Are You A Business Or A Ministry?

– by Brett Johnson

“What a powerful image to think that the word for working in the fields is the same that was used for worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Israelites understood that work could be a way to honour God and neighbour, to serve God and neighbour, and yes, to worship God and serve neighbour. Avodah.” —The Avodah Institute

We had reached a critical stage in the growth of our new company, The Institute for Innovation, Integration, and Impact, and were off to a good start. We were doing work for a mixture of corporates, entrepreneurs, and non-profits. Our team was broadly united on what we were doing, but there was still a chasm to be crossed. In an intense discussion about how we do business, a colleague asked earnestly, “Brett, are we a business or a ministry?” I responded, “Yes!” “You don’t understand…” he went on to say, “if we are business, then we operate by business rules, and if we are a ministry, there are a different set of rules.”

Avodah = work, worship, and service
Words in Hebrew, as in other languages, can carry multiple meanings. In the Western world, we have separated work and worship, business and ministry. We need to re-understand avodah. The Hebrew word avodah jointly means work, worship, and service. When Joshua said, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” he said, “we will avodah” the Lord: we will work for, we will worship. 

What about business?
You might be thinking, “Business is different from work… what about business?” Skip Moen points out, “Work/worship/service is the combination of meanings associated with the Hebrew word avad. But this isn’t the word used in the fourth commandment. The word used in this commandment is melakah, a word that means ‘work, occupation, business, workmanship, or service.’ Six days you shall take care of business, but not on the seventh day.” My key point is not about the Sabbath, but that our business and our service are, from God’s perspective, one and the same thing. If you still talk about your business and ministry as separate things, you have yet to cross the chasm.

Crossing the chasm
The British statesman David Lloyd George said, “Anything can be achieved in small, deliberate steps. But there are times you need the courage to take a great leap; you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” Many followers of Jesus are trying to bridge Sunday and Monday with baby steps. Sprinkling religion on Best Practices, having an infusion of spirituality into one’s work day, even inviting God into your business… these may all be “two small jumps.” My experience with thousands of marketplace people tells me that the chasm between secular and sacred is seldom crossed with half-effort baby steps. No one would think of lining up for the Epic mountain bike race on a tricycle. Yet, every Monday, businesspeople suit up for work, get on with business, and hope that one day, some time, they will be able to “do ministry.” Truth be told, your work is worship, your business is service, and you are God’s junior partner. You can spot the lie behind bad questions seeped in the false notions that some things are God’s, and some are not; some things are spiritual, and others are practical; some things we do for work, and others for ministry; sometimes I just do my job, and other times I serve.Are you in business or ministry? You can either answer a resounding “Yes!”… or not feel obligated to answer nonsensical questions.

For information on the next Repurposing Business training which starts in February 2017, please contact:
Carla Olivier –  |  Skype: carlafo007  |  Websites:

JOY! Magazine (May 2017)

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