Marketplace Christianity – In a Marketplace!

What is Marketplace Christianity really?

Generally, the term “Marketplace Christianity” is used to describe the way in which a believer can represent their faith in their normal life – in most cases, at work. I do think its helpful for us to ponder how to live out our life in such settings, but is the term “Marketplace Christianity” really appropriate for that?

Today, I began an experiment of Marketplace Christianity… in the Marketplace. Marketplaces are places where people meet, mingle, go about their business, and often stop to chatter. That is the ‘marketplace’. Unfortunately, most of us are too busy to do that kind of thing, so we don’t have a genuine ‘marketplace’ experience. I am fortunate to have a day each week to do this. Because the office is not the marketplace.

Ipswich Mall, in the middle of Ipswich City, is a crossroads of the community. As I sat for four hours, the community swirled around me. People came and went, came and stayed, or just passed through. Many people recognised and greeted others, had conversations, or exchanged glances or waves. It is clearly a central place in the life of the Ipswich community, not just with “lots of people”, but as a bustling hub of meeting and connecting.

 


Click here and I’ll read it to you!


 

 

It’s the schoolyard

I recall school. Nobody was told where to sit during the lunch hour, but everyone had their “hang”. While engaging in conversation, one’s eyes often surveyed the surrounding playground so that one could keep in touch with what was going on. People would come past, some friendly, some not, and interact with one’s group, and various topics were “hot news”, sometimes only for ten minutes at a time. “An ambulance came to the footy fields – some year 9 busted his leg”, might be traded for any news about whom it might have been.

Ipswich Mall is like that. Various groups of people who generally know, or know of, one another, form and disband over periods of minutes or hours. They interact, and sometimes there’s a “hot news” topic, “You seen Jeff? His missus is lookin everywhere for ‘im”. Between such news items, and in the lull between people arriving or announcing that they’ve, “gotta go”, small groups of people sit or stand, looking strikingly like a group of meerkats, looking into the middle distance, occasionally scanning the mall as if looking specifically for someone or something.

“The Kingdom of God is in your midst” – Luke 17:21

There, in the Marketplace, I sat.

I invited a number of friends, each of whom had expressed interest at some time in meeting up for a Bible study. I did bring a Bible, and some material that I knew to be of interest to one of my friends, but I didn’t have an agenda. I didn’t have anything specific to say. We talked about faith,  about life, about the Bible, about some heroes of the faith (Luther, Bonhoeffer, William Carey, etc.).

Now, in any swirl of humanity, there is a vast spiritual potential. If all of those people engage in some common spiritual task, meditation, or contemplation, the effect is spine-tingling. Unfortunately there are (too) many who want to contrive a situation where people do this for a particular purpose. But my God is the one who’s boldest statement amounted to a Jewish peasant nailed to a piece of wood by Romans, an event which has changed the course of human history. So I don’t presume to manipulate a situation into what I think God is trying to say; I turn up obediently and watch Him go to work.

And God works, primarily, through the people of God. This is not the same as saying, “The people of God doing stuff is the sum total of what God is doing”. What I am saying is that this faith is one of community. When a group of people meet, in some way connected by their common spiritual pursuit in Christ, what you have is a manifestation of the people-group (Greek “λαος”) of God. This is called an “assembly”, from which Hebrew word we get “Ecclesiastical”, or a “gathering”, from which Greek word we get “Synagogue”. When the people of God assembles, that’s The Assembly, which is referred to in the Bible as “The Church”.

And God blesses His church. God speaks in His church. This assembly/gathering is where the people of God actually manifest God. It is here that the people of God become the body of Christ, of which it’s Lord Jesus is head. Again, this is not to say that what people do is simply labelled as actions of God. It means that these people bear witness to the miraculous work of God in their midst. If they don’t meet, they have no “midst”, so they miss out on a vital aspect of God’s interaction with His people.

Miracles happen

Today, a good friend of mine who has found himself homeless, turned up. He was given a cigarette and some lunch money, and much encouragement by some of the others there. Another friend came past, who runs assisted living houses. One connected to the other, and “boom”, my friend has a bed – not just for the night, but for as long as he wants. But the bigger part of this is that, in the process, he was asked to assist in developing a community project. That offer reversed the dehumanising impact of having to seek help, and restored his dignity. A third friend spent a couple of hours helping him to get paperwork filled-in to get this housing situation sorted out in the medium term.

All of this would not have happened, had I not decided to sit in Ipswich Mall today. I barely did anything, other than turn up, assemble the faithful in Jesus’ name, and witness God at work in their midst.

One reason I am able simply to sit in the Mall and offer spiritual support to people, is that there is a huge array of practical support services available in Ipswich. I’ve been working hard to document the relevant ones so that, when I see people with acute needs, I can refer them to the appropriate service.

Other miracles happened today, too. It would become tedious to list them all. Suffice to say that this is “Marketplace Christianity”. Some of those who spent the day with me were stunned and flabbergasted. I was not. I’m used to experiencing miracles. I’ll be in the Mall every Tuesday for the foreseeable future, just watching the Boss do His stuff.

Come and join me!

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Other posts in this series:

Marketplace Christianity – In a Marketplace!

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facebook comments:

5 Responses so far.

  1. To see what happened the following week: Streetlinks2012

  2. Had a listen 🙂 Clear, and sounded fairly natural… there were a few places where the sound seemed to dull a bit…
    Was there a particular reason you wanted to add audio?
    I personally prefer to read articles/blog posts, and I don’t always have the ability to listen to audio while I’m on the internet, but I think it’s an a worthwhile addition, and gives people the choice 😀

  3. Yeah. I don’t have sophisticated tools for sound mixing so the quality is so-so.

    I added it because I have a number of friends with literacy limitations. I would probably have to put sound on a bunch of them before it was worthwhile encouraging them to the blog tho…

  4. Then it’s a good idea to do that 😀

  5. […] friend of mine spends his Tuesdays in the local mall simply being a friend to those who need to know someone […]

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