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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.

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Sunday
Nov072010

What do breath mints, kisses and Church decline have in common? The Dutch Reformed Church looses 21 congregations last year!

So, what do breath mints, good kisses, and Church decline have in common with one another?

Well, I'd like to encourage you to come along to the Coronation Ave Methodist Church in Somerset West this evening, 7 November 2010 (if you're in Cape Town!) to find out.  Here's the map - the service takes place at 18.30.


View Larger Map

Well, this quote, from Ed Silvoso, gives a framing clue to what I'll be talking about:

Preaching the truth without love is like giving someone a good kiss when you have bad breath. No matter how good your kiss is, all they will remember is your bad breath!

I have given a great deal of thought to, and spent some time researching, the decline in Church membership and Church attendance.

This story in today's Rapport Newspaper bears out my feeling that South African Churches (and Churches in other regions in the world) are emptying at a rather rapid rate! Across the world Churches are facing two factors:

 

  • Fewer people are joining Churches.
  • The average age of members in existing Churches is increasing. 

 

Simply stated this is not good news for the Church.  Unless the Church can truly touch more people with Christ's love it will continue to decline (either as members leave, like this Rapport Article on the Dutch Reformed Church points out.  Or the average age of congregations will get older and older and eventually the members will die out - this has been the case in large parts of Europe.  England is a good example where congregations are generally quite small and relatively elderly.  One friend suggests that the majority of Methodist Churches in England have only one generation of 'membership' left.  Coffey and Gibss in the their book 'Church next' suggested that 60% of American Churches will die out by 2050).

The gist of the article is that the NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) has lost 10588 members in the last year.  By their calculations this means that the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk has lost the equivalent of 21 congregations of 500 members in one year!  The situation is even more dire when one looks at a longer view - since 1986 the denomination has lost 23.8% of its members.

You can read some of my other posts on Church decline, and some of my research here:

 

If you don't feel like reading can I please encourage you to watch this short little video? It is a superb reminder about what we should be doing as Christians and the Church.

If you can't read Afrikaans please use google translate - simply copy and paste the text below into http://www.google.com/translate and translate it from Afrikaans to your language of choice.

Die NG Kerk het verlede jaar genoeg lidmate verloor om 21 gemeentes van 500 lidmate elk vol te maak.

Teen Februarie vanjaar was daar in dié kerkverband 10 588 lidmate minder as ’n jaar vantevore.

Dit blyk uit die jongste syfers wat deur die NG Kerk se algemene sinode se taakspan oor geldsake inge samel is.

Dié syfers is bereken op grond van ’n opname wat in die tien sinodale gebiede gemaak is en waarin gemeentes gevra is om die aantal belydende en dooplidmate in hul onderskeie kuddes te vermeld. Gemeentes het die syfer onder meer bereken na aanleiding van hoeveel mense nog aktief eredienste bywoon.

Ds. Clem Marais, lid van die taakspan, het gesê hy is nie seker dat die syfer 100% akkuraat is nie (dit is nie geoudit nie), maar dat dit wel die tendens van dalende lidmaatgetalle bevestig.

Die NG Kerk se gebruiklike Kerkspieël-proses, waartydens ’n meer wetenskaplike opname van lidmaat-tendense gemaak word, is tans aan die gang. Wanneer dit na verwagting teen volgende jaar bekend gemaak word, sal daar meer betroubare syfers oor die NG Kerk se lidmaattendense beskikbaar wees.

Marais meen een van die vernaamste redes vir die afname in lidmaatgetalle is emigrasie onder dié kerkverband se tradisionele lidmate, hoewel die verskynsel van mense wat na ander kerkverbande oorloop, ook daartoe kon bygedra het.

In ’n artikel wat in die jongste Kerkbode verskyn, wys die ekonome drr. Fanie Joubert en Jannie Rossouw, asook die predikant ds. Fanie Joubert daarop dat die NG Kerk se algehele lidmaattal tussen 1986 en 2010 met 23,8% afgeneem het (van meer as 1 400 000 tot minder as 1 100 000).

Ook in dié artikel word emigrasie as een van die vernaamste bydraende faktore genoem. Die skrywers meen ’n gepaste reaksie op dié verskynsel is vir die NG Kerk om al hoe meer in die geestelike behoeftes van Afrikaanssprekendes in die buiteland te voorsien.

