At Work

Navigating the Needle’s Eye: The 40-Year Story of Marketplace Ministry

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Today’s mission field is the workplace, an arena where most of us spend 60 percent of our waking hours. Business people impact culture. Redeemed business people can and should change culture.

I’ve seen this in my own life through through redemption in Jesus Christ, and God’s calling on my life to impact the workplace for him. The day I came to Christ, my life and the way I viewed life began to change. For the first time, I began to understand the concept of “the peace that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:6) even in the midst of difficulty. My deep-seated guilt was gone, and I had been forgiven (1 John 1:8-9). I began to realize that God accepted me, not because of my performance, but because of his love for me (Rom. 5:8).

This realization, these significant truths, change the way one lives, the way one views life and, therefore, the world. No longer were power, wealth and prestige my motivators and goals. The indwelling Spirit of Christ was making me “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17)! Everything was changing, including the way I viewed history, my life in the now, and what was really important about the future. My values became different, and relationships had the potential for healing. There would now be at least one person in every relationship who realized his sinfulness and was willing (most of the time) to be the first to admit wrong and ask forgiveness.

The desire to live for oneself, to be my own god, began to dissipate as the one true God showed me his presence, power, faithfulness, and love. My way of life and worldview became different. In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller says, “But a worldview is not merely a set of philosophical bullet points. It is essentially a master narrative, a fundamental story about a) what human life in the world should be like, b) what has knocked it off balance, and c) what can be done to make it right.”

Less than two years after coming to Christ, I entered Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The academics were outstanding, and virtually every professor had an open-door policy. As time went by, many of those professors became much more than academicians to me. They were brothers in Christ and spiritual mentors.

It was at the beginning of my second semester when God made it clear why I was there and what I was going to do. Most attend seminary to become a pastor, but in my daily quiet time in the early months of 1976, I began to sense that God was leading and preparing me to begin a ministry to business and professional people back home in Richmond. I had never heard of such a ministry, but over the next two weeks that thought came to me nearly every day during my time with the Lord. I could not shake it.

Finally, I came home one evening and told my wife Laura I thought I knew what we were going to do after seminary.

“I think God is calling us to go home and minister to business and professional people.”

Laura said, “You may not believe this, but for the past week or so, that’s also what I’ve been hearing.”

This was a confirmation of what Laura’s thoughts had been all along. She had never seen my gifts as those of a pastor and couldn’t imagine God not using my years in business for his purposes in some kind of ministry.

The next morning I went to see my advisor, Dr. J. Christy Wilson, and told him what Laura and I thought the Lord was saying to us.

He immediately responded, “Well, Buddy, wouldn’t it be just like God to use your past for his future?”

We never looked back from that point forward.

Dr. Wilson did more than confirm the wisdom of our decision. He helped me get a course approved by the Academic Affairs Committee—on the second try, I might add. It was called, “Effective Evangelism With Business and Professional People.” At that time, no books existed for a ministry of that kind, and this was to be a graduate-level course. As a result, I had to do a good deal of parallel theological reading, strategic planning, interviewing, and pragmatic application. In effect, this course laid the foundation of what would become our future ministry, Needle’s Eye Ministries (NEM).

My book, Navigating the Needle’s Eye describes the 40+ year history of our marketplace ministry. It is loosely divided into three categories. The first has to do with our history (some of mine personally, and NEM’s early years), and also a practical theology of work and calling. The second takes our “Twelve Truths” (principles God began to sow into the fabric of Needle’s Eye from Day One) and weaves through our personal lives, planning, decision-making, and some of our most memorable and effective outreaches. All marketplace believers would do well to commit to and live these principles. Lastly, we look thankfully at where we are now and excitedly into the future.

Navigating the Needle’s Eye: Forty Years of Ministry to Business and Professional People is for any Christian marketplace man or woman. Having grown up in the home of a business owner and having worked for two Fortune 500 companies, I understand first-hand, driven business people, the workplace, why people need Christ, and how spiritually changed people can impact a culture. This is truly a story of God’s faithfulness to a family, a ministry, a marketplace, and a community!

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