This article seeks to answer in basic terms how the Gospel transforms institutions like business and the workplace as well as nations. We understand that the Gospel transforms individuals when they repent and turn to Christ in faith. Yet, how does this translate into transforming business and the workplace outside the four walls of the Church? Yes, people can get saved outside the four walls of the church, but how does the Gospel actually change the institutions built by the people? That is what this article seeks to look at. My thesis is quite simple: Christians who have been individually touched and changed by the Gospel and brought into Salvation are to go out and be bold in their faith, living the Gospel before the eyes of the world.
Author: Jorah Benson
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:14-16, NAS).
My question is this: If 99% of the world’s individuals where true Christians, would the institutions run by those people be corrupt still? I say, “No.” The institutions are just a reflection of what is going on in the heart of man. And if the heart of man is ruled by the Holy Spirit instead of Satan and the flesh, could we have any result other than Gospel transformation? No. Therefore, the foundation is this: be bold in all areas of life in faith and in good works for the glory of God. We seek to bring the kingdoms of this world into alignment to the Kingdom of God. How could we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10) and not work towards that end?
A major foundation of taking the Gospel to the world and into the marketplace is the priesthood of all believers. A priest is one who intercedes and ministers between God and man. It is reminiscent to a time when the Levites would minister before the Lord on behalf of the people. In the same way, Christ is our priest, mediator between God and man. Christ,
"In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5:7-10).
Christ opened up the way to God for us (Heb 10:19-22) and now that we have free access to the Father, we are to work as priest on behalf of the unbelieving and unsaved world around us. Peter says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Why? “…so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him…” We have been saved and given the mantle of the priesthood so that we can speak up boldly before the nations. We have access to God because of the work of Christ on the cross, but the unbelieving and unrepentant as of now are still in the dark with no access to God. We are to bridge that gap. Ed Silvoso says, “The Scriptures state that every believer is a priest (see Eph. 4:12; Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). Since priests are ministers, it follows that there has to be a call to ministry in the marketplace, as that is where the bulk of church members operate day in and day out” (2007, 65). Loren Cunningham says it this way, “Jesus called all of his followers to be nation builders. He told us to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Nation builders may go out as missionaries in the traditional sense, or they may go as led of the Lord into specific occupations to apply God’s Word there…” (2007, 182). Christians are called to proclaim Christ in public, not being afraid of the cost (Matt 10:24 -39).
Now, how does one do this in the workplace? It is easy to preach the Gospel from a pulpit, but difficulty gets added when one is in the workplace. Silvoso says, “The vast majority of marketplace ministers have been called to influence others through relationships and channels in the workplace” (2007, 66). First, we must stand up for righteousness in the workplace. We cannot take part in the coarse joking that occurs often times in blue-collar work (Eph 5:4). Is there a situation where greed is prevalent like in corporate white-collar work? Christians ought to stand for righteousness not living lives of greed and immorality (Eph 5:3). This is one way we can influence our workplace. A Second is by publicly speaking the Gospel to others. We must live the Gospel in word and deed (Colossians 3:17). Ed Silvoso says, “If our job and placement in the marketplace are intrinsically spiritual” because we are first and foremost priests of God “secular training alone would not be enough to solve problems that have spiritual dimensions and spiritual roots. Everything has a spiritual dimension; therefore, the old paradigm that dichotomizes ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ is not valid” (2007, 69). Many times, though not deliberately, we do split our work life from our church life. In actuality, we are Christians 24/7 not only for 2 hours on Sunday. When we dichotomize our life, we will not have Gospel transformation in our workplace.