In ’n nuusbrief wat Marais, ook skriba van die NG sinode Namibië, die afgelope week aan gemeentes in dié streek gestuur het, noem hy voorts dat die taakspan oor geld sake se jongste syfers oor gemeentes se finansiële welstand kommerwekkend is.

“Ook wat gemeentes se geldsake betref, begin die bytmerke van die onlangse resessie wys.”

Die totale lopende inkomste van die NG Kerk se 1 133 gemeentes het in die vorige boekjaar met net 2,3% gestyg, vier uit elke tien gemeentes het die jaar met ’n tekort op hul boeke afgesluit en al hoe meer gemeentes raak afhanklik van basaarinkomste soos wat ander bronne van inkomste opdroog.

“Moet jy moedeloos word weens die oorwegend negatiewe tendense?” skryf Marais.

“In die gees van die Luisterseisoen dink ek almal moet dit hoor as ‘stemme’ wat ‘van buite’ na ons kom. En in hierdie ‘stemme’ moet ons probeer om ook Die Stem van die Here God te onderskei … Die Here is immers met ons op pad. Deur ’n proses van geloofsonderskeiding moet ons by Hom hoor hoe ons geloofsrespons moet lyk op hierdie droewige prentjie,” skryf Marais.

Tonight I will be making the case that as Christians we need to find a way to give the world a good kiss!  In other words we need to expose the world to what the Good News feels like before we preach about it.  We must engage the world in love before we expect them to make a decision about God's love.

I have previously spoke about the Luke 10 Model of sharing God's love here.  You can also read about it in chapter 8 of my book 'Transform your work life'. Download a few chapters of the book here.

Friday
Oct292010

A life without...

I found the following little poem quite significant.  It reminded me that work is not a curse, but a blessing.  It encouraged me to remember that I have been given strength, creativity, and ability to be God's co-labourer in the wonderful work of renewing and transforming the face of the earth. Indeed, work can be worship (Col 3.23).

A life without work would be a bore.

A life without rest would be torture.

A life without play would be a grind.

A life without reflection would be empty.

A life without God would be pointless.

~ Mark Greene from "Supporting Christians at work (without going insane)" see http://www.licc.org.uk

Monday
Oct182010

98% of people are not equipped for 95% of their lives

Attending an amazing session on ministry in the world of work at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Please see http://www.capetown2010.com or search for #lcwework on http://www.twitter.com/search

Why is it that we will pray for our members who go on a mission trip to some far off place, but we do not add the same fervent prayer for the mission they engage in when they go to work or school on Monday?

Friday
Oct082010

What does the Gospel 'feel' like?

In our little book 'Transform your work life' (written by Graham Power and myself) I wrote:

God longs for Christians to get practical and creative about making the ‘good news’ real for the people... We should not be asking ‘what does the good news sound like?’, rather we should ask ‘what does the good news feel like, and what does good news look like?’

What does the Gospel feel like!?  That is quite a challenging question!  It has lingered in my mind for some years now as I have tried to bring an experience of the 'good news' of God's Kingdom to the people that I live with, work with and encounter in my life's journey.

Worship on Sunday is critical - as John van de Laar rightly points out it is the orientation that should shape the rest of our week.  The exact quote from his great new book 'The Hour that changes Everything' is this: "How you worship defines how you live"

The question for this post is, however, what kind of worship does God require for the other 166 hours of the week?

Here's an excerpt from chapter 3 of 'Transform your work life' -

Did you know that Jesus had a ‘mission statement’ for his ministry on earth? You can read it in Luke 4:16–21. It is interesting to see that all the things that Jesus came to do were practical, tangible expressions of God’s love for the world. I have heard so many sermons on this passage that I sometimes forget just how practical Jesus intended his ministry to be. When Jesus said He had come to bring ‘good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18) what do you think He meant? Let us approach it from a slightly different perspective: what is good news for a poor person? I have been in need a few times in my life, and I can tell you when you are poor good news is not a sermon! It is good news when you have food and money to pay your bills, it is great news when you get a job that pays you a salary with which you can support your family and yourself.

