Renita had been told by those in the BAM movement that a link between business members and their pastors in the local church would or could not work. To find out, Renita launched a pilot project in Western Kenya, targeting two churches in each of three towns, with a total of 260 businesses. One church would be the control and one would be the project. The pilot project moved into the churches of pastors who were taught their calling to disciple and encourage the business people in their communities. They, in turn, opened their churches to be centers of training, mentoring and equipping for their business leaders through Renita’s curriculum. After the eighteen months’ study, the research showed the following results:

  • The Churches reported a growth in membership and attendance; growth in giving, and growth in participation of business members in general church activities.
  • Businesses reported significant growth in sales, increasing profits on average of 85%!
  • Business Owners reported a growth in personal household income by 120%.
  • The research also show that business owners grew spiritually as they managed their businesses as God’s stewards.

The initial success of the project has now been multiplied in ever expanding communities. As pastors help business people understand their call of stewards of God’s resources they grow in their commitment to fulfill three universal callings of every Christian: The Great (Creational) Mandate, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission. Out of these universal callings come the “quadruple bottom line” for every believer.ICM 2

The Quadruple Bottom Line

The Great Mandate (being fruitful and multiplying) can be fulfilled through the economic and environmental bottom line by working to help the customer flourish while providing meaningful job opportunities. The Great Commandment provides both a spiritual and social bottom line: love God and love one another. The call is to be living expressions of God’s love to their neighbor, competitors, employees and customers. Finally, the Great Commission is part of a Spiritual bottom line leading us to use the platform of our business to make disciples of all people.

The health of a Church can be measured in the health of its members as they live out their callings to have this quadruple bottom. As they push this into the sphere of influence that God has given them in their workplace they fulfill the call to “make disciples.” Rather than relegating the work of the Great Commission to an Evangelism or Missions Committee, we believe the call is for every member to be discipled to purpose in being the Church from Monday to Saturday in and through their communities.

Too often Christians leave their faith on the church steps as they head into work on Monday. Few realize that God’s call Monday-Saturday is to worship through work. The goal of Discipling Marketplace Leaders is to move people into ministry the other six days of the week. This is done by helping them understand that they have a holy calling to be Christ’s ambassadors in their classrooms, their garages, and the halls of government. This requires an intentional discipling ministry by the church to equip, encourage, and train all people (the majority of our church members) who are engaged in business, education, and government to fulfill God’s call to be his agents of transformation.

God has called us, as the Church, to become unleashed from the four walls of the church building to transform our communities with the light of Jesus. We are committed to taking the light of Christ into the four corners of the Marketplace, impacting business, government and education. This is not a goal or a hope, or wishful think. It is an ongoing reality as we see pastors and their staff move from program directors to people disciplers.

Our goal: empowering the Church to reach every nation by discipling every member.   

 Join us for our Summer Series on The BAM Review Blog, summer 2016. We’ve asked BAM leaders and practitioners to write about topics they are passionate about for a series of one-off blogs throughout the summer.

Dr. Phil Walker is the President of International Christian Ministries. ICM was launched in 1986 to meet the growing need for discipleship in Kenya.

Renita Reed-Thomson works with Christian Reformed World Missions in the role of Discipling Marketplace Leaders International Coordinator and is a partner with ICM in their Church-based Business as Mission program.