By Larry McCrary, Executive Director
Today, Larry McCrary shares an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released book The Marketspace: Essential Relationships Between the Sending Church, Marketplace Worker, and the Missionary Team where we look at a biblical case study of what it means to leverage our vocations for God’s global glory.
When I read Ephesians 4:11-12, I know I have been guilty of thinking how I can better equip his people for the work of our church on Sunday mornings. I failed to see the global implications of these passages as we equip people in the marketspace. Listen to those words from Paul:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
We shouldn’t be solely focused on how we can build up the Sunday morning service. We shouldn’t be limiting ourselves to the inside of the church building. Christ himself enabled us with the ability to equip believers for works of service, all for his glory. And what better work of service could there be than spreading the gospel?
Ruth Siemens authored an article entitled, “Tentmakers Needed for World Evangelization,” in which she states that “tentmaking is becoming most valuable in today’s world.” In fact, she feels that the international job market (which is a key feature in today’s business world) is an argument for tentmaking because, “it does not exist by accident but by God’s design.” She describes it as God’s repopulation program, transferring millions of hard-to-reach people into freer countries (Turks to Germany, Algerians to France, Kurds to Austria, etc.) and opening doors for Christians in hard to enter countries, so that many hear the gospel.
She further states, “the secular job is not an inconvenience, but the God-given context in which tentmakers live out the gospel in a winsome, wholesome, nonjudgmental way, demonstrating personal integrity, doing quality work and developing caring relationships.”
Consider a biblical case study with Aquila and Priscilla, who are described in Acts 18 as transnational marketspace workers. “After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade” (Acts 18:1-3).
The apostle Paul found Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth. They were recently expelled from Rome due to the uprising. Paul connected with them because they shared the same trade, tentmaking. In fact, it is where we get the term, “tentmaker.” They received Paul into their home and he stayed with them and evidently worked with them. They connected with each other through the marketspace. They had a natural affinity through their work.
Think about how this plays out today: when you meet people, one of the first things you start talking about is where you are from and what is your profession. When I tell people I am a pastor, it often takes the conversation in a definite direction. If the person I am meeting is a pastor, then we can start talking about a large range of subjects. But if I meet an engineer or a pharmaceutical representative, then our conversation has to connect at a level other than work.
Neither Luke nor Paul ever mentioned in their writings that Aquila and Priscilla were in full-time ministry. I think this is significant. This leads me to think that they were involved in marketspace ministry. Consider another important aspect: we read about them in four different cities (Pontus, Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus). They evidently had the skills and ability to move from place to place to practice their trade.
Later in Acts 18:18, we see that Aquila and Priscilla went with Paul and eventually ended up in Ephesus. As marketspace workers, their intentionality was crucial. No matter where they lived, they were engaged in the work of the gospel.
They were coworkers with Paul in Christ Jesus (Romans 16:3)
They risked their lives for Paul (Romans 16:4)
The church was extremely grateful for them (Romans 16:3)
They assisted Paul in Ephesus (Acts 18:18-28)
They hosted a church in their own home (1 Cor. 16:19, Romans 16:3-5)
They instructed Apollos privately to help him to learn more about Jesus (Acts 18:26)
“Here is a perfect example before us — by Christians like Aquila and Priscilla traveling the routes of trade and commerce and carrying their faith wherever they went,” writes John B. Polhill. The intentionality shown by Aquila and Priscilla went beyond their workplace. It also extended into their community, as they showed hospitality, especially in their home. In Scripture, we see the following examples of their hospitality:
A church met in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19, Romans 16:5)
They must have demonstrated hospitality. We see where Paul stayed with them as they shared the same trade (Acts 18:3).
They invited Apollos to their house so they could explain more about Jesus to him (Acts 18:26).
Marketspace professionals do many things on the mission field. They share their faith with not-yet believers. They are disciplemakers wherever they live, work or play. They lead or help with the planting of new churches, minister to those in need, involve their sending churches in partnering overseas, and start Bible studies. They make intentional choices in their daily lives and come alongside one another to pray, encourage, mentor, and learn as they serve in the marketspace, carrying on the legacy left by Aquila and Priscilla.
While most write about Paul and his tentmaking examples, I want to make people who live more like Aquila and Priscilla the focus. They are my heroes. They are people who are literally salt and light as Jesus talked about. They did so wherever they lived. Whatever context they found themselves in. Unfortunately, often we celebrate only the ones who are ordained and appointed. We miss the unbelievable opportunities in a global marketspace to make disciples — ones who find it normal to take the transfer to another country and be salt and light.
Way too often, we hear of people who would love to have their church support them while working overseas, but they learn their church only does that for those they classify as full-time missionaries. We celebrate those who are or who had the opportunity to do this. It is also for you — the man or woman who is called to live on mission in another country. God may be opening doors for you right now to work overseas with a real job. You are needed!