When I was 15 years old I saw a social worker kneel in front of a weeping, pregnant 13 year old. She assured this frightened unwed mother-to-be that despite what it seemed in the moment, there were hope and a future for her. The incident happened in a Cleveland, OH welfare office and not a church. Still that Christian who was also a social worker engaged in the work of ministry. That day I vowed I’d become a social worker.
I committed my life to Christ when I was 9 years old. By the time of that encounter in 1971 I had embraced the call to ministry responding to that persistent tugging of the Holy Spirit. Being a pastor’s kid I just assumed I’d be on the staff of a church and that I’d proclaim the gospel from behind the “sacred desk.” While I have engaged in congregational service and preached from pulpits, the LORD had/has something else in mind for the gifts and talents imparted to me. I am called to marketplace ministry through the profession of social work.
What is marketplace ministry? Various descriptions are offered for the term “marketplace ministry,” from evangelism in the workplace to the use of biblical principles for running a business. For me, it is simply the expression of my call to what is known in some circles as five-fold ministry (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher) through my secular vocation, social work. My professional training is enhanced by the flow of spiritual gifts and talents (1 Corinthians 12 & Romans 12) and the presence of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
I do this through the gifts of healings providing compassionate care as a mental health therapist. I pattern my interventions after Jesus’ practice of identifying strengths. Like when he pointed out to the woman with the issue of blood that she had faith. More importantly, I always find ways to affirm; just as Christ did when he called that same woman, “daughter.”
I do this through exhortation and prophetic utterance as an advocate for equity and social justice. Exhortation ignites action acting as a clarion call to change agents. Prophesy proclaims the consequences of actions – for good or for ill. For example, if there continues to be limited access to affordable mental healthcare, society will soon be deprived of the work of beautiful minds who win Nobel Prizes. But if effective mental healthcare exists, our society is strengthened.
I do this, this marketplace ministry, through social work. Of a certainty, I am a marketplace minister because I am a social worker.
To learn more about marketplace ministry, check this out: Charisma Magazine Marketplace Ministry article
Pamela B. is president and CEO of A Healing Journey Counseling. She has been a member of NACSW since 2005. To find out more about her professional services, see her website located at www.pamelabridgeman.com