Before Jesus called each of his disciples to join Him in full-time ministry, they all had professions they were active in.

Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen.

Matthew was a tax collector.

Luke was a doctor.

And though not all of them have their occupations referenced in Scripture, we can presume that they were certainly engaged in some activity to sustain their livelihood.  

The first disciples called were Peter and Andrew, followed by James and John.

Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers. They were Simon (his other name was Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” At once they left their nets and followed Him.

Going from there, Jesus saw two other brothers. They were James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were sitting in a boat with their father, mending their nets. Jesus called them. At once they left the boat and their father and followed Jesus.

~ Matthew 4:18-22 NLV

The disciples literally had to leave their occupations (and life as they knew it) behind in order to follow Christ. When it comes to present day ministry, there are those who are called to full time ministry. For some, they never go through the marketplace and their path from the word go leads them into full-time ministry. For others, they may be trained in a particular professional field and even practice in it for some time, before the nature of their calling requires them to cease actively practicing their profession.

Why God would allow someone to start a career only to have them quit it down the road varies. Sometimes it could be that they weren’t believers (or serious in their faith) when they started and when they do get closer to God, He redirects them. It could serve as part of their preparation process for ministry. It could also be that He intends to use the skills and experiences they gain during their time in the marketplace as they do ministry. Whatever the case, God isn’t going to waste the time spent in the marketplace when the transition into ministry finally happens. So should you find yourself in this position, please heed the call of God. There’s nothing worse than trying to function in a place when the grace of God has lifted from you.

The second category of present day ministry is where a vast majority of people fall – and it’s one that’s far less understood. It’s what I call marketplace ministry. We talk about evangelism in the workplace a lot. But what does it actually mean for what you do in the marketplace to simultaneously be your ministry?

We must let go of our nets.

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, they had to let go of their nets to follow Him. As fishermen, their nets were their tools of trade. Arguably the most important ones.

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, they had to let go of their nets to follow Him. As fishermen, their nets were their tools of trade. Arguably the most important ones.

In the context of marketplace ministry, what we need to let go of are the mindsets and expectations we have of our careers. This is all the more so because for many of us, our education in preparation for our professions gave us a worldly view of our fields, not a Godly one. It’s why we struggle so much trying to figure out where God fits into our careers. We were never trained to have Him there to begin with.

We must leave people (and their expectations of us) behind.

John and James didn’t just leave their boat behind, they also left their father. Theirs was a family venture and it’s likely that their father expected his sons to grow the business with him. Their implications of their choice could not have been easy for father or sons.

Careers are largely driven by expectation – what we and others think they should look like. Others could be those close to us like family, friends and colleagues. They could also be complete strangers who we’re trying to impress because we’ve been brought up to believe that we must have “a name” in society, and in our professional field.

Surrendering your profession to God for ministry will not look like what anyone – even you – expects. This is a reality we need to continually make peace with especially when He requires us to say and do things that go against the grain of what others expect of us.

We must follow Jesus.

It’s not enough for us to get to the door of salvation and then camp there for the rest of our lives. We need to enter into the life God purposed for us to have in salvation. There is an active, daily pursuit of Christ we require. It means getting out of what we’re comfortable with and following Him into the unknowns of life, and in this case, the marketplace.

Following Jesus will mean doing things very differently from the world around us. A classic Biblical example is that of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah who were given the names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego.

These four Israelite men were in exile in Babylon and Babylon wasted no time trying to conform them into Babylonians. Names denote identity. In the same way Babylon tried to define these men by giving them new names, worldly marketplace systems will try to conform us to what they stand for by telling us who we should be. But you need to realize that before you stepped a foot into that office, and even before your first day of school for that course, God had already given you a name in so far as your profession is concerned.

Following Jesus isn’t about getting an identity that isn’t in existence yet. It’s a journey of discovery to who He has already called us to be.

The Babylonians also tried to feed the four men special food and drink which they declined and instead chose a diet that left them healthier and better nourished than everyone else. What we consume in the marketplace and about the marketplace will make or break us. If you take time to read Scripture with the Holy Spirit, you’ll be shocked just how much the Bible has to say about the marketplace. The testimonies are there just waiting to be discovered.

Additionally, there are things in and about the marketplace that are good but not necessarily beneficial for us and we shouldn’t spend too much time on them, if any at all.

There is no one-diet-suits-all for the marketplace. If anything, there are seasons of our work life that will require a change in diet. As an individual, you need to journey with God consistently to know what you need to consume in every season.

How do you know if you’re on the right path?

It shows. Here’s how.

We must become “fishers of men”.

Jesus sets standards for us that become the new nets with which we can catch men so to speak. Our standards cannot be the same as those of unbelievers. Neither can our fruit or results.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were found to be 10 times better than anyone in the king’s service in the entire kingdom. It wasn’t what they said of themselves – it’s what the king himself found to be true about them. The days of Christians being known for their empty talk and mediocre work need to end. We are called to excellence that is far beyond even what the world considers success.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus rephrased what Peter and Andrew did for a living (fishermen) to describe what He wanted them to become (fishers of men). God takes the professional tools at our disposal and shows us how to use them for His glory.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

~ John Piper

I’m yet to meet one person in the marketplace who isn’t looking for some level of satisfaction. So much so, that we’re driven to take all sorts of steps and make all forms of sacrifice for the possibility of satisfaction. Ironically, the marketplace has become synonymous with having to do much more for much less.

Following Jesus in the marketplace means denying ourselves of fleeting pleasures so that we can find a much deeper satisfaction that is guaranteed. One that isn’t upended by the volatility of life. Know that anything you strive to gain in the marketplace, you will have to strive to keep. But anything you receive from God, He will sustain on your behalf. Therein, lies the rest we find in leaving our nets behind.

Much later on, Jesus would have another significant encounter with Peter; where He asks Peter who he considers Him to be. Peter’s response is his revelation of Christ – as the Anointed One who is the Son of God. On this revelation, Jesus stated, He would build His church.

The church was to be built on a revelation described by a fisherman who had become a fisher of men. I believe God is still in the business of using “fishermen” who know who He is to build His church by becoming “fishers of men”.

Question is – will you follow Him?

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