Monday, June 5, 2017

A Word from Michael

As I have been pretty sick since coming back from Guatemala, Michael, being the very helpful husband that he is, wrote this week's blog.  It's refreshing to hear about the work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders from his perspective.

Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) was conceived at a time when Renita wanted to ensure that the skills she had been teaching over the years in Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria would not help enrich the small struggling business owner in a way that would erode trust in God. As the wealth of western nations demonstrates, affluence is no arbiter of the Godly life. DML was conceived and the ministry of training business people returned to the church, and the church was challenged with the full discipleship of believers in the marketplace.

Renita’s approach impressed me in that every group that has a calling towards the spiritual formation of those serving the marketplace were equipped to that role. Pastors are reminded of the Biblical vocation of all who follow the holy call of business, or government or service. Leaders in the congregation who can teach business skills are trained to teach these skills (accounting, marketing, and the like), but taught in the context of a biblical worldview such that the Lordship of Christ over all our callings and over every facet of life is affirmed. Business owners or others involved in marketplace are both taught basic skills as needed but are also taught and discipled in fulfilling that calling according to the Gospel.  The DML vision
includes the discipleship, the teaching of skills, the advocacy towards success, all in the context of a full, rich vision of God’s redemption in the world.  Renita was in the throes of hammering out the shape of DML in three cities in Kenya when we exchanged our first messages online, when we started talking, when we began to believe that even though our callings were quite distinct and being lived out on different continents, a new calling to covenant with one another was being discovered.

In time Renita and I fell in love, and married. The project in Kenya played out its three years and an ministry was born that helped churches in a number of Kenyan cities. Within the first year of our life together, the call to plant DML ministries in other countries began to make themselves heard. As she and her colleague Dr. Walker discerned a plan, Renita started the groundwork for DML ministries to take root in Ghana, Ethiopia, Egypt, Guatemala, and soon to add Uganda to that list.

In time it became clear that Renita was receiving more calls than she could answer. One of the answers was the recognition that the call of DML was not a call Renita was called to bear alone. When she started to ask for volunteers to help shoulder that call by teaching pastors and churches how to have a DML ministry and unleash the church in their communities, I felt a calling to be with Renita in this.

And so on May 2, I flew to Guatemala with Renita. I immediately fell in love with that beautiful, lusciously green country with its historic buildings and abundance of volcanoes. I sat through the entire DML training along with a group of pastors. These were a mix of pastors, many rural, some who had to have small businesses themselves to supplement their income. Faced with the callings of God as expressed in scripture to shepherd the earth itself to multiply its blessings, along with the divine commandments to love and to make disciples, their eyes and hearts burned with fresh understanding of the beauty of the gospel that in Jesus, all things are being called to be made new.

At the end of the two and a half day seminar, a good number of them wanted to take the initial steps towards developing a DML ministry in their local church settings. I had seen this before but from afar, in the stories Renita had shared with me and on her blog. Once this new wine of DML enters into the wineskins of church, grown a little dry from a ministry that retreats from the public square, well, such wineskins will crack and the gospel will flow like spilled wine throughout neighborhoods and businesses and communities.

I continue to study with Renita and prepare for a time, not too far from now, when I can go with her and help teach DML, be it in Guatemala or some other part of the earth. I have as of yet not discerned a calling to abandon my work as an editor, work that I have come to love over the years. I have felt a new burning to be a part of this growing global ministry. I hope to help Christians who do not yet see that Jesus calling for redemption is the redemption of all things and as God redeems our lives, our work and vocation is holy in Him. This is the context for work done with a Kingdom ethic that is liberating, whole, and marked by the presence of Christ in the marketplace. It is such a privilege to help Renita shoulder this calling by listening to her and lifting her head when she is tired, but now hopefully in teaching with her from time to time. These are the first steps in discerning how I can support this ministry that takes these fundamental truths of scripture and helps churches and marketplace Christians in the church to be unleashed in these holy vocations of bankers, shop owners, manufacturers, all to the glory of God. I can’t wait to see what will be the next step in this adventure.