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Working Faith: Getting Your Ladder Up the Right Wall - Brett Johnson

Working professionals from many backgrounds sat in our living room sharing their stories, which they do whenever we start a rep training cycle. “I can tell you exactly the exit on the Interstate 5 freeway where my dream died,” said John, an I.T. professional. It sounded as though John were describing a gravestone. He was a graduate of a well known Bible College who had dreamed of being a minister, but had ended up sidelined in the technology sector, so he thought. The dream of being in ministry finally gave up and died.

Jessica was different. She realized many years ago that she was called to business, but when she excitedly told her pastor about this epiphany he told her bluntly, “Forget about thinking that you are going to try and change the world's system. The only thing you can do to have real impact is to leave the world and join the ministry. You have your ladder up the wrong wall.” Jessica was devastated. “I wondered why God had given me these gifts if they were of no value to him.” Her dream was deflated and she entered a desert season, questioning her calling.

Bob had started well - having been to the same Bible College as John - he pastored a church, worked in “full time Christian ministry,” and was successful, by all accounts. But God had led him down a different path and he ended up leading a software startup. Many thought he had left the ministry to do a “secular” job. “Poor Bob,” some thought, “he lost the thread.”

John, Jessica and Bob all converged on Southeast Asia where I had the privilege of being on a team with them. We gathered in Jakarta to serve business owners using both our business skills and the many life experiences God had built into us. Our goal was simple: Repurposing Business - Transforming Society®. This was the beginning of a five year process where rep would take a new team to Jakarta every six months to work with our colleagues there to see their city transformed through godly business. We believed - and still do - that if we can see 100 key businesses transformed in a city, this can be the yeast that spreads through the entire business community, and then into other sectors of society.

Our team of 10 people saw amazing transformation happen in the lives of the business owners there. Many began to deliberately deploy their companies to expand the kingdom of God. Within a few years we had repurposed 45 corporations with a customer base of more than 130 million people. We - the business leaders and rep team members - identified the “giants” in the nation and specifically crafted business strategies to tackle these giants. Giants such as corruption, poverty and unemployment have been impacted.

What was just as amazing was how the Holy Spirit breathed air back into the purpose of John, Jessica and Bob. John has a great knack of naturally including God in his work. He is keenly aware that he is 100% businessman and 100% missionary. As the Chief Information Officer of a cutting edge media company he and his colleagues are set to influence millions of people. The dream has been resurrected. God is getting a good return on his investment in John's seminary training.

Jessica went on to be a consultant on four rep Ventures, and then took her own business through the two week consultation on the client side of the table. She now consults to a former rep client in South Africa and is helping transform a group of companies. She has also begun work in other nations in Africa where she is ministering through business. She is convinced that her ladder was not up the wrong wall after all. “God was faithful and eventually connected me with like-minded people who believed that business belonged to God. They were able to provide me with the necessary support and guidance to use my gifts to help build His Kingdom.”

Bob, in his integrated world of work and ministry, is director of a private foundation and the Team Leader for rep in Southeast Asia. He has mobilized many businesspeople, trained them, and commissioned them as marketplace ministers. “I used to see ministry as a higher calling that demanded that you leave everything, including business, behind to serve God. Now I am convinced that the marketplace is where God always intended the Church and the Kingdom of God to flourish. The world that God intends to transform isn't in a building on Sunday morning. It is in the marketplace seven days a week. All of us are called as priests to advance the Kingdom of God in our society, not just a few of us with a higher calling.”

What is your story? Have you made the transition from businessperson to marketplace minister? Have you shifted from occupation to vocation? If you love Jesus and love business, then you are most likely called to work, and your work can be used by God to impact nations for Him. You are in fulltime Christian ministry. You have your ladder up the right wall.

Brett Johnson is President of The Institute for Innovation, Integration and Impact, Inc. rep is the arm of The Institute that mobilizes and trains teams of businesspeople in repurposing businesses to positively impact society using both marketplace and Biblical best practices. They take approximately 10 teams around the world annually to use their business skills for short term missions assignments. They have worked with over 220 companies in Africa, Southeast Asia, India and the US. Find them on the web at www.inst.net and www.repurposing.biz Brett is the author of three books: Convergence: integrating your Career, Community, Creativity and Calling; I-Operations: How the Internet can transform your Operating Model; and LEMON Leadership.

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posted by Justin Forman | 3.31.2008 - 7:00 AM


I needed to hear this today. I have a strong desire for business, but sometimes question my heart. Mostly because I "spiriually grew up" in a campus ministry where most of my friends were very involved and became full time staff members. I often feel as if they question my hope to be a business owner someday because they assumed I'd go on staff like them. I get discouraged talking with them now because even though they believe in reaching the market place it feels as if full time ministry is the only way to reach it. I belive working in the market place is my calling and its good to hear others share that calling.
commented by Blogger AdamPaul, 3:50 PM  


Glad the article good be of some encouragement to you. It's tough to navigate any big change when you don't have someone along the ride that share's the vision for using business as ministry. Be encouraged and know that God is directing your path in this time.

Its good to have you joining in on the conversation.

commented by Blogger Justin Forman, 7:52 PM  

I can identify with this post, especially John. After having finished Bible College, married, and applied for over 40 positions; the most common reply has been, "You have a very unique gift mix, suitable for ministry somewhere else." I find myself working as a retail cashier, rapidly moving through the department but still trying to figure out what God has in mind.

Missions is on both our hearts, and I come from a family with business background, but I never would have imagined a secular career when I entered Bible College.
commented by Blogger Daniel, 2:29 PM  

I think the trouble is that many of us have grown up with the idea that our spiritual life and business life are two separate things. I am a music teacher and God has consistently shown me that my teaching is my ministry. We need to realize that who we are in Christ can mix and prosper in our business and that this is what God calls most of us to!
commented by Blogger Gail, 11:23 PM  

Gail I absolutely agree with your first statement. On the other hand, I would also point out its one thing to use your existing business for ministry and if God is encouraging you to do that, that is great. But how do we handle the crisis of faith when the Lord doesn't place us in the ministry we expected, sends us into business instead and then we have to find the ministry from there?
commented by Blogger Daniel, 10:50 AM  

Daniel I can see what you're saying. It kind of looks like nothing is making sense for you guys at the moment. However, I think you are going the right way about it. You are doing what you sense God is wanting you to do and that is all that is needed! Our lives are like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes - it seems like there are so many pieces all over the place, totally unconnected. But somewhere in the future, God is going to take all those pieces and you're going to see what he's been doing, how he's been shaping you through all those different experiences, and he will put them together to make something you only dream about at the moment. Just keep your eyes on him. Trust him. He knows best.
commented by Blogger merryfiddler, 5:57 AM  

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