Wednesday, December 14, 2016

We Didn't Intend to Go Global

Sometimes we lose touch with friends when they move to another city. But then sometimes we don’t. I have a small group of friends like that. We talk on the phone, or skype. We stay connected via email and visits. And conversations pick up right where they left off days or weeks earlier, as if one or the other had simply walked into another room briefly to warm up his coffee.

About a year ago I was talking with my friend Dave. Online. He’s a pastor in Minneapolis. I don’t visit Minneapolis in the winter. It’s colder than Dutton and I hate anything colder than Dutton. 

It started out as a conversation like many of our other conversations. We were all over the map and occasionally venturing into places that hadn’t been mapped yet. As usual, our discussion ranged from current events and politics to culture and business to church and faith and reaching people with a gospel that really is good news right where they are.  We talked about the transforming power of prayer and the Holy Spirit and the presence of God in the real world.  We talked about the insanely wide range of opinions and attitudes exhibited by people as they attempted to speak and act in the name of Christ; and the low-information high vitriol content that was becoming the norm in much of public discourse, regardless of whether the sources considered themselves conservative or progressive, Christian or not.

We discussed the redemptive power of the truth offered by authentic Christianity, and the need to take that truth and redemptive power into life outside the four walls of the church.  But how?
In the course of our conversations, the “Seven Mountains” came up repeatedly.  It’s a term coined by Lance Wallnau, a former pastor turned business consultant and speaker.  The “Seven Mountain” concept, most widely promoted by Wallnau and his friend Os Hillman, represents an understanding that there are seven critical social arenas or spheres of influence and activity which combine to capture, mold and direct the mind and heart of a culture.  Each of the seven plays a key role, and each of the seven has a distinct social function.  

This “Seven Mountain” idea has gained traction, particularly in charismatic circles, as a model for understanding culture and a map for bringing Christian influence to bear in what they call “the marketplace”—meant as any area of activity or influence outside the church proper.  Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations is understood to mean more than going into all the nations of the world and making individual disciples.  It means that God intends His redemptive and transformational power to influence people beyond just a narrow range of individual ‘spiritual’ concerns.  He intends to extend His redemption and transformation and Lordship into every area of individual life, corporate life, and social and cultural expression.

On that particular day, during that particular conversation, we decided to call a few other people we knew. Get them together online. Raise some questions. Float some ideas. Nothing huge or formal. Just some friends getting together for a virtual cup of coffee.

We didn’t intend to go global. But we didn’t not intend to either. We just talked and asked questions. And listened. And prayed. Beginning in February 2016, we started out with a simple conference call for a handful of people who were asking tough "church beyond the walls" kinds of questions and put the recording on the web for those who couldn't call in live. In very little time the “Marketplace Kingdom” call was an audio podcast, and before we really knew what was happening, it became apparent that we had backed into a global hunger for vision and strategy on taking the Kingdom to the streets.

We’ve done 22 podcast episodes in just over ten months, featuring biblical wisdom and practical ideas from guests who are advancing the Kingdom in real and unique ways in their own work and lives. People engaged in day to day interaction with students, families, churches, businesses, and government. People whose Kingdom influence plays out in a daily life on life with corporate leaders, the broken hearted, and the poorest of the poor.

Marketplace Kingdom has reached listeners in fifty seven countries that we know about…including fifteen Islamic and two Buddhist nations! Recordings have been downloaded for sharing over 8000 times in less than a year. We’ve heard from individuals who are accessing them through proxy servers in order to bypass the internet censorship in their own closed nations!

What started as two people, then three, then five, has touched almost 200,000 people around the world, and placed written and audio resources into the hands of over 27,000 influencers.  Even now, believers in one nation are translating our prayer guides for distribution and use in Pakistani communities around the world. And another friend has been invited to present a second seminar on biblical leadership principles to the members of parliament in his Islamic nation.  We have been seriously humbled and amazed at how the Lord is spreading His Kingdom!
More and more people are embracing a radical notion that most will never engage in a “ministry” or exercise any real transformational influence within the structure of the institutional church.  And even more radical is the idea that they are not intended to.  Their calling by God is to live and move and minister in the context of the marketplace.  Their home, their office, their 9 to 5.  The doctor, the cop, the stay-at-home-mom (or dad), the construction worker, the mail carrier, the bus driver, the janitor. Their ministry and area of influence is not something other than their job.  Their lives are not that cleanly compartmentalized.  Excellence and service and celebration and service and prayer and shepherding and mentoring and just being Christian is an integral part of the daily rhythm of life.  There is a rising awareness and expectation that we have an obligation to bring good news and transformation and godly excellence to our unique spheres of activity and influence, wherever those are.
Authentic biblical faith calls us to be in the coffee shop, in the street, in the marketplace, dilletante, meddling in simply everything. Called to prayer and ministry doing what we’re wired and gifted to do. Christianly.  Right where we are. There can be no disconnect here.  And there shouldn’t be.
In spite of the increasingly shrill demands that Christians keep their faith to themselves and out of public arenas, God has a different plan. The “church” doesn’t need to send people into “the marketplace”. We’re already there. We simply need to realize what we’re called to do and who we’re called to be.

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