Neil Hart is currently the Executive Head of the Mergon Foundation. Previously he was the Founder and CEO of Boomtown Strategic Brand Agency, and before that he led a multi-cultural team of volunteers working across 40 countries for All Nations, an international disciple-making organisation.
So much of the conversation about ministry happens inside church buildings. It is a shame that we have created the perception that those who labour outside the ‘church’ labour for the sake of the work inside the ‘church’. It should not be so. In fact, nothing could be further from the mandate of God on all believers. We can see from a right reading of God’s Word that his commission is on all believers for the sake of his kingdom on earth. For the redemption of all things, whether inside or outside the church, to be reconciled in Christ.
Unveiling God’s glorious sons and daughters
The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:5–9) indicates that all believers in Christ share in his priestly call: that there is no special class of people who mediate the knowledge, presence, and forgiveness of Christ to the rest of the believers, and all believers have the right to read, interpret, and apply the teachings of scripture to the obedience of Christ. It’s important to acknowledge that God gifts believers with specific giftings of the Spirit such as teaching or prophecy for the equipping of believers to do great work.
This agency should never detract, but rather enhance, those who labour in the marketplace. “And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12 TPT). I love how the Passion translation (TPT) of Romans 8:19 tells us, “The entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning to see the unveiling of God’s glorious sons and daughters!” Other translations speak about ‘all creation’.
Let us focus for a moment on marketplace believers and their role in light of this verse. They are the agents of change and influence. I think of engineers building beautiful bridges over rushing rivers so people can cross safely and marvel at God’s creative power. Or astronomers partnering with photographers to build the Hubble telescope that causes us to stand in awe of our mysterious universe. What about artists like Monet capturing sunlight on wheat fields or Andrea Bocelli on the steps of the Duomo in Milan singing Amazing Grace to a watching world.
Do these ‘works’ not bring glory to God? How about nurses selflessly serving dying patients while putting their own lives at risk, or teachers in the Middle East who help persecuted girls and women learn and gain dignity? The investment manager or entrepreneur who creates wealth to uplift ministries which otherwise would not be sustainable, or videographers who document the plight of the Rohinga or South Sudanese and shed light on the sufferings of mankind. I suspect that these things also break God’s heart.
Co-labouring with God
Does it minister to God that we care enough to give our lives to these pursuits? Is this close to what God had in mind in the Garden when he commissioned man to ‘work’ and ‘keep’ it? What does it mean for the saints to do “the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12)? I believe it looks like this: when we do what makes creation stand on tiptoe in expectation, when we bring hope and freedom and light and joy. It is mostly done outside of the ‘building’ by ‘ordinary’ believers giving themselves to the extraordinary work of co-labouring with God to build his kingdom. Creation is cheering us on, as is heaven.