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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

Is the Future of Church Planting Bi-Vocational?

Ed note: See Jimmy Scroggins' rejoinder to this post here

There has been a lot of discussion lately about bi-vocational church planting. Jimmy Scroggins and Steve Wright represent many of the arguments for bi-vocational planting in their article, The Math Doesn’t Work: Why the Future of Church Planting is Bi-vocational. It’s a challenging and timely piece. Most pastors and planters consider bi-vocational planting second-class, a stepping stone to full-time ministry. The preferred method of planting remains raising 3-5 years of funds so that the lead pastor can start full-time from the beginning.


The problem with this model, Scroggins and Wright point out, is that it is expensive. Many church plants start with a yearly budget of $200,000 or more, which means that before they’ve even planted the church, they need to grow the church to 200+ just to become self-sustaining. For many planters, especially in difficult contexts, this is simply unrealistic. Unfortunately, most don’t recognize the mistake until year 3 when their funding begins to run out.

Another problem with this approach is the sheer amount of money it will require given the number of churches we need to plant. Southern Baptists have a goal of planting 15,000 churches by 2022. Even if every plant only required $100,000 each, that’s 1.5 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money in a day when many of our churches are plateaued or declining.

Bi-vocational planting addresses some of these problems. There are literally hundreds of people in our churches with good jobs and a calling to ministry. Their jobs grant them access into a mission field that a full-time pastor can’t access, and provide them with the means to support their families without drawing a salary from the church. These men are in our churches, and many of them are waiting to go—all we need to do is give them permission.


So is bi-vocational “the future” of planting? The answer is yes, and no.

We cannot afford not to embrace bi-vocational planting. For far too long, our strategy has been reduced to a single model, and as we’ve seen, that model simply isn’t enough.

However, there are several problems with the argument that bi-vocational is “the” future of planting (though, to be clear, Scroggins and Wright did not argue that traditional church planting has no place in the future):

1. It is not true that “traditional” church planting in urban centers is defunct.

When we say bi-vocational is the future, many will hear us saying that full-time planting is defunct. That’s simply not true. Admittedly, this is not Scroggins and Wright’s conclusion, but there are voices leaning this way. We at the Summit are very early into our church planting strategy, and we have much to learn, but our plants in urban, non-Bible-belt areas are doing well, and right on schedule or even ahead of schedule to become sustainable. Some of the largest churches in the Western world are in metropolitan cities outside of the Southeast. There is no reason to think we cannot, and should not, plant more.

2. We should not discourage pastors who have the capacity to plant these kinds of churches from doing so.

Our urban centers need more high capacity leaders, and those leaders are in our churches. For many of them, the most appropriate strategy is to enter the game full-time. If we put up a strategy that is bi-vocational only, many of them will conclude that church planting is not for them. We need to put before these people a compelling vision for urban centers and why church planting is a best use of all of their gifts.

3. An over-emphasis on bi-vocational planting will make fundraising for guys that should be full-time more difficult.

I could easily see pastors using the bi-vocational argument as a reason why they should not give funding to full-time planters. “No, I’m not giving you money. That’s not responsible. You should get a job at Starbucks.” There are 42,000 SBC churches, and we should do all we can to empower these guys to raise money, not keep them from it.

4. The resources are not as limited as we think.

American churches have more money now than they’ve ever had. Most churches could afford to plant a church every two to three years if they made the appropriate sacrifices. If each of those churches planted a church within five years, we would have a church planting explosion on our hands. The money is out there—churches and individuals simply need to be given a compelling vision for why church plants are what they should leverage their treasure for.  The answer is not to shrink our mission, but to enlarge our vision.

Further, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:10). He has unlimited resources for his mission. In fact, in the conversations I have had with denominational leaders, the limiting factor that is keeping us from planting more churches is not money, it’s a shortage of qualified planters. Our churches are simply not skilled, anymore, at raising up leaders from within. 

5. Bi-vocational planting has its own challenges.

To succeed in many businesses, especially the kind in which a man can support his family over the long-term, requires consuming amounts of energy, energy that often leaves little reserve for pastoring. Perhaps here we could take a cue from our overseas church planting teams. These teams often consist of some team members who work primarily in the “business” sector while devoting a little time to the church, and many who work primarily on the church plant while devoting a little time to business.

There are some who possess jobs in which they make sufficient salaries and have excess time on their hands. We certainly should leverage that, but we should not suppose bi-vocational planting is going to be easy simply because it solves the money problem.


So yes, we absolutely need to develop bi-vocational strategies to reach our cities. Our church is beginning to discuss the implications of this for us. For too long, we’ve relied on one strategy. However, the answer is not to replace one “one-size-fits all” strategy for another, but to expand it.

