The Marketplace Movement: A Brief Overview
January 27, 2007 • By Pete Hammond
This glance is designed to introduce newcomers and connect current leaders as well as individual participants with the larger stirring of God’
s Spirit in the church. This is a description of what is variously called the marketplace movement by some, while others use terms like M
inistry in daily life, t
he ministry of the baptized, W
orkplace ministry, everyday faith, and a variety of other terms, signaling diversity, breadth, complexity and richness.
One of the dominant characteristics of this movement is the American entrepreneurial spirit. We have a long history of rugged individualistic ventures with lots of independent activity full of vision, passion and adventure. That also means duplication, frequent failures, and competition. I have spent several years trying to connect lots of the players.
Here are a few categories I use to describe this new phenomena among Christians, along with some illustrations of each dimension of the movement:
It is the American way to develop and sell products for any market. That pattern is true for this movement as well. Several different types of products are now available:
A.Books. Since 1932 there have been over 1,500 hundred books published in the English language on various topics and issues integral to this dimension of the kingdom of God on earth. Now we see about a dozen new volumes hit the market every two weeks. There is a gradually increasing number coming from Asia now, and these often reflect some excellent treatment of ethics.
B.Media. There is a steady trickle of videos and a few CD-Rom products now too. I have a collection of about 40 videos, most of which are in the talking head formats, with a few dramatic versions.
C.Publications. A wide variety of journals, newsletters and magazines come and go in this very challenging industry.
D.Research papers and theses. In higher education we are seeing the early stages of research and graduate degree papers that bode well for a young movement that will benefit from biblical, theological and historical reflection.
E.Curricula. There is now steady stream of study helps, Bible study guides, liturgies and application resources coming available. But the producers of these materials struggle to deliver them to markets which are still undocumented, scattered and hard to reach.
F.Electronic. One of the fastest growing resources are web sites dedicated to many aspects of this movement. Some estimate that over 800 are now available, but, as many of us know, these come and go with frightening frequency.
Workplace guilds have existed for centuries. I define a guild as a voluntary association of people with a common interest. In the 20th Century this phenomena has surfaced among Christians in various workplace contexts. Two different forms of guilds are growing.
A.There are now well over one hundred voluntary guilds of Christians in various industries and work world networks. These twentieth century Christian workplace guilds began in the 1940s and 50s with the Christian Legal Society, Christian Medical Society, Officer’s Christian Fellowship, Teacher’s Christian Fellowship and the Nurses Christian Fellowship. The quality of these varies from very poor, unstable and fickle to solid, fruitful and respected. (I do long for this kind of affinity group work to happen within local congregations where believers already gather regularly. I want congregations to develop Christian Education options that are focused on workplace and public life realities, challenges and opportunities faced by God’s people every day.)
B.A new form of guild has emerged in recent years. These are networks of Christians who work in large corporations who band together to help one another. Three that I have engaged are ATT&T, Cocoa Cola and Ford Motor Company. They often function on the company intranet and in small Bible and prayer groups on the job. The first one now has an annual weekend gathering in New Jersey that can draw as many as 500 employees.
A.A wide variety of organizations now serve this activistic grass roots stirring among God’s people. They vary from international groups (e.g: IntChristian Chamber of Commerce. Christian Businessmen’s Committee), to national, regional and local operations within North America. One type of these that is still under the radar is what I term city specific marketplace ministries.By their very nature they seldom know about each other, but I know of over two dozen scattered from Halifax, Nova Scotia to San Jose, CA, Fresno, CA to Orlando, FL and Richmond, VA to Minneapolis, MN.
B.Another organizational dimension is the rise of study centers and educational initiatives. This is a fast growing part of the MP/MDL industry with a very mixed playing field. One reason for this mix is the current business world’s fascination with spirituality, which is all too often based in a new ageworld view. But some of these training and educational centers are distinctly rooted in the evangelical Christian tradition and will be very helpful for the development of the next stage of this movement.
C.A third arena of activity is that of international mission. Americans have a long history of health, education and linguistic mission work. In recent decades we are adding business, agriculture and technology to our cups of cold water@ in mission. There are lots of micro-economic development initiatives these days.
