In the book The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, Christopher Wright provides an excellent analysis on mission and the public square. Wright acknowledges that the mission of God’s people is far too big to be left only to “missionaries.” If we are to fully engage in the mission of God, then it certainly has to take place in and through our vocations. However it is so very easy to get sucked up into the daily grind of working and living that we fail to see where and how to step into God’s activity in the world around us.
Most Christians live in the ordinary everyday world, working, making a living, raising families, paying taxes, contributing to society and culture, getting along, doing their bit. But in what sense is the life of believers living in the “ordinary” realm – what we call the public square – part of the mission of God’s people?
Meant for more?
Has God called us to a particular vocation for His purposes? Is God active in our places of work? Is He even interested in the public square? Wright answers:
Many Christians seem to operate on the everyday assumption that God is not. Or at least, they assume that God is not interested in the world of everyday work for its own sake, as distinct from being interested in it as a context for evangelism. God, it would seem, cares about the church and its affairs, about missions and missionaries, about getting people to heaven, but not about how society and its public places are conducted on earth.
The result of such dichotomized thinking is an equally dichotomized Christian life. In fact it is a dichotomy that gives many Christians a great deal of inner discomfort caused by the glaring disconnect between what they think God most wants and what they most have to do. Many of us invest most of the available time that matters (our working lives) in a place and a task that we have been led to believe does not really matter much to God – the so-called secular world of work – while struggling to find opportunities to give some leftover time to the only thing we are told does matter to God – evangelism.
Dispersed throughout chapter thirteen, Wright offers four questions to readers on their view of work as part of God’s mission. The questions provide a great challenge not only of our view of vocation, but also how our work relates to, and affects the work of others in the public square.
4 Questions Every Marketplace Leader Should Ask
The first question we need to ask those who seek to follow Jesus in the marketplace is: Do you see your work as nothing more than a necessary evil, or only as the context for evangelistic opportunities? Or do you see it as a means of glorifying God through participating in his purposes for creation and therefore having intrinsic value? How do you relate what you do in your daily work to the Bible’s teaching about human responsibility in creation and society?
The second question we need to ask of all those who seek to follow Jesus in the marketplace is this: Where, in all your activity, is the deliberate acknowledgment of, and submission to, the divine auditor? In what way does accountability to God impinge on your everyday work?
The third question we have to ask of those who follow Jesus in the marketplace is: How do you perceive the governance of God in the marketplace (which is another way of seeking the kingdom of God and his justice), and what difference does it make when you do? Is it really the case that “Heaven rules” on Sundays, but The Market rules from Monday to Friday?
A fourth question arises for the follower of Jesus in the marketplace: In what ways is your daily labour transformed by the knowledge that it is all contributing to that which God will one day redeem and include within his new creation?
Which of these questions is most helpful in your vocational context? How else do you see or experience God’s involvement/activity in your marketplace?