Monday, November 16, 2020

The Great Unemployment Problem – in the Church

I’ve been doing a bit of time traveling. At least it’s seemed that way. I’ve been re-reading the first book I ever wrote, The Gospel and the Briefcase, which was published back in 1984. I served as ghostwriter for Ted DeMoss, then the president of CBMC, now known as Christian Business Men’s Connection. 


CBMC is planning to republish the book, hopefully by the end of this year. So I’ve been reviewing it to see what revisions are needed to update the content. Ted passed away in 1997, but his stories in The Gospel and the Briefcase don’t need to be changed at all. They’re timeless. He explains how he came to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and how God later impressed on him the importance of sharing his faith with others. 


Many of the accounts of people Ted encountered over his decades of ministry in the marketplace are incredibly moving and inspiring. But it’s his passion and vision for reaching out to people with the life-changing good news of Jesus that come through most strongly.


Early in his business career, he was a rising executive with the Arrow Shirt Company in upstate New York. In his mid-20s, Ted had already been given responsibility for overseeing hundreds of factory workers. But one day he informed his boss that he was resigning – even though he had no idea what he would be doing next. “I just can’t give my life to making shirts,” he declared.


Eventually, Ted established a successful career in the insurance business, but that was never his main focus. It served as a platform for what he loved to do the most: tell others about Jesus. In his book, he stated, “As a Christian, a businessman should look upon his job as his avocation. I learned that my true vocation as a believer is to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.”


That perspective, shared literally thousands of times across the country and around the globe, stirred the hearts of countless followers of Jesus Christ. Seeing folks in the business and professional world as an “unreached people group,” Ted was constantly presenting evidence – from his own experience – that even in the marketplace, people are not gospel-hardened; they’re gospel-ignorant.


But aren’t evangelism and discipleship the job of the pastor, or the missionary? That, Ted explains, was his misconception as well. Then he discovered that many people would be most open to hearing about what the Bible says from someone like them, a peer. In his case, another business person. As it says in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”


In addition to meeting personally with people desperately needing to hear about Jesus Christ and what He could do in their lives, Ted devoted his life to persuading others that, as he said, their “true vocation as a believer is to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.” 


Sadly, there are too few people who share this passion. Too often, we’re like fans attending a football game – thousands of people desperately in need of exercise, watching 22 players desperately in need of rest.


The late Dr. Howard Hendricks, a beloved speaker, author, and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, observed, “The greatest problem in the world today is the unemployment problem. Ninety-five percent of the men and women who are Christians today are unemployed – for Christ. They are active in their churches, but unemployed in sharing their faith. The end result is that nothing is happening.”


Many of us presume that if people want to encounter God, they will somehow stumble into a church. That’s rarely the case. And if they do, it’s because someone they know – someone they trust – has invited them. In these COVID days, even that’s more difficult than ever. 


Romans 10:14-15 explains the solution to this problem: “How, then, can they call on the one they have no believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”


Before we conclude, “Aha! That’s the job for preachers only!” we need to understand the Scriptures are not talking about “men of the cloth,” people with formalized religious training. As the Good News Translation states it, And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out?”


Another passage, 2 Corinthians 5:20, affirms this: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” If we’re willing, He wants to send each of us.


We don’t have to be a Billy Graham, Ted DeMoss, a best-selling Christian author, or the latest and greatest radio preacher to speak to others about Jesus. As Hendricks said, as followers of Jesus we have no excuse for being “unemployed for Christ.” When we walk out the front door of our home, step out of our office or cubicle, or even log onto a Zoom call, we’re entering the mission field.


As long as we’re being good news to the people we meet, we can trust God to give us opportunities to share the good news with them. We need to get out of the unemployment line! 

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