‘Come and follow me.’, Jesus said in Matt 4:9 (TPT).
Twelve ordinary men followed Jesus and forever transformed society with a new movement based on the Word of God. They were twelve perfectly ordinary, common men, following an uncommon calling. (Luke 6:12–16)
Jesus’ first call was ‘Come and discover for yourselves.’ (John 1:39, TPT)
John the Baptist, his followers and their brothers and sisters were curious and searching for answers. The political, economic and religious situation in the Roman province of Palestine was such that these men and women were searching for a deeper meaning to life. They were ready to respond to God’s call. These leaders were ready to learn more about Jesus’ vision of building a new kingdom. Jesus came highly recommended by the prophet of their time, John the Baptist. Jesus’ vision of a new kingdom, however, was not to overthrow the corrupt government of Rome, but rather to transform it. A vision where changed lives would change society and ultimately nations. Jesus’ first call is for the curious.
Jesus’ second call: ‘Come and follow me.’ (John 1:43, TPT). This was the call for those leaders whose curiosity had been addressed and who were ready for the second calling of Jesus. It is the call for those who, with a broken and contrite heart, acknowledge that man’s way of life only leads to dead ends, and that Jesus’ way of life leads to fulfilled purpose, abundant life and transformation. This commitment requires both obedience and trust. This is the primary calling for all marketplace leaders today. It is the call to “who”. He called them to Himself. He calls us into a relationship with Him.
Jesus’ third call: ‘Come and work with Me.’ ‘Come and follow me, and I will transform you into men who catch people for God.’ (Matt 4:19, TPT). This is the secondary calling of ‘what’ we will do as leaders in the marketplace as we journey with Jesus. Much was at stake for Peter, Andrew, James and John as they decided to follow Jesus. To move from curious to personal conviction and commitment is quite extraordinary. This will affect all aspects of your life – most particularly your life at work or in the business realm. It comes with the realisation that the ultimate leader and boss is Jesus Himself. He called his disciples to the marketplace. Jesus loved the marketplace as he laboured for thirty years in his father’s construction business. As He began to model his vision of a transforming kingdom, He intentionally taught 87% of his parables in the marketplace context and performed 93% of his miracles in the marketplace. One hundred percent of the leaders he selected for his team, the twelve ordinary men, were marketplace leaders.
Jesus’ fourth and final call: ‘Then Jesus came close to them and said, “All the authority of the universe has been given to me. Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”’ (Matt 28:18–20, TPT). This was the call to transform society, to establish his kingdom in all spheres of life on earth. Despite the obstacles they faced, they triumphed. Despite great persecution, resistance and even martyrdom, they fulfilled their task and handed over the baton to the next generation of leaders.
Jesus chose to work through a small band of twelve men, rather than the clamouring multitudes. He chose to work by using these twelve fallible men as instruments rather than the mobs, the zealots or through a public relations campaign. Humanly speaking, his plan made no sense. His strategy typified the character of the kingdom He represented. ‘Jesus was once asked by the Jewish religious leaders, “When will God’s kingdom realm come?” Jesus responded, “God’s kingdom realm does not come simply by obeying principles or by waiting for signs. The kingdom is not discovered in one place or another, for God’s kingdom realm is already expanding within some of you.”’ (Luke 17:20–21, TPT).
Twelve men under the power of the Spirit of God were a more potent force than the teeming masses whose initial enthusiasm was provoked by sheer curiosity. It took twelve marketplace leaders to answer the call and take the stand for the kingdom of transformation. It was not because they had extraordinary talents, unusual intellectual abilities, powerful political influence, or some special social status. They turned their world upside down because God worked in them to do it.
His kingdom continues to advance: ‘ “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit”, says the Lord of hosts.’ (Zech 4:6, ESV). Jesus continues to this day, more than two thousand years later, to call most of us to be his agents and ambassadors for transformation in the marketplace. He chooses the humble, the lowly, the meek, and the weak so that there is no question about the source of power when He changes lives and transforms our world. It is not about the man, it is about the truth of God and the power of God in the man.
Jesus’ calling to marketplace leaders has four aspects to it:
- His calling means SERVICE
- His calling is about STEWARDSHIP
- His calling means ENTREPRENEURIALISM
- His calling means ACCOUNTABILITY.
A Call for Leaders Who Will Transform Society
Jesus has not finished yet. He is still looking for people who will dare to trust Him.
‘ “Come and join me,” Jesus replied. So Peter stepped out onto the water and began to walk toward Jesus.’ (Matt 14:29, TPT)
There is a call today for leaders who will walk.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable walks in the Bible is that of a man named Peter. It is unforgettable, not so much because of where he was walking, but what he was walking on – the waters of the Sea of Galilee – and who he was walking with – Jesus Christ. Peter’s walk challenges leaders to this day to step out in faith and experience God’s transformational power and presence in their lives. From the life of Peter, the Bible gives us a clear pattern of what happens in a life God wants to use in his kingdom.
- There is always a call. God calls the ordinary to extraordinary trust and action. Get out of the boat.
- There is always fear. God has a habit of asking people to do things that scare them. Circumstances, personal abilities or even God Himself may be the source of the fear.
- There is always reassurance. God always promises his ‘with-ness’ to those He calls. God provides the gifts needed to fulfil his assignments.
- There is always a decision. Some people will say ‘yes’ and others may say ‘no’. But there is always a decision needed by the person who hears the call. There is no room for spectators.
- There is always a changed life. Those who say yes, will walk the walk and take the stand for God. They do not always do it perfectly or without mistakes, but as they walk and stand, they learn and grow from their failures.
- There is always transformation around them. Even those staying on the boat are confronted by the call, walk and stand. They too will be challenged by the call.
Leaders and their teams are under increased pressure – and they feel it personally. The realities of market challenges faced today are paramount. To continue to find growth and improved performance in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, an alarming number of leaders appear to be comfortable with, or aware of, unethical conduct. In the business world this includes recording revenues early, underreporting costs or encouraging customers to buy unnecessary stock. This is coupled with bribery and corruption that remain widespread in markets. Whether it is driven by pressure from shareholders to deliver unrealistic results in difficult economic markets, or a desire for increased personal recognition and reward, the fact remains that corruption and fraud are widespread across all nations and should be a real concern to all of us. Failing to ask sufficient, accurate or difficult questions, or to acknowledge that it is a real and present danger, only exasperates the situation.
Do people notice a compelling ‘difference’ about you as a leader in the marketplace? Are your colleagues, employees, partners and friends curious as to why you make the choices that you make? Or are they perhaps not curious about your life and leadership because you are not counter-culture? There is a need for counter-cultural leadership in today’s world. Right now, we need leaders who will lay it on the line, and walk and stand for the truth and for principles. Leaders who stand up for what is right. Leaders who will walk the talk.
It starts with me. It starts with you. Do the right thing, right now.
Make the commitment to stand for ethics, value and clean living.
Gerhard Marx is a passionate pursuer of God, husband to Elmarie, father to Jean and Liezl-Mari, servant leader, accountant, strategist, scholar and experienced entrepreneur, who has a demonstrated history of establishing new start-up organisations in the business and non-profit sectors. Gerhard is an Unashamedly Ethical ambassador, and serves as board member and mentor in various contexts.