We need multiple models of sending to fulfill the Great Commission. We need to raise up both full-time and bi-vocational planters within our churches. That is where the real challenge lies. We have to get better at making disciples and training leaders again. The greatest mathematical explosion happens when churches multiply by planting churches that plant churches.

J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and is the author, most recently, of Stop Asking Jesus Into Your heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (B&H).

March 2013
© 9Marks

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by 9Marks.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © 9Marks. Website: www.9Marks.org. Email: info@9marks.org. Toll Free: (888) 543-1030.

Create a Contrast Culture in Your Church


New article on The Gospel Coalition site. Check it out. Here's the intro:

Church leaders who stop by our little house of worship in Washington sometimes ask what we have done to produce all the discipling, evangelism, and hospitality they see. What programs are we using?

It's a 20th-century American way of asking the question. Church growth has been viewed in business terms for at least half a century, so the questioner assumes some program has birthed these activities.

But our answer points in a different direction. We say we want to develop a culture of discipling, and a culture of evangelism, and a culture of hospitality. And so we offer tools, not programs.

What do we mean by a "culture" of these things, and how do we cultivate such culture?

Read the whole thing.

Preaching to Women Who Work in the Home


Pastors should treat women in the congregation like family. That seems to be the lesson of 1 Timothy 5:2: “Treat…older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters.” But does God say how they should preach to women?

In fact, he does. Three passages of Scripture in particular stand out for their instruction on how to preach to women, especially regarding their work in the home. They encourage pastors to remember at least three things when they are preaching to their mothers and sisters in Christ: remember their curse, remember their context, and remember their culture.

In considering these three points, which I offer as observations from a sister, my goal is not to provide you with every available application. Though I do offer some practical suggestions, even more than that, I hope to give you three windows into the lives and hearts of women working in the home so that you can preach any passage to us “in an understanding way” (1 Pet. 3:7). 


First, remember your sisters’ curse. In the garden, God placed a curse on Eve’s calling: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).

These relationships are at the heart of the woman’s work in the home. Women today still struggle with the desire to usurp their husband’s leadership, and they still suffer pain and trouble in childbearing. Consider how Peter takes this curse into account by speaking to women directly about their relationship with their husbands:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands…your beauty should not come from outward adornment…instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful…you are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (1 Pet. 3:1-6)

Here Peter exhorts women to cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit, not a domineering, manipulative one, as they live under their husband’s leadership. And he encourages women not to give way to fear, but to trust God as they follow their husband.  In so doing, women display the gospel. How can you follow Peter’s example? A few suggestions for preaching from different portions of Scripture:

First, when preaching from the Old Testament, consider spotlighting the “holy women of the past” as you preach through the story of Israel. How were the women good examples (or not) of putting their hope in God as they submitted to their husbands? Did they help their husbands follow God, or did they lead them away from him, like the Canaanite women and Solomon’s wives?  Encourage your women to bring all their troubles to God, whether it’s fear over their children’s health or future, or anxiety about the financial security of their home, or anything else.

Second, when you are in the wisdom literature, help your women consider if their attitude draws their husbands’ praise (Prov. 31:28) or drives their husbands to want to live on the roof (Prov. 21:9). Are they loving their children by faithfully disciplining them (Prov. 29:15; 31:26)?

Third, when you are preaching in the New Testament, urge your women to go to Jesus with their weariness and struggles, and not try to flee the curse by escaping into novels, exercise, or shopping. Encourage them to consider how their daily lives are being transformed by the gospel.   For example, if you are preaching in James, how is their speech? Are they using it faithfully to build up and help their husbands and to gently, patiently instruct their children, or do they use their speech sinfully to express criticism or anger?


Next, remember our context—the household. Consider how Paul provides instruction about teaching women:

So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. (1 Tim. 5:14) 

Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Tit. 2:3-5)

From these texts, we can see it is important to consider whether you are preaching to older women or younger women. Not all women are in the same season of life—and, thus, their households will not all look the same.  It is also important to remember that the primary responsibility God has given us is to our husbands and children, and the primary entity that should receive the focus of our labors and where we work out our salvation is our household. This is our context.

Consider whether your sermon applications build up your younger women in their context—or preach them out of it. For example, if you present Christian faithfulness as going on mission trips, discipling eight people, and engaging in weekly street evangelism, you may be preaching younger women out of their context. The mother of four young children usually does not have the flexibility to undertake those excellent activities. An older woman, however, may. Instead, talk to the younger women about how they can be building God’s Kingdom in the context God has given them. How? Again, I’d offer a few suggestions for preaching from different parts of the Bible.