One of the big failings of the contemporary church, and that means you and me, is that we do not always bless the people around us in tangible and visible ways. When someone is ill we say things like, ‘I’ll pray for you’ – while this is an expression of care, I can assure you that the person would feel so special and loved if you took them a meal! I know that God longs for Christians to get practical and creative about making the ‘good news’ real for the people around them. We should not be asking ‘what does the good news sound like?’ Rather, we should ask ‘what does the good news feel like, and what does good news look like?’ This is Jesus’ way!

As you think about the people among whom you work, what would be truly good news for them? Is there a single mother who is battling to make ends meet? Perhaps you have a co-worker who is struggling to cope with his workload, or maybe someone whose child is ill – what could you do to make the ‘good news’ visible and tangible for these people?

Sometimes it is the simplest things, like a phone call, or a visit, that make people feel loved and cared for. At other times you will need to be a little more creative and sacrificial in what you do.

So, here's my question - what does the Gospel 'feel like' in your context?  What can you do to help the people you love and meet experience the Gospel before you speak to them about it?

Friday
Sep172010

What will matter - Michael Josephson

This morning I attended the Unashamedly Ethical Cape Town Community breakfast.  I would highly recommend that you consider joining the Unashamedly Ethical campaign! Once you have joined you can join your local community (I happen to belong to the Cape Town community), and you will be updated on events, breakfasts, training courses, and other benefits.

The speaker this morning was Professor John Volmink (the inspector General of Education for South Africa).  John is a good friend - we serve on a number of boards together.

He has an incredible testimony and life story.  He is the father of 10 children (5 are his own and 4 are adopted children).  He holds a Ph.D in Mathematics from Cornell University in the US (where he was also a Professor for some years).  He was previously the Vice Chancellor of the University of KwaZulu Natal (Durban).

The topic of John's talk was on the third commitment of the Unashamedly Ethical campaign - To do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but to look out for the interests of others.

It was so inspiring to hear him speak of the many choices he has made in his life - some were easy, and some were not.  Yet, in faith, and with a great commitment to social transformation, he has attempted to serve his family, his community and our nation.  At times this has cost him dearly, but his intention is to be a person of significance rather than a mere success.

Here are a few quotes from his talk that I put on my twitter feed.  They were a great encouragement to me.

It is important to do well in life, but it is far more important to do good

On the topic of discipline, and the courage to make courageous choices he said:

Christian love is not just an emotion of the heart, it is a victory of the will

I was also challenged by this quote about doing the best in the context you find yourself, with the unique gifts and abilities that God has given to you (PS.  I wrote a chapter on this in our book 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' - please see chapter 1 'The Big Question' for some practical tools and ideas to help you discover your unique design and purpose):

Rather be a 1st class version of yourself than a 2nd rate copy of someone else.

The audio from his talk will be uploaded onto the Unashamedly Ethical website within a few days.  So please look under the 'Local Community Event recordings' section of the web site.  Please also follow UE on Twitter and join them on facebook.

The poem below, from Michael Josephson, was a particular challenge to me - especially in our current situation with my daughter Courtney's health.  It is amazing how such an event helps one to rediscover what matters most.

 

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.

So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire. The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end. It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when your gone.

What will matter is not your memories but the memories that live in those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.

It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters.

Saturday
Sep042010

Daniel conference / konferensie 2010 - just what I needed!

Just like a motorcar needs a 'tune up' from time to time in order to run well, I have discovered that I need constant reminders of what matters most in life - a spiritual and emotional 'tune up' of sorts! A renewing of my faith in community!

The speakers at this year's Daniel Conference / Konferensie included Braam Kloppper, Alan Platt, Jannie de Beer, Stephan Joubert, Peet Grobelaar and myself. Lious Brits took care of the worship in such a magnificent way!

Last week we kicked the conference off in Cape Town - it was such an incredible time! We had about 600 men together of all ages and races. I was reminded of my need for a deep and intimate spirituality. I was also reminded that as a father and husband I have a great responsibility to care for the needs of my family and reach out to the community in which I have the privilege of living.

My own talk focussed on taking up the responsibility of being a faithful Christ follower in the work place - I am convinced that as Christians we have such incredible opportunities to 'touch' the world with God's transforming love. Not only can we reach people through God's transforming love, we can also encounter systems with God's justice, mercy and grace. On Monday at work you can do as much to declare God's worth by changing a policy that causes pain and suffering for people as you can by declaring God's worth and glory in song, prayer and liturgy on a Sunday.

