All economic transactions involve human relationships, either overt, such as buying fruit at a street stand from the operator, or obscure, as in the electronic shifts in global capital markets. Somewhere there are human actors on both ends of the transaction and often many involved along the way. Our behavior in those transactions always reveals character to some degree, whether we are a bullying negotiator out of stinginess and greed or offer the customer free add-ons as an act of gratitude for their patronage.
By similar degrees, our Christian witness in the marketplace is valid in how our behavior demonstrates the grace and truth of our redemption, delivered from the foibles and fear of the sinful, broken human condition. As Christians we should find ourselves able and willing to be more forgiving and generous than we expect from the worldly. How this plays out, like the degrees of separation along the spectrum of the transactions themselves, along a spectrum from overt witness, invoking the name of Christ within the conversations surrounding the exchange, to the obscurity of simply being fair, gentle, kind, and generous, letting our actions speak in letting the relationship unfold, always has impact.
In the past two decades, there has been a groundswell of awareness and documentation of marketplace impacts by Christian practitioners. A few years back, Mark L. Russell even put together a great book, entitled Our Souls at Work: How Great Leaders Live Their Faith in the Global Marketplace (Russell Media, 2010), to help capture how the influence of Christ leads these leaders as Kingdom witnesses in their professional lives.
The only downside to Russell’s book is that it is a teaser in that many Christians who read it may think “That’s great for them, they are already wealthy or in other positions of great influence, able to do great things for God. . . . but, who am I?”
I will here resort to endorsing perhaps the most powerful yet underutilized evangelistic weapon: our testimonies. We are too often told that we must witness (overtly) telling everyone about Jesus. And I agree that should never be far from our lips. But testimony is the recounting by a witness of what they have seen happen. In Joshua 4, Joshua commanded the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel to each take up a stone to build a monument in that place to commemorate the event of the Jordan River parting, “so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off’” (Joshua 4:6-7).
These stones were not the miracle itself but merely markers to remind the Israelites of God’s historic act. Our testimony is first and foremost focused on the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ. But God adds our life events, that also serve witnesses, such that we are not simply proclaiming the Cross and Resurrection. We are also proclaiming our transformation into becoming the Sons (both female and male) of God as acts of revelatory grace amidst God’s mission in the world (Romans 8:19).
It is by the very presence and power of the Holy Spirit that we are changed, from glory to glory, and through the recollection of the transformative events of our lives, founded in Christ, that we shall, and already are, overcoming the world (Revelation 12:10-11), ushering the Kingdom of God into the world by our acts of righteousness, even in the marketplace. The character transformation of God’s children influences our behavior and fundamentally changes not only how we view the roles of work, stewardship, and exchange in God’s Kingdom, but how we take on the tasks and attitudes of our work, as part of “taking up our cross daily” (Luke 9:23)
So now to the task at hand: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 15). I would like to collect, compile, and share the stories of how your faith influences your work. Examples may range from the overt, such as Zion Café in Thailand, sending forth street ministry, to Kufi Coffee in Kentucky, which gives back by their Cows for Communities program, to more obscure practices by those who simply have taken new approaches to how they conduct business and treat all those in relationship to their business, including employees, vendors, customers, and their communities.
As I mentioned before, it is easy to get hold of the stories of those in prominent places as their visibility gives them a platform. But just as there are few who attain to such heights of public acclaim, their stories are few. On the other hand, the stories of everyday Christians, diligently seeking the Lord in all they do, are innumerable. The stories of the prominent may come as refreshing rains in the midst of a drought but the testimonies of the multitude are like a great, watering river through the desert.
Would you please contact me so that we can share your story of faith and vocation? I want to demonstrate to the Church and the world that we can each make a difference, even if in small ways, and all to the glory of God. As our testimonies “leak out” into the world, when the world sees the generosity, the very grace, of God lived out, that kindness will help draw them to repentance. Your story is far and away your most powerful and impacting witness. Please share them with us all. Anonymity can be completely protected as needed or desired, so please contact me…your story is important to encourage the Church and to share the love of God with the world.
NOTE: Please pass this post / link along to any and all BAM practitioners. There has been repeatedly spoken a desire to compile a collection of BAM project and initiative stories such that others may learn from, and not have to re-plow, the fields that have already been worked. Thank you.
Feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.