Declaration of a Marketplace Christian

Whereas:   We are followers of Christ who are wary about things that are given the cultural label “Christian”; and

Whereas:   “Christian” has become a term that has more to do with how one aligns oneself politically and socially, or how one behaves in relation to certain cultural mores, than it does with anything of the heart; and

Whereas:   We want to be Christians – but with a new definition;

We have come to the following conclusions:

We are not trying to create a place of safety in the world. Instead, we have found a place in our hearts where Christ dwells, and this gives us courage to face the world as it is.

We realize our overall purpose is not to change the world (that kind of thing is beyond our control), but it is to bring comfort, peace, warmth, love, and aid to people who are in the world, in the name of Jesus and His gospel.

Even if we were able to control the moral standards of society we understand that we would not necessarily be furthering the cause of Christ by making people better. In fact, we recognize a selfish motive in wanting a better world so we can have a safer environment in which to live and raise our own families. This gives no regard that to the fact that “better” people without Christ still perish in their sins. A more moral society means little or nothing if people do not come into relationship with Christ.

We may not look or talk like traditional Christians because we hang around non-Christians a lot and have learned to play down our differences rather than exploit them, as some Christians before us. We have discovered that by identifying with sinners we are in a better position to introduce them to Christ than when we remain separate and aloof because we think we are “different” (which usually translates to “better” in their minds). The only people who are looking for perfect Christians to model their lives after are other Christians who have bought the lie that perfection is attainable.

We will not be offended by the language and behavior of non-Christians. We realize, because we know ourselves, that sinners sin. There is no reason to be appalled at this. If we were perfect and had no sin of our own, we could be appalled, but we are not without sin. The only thing that should offend us is the same thing that offended Jesus: self-righteous hypocrisy. We realize that in choosing to be offended by the normal behavior of non-Christians, we are turning ourselves into the very thing Jesus hated. We, who are worried about being offended, make ourselves an offense to God.

We have decided not to put any real stock in having famous people endorse Jesus and have concluded we would be happier having Jesus endorse us. Character is superior to fame and glory.

We realize that we live in a world dominated by secular minds and philosophies. Because of our love for all people and our desire for them to know the love of Christ, we choose to learn about and interact with these philosophies rather than categorically reject them. When it becomes obvious that we have to part ways with the world to avoid compromise of our beliefs, we will do this in such a way as to not judge others who don’t feel as we do.

Though our hearts are connected to eternity, our feet are firmly planted on earth. For this reason we will strategize, barter, study and grow in two kingdoms. We have found that these two kingdoms need not always be warring against each other. We have found the things of God in the earthly world, and we have found evil in the kingdom of heaven, just as the parables of Jesus indicated we would.

We have learned to appreciate the artistic expressions of those who may not be following Christ. We will not begin with the assumption that they are wrong so that we can condemn them, but with the belief that they are right about something so that we can communicate with those who value their work.

We will not be threatened by “other paths to God” knowing that there is only one God and one way to reach Him, and if people are truly seeking Him, they will ultimately find their way to Christ even if they started out by way of another path.

We believe that wherever we go, God got there first. This means at least three things:

1) There is always something to find and embrace in the world, since God’s truth is everywhere.

2) We are never alone because there is nowhere we can go on earth or in heaven where God is not present.

3) There are many shoulders people are riding on other than our own. We do not have to finish everyone’s search; we are merely helping them along the way. If we happen to be there when someone comes to Christ, we will be overjoyed, but we will realize we are only part of a long line of witnesses who have prepared the way.

We do not have to determine whether a person is a Christian or a non-Christian before we know how to talk with him or her.  We speak to everyone in a universal language. Some may be drawn to us; others may be repelled. We do not know who is who – nor is it our responsibility to figure this out; we only point the way.

We can be fearless in the world because we know that Jesus is praying for our protection (John 17:15), and there is no power on earth or in heaven that can stand against Him.

