Marketplace Ministry Article


I think any leader would tell you that their resources never seem to keep pace with their vision. Whether you’re running a church or a non-profit organization you never seem to have enough money donated for all the needs that arise.

In 2002 Grace Chapel started Self Sustaining Enterprises (SSE). The original goal was to help fund orphan care in developing countries through business ventures within that country. We felt the quickest way to get the money to accomplish our mission was through grants. But we hit a roadblock when the funds for our projects fell short.

My wife, Deb, and I were lamenting about our situation and after our conversation I began to complain to God, “Lord, I know you gave us this vision but I don’t know how we are going to accomplish it without the money.” God’s answer went something like this, “Stop whining! You have some of the finest business minds in the country right in your church. I never told you to ask for grants. There are billions of dollars out there, go and get it.” And that’s what we did. Instead of just starting businesses (what we call biznistries) in developing countries we started them at home as well. With the help of some dynamic business minds we also started an Angel Fund to help generate capital for our start-ups. We built a center for marketplace ministry we call the ORCA Center where we run an accelerator, an incubator, as well as business seminars, training, and team building. We’ve also created office space within ORCA for local entrepreneurs with the same heart and passion. Our goal is to use the funds generated by those initiatives to help fund other ministry opportunities. We all have goals. For some it’s impacting the lives of those in need around the world, for others it might be to reach out to the un-churched in your community. As we talked and shared our vision we realized that God had us, and many others, on the same journey. As a church we have been working together for years to further the cause of Christ through marketplace initiatives.

Christians need to be asking the question, “How can we use the God-given business skills of those within the body of Christ to address the challenges of funding our ministry goals?”

Now, we are not claiming to be the first to come up with the idea of creating businesses for funding ministry, or the first to venture into the world of marketplace ministry.

There is nothing new under the sun and the church has used these principles for thousands of years.

What we have tried to do at Grace Chapel is use our experiences to create a framework or blueprint to train others to develop sustainable solutions for their ministry needs. One of the things we’ve learned is that it’s very difficult for a non-profit to run too many “brick and mortar” businesses without significant marketplace skills. Through SSE we still oversee businesses but they are mostly technology and serviced based. Some examples would be Spectra technologies and Emergency Online. We’ve also found that investing in entrepreneurs and accelerating their businesses is very effective.

It’s also important to developed partnerships with like-minded organizations and individuals to collaborate for greater Kingdom impact. Right now we partner with At Work On Purpose, Back2Back Ministries, local churches, Acton Institute, as well as individual entrepreneurs, business people, scientists and inventors.

When you start to walk down this path you will find many gifted “Half Timers” ready to take on the role of marketplace minister within your organization.

Many people have saved what is necessary for their future and are not motivated by money. But they are still inspired by a challenge, and helping the defenseless and lost people in our world can provide that spark!

Pete is one of those people. Pete retired early from Proctor & Gamble to become the director of SSE. He would say he often works harder now then before he retired. Ibrahim, a chemist and inventor originally from Nigeria has also joined the team and is making an impact through his innovative technology.

Millennials are another group with a passion to make a difference. It’s hard to pick up a magazine and not see an article on “social entrepreneurship.” Our churches are filled with millennials looking for an opportunity to impact the world.

Marketplace ministry is also a natural avenue to connect with people otherwise “disengaged” in the church. We have heard story after story of people coming alive that were once only marginally engaged in the body of Christ.

There are former CFOs, CEOs, attorneys, marketing directors, scientists, and salespeople ready to invest their lives in a Spirit driven cause. And best of all they are willing to work for free if they believe in your vision.

Eph. 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”

So take a moment and dream. Ask the question, “What If”

What If you were no longer limited by traditional funding methods?

What If a church of 500 could have the same impact as a church of 5,000?

What If we could build economic zones in developing countries to better serve the “least of these”?

What If entrepreneurs and business people saw the Church as a first stop in finding solutions to the challenges they face in the marketplace?

What if you could blend local church and non-profit leadership with marketplace leaders to further the cause of Christ?

What if we could eliminate the mindset of “non-profits are needy, and businesses are greedy.”

What if we could revolutionize our idea of giving and instead dream without limitations. Instead of just giving a person a fish or even teaching them how to fish, what if they owned the pond!

Everything we’ve talked about is very difficult and unorthodox, but so are most of the stories we read in the Bible. We serve an unorthodox God! If you take this step of faith, you will face cultural biases, traditional barriers, and the unbiblical concept of secular vs. sacred standing in your way. But a movement has started that will not be stopped, and innovative Christian leaders are tired of Plato’s secular/sacred paradigm limiting their organizations ability to move forward in fulfilling their vision.

In a Biblical worldview things are either sacred or sinful. God created everything, Satan created nothing, and dynamic leaders are tired of God being left with a few hours of our time on Sunday and surrendering the rest to the enemy. We must ask ourselves, why do we surrender territory to the enemy that doesn’t belong to him!

When believers are introduced to this truth they are inspired to use their business skills to further the Kingdom of God. One person said to us, “I feel born again…again!”

When you implement sacred business principals into your ministry you’ll begin to see incredible outcomes.

We saw dynamic results when we helped apply this concept and biblical truths from the parable of the talents to a small business in Nigeria.  A widow name Julie owned a successful plant business on a tiny piece of land. We saw her business skill and gave her 6 acres, a borehole, 250 fruit and nut trees, 1500 trees for wood and fuel, and plenty of land for her other business activities. The results are astounding! She is building relationships with restaurants and hotels which buy her produce, putting her children through University, hiring other widows who can now provide for their children, and inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs. That is what it means to give people a hand up and not a hand out. That is directly investing in the lives of orphans and widows as we are called to do in James 1:27. That is Biznistry!

People often tell us that you can’t mix business with ministry. But, our response is, “Why not? Is business sinful?”

Most Christian leaders are working with one hand tied behind their back and don’t even realize it. It’s time for us to take back what belongs to God and spark a revival within the non-profit community!