Yet, living our life in the power of the flesh will be catastrophic. Not, only is it deadly for the so-called Christian to do so (Rom 8:13), but it will not bring change in the world around us (2 Cor 3:6). It must be in the power of the Spirit. Christ specifically told the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they had the power of the Sprit in their life, then and only then, go out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The Spirit is for mission. Silvoso says, “There is only one way to do God’s work in the marketplace effectively, and that is by and through the Spirit of God” (2007, 69). Silvoso continues,
"the highest level [of marketplace involvement] consists of those who operate in the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit to bring transformation in the marketplace. Their objective is not simply to have a good day at work but also to see first their job and eventually their industry, city and nation transformed. This is why they consistently take the presence and the power of God where evil is entrenched until it crumbles and becomes nothing more than a pile of rubble. In other words, they are marketplace ministers who do not dichotomize work and pulpit, because they have blended them into one" (2007, 72).
How is the Church to walk daily in the power of the Spirit to bring this great needed transformation in the marketplace of our society? Paul says,
"You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?" (Gal 3:1-5).
The obvious answer is by faith. Everything in the Christian life must be done by and through the Spirit and we walk in the Spirit by faith.
Business, Markets, Economy and the Gospel
How does the Gospel transform not just the spiritual aspect of our institutions, but also the physical? I will call this business. Since in our businesses are where we generate capital and wealth, I will focus on how the Gospel transforms economies, labor, markets, and business. I see three basic areas how the Gospel transforms people in the area of money.
God owns everything, therefore we steward God’s resources (money) for: 1) the advancement of His Kingdom (Rom 15:24; 3 John 1:5-8; Phil 1:3-5/4:10-18/ 1 Cor 9/ 2 Cor 8-9), 2) temporarily helping the poor (Prov 19:17; Acts 10:4; James 2:1-10; 1 Tim 6:17-19) and 3) long-term helping the poor (Prov 14:23-24; Prov 6:6-11). I will look at each in turn.
We steward God’s capital in the advancement of His Kingdom by giving our money to workers who focus 100% on the task of the Great Commission; this has eternal impact. This is first, giving through our local church and second, by giving directly to individuals who may not be connected to our local church, but are still our brother and sister in the Lord. I will focus on the second point mainly because we are all well aware of tithing in the local church. Plus, the second can occur directly instead of giving through the church even if still being part of the Church. A clear passage that speaks of the second is 3 John 1:5-8. It says,
"Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; 6 and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth" (NAS).
They were strangers – not part of that local body - and, yet, they acted faithfully to support these workers of the Gospel. In so doing they became fellow workers in the Gospel with them. Paul is another worker worthy of consideration in his topic. Paul did not plant the church in Rome. He was not known to them. This is why Paul had to write a long introduction to the Romans. Then Paul had to lay out His theology of the Gospel to show he was not a heretic; this took the whole book. Then, Paul gets to the point of the book in these words, “but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you…” (Rom 15:23-24). Romans was a missionary support letter! And a most robust one at that! Sometimes it is said that missionaries are expected to “tent-make” because Paul supported himself with a side-hustle. Yet, when one looks into it, Paul was supported by the Church for an over whelming majority of the time. And when he was tent-making it was for mainly teaching purposes. Rob Parker says,
"Even though it is assumed Paul made tents throughout the entirety of his ministry, that was simply not the case. Paul only made tents on three occasions in his thirty-plus years of ministry. He made tents while ministering at Ephesus, for a period of about three years; while at Corinth, which was about eighteen months (he didn’t make tents the whole time he was there); and then at Thessalonica, which most scholars agree was only for a couple of months" (2015, 98-99).
This is included for the reason that if and when the Church grasps this (that it is God’s will for many more new missionaries to be sent), thousands of missionaries wanting to go to desperately needed locations will be sent over-night. In addition to this, imagine if industry and business grasped this and local businesses started sending missionaries! The Great Commission would be completed, and Jesus could come back and set-up His Kingdom on earth (Matt 24:14). As of yet, the work is not done.