From the Old Testament: Consider pointing out how God is Israel’s helper, and that he has given your women the same role in their husband’s life. How can they grow in that role? Help them consider what they can learn about their mothering as they consider God’s faithfulness towards his regularly disobedient son, the people of Israel. Your moms can relate to Moses when he said to God, “What am I to do with these people?” (Ex. 17:5).

From the New Testament: Encourage your women to consider how they can use their homes to reach the nations, maybe by hosting a visiting missionary or international students for a meal. As they consider their evangelism, urge your women to think through the opportunities they have with neighbors, soccer team parents, and retail workers. Also:  Are they doing all they can to make disciples of their own children, even as they remember that only God saves?

Ask them, “How is the gospel transforming your work in the home?”  And help them consider that question in light of your Scriptural text. For example, if you are in 1 Peter, encourage your women to pursue holiness in their own lives and manage their households towards holiness. What kinds of books and media are the children taking in? What is the tone of conversation in the home? Is the family living a “good life” among the pagans so that “they may see their good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:12)?  Generally, urge the women to be “well known for [their] good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting [themselves] to all kinds of good deeds” (1 Tim. 5:10).

Also, preach to our context in the household by exhorting us to embrace it. Urge your younger women to obey Paul’s counsel to marry, have children, and manage their homes, which is countercultural to many women in their twenties. Urge your older women to obey Paul’s counsel in Titus 2 to instruct the younger women in these jobs.  Urge them all to work with excellence, remembering that it is the Lord Christ they are serving (Col. 3:24).


Finally, remember our culture. Keep in mind the cultural air your women are breathing and how it can pollute their hearts.

That air is full of ideas like those presented in Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, the point of which is largely captured in the title. Our culture tells women to find value, identity, usefulness, and reward in career. It says that we are wasting our gifts and our lives by applying them primarily to family life. And even Christian women are buying into this message, especially younger women.

In writing to Timothy, Paul well understood female culture in Ephesus. Though his comments are not regarding the household, we can still take a lesson from how he addresses women’s hearts.  He speaks directly to the Ephesian fashion culture and how it tempted women:

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Tim. 2:9-10)

Paul saw that this culture encouraged women to dress to exercise power over men by alluring them. Our culture does the same—and it pushes women to take on the very roles of men.

Remind your married women of what is at stake in the work they choose: the gospel! Christ and the church are not interchangeable. Encourage them that when they embrace their helper role, they are imaging the church’s relationship to Christ (Eph. 5:22-24). Encourage your women that when they lay down worldly ambition to serve their family, they are surrendering their lives in a very tangible way to follow Christ and display his humility (Phil. 2). Encourage them that they are working for the eternal reward Christ has for them (Col. 3:24).

So, brothers, as you preach to and shepherd your women who are working in the home, remember our curse, our context, and our culture. In so doing, you will bring the gospel to bear on the good work God has given us, for his glory.

Bari Nichols is a wife, mother of four children, and, as she and her husband Andrew affectionately say, Chief Operating Officer of Nichols, Inc. (their household). She is a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

March 2013
© 9Marks

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by 9Marks.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © 9Marks. Website: www.9Marks.org. Email: info@9marks.org. Toll Free: (888) 543-1030.

Topics: Preaching

9Marks at SBTS Conference: Watch it live


A good number of pastors and students have gathered in Louisville to hear from Mike Bullmore, David Helm, and others at the 9Marks at Southern conference today and tomorrow. 

Those who aren't able to be here can watch the conference live online. I'd encourage you to check it out. Please pray for fruit from this time together!

What is Business as Missions?

More and more people have begun talking about combining business and missions these days, yet the concept has been slow to catch on in some circles. Why is that?

Some churches are unaware of the concept.

Others don’t think it important, preferring to focus on traditional methods of doing missions.

Still others are wary of the term “Business-as-Missions” (BAM), fearing it could distract churches from the mission of making disciples. How should churches think about business and missions?

To begin, we have to define BAM, and part of the challenge is nomenclature. There are a variety of definitions, but when we use the term, we mean building businesses that enable church planting among unreached peoples. We don’t believe business is missions, since we define missions as the making of disciples and the planting of churches. Neither do we believe that BAM is pursuing mediocre businesses to facilitate missions. Rather, we see BAM as a helpful way for business done well to enable and support missions.


Why are BAM and tentmaking, rather than traditional mission models, increasingly important? First, there is a gospel need: there are 2.8 billion people unreached among 6,000 people groups, so we need more laborers for the gospel.

Second, many countries continue to limit Christian witness, and Christian professionals are needed who can access such countries by benefiting and serving the country through their work.

