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Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
I am a marketplace minister. You are a marketplace minister as well; you just may not know it yet. As an ardent advocate of the faith and work movement, I have been intentional to use the phrase marketplace minister. My rationale for this is founded on the belief that what we do through our daily work is ministry. Since the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psalms 24:1), and there is no wall of sacred vs. secular for the believer, I believe that everything we do in the earth becomes a ministry tool for God’s Kingdom.
I often find inspiration from Moses’s time in the desert. This was a Moses who was unrefined and rough around the edges. This was Moses the murderer, who had fled to the desert as his only reprieve from a potential life-long sentence in prison. This Moses had a seemingly fortuitous meeting with God through a burning bush. Three main things characterized the experience: (1) a miraculous encounter, (2) an assignment to engage the marketplace, (3) an assessment of ministry tools.
The miraculous encounter was the burning bush that was never consumed. It was this sight that called Moses off the fugitive path and into communion with God. When God finally had his attention, he began to reveal his intentions for Moses – engaging with Pharaoh (the Egyptian government) to secure the freedom of the Israelites. Of course, like most of us, Moses felt inadequate and continued to respond to God’s instructions with excuses. Yet God’s response was critical. He asked Moses “What’s that in your hand?” In other words, God was encouraging Moses to slow down and make an assessment of his ministry tools.
Too often, we think of ministry strictly in the confines of “church culture.” When we think of God using us, it seems to only include pulpits, four walls, and a figurative steeple. Yet we know that the church and the marketplace belong to God. Ministry therefore does and should happen in the marketplace every day and at all times. Ministry is less defined by geographical and cultural boundaries, and more by intent and motives. When we use any gift, advantage, or influence with the intent to glorify God, this is ministry. We are literally ministering to the Lord, that is, serving him through our work.
So like Moses, we must all assess the various ministry tools at our disposal. Are you a wordsmith, who uses the tools of communication? Perhaps you are an athlete, actor, writer, lawyer, doctor, politician, engineer, or artist. No matter what the tools, when you function in these roles as a way to glorify God, you are a marketplace minister. Your gifts matters. Your ministry matters, and there is no need for a collar or seminary experience as a prerequisite to you functioning as a minister. It’s time for you to realize that your work is ministry.
So I’ll ask you again “What’s in your hand?”
God, thank you for the opportunity to serve as ministers of your gospel, and for your Kingdom. We acknowledge that viewing ourselves as ministers is different, but if you will use us for your glory we are willing vessels. Give us insight on the different tools that you have endowed each of us with as we endeavor to please you. In Jesus name, Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: God’s Call to Moses (Exodus 2:11-3:22)
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