Starting a marketplace “church”

I have the blessing of being associated with a wonderful ministry called Tipp Center. It’s a 44,000-square-foot office complex where the owner, a modern-day Lydia, seeks to serve the Lord by supporting the working community that uses the building by living and giving the Trinitarian Life of God.

I know that sounds all “theological,” but let me explain what I mean, and how this has led to the founding of a Market Place church, complete with regular meetings, sharing of bread, Bible, and prayer.

It actually happened by the leading of the Holy Spirit without us “participants” doing a whole lot, other than serving as Holy Spirit “hot spots” at the center, and taking advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves.

Sheila Ingram the owner reopened the facility in 2020, just days before the COVID quarantines began to impact the entire business world. She forged ahead, leasing office space to interested workers as restrictions relaxed, and hosting a whole number of events designed to fulfill the dream of serving as a center filled with the “Spirit of Communion,” or “ConneXion,” as we came to call it. And as the Holy Spirit made connections happen, we as the staff (I serve as client support and as the de facto “chaplain” of the facility) would hopefully seize the moment, and further the work of expanding the Kingdom of God’s love through the marketplace.

Offices didn’t lease right away, but making the building available as a bit of a ConneXion Center did. She hosted meetings, many pro bono, to open the building to all kinds of foot traffic. But she wanted to do it as something more. She wanted to help discover the inarguable real deeds of the community, meet them with the inarguable good deeds that met them, and connect people from all walks of life in the process through the Spirit of “ConneXion,” whether they realized the Spirit of ConneXion was connecting them or not.

Well, meetings started happening and became a mainstay of the building. While office spaces slowly began to be filled, meetings grew comparatively exponentially. We found ourselves hosting labor and union negotiations. We found ourselves hosting vision-casting events for major players in the community. We even found ourselves hosting an unofficial non-profit called “S.O.S.”—Serving Our Seniors. It was a networking group of business professionals who serve the senior community with health care, home care, nursing homes, hospices, etc. They are from all over Miami and Montgomery County, and they meet monthly for breakfast and the chance to connect.

And the Lord opened a way for us to connect them openly in the Spirit of the Lord.

As chaplain of the facility, I was asked to welcome the members and open the meeting with a prayer. Well, as a chaplain who believes we are all spiritual Israelites, whose primary historical occupation was shepherding before they came to Egypt, I realized God had put “sheep” before me who like many sheep today, are without a shepherd.

So, I decided why not. These sheep need shepherding. These sheep need God’s word. So, I decided to add a little inspirational at the time of the welcome and opening prayer.

It’s never longer than 3 minutes. But the Lord inspires thoughts that help these servants of seniors to see that they are God’s servants, they are doing God’s ministry through their vocation. And it was amazing how many of the principles I once used as a pastor coaching ministry teams applied.

They loved it.
They began to see that we are simply a “called out group” of God (that’s what the word ecclesia means in Greek) serving the same demographic. And all of a sudden, they didn’t visualize themselves as competing with each other, as much as augmenting each other serving as part of the Body of Christ to tend to those in the advanced years of their lives.

As time went on, I told them that this was “my” church, the one I shepherding. And you know what? They love it!

Many of them don’t even attend a local church. And some of them are not professed believers. But they listen meaningfully. They seemed encouraged by what was said. And I’ve had more than one has indicated they come, not just for the networking, but for what they simply call the “prayer.”

Jesus said in John 4: “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

Your mission field may just be right before you at your office, your factory, or your next networking meeting.

And a simple prayer you may be called on to give may be the first step to becoming the Marketplace Shepherd God has called you to be!

It can happen when you devote yourself to becoming a Holy Spirit Hot Spot!

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