Third, the world is urbanizing and there are correspondingly increasing numbers of professionals. As of 2008, more than half of the world’s population is now in cities. It’s forecast that by 2030, this number will rise to more than 60 percent. We need Christians who can naturally interact with these growing populations. Tim Keller has noted that there is a shared affinity among professionals in the large cities of the world that transcends culture: arguably a professional in Los Angeles has more in common with a professional in New Delhi than either of those people do with those in rural areas in their own countries.


How can pastors best equip their members who are considering working overseas? First, members should be faithful in their jobs in the West, doing their work with excellence and for the glory of God. Second, pastors should put before their members the vision and privilege of spreading the gospel to all nations, particularly among those who have not heard (Rom. 15:20).

There is one fundamental question for Christians interested in working overseas: do they want to emphasize professional development or church planting? Done for God’s glory and with the right motives, either is a fine decision. One is not more spiritual than the other. However, one needs to be the emphasis (with one exception, which I’ll mention at the end). And the emphasis you choose will affect your preparation and expectations.


For the Christian who emphasizes professional development, life abroad will probably end up consisting of shorter stints of maybe 2 to 3 years. Their role would be to serve as a faithful church member who is able to develop relationships with locals that other missionaries might not be able to meet, and to provide models for local believers of living out the gospel faithfully in the workplace.

There would be fewer opportunities to learn the language since it’s hard to do so in the midst of a full-time job. Relationships would therefore largely be with other expats or with locals who can speak English. What types of job options would be available? Sometimes multinationals offer expat packages, which provide generous remuneration terms for those in more senior positions, though it is good to keep in mind that such positions usually entail long hours. For the junior-level professional, pay will probably be lower than in the States, and could involve more competition with hungry locals.

First, though, it is most important to identify a good local church or a church planting team with which one may partner. There are many cities where this would be possible (e.g., Dubai, Munich, Grand Cayman, Singapore). One tool to help you think through a city’s suitability for this strategy is a 2 x 2 matrix, where one criteria is how unreached a city is and the other evaluates the ease of adjustment to the new culture. Below is a non-scientific way of evaluating various cities on these two criteria.

However, there are also many places where a good church or church planting team might not exist. For example, a friend had a high-powered position with a US multinational in Egypt; however, he found it very difficult to be fed spiritually and was discouraged by the whole process.

Pastors should specially focus on evaluating the lives of members who are thinking about living overseas. We want to send people who are thriving spiritually in the church, at home, and at work instead of encouraging people who would be burdens to the Christians they are supposed to assist. Pastors should also help identify and vet the overseas churches or church planting teams with whom a member will partner. Absent a clear partner, we would strongly discourage church member from moving to a foreign city, regardless of how good the professional opportunity looks.

Preparation for going overseas in this manner involves being a faithful and fruitful member of a local church. In addition, it is very helpful to learn the local language ahead of time. This multiplies one’s ability to relate to locals. Also, to have a better chance of being given the opportunity to work overseas by a multinational, it is important to at least have some building blocks in the local language. College students, who have a plethora of study abroad options and time to invest, should consider language learning. Christians interested in these kinds if opportunity should especially consider learning languages that are widely spoken in the 10/40 window, such as Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Russian, Mandarin, or Hindi.

While working overseas has a lot of potential for kingdom purposes, it also has some limitations. Being a professional will grant a Christian access to a country’s largest cities but not necessarily to small and medium ones. Yet there is need for the gospel in such places. It would be the equivalent of reaching New York and Los Angeles, but not the heartland. To bring the gospel to such places, and to have longer-term impact, we need to pursue strategies that emphasize church planting.


This strategy would be longer-term than the previous one, with people looking to stay in-country for 5 to 10 years or longer. The goal here is to drive a business that also enables missionary access, helping with operations, management, and business development. Someone pursuing this strategy would first spend some time learning the local language and culture in order to communicate the gospel intelligibly.

Access Partners focuses on this end of the BAM and tentmaking spectrum. We build replicable business models that facilitate church planting in a variety of industries. Some of these strategies are new business start-ups and others are formed in partnership with existing Christian-run businesses.

As with the professionally focused strategy, it is important to join the right church planting team, and a church’s elders should help members forge wise partnerships. The local church will be more involved in this strategy since they would send the professional. Therefore, someone interested in moving overseas should talk through these issues with a pastor or elder years ahead of time. For instance, we worked with a couple who were quickly approved by their church to be sent to drive a business in the Middle East. However, the reason why this process moved so seamlessly is because they had been known by their elders for years, and had demonstrated faithfulness in many areas already.

Preparation will be primarily spiritual, including growing in one’s understanding of the nature of the church and the gospel. From a vocational perspective, it would be great to gain “profit & loss” experience, or to manage a business or team in preparation for BAM involvement.