4.The Institutional Church
This area is a basically undeveloped scene because the nature of the MP/MDL movement among everyday work-world Christians is viewed as somewhat of a challenge to business-as-usual in denominations and local parishes. A few Protestant denominations have a national department dedicated to this cause. Among Roman Catholics there is the widely respected work of the National Center for the Laity based in Chicago.Among evangelicals the movement is typically diverse and entrepreneurial with scads of initiatives all over the map. Many of these mirrors the pattern of small businesses where about 70% fail with three years. Among Charismatics, the work is in its early stages with diverse pockets of help coming from very different sources illustrated by Regent University in VA and the Christians in Commerce among Roman Catholic businessmen scattered across the country.
There is little emphasis on these matters at this time among African American and Hispanic American Christians at this stage. The younger Asian American Christians are involved across the movement.
Another intriguing dynamic is within scattered local congregations. There is much to be learned and reported at this level, as there is a growing hunger and a stirring in the pews. Another encouraging, but small, factor is a variety of pastors who are exploring and experimenting with re-connecting Sunday=s gathering for worship and nurture with Monday’s realities. Some of this is fed by the phenomena of second career seekers now flocking to our seminaries. Some of them are bringing their former job concerns and struggles to their pastoral studies. Others are fleeing their former jobs and seeking spirituality away from the rough and tumble of the marketplace.
5.Issues and Content:
There is a wide variety of issues, topics and needs that make up this work. On the biblical and theological front there is a cluster of core issues that need revisiting, renewed treatment and study, and wide teaching. These include the following:
·A biblical and theological understanding of work.
·The priesthood of every believer.
·A review of calling and its meaning for every follower of Christ.
·The nature and practice of witness or evangelism, by every believer, in every place and at all times in both word and deed.
·The nature of the church and its gathered on Sunday and scattered Monday through Saturday reality as the people of God, rather than as one more institution struggling for loyalty and resources.
·A fuller understanding of Jesus’ Lordship over every dimension of life and all of creation.
·A recovery of the ministry as the privilege and responsibility of every one of God's people.
·The radical and pervasive realities of sin and evil impacting every dimension of God's creation, all people and every structure. This is key to the church being salt, light and leaven in its witness to biblical justice.
This is my brief attempt to tell the story of the church re-gaining some basic kingdom elements that will help it fulfill its mission to the world.
I delight in how this work of God’s Spirit among many believers is calling the church to the mobilization of every one of Jesus’children. That bodes well for world-wide evangelism being practiced by all of the family of God, rather than just a few gifted evangelists and missionaries.
By the way, one last thought. This work among many Christians has strong ecumenical potential to rally believers together across old boundaries of institutional church.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Two products stand out as particularly rich resources: Thomas Nelson's Word In Life Study Bible, 1993, >96 &=98 and InterVarsity Press's Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, 1999.
One of the earliest is InterVarsity's Called To The Marketplace four part series released in 1986.
For a survey of some of these see www.ivmdl.org under Directories.
Possibly the best collection of e-information is to be found at www.scruples.org. However, as rich as it is, this site has been dormant for a while.
The longest standing Protestant movement on the marketplace visionis in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, led by director Sally Simmel, and assisted by former steel executive and marketplace ministry author Bill Diehl.
The NCL newsletter Initiatives is edited by NCL founder and Loyola professor Bill Droel. It is excellent and provides thoughtful content and excellent coverage of Roman Catholic work nationwide.
Once again we see a mixed reality. Many Asecond career clergy@ left their workplace careers out of frustration over conflicts and challenges to their faith. Their perspective will not quickly make the connection of Sunday and Monday because of the very reasons they changed locations. The most recent data I read was that the average age among Americas 200+ seminaries now is about 37 years old.
For much broader and more detailed survey of this new movement of God=s church, see the introduction America=s Change: A Seedbed for Marketplace Ministry@ in the new book The Marketplace Annotated Bibliography by Hammond, Stevens & Svanoe, InterVarsity Press, 2002 or my longer Reflections article, Stirrings@ at www.ivmdl.org.