Your interactions with people can create great blessing and joy for those around you. Work can be worship (Col 3.23).

If you are interested in reading moreabout the practical ideas and scriptures that can inform you to turn your WHOLE life into an act of blessing and worship then please take a look at the book that Graham Power and I wrote together called, 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'.

Please see http://bit.ly/transformwork for all the details about the book. Just to mention that the costs from the sale of these books go entirely to the Unashamedly Ethical campaign.

So, if you purchase a copy you're not only learning about ministry in your work life and work place, you're also supporting a good cause! You can also download the first few chapters of the book at the top of my website.

Today I will be speaking at the Daniel Conference in Pretoria. I am a little nervous (to say the least!) there are 3500 men gathered here. Please pray for these men, and also for me!

If you attended the Daniel Conference in Cape Town, or here at Moreleta Park, please share a testimony, some feedback or your thoughts! I'd love to hear from you!

I am humbled to have the opportunity to share with these men and I pray that God will use them and bless them to achieve His perfect desire to transform our nation!

Wednesday
Sep012010

Another article published (Lausanne World Pulse) - Business as Ministry

It is always humbling to have an article published! I am particularly grateful that my article on Business as Mission was published in the September Lausanne World Pulse!

It deals with a subject that I am passionate about!

I'd be grateful if you'd read it here and encourage others to do the same.

Thanks!

Dion

Friday
Aug272010

Making the moments at work count.

Over the years Graham and I have spoken to many deeply-committed Christians who have never considered that God may actually have something for them to achieve between Monday and Friday.

We tend to place our lives into two boxes, a sacred box (everything we do for God), and a secular box (everything else we do).

Very often business people think of their ‘God stuff ’ as worship – and worship only happens in certain places (like church buildings) at certain times (like on a Sunday, or on Christmas and Easter). Everything else is simply ‘my stuff ’ and it has very little to do with my worship. So, my work, my friendships, my community relation- ships, my sport – all of these ‘other things’ are outside of the sacred.

The reality is that everything that we have, all that we are, and all that we do should be done for God.

From God’s perspective there is no separation between work and worship. I once heard someone explain it in this way – imagine that you have a ‘big worship switch’ on your back. Each time that you enter into worship the switch is flicked on. Do think that God is honoured when your ‘worship switch’ is flicked off? Surely we should never stop worshipping God – even at work.

God has a perfect will for every person, for every situation and every place. When you begin to look at your workplace and the people that you work with from God’s perspective you can see that He may just have an incredible mission for you to perform right where you are from Monday to Friday.

A few points to think about

  • Please read Colossians 3:23–24.
  • What is God’s attitude to work and labour?
  • If Jesus had your job, working among the people you work with, doing the things you do during your workday, what do you think He would want to achieve? How different is that from what you are striving for?

Wednesday
Aug182010

Let's Re-Abolish Slavery!

The sad reality is that slavery exists throughout the world today!

Simply stated there are millions of people across the world who are enslaved to work for others without being paid, or are being forced to work against their will. This is slavery.

Women and men are enslaved throughout the world by unscrupulous people trap them into a form of 'debt bondage' - the most common form of slavery in the world. For example a young woman is approached for a great job in a new country. When she arrives she has to hand over her passport to her 'employer'. The employer then tells her that for her to have food and shelter will cost her much more than she will earn by working as a waitress... For example her housing and food will cost her R1000.00 a day, while she may only earn R100.00 a day. Within a matter of days the ammount she owes her emoployer becomes so high that there is no way she can repay it. The 'employer' refuses to release her passport, or her, until she pays her debt. The only way to pay the debt is to sell her body for sex (at a higher rate of payment). In truth, the debt is seldom paid and the person is enslaved for the rest of their lives!

If you are wondering if there is slavery in your area please visit http://www.slaverymap.org and check your area. You may be shocked to discover how common slavery is across the world! David Batstone Not For Sale Campaign.jpgOne of the other amazing, and necessary, areas that the Not For Sale Campaign is working, is to ensure that there is no forced labour within the supply chain.

For example who made the shoes that you're wearing? Are you and I inadvertently wearing people's suffering? The way of Christ is a way of freedom for all - as a Christian in the marketplace you can stand with us to transform the structures of society within which God has placed you. Please join the Not For Sale Campaign to help people to have the dignity to be free to live and work without suffering. Please check out http://www.free2work.org to get your company or business rated.