As mentioned above, there are also opportunities for Christian business owners living stateside to be involved. They can expand their businesses internationally into regions where there are fewer believers while also employing missionaries. Pastors can encourage such businesspeople to deploy all the talents that God has given them, including their businesses, for the glory of God.


But what if one wants to pursue both professional development and church planting? One way we have seen this happen is when people migrate for the gospel—that is, move somewhere permanently. This was how missions used to be done since it was so hard to come back to one’s home country. For example, William Carey established an indigo plant, started a college, and founded a horticultural society. It is actually temporary overseas mission work that is the recent development.

Time committed to a country is important since it allows one to learn the language and culture of a country. Comparatively fewer people opt for this strategy, but there are some very encouraging examples. One friend moved to a formerly Communist country, started a church, and also launched the most successful business in its industry. The business has served as a model for believers in the country and has also provided employment for local Christians.


BAM and tentmaking are not revolutionary ways of doing missions but are increasingly useful for opening doors for the gospel. We encourage pastors to learn more about these opportunities to help their members use their skills and experience to make disciples of all nations.

The author’s name has been left anonymous for security purposes. Access Partners builds businesses that enable church planting in areas least reached by the gospel.

February 2013
© 9Marks

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by 9Marks.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © 9Marks. Website: www.9Marks.org. Email: info@9marks.org. Toll Free: (888) 543-1030.

Book Review: Everyday Church


“The culture has changed, therefore the church must change.” That refrain, whether expressed or assumed, is the dominant motif of much of today’s church literature. And almost always, I’m unconvinced. Too often evangelicals mistake superficial trends for tectonic shifts. And too often we simply mirror the culture, as if what the world really needed was for the church to be just like it.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ new book Everyday Church does highlight recent shifts in Western culture, and it calls for churches to change in response. Yet refreshingly, their analysis of culture and prescriptions for change hit the mark just about every time.


The main premise of Everyday Church is that churches in the United Kingdom, and increasingly in America, are facing a post-Christendom world yet relying on evangelistic methods left over from Christendom. For generations we have tended to subsist on capital generated by a church-saturated culture, but now that the culture has shifted underfoot we are overdrawing our account.

When church occupied a central place in the culture, we could expect people to come to us. So church growth proponents of various stripes focused on providing the best Sunday-service product as defined by the tastes of a targeted clientele. But now, increasing numbers of people simply have no background in church and no desire to go to church. We cannot entice them to come to us, which means that we have to go to them. 

Click here to read the whole review.

Book Review: God at Work, by Gene Veith


It was not Gene Veith’s fault that I did not grasp what his book was really about until halfway inI picked it up thinking it was about life in the office, or the classroom, or the workplace generally. But if I had paid better attention to the last words in Veith’s subtitle, I would have understood from the get-go that this book wasn’t exclusively, or even primarily, about the workplace. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life makes substantial contributions to our conversations about vocation in all of life.

“Vocation” for Veith is not one’s job or occupation, but a much broader term for “a rich body of biblical teaching about work, family, society, and the Christian life” (17). Recognizing what you are and are not reading should help you appreciate this book more.


We will come back to Veith’s contributions momentarily, but first I want to dispatch a couple quibbles. I’ve been called pedantic, so take this first one with a grain of salt: I don’t think it’s helpful to apply “calling” language to specific roles in society or the obligations those choices create, as Veith does in his chapter “Finding Your Vocations” (46ff.). I say this assuming most of us have heard “calling” language brazenly abused, even from the pulpit. It can be a shrewd play for someone who wants to insinuate a divine authority for his decisions or commands, or even to trump clear biblical teaching on gender roles or sexual ethics.

Of course, Veith’s language is hardly novel; he’s drawing heavily from a rich tradition, particularly Luther. So having said all that, I realize that my resistance to “calling” terminology places me in a minority, and I’ll retreat into my imaginary world of lexical utopia. In any case, if others used the term with as much discretion as Veith does, the issue would be moot.

Read the entire review here.

7 Things Pastors Should Teach Those in the Marketplace


The marketplace, the everyday world of trade and economic activity, is where most people spend the majority of their days. In modern history, the marketplace has played an unparalleled role in shaping our world. Globalization has turned countless local markets into one massive global market. Advances in technology and communication have managed to bridge enormous geographical and cultural gaps with blinding speed.

Meanwhile, the language and norms of the marketplace have changed the way other social institutions, including the church, think and operate. Even family life has been shaped by the marketplace in seemingly indelible ways.