Therefore, and for all these reasons, we do not have to hide in a subculture, nor do we have to spend all our efforts fighting society. We are not at war with the world. We love the world as God does because it is full of people for whom He gave His Son so that those who believe in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.

Since Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, neither will we. And since, instead, Jesus came to save the world, we will put all our efforts to that end, knowing that He has already completed all the work necessary to save people. It remains only for us to let them know.

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34 Responses to Declaration of a Marketplace Christian

  1. Mary says:

    Thank you, John. I watched “First Love” again this past weekend and really heard you when you said, “We need Christians who play music more than we need more Christian music”! My heart has beat to this drum for a long time. Having read “Roaring Lambs” a long time ago, I was riveted by the fact that we were sent “into” the world and, yet, we have sadly wasted years of effort trying to be “separate” from the world, but not in the way God ever intended. I love the term “marketplace Christian”! I was drawn several years ago to the model of “house” churches and loved seeing people being moved back to our New Testament roots. But since then, I have seen too much of the same error as in traditional church. I, and several friends, who have been disheartened to see house church “movements” going down the same path that we moved away from (not in a adversarial way), have wondered how to “define” this Body of Christ as it relates to each other and the world. Surely fellowship and community are God’s design, but I appreciate the focus I can glean from the term Marketplace Christian in knowing how to live and breathe and be an instrument of God’s heart as I go through this pilgrim’s progress. In my early twenties, I really grasped with my whole heart the Apostle Paul’s words “I became all things to all men so that I might win them to Jesus”. “Religious” people are very uncomfortable with what they see as “compromising” our associations with people, but I long ago realized that God is God and He is very capable of finishing this work He has begun in us and is not afraid that we will fall into something un-Godly. And, so, Brother, I am grateful to God for the light you shed and I am grateful that it has crossed my path. God bless and refresh you, in Jesus name.

  2. Jody Hart says:

    Thank you for stating clearly what I have been saying so clumsily for many years. I read an article (by a non christian) that said “in the eighties the Church gave up proselytizing for politicking.” Unfortunately that statement is a damning yet true observation of the Church. My goal is to “love the Hell out of people.” Not shout the hell out of them. Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners. He did not lecture them, nor did he participate in their ungodly behavior. He just loved them because of who He was.

  3. Sue Farias says:

    Thank you for writing this in the way that you did. It was a breath of fresh air to read.

  4. Lynn and Della Berntson says:

    Hi John,
    Just discovered your site. I may have never shared an incident regarding your music, long ago in Los Altos. We brought a young lady (Joyce) home from the hospital to heal physically and emotionally, a concert soloist. She would listen to your songs and sing along taping you two together. She would pause and explain her conversion to Christ between each song. She passed away not able to overcome her past drug usage. A month later her mother from N.Y. knocked on the door and asked if we could tell her about her daughter. Joyce had run away at age 16, I played the tape for her containing Joyce’s music and declaration of Christ. The mother cried, shared her non belief with us however asked if she could take the tape back to N.Y. to play for the entire family and relatives. So John, you and Joyce had a ministry in N.Y. neither of you knew about. Lynn and Della in Jacksonville OR lberntson@charter.net

    • jwfisch says:

      Thank you so much for this story! Even better to hear from you. Hope you are well. Would sure love to see you guys sometime.

  5. john c. brooks says:

    John:
    I am a tecnological dinosaur, I live in Ohio but am visiting my Son in Florida. I am playing around on his computer, learning about the internet. I saw youn name on Honeytree’s website and looked you up; I still enjoy your music on my old vinyl lp’s, and hoped you might have someting newer (I do have a CD player now). Reading this was better than music. The words resonate with the message in those old songs, but clearer, wiser, more detailed and more profound. Thanks. Perhaps I should mention also, my son set me up an e-mail and facebook account so we can keep in touch, but I don’t think it will be used much, with no computer or internet connection.

  6. Kay Smith says:

    Well stated, John. Good to “catch up” with you again.