Buying products is not only about cost - it is also about price - we need to ask ourselves Who paid the price for this product? Not only what is the cost?

Yesterday I was truly blessed to meet David Batstone at the Power Group, and today I attended his workshop at the Louis Group. David is an amazing guy who is rallying people for the sake of the Kingdom of God and freedom of all people.

David is an incredible example of Colossians 3:23-24 'Whatever your task do it as for the Lord'. He is truly using his work, influence, network of relationships, and passion for ministry! Please pray for him and the campaign, and together with this join him in re-abolishing slavery!

Thursday
Aug122010

Courage where it counts!

We are getting such wonderful feedback from readers of 'Transform your work life'. A few days ago a reader sent me an email to let me know that they have just started a prayer group at their offices. He indicated that the hardest part was just doing it...

It takes courage to honor God in the workplace. But that is where it counts! His email blessed me and encouraged me to be more bold about my faith!

I was reminded of Karl Barth's little quite "Courage is fear that has said its prayers".

What step of courage must you take to establish Christ as Lord of your work life and your work place? Let us know! We'd love to pray for you!

Wednesday
Aug042010

Who do you work for?

Who do you work for?

This may sound like a strange question from someone that you don't know, but your answer is important!

Paul encourages the Colossians saying ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward’ (Col 3:23-24).

Who we work for not only determines what we do, it also how we do it.

In the Construction company where Graham Power and I work, the Power Group of Companies we have the wonderful blessing of knowing that our purpose as a group is to ‘improve the lives of people in Africa through infrastructure development’. This means that because we know who we work for our work can be ministry! Building roads, building homes... All of these things can be used by God to bless others and achieve God's will in the world.

That is ministry, and each one of us plays an important role in that task!

When you arrive at work you are a partner in God’s mission for your company – whether you work in an office, or on a site, God can use your job to make people’s lives better.

Jesus commanded Christians to ‘Go into all the world…’ to share the Good News (Matt 28:18-20). The ‘world of work’ is very important in that instruction from the Lord.

In ‘Transform your work life’ Graham and I wrote the following: Each day when you go to work you have an opportunity to ‘go into all the world’ without having to go across the world.

So, let me ask you, what can you do to share God’s blessing among the people you work with? How can you work for Jesus at work by doing your work for His purposes and in order to honour Him? Remember that the rewards will not only bring blessing to you, but they will help to transform the lives of others!

Please can I encourage you to pray for each of the people that you work with on a daily basis?

Remember, work can be worship!

Dion

Tuesday
Jul272010

Jesus - monk or manager? The answer could change your life!

When you think about Jesus, what kind of minister do you think he was?  This may sound like a strange question, but it is important to answer it honestly!  I have come to see that most Christians tend to think of Jesus more as ‘monk’ than as a ‘manager’!

Some of the people that I spoke to thought that Jesus did similar things during his ministry to what their pastor does today (he preached, he cared for the sick, he nurtured people, he built a community).  Now of course that is partially true – a great deal of what pastors do in their congregations today is modelled on the ministry of Jesus.  However, it is a mistake to limit your understanding of Jesus’ ministry to such a narrow understanding.  The problem with seeing Jesus in this way is that it becomes difficult to imagine that Jesus did the kinds of ‘ordinary’ things that you and I have to do each day!  Somehow this ‘religious’ view of Jesus and his ministry creates a measure of separation between our everyday lives, and particularly our everyday work lives, and the life and work of Jesus.

In fact, I’m sure that like me you may have heard some sermons preached in which the impression is created that Jesus is antagonistic towards the marketplace!

Our picture of Jesus and his ministry is shaped by years of reading, learning, and thinking about the saviour.  I have found that sometimes I need to see things from a slightly different perspective in order to discover new opportunities and possibilities for my faith life.

Let me illustrate it to you in this way.  Recently a friend attended a course on ‘listening’ for a counselling program he is running.  The facilitator placed a serial box in the middle of the table around which the participants were sitting.  He asked each of them to tell the others what they saw.  Naturally there were various descriptions of the box depending on where the participants were sitting.  Some saw the front of the box, while others saw the back.  Some could see part of the front and one side, while others could see part of the back and the other side.

