Jobs as a part of a gospel eco-system

Tim Keller spoke here in Chicago this past summer at the Christ+City conference held at McCormick Place. Keller is sort of what Jonah might have looked like if he embraced the city. You can hear him talk about his vision for the city and the church here.

Keller spoke about what he calls a “gospel eco-system” for impacting global cities for the cause of Christ (you can read it here or listen to him here).  I won’t try to recite his full argument but to note a few key points as a backdrop for thinking about jobs. First, global cities are inherently strategic venues to impact, and they are incredibly complex and demanding.  Second, the church is at the center of any Biblically based strategy for reaching and impacting the world.   Third, the church, while primary, must have a role and relationship to a wider “system” that is alongside of the church (often called para-church) impacting the larger culture (politics, the arts, business, education and more).

The church as an institution of redemption proclaims what Nicolas Wolterstorff calls a “world formative” Christianity.  It is the primary agent of the kingdom and has a duty to actually carry out the great commission and to both lead and inspire the great commandment.  We are called to what we were designed for — the world as it ought to be.

Part of the world as it ought to be includes vocation.  That is, as beings created in the Image of God (Imago Dei), work is part of our design.  It is that which we are gifted, inclined, and called to do.  It’s pretty obvious that without anyone working the world economy would collapse, and we would all starve to death.  God simply did not create this world as a place to not work.

In fact, it is interesting to find that the most content people in the world are people who work — often at their own business — and that beyond being able to provide for their family, an increase in wages shows no correlation to overall life satisfaction!

So if the church proper, or perhaps we could argue God’s people by extension, should be proclaiming the kingdom of God. . . the world as it ought to be. . . we then affirm the role of vocation.  We affirm the value of work.  But how do we do this?

At Sunshine Gospel Ministries we’ve been striving for a long time to get kids in our community — one often described as marginalized or under-resourced — to grow academically and spiritually.  Over recent years however, we’ve begun to add “vocational” growth as well.  A good job allows for both expression and provision.

As a para-church ministry Sunshine is in partnership with the broader church, providing a means of partnership for the church to bridge race, class and geography for the kingdom.   While we’ve often asked Christians who are successful at business to give of their gains to support our work, we are now moving beyond this — asking for the gifts of entrepreneurialism to be expressed in this partnership.

Our vision now includes 200 jobs on 61st street.  The first 4 business models are now in the works.  We need business professionals to participate in this work to helps us launch businesses that will operate at a profit (something non-profits don’t know much about; hence the need for partners!) and employ people from our community.

Our first 4 business models are:

  1. Coffee Shop
  2. Shared Office Environment
  3. Payday Lending Replacement
  4. Longboard Manufacturer

These remain concepts for now.  But, they suggest that jobs in our community, as evidence and pointers to the kingdom of Jesus Christ are possible.  They point to “business as mission” and “social enterprise”.  They suggest that jobs are a natural extension of the work of the gospel in the heart of business people.  They suggest that God can and will be glorified through great business just as much as through great art.

Will you join our team as we write and vet business plans?  Want to know more?  Email joel “at” sunshinebackup.org for more info.