Previously, I had written an essay, entitled “An Overview of Marketplace Ministry (MPM) Models,” offering a brief overview of eleven distinct but often highly integrated categories of marketplace ministry. Oddly enough, the one model category (now that I am up to twelve and others may very well yet emerge) that I neglected to include is the very one into which my own ministry (also named Eden’s Bridge) fits.
In 1997, a man from Pennsylvania laid hands upon me and prophesied that I was to become “deacon of deacons,” literally, servant of servants. As I understand my calling, I am to serve those serving Christ and the world in ministry, facilitating their ministries. The specific corner of the mission and ministry world of my work is in God’s movement in the marketplace. My main role is to provide information, whether raw data, such as statistical information or agency contact and profile information, or the explications of ideas, most especially in theological and biblical conversations concerning the marketplace, but also in conversations on marketplace ethics, strategic thinking, etc., and so on. From time to time, I also consult with small organizations in their start up or early development phases. In effect, my job is to provide whatsoever God might place in my hands and deem appropriate to share.
This plays well into my interest in being a writer but also my addiction to information. I once informed my spiritual mentor, a retired seminary professor, that one of my personal vexations was my desire to know everything. He laughed out loud and right to my face (oh!, the indignity) then assured me that that is, at least in my case, what eternity is for. And I was reassured and happy to hear it. But I digress.
Bridge ministries connect things, come in many forms, and may very well operate and remain in relative obscurity throughout their life cycle. And they provide a variety of vital services. In an army, bridge ministry equivalents would fulfill a spectrum of supply line duties. Or, in the case of a multinational corporation, bridge ministries would be similar to back office operations like accounting, tech support, or human resources. These ministries are vital to the success of the overarching enterprise (the mission of God) but will typically remain invisible to those being ministered to.
Where Eden’s Bridge has a more general information-based focus, other bridge ministries may provide consulting services for ministries moving into new geographies or forms of ministry in the field. Still others may provide organizational development or funding expertise and training, or help in connecting new or growing ministries with funding sources. As becomes quickly obvious, much like the semi-obscure world of business-to-business (B2B) enterprises, such as accounting or law firms and a myriad of other product and service vendors, bridge ministries play important and diverse roles in the overarching marketplace ministries movement.
Unfortunately, as bridge ministries emerge, they suffer misunderstanding by many Christians who may have a tenuous grasp (or no grasp at all) of God’s movement in the marketplace and the role of business in God’s Kingdom-advancing mission, the redemption of all creation. That suffering can manifest most harshly when trying to determine measurable impacts, and outcomes may be as vague as the entire notion of marketplace ministries to the uninformed.
As missiologists, missionaries, and marketplace Christians move forward in ministering through the auspices of the business community, and the variety and complexity of the multitude of emerging ministries grows, the role of bridge ministries will become increasingly specialized and increasingly necessary. Bridge ministries, like the army’s supply line, may benefit the most from educating the Church at-large to the prevalence of the business model on which all human institutions operate, including business functions obscured by not applying business terminology, such as seeing the budget constraints of households as accounting issues, fundraising outreach and grant writing efforts as the marketing arm of charitable organizations, and the volunteer coordination in the local church as the business world would address human resources (including issues today of volunteer pre-screening and a variety of legal and liability issues!).
God created business – that is, exchange – when Eve was created as Adam’s co-worker, a pre-Fall acknowledgment of the “good” of the division of labor. Now, through the relationships and demonstration of God’s righteousness through marketplace ministries, the next great wave of Kingdom advancement is at hand. And I, and many other obscure workers, are honored to build bridges for the entire enterprise to move as smoothly forward as possible.