What you will read next is simply an attempt to look at Jesus’ life from a different angle, an angle that might help you to feel closer to him in your everyday worklife.

Biblical scholars tell us that Jesus lived for about 33 years (from his birth to his death on the cross).  During those 33 years the synoptic Gospels record that Jesus only spent 3 years of his life, from age 30-33, doing the kind of ministry that makes most people view him as a wondering monk, or Rabbi (Hebrew teacher or priest).  Have you ever thought about what Jesus did with the rest of his life?  Did Jesus only start loving people, praying for them, caring for their needs, telling them about God when he turned 30?  Of course not!  While Jesus may only have started his public ‘teaching’ ministry at around 30 years of age (Lk 4:14-15), we know that he was already displaying the evidence of his special nature and calling as a young boy.  Luke says ‘And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.’ (Lk 2:40).  How would others have known of his wisdom unless he was saying and doing wise things?  How would they have known that God’s grace was upon him unless he was already displaying God’s grace in his words and actions?  In fact the clearest evidence that Jesus was already engaging in ministry as a boy is to be found Luke 2:41-52, the account of Jesus engaging the priests in conversation in the temple.  Once again this passage ends with Luke noting, ‘And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.’ (Lk 2:52 NIV).

So, we can be sure that Jesus was a minister, even as a young child – (Lk 4:49) Jesus notes that he is about his Father’s business.  As we discussed in chapter 4, to be a minister means to ‘act under God’s authority’.  It is assumed that Jesus would have been about 12 years of age when this incident in the temple took place, and as Luke points out he continued to grow in stature, getting recognition from others, and found great favour with God and other people. 

This simply means that Jesus was in a different form of ministry from at least age 12-30, than the kind of ministry he did from age 30-33.  What kind of ministry was Jesus engaged in for those 18 years?  Mark’s Gospel gives us an insight into the primary way in which Jesus’ community viewed him during that period, ‘Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?’ (Mk 6:3 NIV).

Jesus’ contemporaries recognised him first as a businessman – a carpenter – and then only later as their teacher and saviour.

It is important to note that Jesus didn’t do carpentry as a hobby.  In the ancient near east a boy would take up his trade as a teenager, normally learning the skills and techniques that he would use to support his family in years to come.  Since Joseph was a carpenter, Jesus followed the same trade.  So by the time of Jesus begins his public ministry (Lk 4:15) he had spent almost 20 years applying his trade.  Of course it is not surprising that his contemporaries found it difficult to relate to him as their saviour, since some of them would have bought Jesus’ products!  Perhaps they had a table, or a door, or some farm implement, that Jesus had crafted for them in their house.  Furthermore, Jesus clearly knew his trade well, since we can see that he uses the metaphor of a wooden yoke, something that a skilled carpenter would have made many times, to illustrate the blessing of living a life under submission to God (see Matt 11:29-30).  As Ed Silvoso rightly points out in Anointed for business, Jesus parables are full of examples that show his understanding of business and the marketplace:  construction (Matt 7:24-27), wine making (Lk 5:37-38), farming (Mk 4:2-20), tending animals (Mt 18:13-44), management and labour (Matt 20:1-16), return on investments (Matt 25:14-30), crop yield (Mk 13:27-32), and management criteria (Lk 12:35-48).

Just as Jesus encountered people with the knowledge of business then, he wishes to encounter you with the knowledge of your daily work today!  Jesus understands the pressures of working with people, the challenge of creating something that one can market and sell in order to earn a livelihood.  Jesus knows how to deal with customers and suppliers, how to manage a workflow and juggle priorities in order to remain in business – he did it for 20 years of his life.  And, the remarkable thing about it is that we’re told that while he did this he continued to grow in wisdom and favour with both God and people!  Jesus understands what it means to be a minister in the marketplace.

Central to Jesus ministry in the marketplace was the understanding that he needed to obey God’s will in order to effectively establish God’s Kingdom on earth.  Notice that Jesus mission statement is very practical, it deals with poverty, health care, criminal reform, debt, justice and God’s loving favour (Lk 4:18-19).  

You can read more about Jesus and the workplace in 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling" you can download the first few chapters here, or purchase a copy of the book at Christian Republic or at Wordsworth and Exclusive books.

Christian republic has a special running - you can get the book for just R88.00 and that includes a free leather type journal.