  7. Stephen Shenton says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever left a post on a Christian writer’s site! I’m posting from England and have just cut and paste a part of your text on Real Christians (Don’t) Dance for my sermon this morning. I saw your book back in the early eighties, but belonged to a non-dancing denomination and decided that it ‘wasn’t for me!’

    Anyway, God has taken me on an amazing journey since then and I’ve undergone something of a ‘paradigm shift’ on MANY issues and reached a lot of conclusions. Since I was using your text this morning, I decided to take a peek at your website and came across your Confession of a Marketplace Christian!! Thank you SO VERY MUCH for how you have put this into eloquent, simple English. These are the thoughts that it has taken me nearly 20 years to process! I have to confess that I will be cutting and pasting some more of your words very soon, but I will be acknowledging you in full.

    Thank you so very much for being a conduit of joy and assurance to a humble preacher this Sunday morning!

    • jwfisch says:

      I’m so glad for this; and glad you found us!

    • Meaghan-Margaret Evans says:

      Stephen, I am sending this not knowing whether you will ever read it. It is August 15th and I am new to the Catch as of July. Your words captured my own feelings. Now, every day I awaken, I’m dancing in my heart. This is truly a wonderful site. I have been searching also for the last 20 plus years for this. I’m home. Thank you Jesus and thank you for John. If you do by chance read this and want to email, you are welcome. I’ve never done this before. I’m not looking for a relationship. I am just so happy I have found others like me and you out there. Meaghan

      • Stephen Shenton says:

        Hi Meaghan
        I literally just saw your post today!! I had never checked back for comments on my post!!!
        If you are still around this site then I’ve requested email notifications this time.
        Please drop a line!
        Blessings
        Stephen

  8. Kerry Cox says:

    John, this is absolutely amazing. I agree with other posters that you have put into words the stirrings of my heart from the past few years. I have never been more in love with Jesus than I am right now, and yet so much about current “Pop Christianity” bothers me, and I think this pretty much explains why. Take care, brother!

  9. rustyspad says:

    Praying for you John…

  10. Terri Main says:

    John, this is so powerful and wonderful. A lot of us have worried about this over the past couple of decades. However, few are willing to articulate it for fear of alienating our “Christian” communities. Or as one friend puts it “ChristianTM”

    It is time to get away from In your face Christianity and go forth in love and change the world one heart at a time.

  11. George says:

    You gave a concert in 1983 in Seattle at the Chinese Baptist Church. I was in 7th grade and I really enjoyed your music. I remember talking with you about your song Dark Horse. Thanks for sharing God.

  12. Hi there i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anyplace, when i read this post i thought
    i could also make comment due to this good piece of writing.

  13. Steve Peery says:

    Dear John,
    It has been years now but seeing this “Declaration” is quite a thing. There has been a lot of consideration that has gone into this, it seems much like the Nicene Creed or such where the very core is the consideration and not things that we are lead to believe are the “essence” of your lives like global warming or “human rights” etc., all something to address but there is a core to our lives and that is Christ crucified and risen to bring life to the world. I have been through so much since we talked those years back now.
    Hope to hear from you again. God bless you, Marti and your kids and their kids as they come along sir. As many directions as my life has gone it was and still is your music that continues to be a very foundational part of my memory of scripture and also of how “He’s in there moving, got a knife and He’s pruning…” Oh man what a breath of fresh air your music has always been for me John, in the choking smog of lies in this life. Ok, this was more than I had wanted to say and yet not near enough haha. God bless you all!

    • jwfisch says:

      Thank you, Steve. Especially appreciate your comments on “Declaration…” since that is what I was hoping to create in that piece. Nice to hear from you!

