Worship and the Marketplace Part 2

When I wrote yesterday’s post, I was led to Ezekiel’s vision of the river flowing from the temple in Ezekiel 47. As I read that passage, I had more thoughts about the connection between worship in the temple and transformation in the marketplace.

To fully appreciate the connection, we have to get an understanding of what I mean when I say “worship”. To me, trying to define worship is like defining the undefinable. In a later post, I will attempt to do so using Harold Best’s thesis in his book Unceasing Worship. Suffice to say for present purposes, worship encompasses our entire life. When we talk about worship in a church setting, it is simply an intensifying of what we are already doing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In this sense, the expression of praise that takes place on a Sunday could be said to be a subset of “worship”.

So we need to think about worship as a continuum. Praise/seeking God/waiting on Him etc sits on the more mystical side of the continuum; work/going to the office/house chores etc sits on the practical side.

So, in this context, let us go back to Ezekiel 47.

The Outworking of Worship

In the first few verses, Ezekiel describes how the river gets deeper the further it goes from the temple.

This is the outworking of worship. A holistic vision of praise starts and ends in the temple, because God is the beginning and end of everything (as one Biblical writer says, “in Him and through Him and for Him are all things”). But God is in the business of reconciling to Himself all things, which is an action directed towards the “outside”, i.e. towards the world, its people, its systems etc. So worship begins in the temple, but then is propelled out to the world with the mission of bringing “in” those who are “out”.

Colossians 1:19-20 says this:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Second Corinthians 5:18 says:

But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him].

This is the same pattern we see in the book of Acts. As the disciples waited and sought the Lord in worship in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit fell on them on the day of Pentecost, propelling the church out into the marketplace to answer the prophecy of Joel 2, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved”.

The Impact of Worship

Going back to Ezekiel 47:6ff:

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.

When we take the presence of God into the marketplace, it brings with it a divine flow of life into the areas of which are spiritually dead. That goes for people who are dead in their sins, and systems/values/mindsets which are corrupt and perverse.

Even the Dead Sea becomes a place where swarms of living creatures will live and thrive! The salt water will become fresh. Like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3, we become the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of life to those who are perishing.

The Reach of Worship

Ezekiel’s vision ends with this, in verse 12:

Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.

Indeed, this year is the year of Unceasing Fruitfulness. For those who worship God, our leaves will not wither, nor will be fail to bear fruit.

But notice this: the presence of God is our source “because the water from the sanctuary flows” to us. And further still: the purpose of our fruit is not just for our own sake and prosperity. Rather our fruit is to feed others! This is where worship and justice meet: to lift the poor and feed the hungry.

And our leaves will be for the healing of the nations. Where once the nations have turned away from God, true worshippers will carry an anointing to see the fulfillment of the day when the kingdoms of this world, will become the kingdom of our Lord and King.

Worship begins in the sanctuary and worship flows out into the marketplace to bring transformation. As my friend Adrian Lim once put it (and recently reminded me), true worshippers worship through the 24/7 window, the 9/5 window and the 10/40 window. Worship begins as a 24/7 lifestyle, but then must be manifested in the 9/5 window of the marketplace. And the end game: to see the nations, represented by the 10/40 window (being the most unreached of the nations) transformed and revived.

Worship and the Marketplace

I just got back from lunch and coffee with some of the people from my new cell group, all of whom are successful and influential in their workplace and it got me thinking.

Today at church was the first time I had heard Pastor Peet Palm preach. I understand that he works with Ed Silvoso as part of Harvest Evangelism so I was excited to find out that he is also on the pastoral team of Faith Community Church.

Today’s message was on Marketplace Ministry and it was a timely reminder of the importance of Christian, Spirit-empowered ministry in the workplace.

I have to confess that I have always been very much “church-centred” in terms of my ministry involvement. Worship ministry (like pulpit ministry) is one of those areas of service where you see direct impact within the church itself. When you talk about “church”, you think about the people gathered on Sunday to express praise to God and to encounter His presence.

But as Pastor Peet reminded us today, the concept of “church” goes far beyond what happens on a Sunday.

I was quite convicted by what Peet mentioned: how some Christians think that they just have to survive Monday to Friday and go to church on a Sunday to “empower” them to face the river of filth in the marketplace, in the hope that as we wade in that river, we don’t swallow too much of its water.

Even though I have read a lot of Ed Silvoso’s material and understood conceptually the importance of marketplace ministry, I had always entertained this personal schism: that because God has called me to worship ministry, it means that marketplace ministry for me is of secondary importance.

Peet made this stunning point: if the marketplace is the heart of a city, then to see a city transformed, its heart must also be transformed.

There certainly is a role for worship ministers to rally the church in unity. I really believe for example that just as worship has been the fracture point for the church since the Reformation, the bringing together of the church through worship is also a key to unprecedented revival.

But that is just one side of the coin. There needs to be reconciliation between the primarily church-focussed ministries and the workplace ministries to see real transformation in the city. After all, if there is a river of filth in the marketplace, there is also a countervailing river: a river of life that starts from the throne of God (worship in the church setting) that gets deeper the further it goes from the temple (see Ezekiel 47). This river brings fruitfulness: trees planted next to the river bring forth a new fruit every month and their leaves are for the healing of the nations.

In this sense then, the temple and the market are inextricably linked: transformation and life starts in the temple through worship, and ends in the marketplace through worship.

So, I feel that God is realigning my paradigms in this area. Yes, God has called me to worship ministry, but He has also put me in the workplace for a purpose, not only to be a positive influence, but also to believe that through the power of the Holy Spirit, I can be responsible for transformation in the marketplace.

Can it be done? I end with this statement which Peet made: “Nothing can stop the church from filling the city with the Word of God, except the church itself.” It is God’s will. May it be done on earth as it is in heaven.