Yet the marketplace is not a single homogenous entity. It is a complex organism that defies easy definition. The marketplace experience of a plumber is not the same as a venture fund manager, and the work of a banker is different from the work of a teacher. Indeed, work happens

  • in a variety of locations (from home, remotely, in the air, from a car, in an office, in a cubicle, in a warehouse, in a field, in a sky rise, underground, on the water),
  • in a variety of employments (freelancers, employees, contractors, consultants, employers, sole proprietors),
  • and in a variety of organizations (firms, small businesses, large corporations, franchises, practices, partnerships, governments, schools, nonprofits). 

Therefore, as a pastor seeks to teach biblically about marketplace dynamics, it is helpful for him to deepen his empathy and broaden his understanding of the vocations represented in his congregation.

So what should pastors teach to those called to the marketplace?

1. Teach them how Scripture informs their work. One of the most foundational texts for understanding work is the “creation mandate,” where God commands Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Though it is impossible for a pastor to keep up with the ever-growing complexity of social and economic development since the Garden of Eden, pastors do have the opportunity to devote themselves to the timeless wisdom of Scripture. Helping those in the marketplace love and live the wisdom found in Proverbs will shape how they understand their daily work, and how it can be used to glorify God and to serve their neighbors.

2. Teach them to fear the Lord. The marketplace is a place of fear. A worker may fear his boss, an executive may fear very public failures, and others fear market instability, unemployment, and government regulations. Globalization, media, and technology all serve to amplify the sense of not being in control. Like anger and pride, acting from fear produces a range of insecurities, sins, and failures.

Throughout Scripture, the people of God are commanded not to be afraid. Paul reminds us, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). We are, however, commanded to fear God: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10; Ps. 111:10). Unfortunately, there are many professing Christians whose work life is dominated by fear and anxiety, which cuts them off from living in the wisdom of God.

3. Teach them to pray. Many Christians do not feel equipped to pray about their work, much less to actually pray in the marketplace. Given the fear that is so rampant in the marketplace, coupled with hostility toward Christian faith and practice, the best thing for workers to do is to pray. Yet the kinds of prayers needed in the marketplace may not be the kinds typically heard on Sunday mornings. Pastors have the opportunity to teach Christians how to pray for courage, against temptation, for integrity, that they might work with skill, for their coworkers, and that God would establish the work of their hands. And in response to the many blessings of work, they should be equipped to give thanks.

4. Teach them that their ultimate worth isn’t found in their performance. There is massive pressure in the marketplace for workers to earn their keep, meet their quotas, and climb the ladder. Without vigilant resistance, Christians too can come to believe they are nothing but a job title, a level of responsibility, or a unit of production.

The psalmist teaches that, unlike man, God does not judge us like one evaluates the strength of a horse. Rather, “the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Ps. 147:10-11). At the end of the day, our approval and identity are found in being adopted as children of God by grace through faith in Christ—not on the basis of anything we do for ourselves.

5. Teach them they are more than “useful” to their local church. There is a subtle tendency for pastors to see members of their congregation in terms of their utility in supporting church programs or contributing to the budget. This temptation becomes even greater when a church member is known to be talented in their craft or successful in the marketplace. In this regard, pastors apply the same pressures on them that they likely experience throughout the week from their employers, leaders, and supervisors. Before churches are about budgets and programs, they are about people. The members of a congregation need to know they matter for more than just their utility.

6. Teach them that they’re not inferior to pastors and missionaries. Many churches, perhaps unwittingly, subtly propagate the myth that pastors and missionaries matter more, or are intrinsically holier, than carpenters, call center workers, or entrepreneurs. The church may employ pastors and send missionaries, but the silent majority of kingdom work is done by those of diverse callings in the marketplace. Pastors should find ways to disciple members for the variety of vocations represented in the congregation, and not just those in so-called “Christian ministry.”

7. Teach them to love what they do, and to do it well. It is easy to love one’s work for a time, but when circumstances, opportunities, relationships, and rewards change, difficulty and discouragement quickly set in. A certain degree of this is inevitable, but if work is dominated by a sense of pessimism or fatalism, the worker will not do his work well, he will not be content, and his gospel witness will shrivel up and die. Believers need the reminder of Colossians 3:23 that in a broken world they ultimately work for the Lord. In every task and in every season, it is this truth that provides the motivation to do all work with passion and excellence. Pastors face difficulty and discouragement in their work as well. But those who have found new, life-giving ways to rekindle the love for what they do will in turn be able to share that wisdom with those in different occupations.

Lukas Naugle, who attends Redemption Church in Phoenix, Arizona, is a principal at Marketplace One and works alongside entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the country.

February 2013
© 9Marks

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © 9Marks. Website: www.9Marks.org. Email: info@9marks.org. Toll Free: (888) 543-1030.