The second way to steward God’s money is through temporarily helping the poor; this has short-term impact. What do I mean by “temporarily?” We need to be gracious to the poor. We need to give to those who are in need. Yet, we are not to place them in a situation where they are dependent upon us for everyday life continually. Proverbs 19:17 says, “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed.” Christ was anointed to preach to the poor (Luke 4:18)! God looks upon the plight of the poor – so should his Church – both physically and spiritually. Yet, we never aim to create a dependency that locks them in poverty for the long-term. That is why I categorize this as short-term or temporary help. Scott Allen and Darrow Miller say,
"Consider the failed “War on Poverty” in the United States. In a comment that perfectly captured the mindset of so many well-intentioned government officials of the time, one Johnson Administration aid quipped 'The way to eliminate poverty is to give the poor enough money so they won’t be poor anymore.' Armed with this perspective, the government spent billions of dollars on welfare programs between 1960 and 1990. And yet the number of poor people in America actually increased during these three decades, thus leading to the elimination of the welfare experiment during the Clinton Administration" (2006, 18).
If this is an economic principle, we ought to be able to see similar results in other regions of the world not just in America. Allen and Miller continue with a case study in Africa,
"Africa is the largest per capita recipient of foreign aid in the world. Between 1980 and 1988, sub-Saharan Africa received U.S. 83 billion dollars in foreign aid. And yet during that same period of time, living standards and GDP actually declined in the same region. Syndicated Columnist Walter Williams has noted that 'Nearly every sub-Saharan African nation is poorer now than when they became independent during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Since that time, food production has fallen by roughly 20 percent. Since 1975, per capita gross domestic product has fallen at a rate of half of 1 percent annually'” (2006, 18).
Thus, giving to the poor ought to be a stepping stone for them to rise out of poverty. It should be given with the intention that in the future they themselves can help others like they themselves were helped. There is no set time limit for length of giving. It is different in each case. It can take two months in one case and ten years in another, but our mindset in helping the poor is for them to be self-sufficient and God-dependent.
The third way business can steward God’s money is by long-term helping the poor; this has long-term, generational impact. The long-term Kingdom mindedness is by creating jobs from the use of our capital. Entrepreneurship can be sanctified and used for the Kingdom. Silvoso says,
"How is a rich person expected to help the poor? It is not by he himself becoming poor through self-dispossession, but by moving idle capital (possessions and property) into the marketplace for the purpose of developing products and creating jobs as well as making profits with which to alleviate the plight of the poor. Keeping those assets from entering the marketplace, whether out of fear, selfishness, insecurity or all of those reasons, will negatively impact the economy (and, by extension, those who need help the most) by failing to generate new capital" (2007, 119-20).
This is how one raises a large group or populace out of poverty – by giving them an opportunity to connect with the world market through working and employment. This is done through job creation. Many times, those who are locked in isolation are also locked in poverty. Yet, the Gospel brings people out of isolation, thus connecting them to other people. Unemployment also drops as a fruit of this and people are lifted out of poverty from one generation to the next. Compassion follows the Gospel. Yes, this job creation requires creativity and wisdom, but the Gospel encourages that creativity, which leads to new wealth for the poor through employment opportunity. “In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty. 24 The crown of the wise is their riches, But the folly of fools is foolishness” (Prov 14:23-24, NAS).
Yet, why does Christianity consistently bring wealth wherever it is embraced by the masses of a society? There has to be more to this than merely creativity and job creation. In addition to job creation and having the opportunity of entering the job market, morality and integrity must be present as well and then wealth will follow. This is because morality plays a large role in long-term wealth creation and economic growth. Vishal Mangalwadi says,
"…moral integrity is a huge factor behind the unique socio-economic-political success of the west. Where did this morality come from? Why isn’t my society equally trustworthy?
Education was a key force that transformed Western Europe. Religious reformers such as Martin Luther and John Amos Comenius universalized education precisely to civilize generations that could create a new Europe. They made character formation a primary function of education because they accepted the Jewish ideas that God was holy; God had given us moral laws such as the Ten Commandments and obedience to His Word was the pre-condition of Shalom, the source of good life, disobeying God’s moral law was sin that did not go unpunished. Yet, sinners could repent, receive forgiveness and new life. This good news became the intellectual foundation of the modern West, the force that produced moral integrity, economic prosperity and political freedom" (2019, 8-9).
