Working with God

Some of the Knysna and Cape Town teams went to pray at parliament.

Just over six years ago, Milton left campus ministry for the marketplace. Even though he knew theologically that every Christian is called to work and business, God still had a lot to teach him.

This past November I had the privilege of traveling to South Africa to serve as a Kingdom business consultant with Rep. Rep (short for Repurposing Business) trains and consults business leaders and entrepreneurs in aligning their businesses with biblical principles so that societies are transformed and impacted for the Kingdom. I had just finished Rep training earlier that year, and I wanted an opportunity to put my training into practice. I spent two weeks consulting local businesses: facilitating discussions on core business practices, identifying areas where Kingdom impact could be increased and laying out actionable strategies to turn those opportunities into reality.

What Did I See and Learn

Business is Spiritual – While I’ve known this to be cognitively true for a long time, I experienced this truth while in Knysna. Consider the context: Knysna is a struggling resort town, beautiful but lacking any real industry (outside of tourism), losing a business a week, and 90% of the people live at or below the poverty line. The potential of small and mid-sized businesses to bring “good news to the poor” – to have a job to live out your God-given calling – is huge! The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and Satan attacked in the midst of this strategic development opportunity. Four days into the venture, our hosts’ parents were brutally murdered. We could have cancelled the rest of the venture, but we chose to press forward instead. Interpret the events how you will, but I saw that this venture was essential to furthering God’s Kingdom and Satan was threatened by that. What I knew in my head became much more real — business is spiritual [warfare] and one of the primary ways God redeems and restores His creation.

Note: One of my teammates wrote a more in-depth account of what happened. Also feel free to browse our team’s blog of the trip.

Business is a platform – One of the greatest deceptions Satan has ever pulled over the church is that work is only a platform – it is only a context to share the gospel and fund true “ministry.” On the contrary, I saw how valuable business is as a setting for Christians to be formed more deeply and completely into the image of Christ. It amazed me to see nominal Christians and even people who were angry with God become transformed and excited about God AND business once they understood:

  • Work is a calling to serve God.
  • There is an abundance of Scripture on work, its relevance, theological significance and practical wisdom for business.
  • Business is a key vehicle God uses to “fill and subdue the earth” and to “seek and save the lost.”

Rep comes into a community seeking to repurpose businesses, but the dirty secret of Rep is that you can’t really repurpose a business without repurposing the leader. In the end, Rep is a discipleship catalyst, helping business leaders see where their work fits into God’s Kingdom and giving them practical action steps to live out their priestly calling. I saw how work and business is often the optimal context for discipleship since it usually does a better job of holistically aligning gifts, calling and experience, instead of trying to pigeonhole individuals into limited service roles inside the traditional church.

One example of this was a real estate couple from Sotheby’s Knysna. Prior to the venture, they were getting ready to leave the business to work on a farm where operations were much more predictable. They couldn’t see the value of their work in God’s Kingdom. But after going through the program, they saw their work as ministry. Specifically, they were excited to learn that theirs is a ministry of hospitality and connection. Providing much more than transactional house-buying services, they can actually care for people by facilitating the community and network development crucial to making a house into a home.

What Next?

The Rep training and subsequent trip to South Africa have been valuable experiences in living out the integrated spiritual life. One of my biggest takeaways is to pray regularly and consistently for daily breakthroughs and miracles in the workplace. In the day-to-day, it’s easy to forget the spiritual nature of work and our dependence on God for favor, success, and transformation. More than the training content, I was blessed and challenged by the culture of dependent and expectant prayer on the trip. I was surrounded by fellow brothers and sisters who modeled and encouraged me in that dependence; they not only understand that work is spiritual, but they also endeavor to prayerfully live out their callings.

Work matters to God. He started it all in Genesis 1 before the Fall, and He grants us the privilege of partnering with Him in His work. Work does not exist just to evangelize to coworkers or to make money so we can support those who do the real ministry. Work is ministry (the Hebrew word for work and worship are actually the same). May we remember our God as we participate in His work to serve our neighbors and create beauty in the world around us.

For more on this topic, I recommend the Rep training and Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor.

Milton

Photo by Lyn Johnson