Topics: Discipleship

Businessperson, Help your Pastor Build Trellises


In my first article in this issue of the 9Marks Journal, I described the tension that often arises between pastors and businesspeople. Pastors grow frustrated because businesspeople seem overly fixated on the church’s numbers and structures and budgets, and businesspeople feel like their pastors don’t understand them or care about their work.

And I suggested that the analogy of trellises and vines provides a way forward. Vine work is disciple-making, and trellis work is building structures to support disciple-making. Pastors are typically strong on the former and weak on the latter, and businesspeople tend to be the opposite. So, in my first article, I encouraged pastors to encourage businesspeople in their work, teach them how to do vine-work, and use their trellis-building powers for the church. This article provides a game plan for businesspeople in the church.


The Businessperson’s Game Plan: Your pastor is better at growing vines, not building trellises. Realize this, learn from him, and build supporting trellises in the church.

1) Build trellises—but remember that trellises are for supporting vines.

First, build trellises—but remember that trellises are for supporting vines. I’ve heard too many businesspeople complain about their churches and how the church “doesn’t get them.” I’m sympathetic to this, but I want to challenge you back: How much time have you spent trying to “get” your church? And, more importantly, how much time have you spent trying to serve your church?

A church is different from a business. Sure there are some similarities, but fundamentally, a church is to “go and make disciples...baptizing them...and teaching them to obey” (Matt. 28:19). In essence, a church exists to preach the gospel and to make disciples.

This is the primary work of the church. This work can take many forms, but a church has got to keep this main thing the main thing. This isn’t to say that a trellis is unnecessary or unimportant. But it does mean that the trellis—in some cases proceeding in others following—is always there to support the vine. The point of a church is not to have a great trellis, but to have a healthy vine.

Very practically, this doesn’t mean your church has a license to have shoddy trellises. It does mean that trellises are a necessary but not sufficient part of your church. On the other hand, to business people, the vine does not always seem a necessary part of your church. Here’s the point: preaching and teaching the Bible produces fruit, fruit that is visible in the lives of the people at your church. This is the great goal of the church: people who reflect the glory of God!

This is the vine. This vine needs to be fed, watered, cultivated, counseled, disciplined, and poured into. This happens on Sundays through the worship services of the church as the Word is read, sung, prayed, and preached. It happens throughout the week in Bible studies and other gatherings. And it happens through “one another” relationships as members disciple, encourage, and exhort each other.

If you’re a businessperson reading this, let me encourage you that this is actually very similar to the business or company that you’re in. What’s the most important thing you do? You provide a product or service for your customers. This is the point. How you build, support, deliver, strategize, bill and collect for it are all in service to that goal. In other words, the product or service is the main point—the vine. Everything else is trellis. And there is a clear link between the two: in business, if you don’t create a great product, you don’t have customers. But if you don’t bill, you don’t have money to build a great product. And if you don’t strategize, you may not have the ability to service customers a few years from now. They all work together, but are in service to the great goal.

What does all this mean practically? If you are a businessman, realize that above all, your pastor is a vine worker. By God’s grace and through Word ministry, he wants to build disciple-making disciples. To do this, he needs to know and be committed to God’s Word and to sound doctrine. He needs to pastor by correcting, counseling, and disciplining. And, to some extent, he needs to think practically about how to organize the resources of the church to do this. But very often the preaching and pastoring will come much more naturally to him than the practical. And this is okay. In fact, you’d rather have this than the opposite.

So encourage your pastor not by trying to fix his attention on practical structures, but by freeing him to pursue the vine work. For all those gatherings and meetings to happen, trellis work is needed. So if you see trellis work that needs doing, do it. And, it’s important for you as the businessperson to bring strategy and process skills to bear on improving those trellises. Just have the humility to do this in support of, not at the expense of, the vine.

In fact, start by asking: What is the church already doing that I can lend my trellis powers to? And how can I humbly use my gifts to build up the church?

2) Care more about vine work—discipling others with the gospel and sound doctrine—than about efficiency and “getting things done.”

Second, care more about vine work—discipling others with the gospel and sound doctrine—than about efficiency and “getting things done.” I praise God that he’s given those with administrative abilities as gifts to the church (1 Cor. 12:28). Praise God that the body isn’t a bunch or mouths or eyes. We need hands and feet and hearts as well. But but be careful to use your administrative gifts to fan the Word into flame, not to throw water on the fire.

How can do this? Realize the biblical role of the elders of your church: to give themselves to teaching and praying. Understand that the pastor of your church likely cares more about teaching and theology than he does about administration because that is what he’s called to prioritize. And this is what God uses to build a church: the preaching of the Word and prayer. The ability to understand, exposit, and apply the Word to the specifics of the life of the church is crucial for helping a church grow in depth of knowledge and insight (Phil. 1:9-11).