Mangalwadi continues in showing how corruption, the opposite of Gospel morality, plays an important part in poverty,
"Every year in August, Transparency International (TI) – a non – governmental agency in Germany – publishes what it calls Corruption Perception Index. It lists countries from the least corrupt to the most corrupt. No country is totally free from corruption. But some countries are so corrupt that TI is not able to survey them. These countries are ruled by mafias, gangs and warlords. Their chronic poverty proves what Adam Smith, a father of Capitalism, knew: the kind of real-world economics you have is the result of the kind of morality you have, which in turn is a result of the kind of philosophy you have" (2019, 11).
This shows how individual responsibility is connected to communal responsibility. Someone can help you (communal), but if you do not get off the couch and work you will be locked in poverty (individual). And when the members of the community at large take individual responsibility for their own actions by 1) working hard and living on a budget (not wasting their wealth), and 2) by being kind and loving toward others (moral), poverty will drop, and wealth will increase - individually and overall. Imagine if everyone had the mindset to work hard and become self-sufficient and at the same time generous and willing to give to those in need! The way to develop this morality is with a Biblical worldview. Truth cannot be relative; there must be absolute truth – right and wrong. This is how the Gospel brings transformation – not only by giving us a new heart in Justification, but also by renewing our minds with Sanctification.
Next, how does the Gospel transform whole nations? Sure, a small group can be transformed by the Gospel and rise out of poverty, but can a whole nation with all its institutions be transformed as well? Is this possible for a government to be transformed? Is it possible for universities to be transformed? Many will say, “Why try?” We know the world will get more wicked as we get closer to Christ’s return. Yet, Christ told us to stay busy until He returns (Luke 19:13). We are to ever be on the offensive seeking to build God’s Kingdom. Nowhere are we told to be passive and let the world go to Hell apart from our extravagant work against the Kingdom of darkness. Paul says, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Gal 6:9). In due time we will see the fruit of our labor! Yes, that will be when Christ returns, but we play a part in establishing His Kingdom on earth now and we will see the fruit then. We are not to lose heart in doing good in both small and large-scale circumstances – from the individual standing in front of us to the whole nation at large. An example will give us encouragement.
Many times, we look back and say, “The good ol’ days” not realizing that the “good ol’ days” were not so good! An example is England prior to John Wesley. Historian Philip Van Ness Myers describes the time like this,
"Among the higher classes there was widespread infidelity; religion was a matter of jest and open scoff. The Church was dead; the higher clergy were neglectful of their duties; sermons were cold and formal essays. The lower classes were stolid, callous, and brutal. Drunkenness was almost universal among high and low. The nation was immersed in material pursuits and was without thought or care for things ideal and spiritual” (1920, 423).
Along comes the Wesley brothers and George Whitefield. The Lord used them to spark and lead the Great Awakening. That spiritual Great Awakening became the foundation for the founding of the American government. Donald Drew says of John Wesley,
"John Wesley's life was a triumph of God's grace. Under physical attack and vituperation thousands of times, never once did he lose his temper. He was prepared to endure a blow if the dealing of it would diffuse the hysteria. When struck by a stone or cudgel, he would wipe away the blood and carry on preaching. He loved his enemies and, do what they would, they could not make him discourteous or angry. It is no exaggeration to say that John Wesley—and all these things were true of Charles and Whitfield also—instilled into the British people a new and Christian conception of courage. His tranquil dignity, absence of malice and anger, and above all, the evidence of God's Holy Spirit working in his life, eventually disarmed his enemies and won them for Christ... Gradually, soldiers, sailors, miners, fishermen, smugglers, industrial workers, thieves, vagabonds, men, women and children listened intently, in apt reverent attention, removed their hats and knelt, often emotionally overcome as he pointed these thousands upon thousands to God's grace. For over fifty years, to such drink-sodden, brutalized and neglected multitudes, Wesley held out the Word of Life" (2019, 6).