  14. Gregory Walker says:

    John,

    Thank you for the piece above – as someone who discovered your writings in the last pages of CCM, it cogently summarizes a strain of thought running throughout many of those issues. And, thinking through these issues back then (umpteen years ago – who’s keeping count?), I’m still struck by two principles you’ve outlined that seem even more relevant: there is no bifurcated ‘world’ – just one that we are all living in. There are, though, many, many cultures (and sub-cultures and cultures of sub-cultures). It’s so remarkably easy to pull off into one of those cul-de-sacs and forget that the rest of the world exists. And it’s gotten worse – the echo chambers seem to grow louder each year, the amount of spiritual geography our footprints touch grows smaller… It’s almost the greater act of spiritual growth to “project” outwards – to see, experience, learn, and be available – than to constantly engage in a “retreat”.

    One of the CCM articles – which I would love to know if it’s in a reprint somewhere – also hammered home that last thought. If memory serves, it was a student’s final essay for a course you taught. Some of the people who’ve responded here may enjoy it as well.

    Thanks again and peace –

  15. w3ath3rfr3ak says:

    Hello John, I am attempting to contact you about an album you wrote for my dad who is a huge fan. I am very aware this is the wrong place, but I can’t figure out any other way to contact you.
    ❤ w3

  16. Kathy Boren says:

    Hi, John, I so appreciate your writing. I have one question/comment – in your Declaration of a Marketplace Christian (which I thank you for!), I am wondering about this phrase and premise, “We will not be offended by the language and behavior of non-Christians.” I’m sure you don’t mean this: “but we will allow ourselves to be offended by the language and behavior of Christians.” Since you are addressing the issue of Christians in the marketplace (arena of non-Christians), I can see why you would speak of our relationship with non-Christians specifically. I just know from my own experience that even after I became a Christian, I often felt judged by other Christians because my language and/or behavior was not up to their expectations. My language and/or behavior is STILL God’s work-in-progress 40 years into my walk with Christ. Thanks to God and by His Grace alone, I am slowly being transformed, and thanks to God, what other Christians think of me means less than it did back then. But Christians can be harshest with their brothers and sisters in Christ… and I am one of them (I can be especially harsh in thought and attitude toward “pharisees” which makes me one, too, as you wrote about in your book that sliced my pride and self-righteous attitude into thousands of bloody pieces). Just wanted to share my thoughts… God bless you and your family and thank you again for your writing.

    • jwfisch says:

      Let it roll off your back. Unless someone is truly committed to your life and helping you grow, they are just Pharisees taking shots from a distance.

  17. Skyler says:

    I know I am coming a little late to the table here but I wanted to say thank you John. For years I have felt so guilty because I wasn’t preaching and trying to save everyone I met and this has helped me to see that it was not my job to do that. Now I try to live my Christian faith before others and pray that people will be drawn to Jesus in that way. Actually that has worked better because I am actually getting to know the person and when they have things come up that require more than an encouraging word I am able to pray with them and for them as they ask. I know God wants me to reach out to people and He is showing me that as I wait on Him he will bring them to me and He will provide the answers they need because, honestly, I don’t have a clue what their real need is. He does know and He will show me how to love them and allow his love to bathe and envelop their lives in ways I can’t possibly imagine.

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  19. steve says:

    I like to go back and read these every so often. What a great reminder!

  20. Pingback: Marketplace Ministry | Faith Venture

  21. John…love that you went in this direction. Mike Huckabee targeted the oldest generation and scared/guilted my dad, in his later years, into contributing way too much money into his right-wing, Christian political agenda. Made me so sad how well he’d been played for his tithe+! The drawer full of fear-based letters that I found from the guy was despicable. I decided long ago that the promise of heaven I was taught, would really be hell if eternity was spent with evangelical Christians, so I stopped payment on that insurance policy. But this declaration gives me hope. Christians can argue endlessly about lifestyle rules and regulations with supporting, competing Bible verses, translations and apologetics, while missing the whole Spirit and intent Jesus modeled in his life. The longer I go without another Bible verse thrown at me, the closer to Jesus I get. Keep tipping over those tables.

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  23. John A Fagliano says:

    As a Christian Universalist I rarely read something from the current Christian culture which describes the heart of Christ so well and teaches us how to truly be Christians. Your writing has always been an exception as was the case with this very well written Declaration. God Bless you and your ministry.

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