Apostles in the Marketplace

Published: 08th November 2006
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By Rich Marshall for the Elijah List





A number of years ago, when I first heard teaching about apostles, speakers likened this person to a missionary. That made it acceptable in a local church setting. People could identify with apostles sent to foreign countries as missionaries. With this understanding, the word "apostle" wasn't even needed. This suited those who were uncomfortable with the term.





However, the understanding would continue to evolve. I first became aware of the word, apostle, in this sense at a missionary conference in the early 1980's. Over the next fifteen or so years, it became obvious that the ministry of apostles extended more broadly than the term, missionary, represented. Even though I struggled with this for a few years, I concluded that not only were apostles still around, they could be found in all facets of society.





In God@Work, the book I wrote in 2000, I observed, "In the coming revival we need to identify the apostolic leaders in the marketplace arena. God is going to begin to reveal the fivefold ministry gifts to them as they operate in the marketplace."





A basic study on apostles leads to the twelve men the Lord Jesus called to serve with Him. They are commonly referred to as "The Twelve." While they will always hold that distinction, they are not the only apostles mentioned in the New Testament. An inventory of those listed in Scripture includes eleven more (of which one, Junia, was a woman) and, beyond those, many unnamed apostles. It is obvious that the ministry, or gift, of the apostle did not end with the twelve, as had been taught for hundreds of years. Now we need to determine how this affects us in the twenty-first century.





During the thirty-five years that I pastored a local congregation, I became willing to accept the reality that modern apostles existed. Yet, I always defined them in various church roles. In more recent times, God has called me to minister to (and with) workplace leaders that He is bringing to the forefront. As you might suspect, this has caused me to reexamine many of my traditional interpretations of the Bible. Now I am seeing how God has always been working in the world through people not ordinarily recognized as "professional" ministers. Through this progression of thought, I came to accept the reality of apostles in the workplace.





We know that the twelve original apostles were businessmen before Christ told them, "Follow Me" (Matthew 4:19.) Peter was a fisherman. Matthew, a tax collector. Luke, a doctor. And so the list goes. However, certain assumptions entered into most biblical interpretations that caused us to miss vital distinctions. The assumptions were fomed because of a bias toward a certain view of ministry, and therefor most Scriptural teaching does not focus on the workplace. Look at Matthew 4:19-20, where Jesus told Peter and his brother, Andrew, "'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' They immediately left their nets and followed Him."





When you hear a message about Peter's call to serve the Lord, it generally includes these assumptions:





1)Peter left fishing behind, because business is a lowly calling, for the more prestigious calling of a full-time evangelist.





2)When Peter returned to fishing after Christ's resurrection, commentators theorized that his backsliding was one reason he resumed his old lifestyle.





Reconsidering the Call





However, to fully understand the truth, we cannot just look at the end of the story. Instead of focusing on John 21, we must also look at the original call of the apostles. To glean another interpretation, go back to where it started. As noted above, Matthew 4:19-20 says they immediately left their nets to follow Christ. Does this mean that they left their business, never to return for the next three years? That they were no longer in business and that fishing was a thing of the past, subservient to the higher call of evangelism? For years this has been the most common interpretation. On closer inspection it has several flaws:


1) First all, Jesus wants everyone to follow Him.


This is foundational to the Christian faith and fundamental to all Bible-based teaching. The idea that responding to God's call means that you should automatically leave your business has caused considerable damage. Many have shed their business or occupational role to join the staff of a church or parachurch ministry. Because of prevailing thinking, they thought this was the only way to obey God. Consequently, we have seen too many people trying to fulfill their calling in vocational ministry when that is not in their sphere of anointing.





2) The idea that Peter left his business behind him, and did not return until after the resurrection, also poses problems.





For example, one day Jesus and Peter needed money to pay their taxes. You may recall the story from Matthew 17:25-27. Jesus instructed Peter to go and catch a fish and he would find the exact amount of money in its mouth need to pay the tax for both of them. Granted, this was an astonishing miracle. But no matter how you look at it, this miracle related to Peter's business. This man fished for a living. It was as natural and ordinary as breathing and eating. So Christ chose to provide for his need through his occupation.





It is the same today. The way to gain resources-in other words, the way to get money to pay your taxes-is through work. The Lord has so much to say about work, to the point that He led Paul to write, "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10.) So it is consistent with Bible teaching that Jesus instructed Peter to obtain tax money through his work. That does not negate the power of the miracle. Instead, it enhances it.





What do I mean? If you expect that God will provide for you in unusual miracles, that may lead you to seek provision through extraordinary methods, such as a state lottery or a roulette wheel. But God is not a God of blind luck. If you can discern the miracles God performs through your work, then you can trust Him to provide you with a creative idea, a particular connection, or a masterful invention. You will obtain the resources you need. This is still a miracle, but one that occurs in the context of what God called you to do for a living.





3) If Peter had left his occupation behind for three years, how was he able to catch a multitude of large fish without his nets breaking when the Lord appeared after His resurrection?





When Peter was a professional fisherman, the Lord instructed him to cast his net on the other side of the boat. When Peter did, he caught so many fish that the net began to break. (Luke 5:6.) And yet, three years later, after not being involved in the fishing business-as the commonly-accepted view taught-he caught a huge number of fish. Yet, the Bible says that although the fish numbered 153, they didn't break the net (John 21:11.)





Professionally speaking, this does not make any sense. A full-time fisherman would make sure that his nets were in top shape. He would mend them daily and keep them in tip-top shape, always ready to head out to sea for a large catch. Yet, we have been led to believe that in a moment of weakness, Peter makes a last-second decision to return to his old profession. And after a three-year absence, with his nets untended and not cared for, they were able to contain a huge catch. Pardon the pun, but does this sound a little fishy to you?





I go to these lengths to make an important point. Not only were the first apostles all businessmen, it is highly possible that some (or all) remained in business while they fulfilled their call to follow Christ.





Marketplace Ministers


As far as we know from Scripture, the Apostle Paul never left his tent-making business. I have heard some speak about Paul in this way: "He could encourage the support of others, but was never able to go into 'fulltime ministry' himself. He had to continue his business on the side in order to support himself." Those who teach this imply that the business side of life constitutes a second-class profession, compared to the higher calling of full-time preaching. But as I read about Paul's ministry, his business provided an open door for sharing the gospel. Through it, he won many to Christ.





Having said this, you can see that the first apostles were not only called from the marketplace. They were also the first Marketplace Apostles. In truth, an apostle in a workplace setting may be more biblical than an apostle in a local church setting. (Say that too loudly in a church and you might find yourself voted out at the next business meeting!)





Don't get me wrong. I love the church. I thank God for all of the new structures churches are adopting today. I praise Him for the tremendous forward strides we are taking in becoming an effective voice in the communities and nations of the world. Nevertheless, I contend that a church that recognizes the five-fold ministry operates in the workplace, and trains its members to minister there, will be much more powerful and effective.





When I read about the modern apostolic movement, or hear about the restoration of the apostles and prophets, I get excited. Why? Because I know God is not finished surprising us. No matter what headlines, social issues, or anti-biblical interest groups have you tied up in knots-and granted, there is plenty to be concerned about-I am still looking for a great and powerful move of God. I know that He is restoring spiritual gifts and empowering the right people to fulfill His tasks.








I encourage you to read the books God@Work 1 and God@Work 2. You can get them at www.godisworking.com





For more information you can contact Rich Marshall at www.godisworking.com .



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