John Wesley did not stop at evangelism. Cunningham explains how he discipled these thousands so they could grow in the grace of the Gospel. He formed many small groups and it was in these small groups that discipleship took place. These new believers grew in Sanctification and holiness (2007, 40). They read the Bible, prayed, and obeyed. This revival spread through the preaching to the poor and destitute. From there is spread among high and low. As the Holy Spirit continued to work, the moral and spiritual climate continued to change to such an extent that America at its founding could be called “a Christian nation.” This is not an isolated occurrence. When we study this, we see that the Holy Spirit has done this in many times and many locations. As Loren Cunningham lays out in his book The Book That Transforms Nations: The Power of the Bible to Change Any Country, God has done this with William Carey in India, Abraham Kuyper in the Netherlands, Hans Nielson Hauge in Norway, South Korea, the Island of Pitcairn, Martin Luther in Germany, and John Calvin in Geneva (2007, 51-107).
What happens when the Church lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, being obedient to the Spirit’s leading and the Spirit starts to move in power to the surrounding area through the people who inhabit those areas outside the church building? People get saved in all areas of society – not just a few in church on Sunday. Many people never enter a Church; the Church cannot expect the lost world to go listen to their pastor preach on Sunday. They must live the Gospel in the marketplace. When the whole of a local church lives with intentionality like this, transformation can come to a community. When a whole community lives the Gospel in public, it can change a whole county, the county-state, state-nation. Darrow Miller says, “Then, as a critical mass of individuals is discipled, culture is to be redeemed, with just structures and institutions being formed in society” (1998, 4). Cunningham points out that a “Critical mass” is not one specified percentage. It is different in every society, “It isn’t even a majority. You’ll know critical mass has been reached when you see the cultural tone of a society begin to change. It’s a tipping point” (2007, 145).
What is my role in this? We all have a different role to play. Some things are the same and others are only for you or me individually. The things that are the same are personal discipleship. We all are responsible for our own relationship with God. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). We must be people of the Bible and people of intense prayer – reading and praying vigorously. No great move of God has occurred without these two things. We must be worshipers of God in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24) – people of holiness seeking more of God.
The next thing is to identify where I belong in the Body of Christ – local pastor, frontier missionary, businessman, or blue-collar laborer – all are important, all are needed. For me (Jorah) that is a frontier missionary. The Lord called me out of the Military to locations where I was once instructed to fight. Now, I am instructed to give them the Gospel instead of bullets. When I read passages in Scripture that speak of frontier missions, my heart sings with joy and excitement and with an intense desire to go to the farthest reaches of the globe where Christ is not yet named and glorified among them. Cunningham points out that Christians are needed in all seven areas of society: “Family, Religion (church and mission), Education, Celebration (arts, entertainment, sports), Public Communication (media), Economy (including business, science, and technology), and Government” (2007, 46). We must see where we fit in this list and work vigorously to claim it for the Kingdom of God. All are needed, but Cunningham says, “…we especially need people who are willing to go to other countries as missionaries – that is, as sent ones” (Cunningham, 2007, 182). This is where I am called. When I read Cunningham’s statement, my heart sings with joy! Yes, we do need more missionaries! Here I am, Lord, send me! Lord mobilize Your Church!
In conclusion, we must not hide our light under a basket (Matt 5:15). We must live it openly before the world. If we, the church, truly wish to see transformation come to our location and the greater world around us, we must be on the offensive with the Gospel. We must live lives of love and service, humility and compassion, faith and hope. There is no easy way around it. We cannot sit on the couch and expect God to save the person standing in front of us without us opening our mouths. Salvation is a supernatural work of God, but God uses human means (Rom 10:8-13). If we all can say with Paul, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16), then we can also say with him, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). This is what it will take to see our cities and institutions transformed for the glory of God. We have no fear; our lives are hidden in Christ. There is no safer place in the universe than in Christ. That is where I want to see the world around me as well – in Christ.
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