As a businessperson, think about how you can either help or hinder your church’s Word ministry by applying—or misapplying—vision, motivation, systems, and processes. Realize that if you are a businessperson, your disposition and gifting likely leans towards efficiency and “getting things done.” While in some cases this is a huge asset, it can also undermine the teaching and praying ministry of your church. So be humble and realize that your tendencies towards efficiency and can actually harm the ministry of the Word.

What can you do practically about this? First, pray that you’d grow in love for God’s Word and desire to see the gospel held up as ultimate. As you grow in love for God’s Word, you’ll increasingly see how the gospel is the power of God for salvation and sanctification.

Second, pray that you’d grow in wisdom so that you can be helpful, intelligent, thoughtful, and practical in the best sense of the word as you apply your administrative abilities to supporting, pruning, cultivating, and nurturing vine work.

Third, grow in your ability to do vine work. As you grow in doing vine work, you’ll begin to grow in your appreciation for how so much of Christian ministry is the “hand-to-hand combat” of marriage counseling, discipling, walking through difficult circumstances with others, leading Bible studies, teaching a Sunday school class, practicing hospitality, and more. And as you grow in your ability as a vine worker, you’ll also likely grow in your appreciation for your pastor’s gifting and your own shortcomings. So join the great work of disciple-making, and supplement it with your trellis powers.
3) Be diligent, patient and long-suffering in serving your church.

Finally, be diligent, patient, and long-suffering in serving your church. Don’t make church optional, assumed, or an add-on to your life. Make it the central place in which you live out your Christian life.

The New Testament assumes that every believer will be meaningfully connected to and committed to a church. Paul says to the believers in the local church at Corinth, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). A local church is a body, and each person committed to it is a member of that body and contributes to its well-being. Hebrews 10:24-25 makes clear that it’s not enough just to be theoretically committed to a church, either. We should “not neglect to meet together,” it says, and we should be active in “stirring one another up to love and good deeds” and “encouraging one another.” So commit to a local church. Meet together regularly with your church. Encourage, love, and stir up the other members of your church.

Of course, there’s a flip side to this as well. While I agree that pastors can work harder to connect Sunday worship at church to Monday worship at work, responding negatively or selfishly is not a godly, appropriate response. Businesspeople can grow insecure or indifferent because their needs aren’t addressed. Do you feel like the church—specifically the pastor—isn’t doing enough to equip you in life? Do you think he should emphasize different things and spread out the love? Do you think the church doesn’t care about you?

If this is you, I have three things to say. First, you may be right. Your pastor is a fallible, limited sinner who may not do enough to equip and support you. But he’s trying.

Second, you’re probably not alone. Have you ever thought about how many people and groups are represented at your church? How many others feel that they could use more help and encouragement? How many other members are there who have tough lives and confusing circumstances and need to understand how to apply God’s Word to them?

Third, you’re either going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. So you have a limited, fallible pastor and lots of unmet needs, including your own. What are you going to do about it? You’re either going to pray for wisdom and strength to help meet the needs of others, or you’ll simply join the chorus of people whose needs aren’t being met.

If you truly do have specific, acute needs, obviously you should approach an elder or pastor at your church. I’m not insinuating that you do not really need encouragement. Also, it’s a good thing to be part of the solution while also providing measured critique and specific ways that your pastor can encourage a group in the church. So do think of and propose ways that your pastor can encourage business people. Just be kind, patient, and realistic in how you do it.


The goal of every church is to reflect the glory of God. And one of the keys ways a church does this is through its unity in Christ. A healthy church will have both the disciple-making and practical administrating functioning well together. To this end, both pastors and businesspeople are going to have to fight for unity.

Unity only works if there is mutual humility and mutual service. If you are a pastor, be humble and serve your businesspeople. If you are a businessperson, be humble and serve your pastors. Christians are to be reconcilers, but it’s hard work. It’s not something we get for free. We need to pray for and work towards it.

Sebastian Traeger is an elder of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, a tech entrepreneur, and the author, with Greg Gilbert, of The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Zondervan, forthcoming).

February 2013
© 9Marks

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by 9Marks.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © 9Marks. Website: www.9Marks.org. Email: info@9marks.org. Toll Free: (888) 543-1030.

Conference on Conversion in Phoenix


If you are in the Phoenix area this Thursday (February 21), consider joining the Phoenix chapter of the Gospel Coalition for Reality Check: Conversion and the Church. Wayne Grudem and yours truly will be speaking, and it should be a good time to think about this important subject. I hope to see you there!