Leading the Church & the Marketplace: A Conversation with Jo Saxton

Image above: Provided by Catalyst Leadership Conference

Jo Saxton is an author, speaker, and church planter whose passion is empowering church leaders, especially encouraging women in leadership. She also provides leadership coaching in business settings, where she finds avenues to “influence the world for good.” Originally from England, Jo now resides with her family in Minnesota. When she was in Cincinnati earlier this year to speak at the Catalyst leadership conference, Jo sat down with me to discuss the conversations she hopes more churches are having.

We Are All Full-Time

While many people in the Christian realm know Jo for her influence in the church environment, Jo said she enjoys the part of her work that takes her into the business world, sharing her faith-based leadership perspective in secular settings. “I believe that the conversation we’re having is relevant for the workplace. Why wouldn’t we want to be there? The whole idea of us being salt and light bids us to be in places where salt and light isn’t.”

Jo desires to build up Christians who are striving day in and day out in the workplace. “When we look at our heroes in the Bible, most of them had jobs. Whether it’s David or Joseph or Luke or Lydia, they were business leaders, they were doctors, they were working in the government—they had jobs. They actually model for us Kingdom opportunity—the opportunity for the gospel and for ministry in the context of everyday life.”

“We should be commissioning people as they go into the week.”—@josaxton

She does not want the church to send the wrong message. “We should be commissioning people as they go into the week. Like Sunday is commissioning day. When we don’t communicate that, we might accidentally give people the impression that the real spiritual maturity is found in full-time vocational ministry, rather than recognizing that we are all full-time—some of us are expressing our gift and our call and our ministry in the context of work and some of us are expressing it in the context of church.”

What You Cannot See

From the ground level of the local church, Jo has observed that women often do not feel they have permission to use their gifts for God’s Kingdom.

“I’d underestimated the power of what we see. There is lots of self-doubt and second guessing, even surrounded by wonderful, encouraging male leaders. But when you don’t see many people working out that pathway, some wonder whether you should; some wonder is it doable? Is the reason why there aren’t many women there, is it just not feasible for life? I think those are some of the challenges.”

Jo said the first step she tells women is simply to get started. “I think the key is that we do less thinking and more doing. In the end, we have to be faithful to what we’re given.”

She noted that whatever aspect of ministry women are in, “Do it to the fullness of your ability and the fullness of opportunity. Put yourself in environments where you have opportunity to learn and to grow, where you have opportunity to serve and to dream.”

“We are made in the Lord’s image, and he has given us qualities that he delights to see used. So let’s use them.”—@josaxton

Women are not the only ones who feel hesitant serving in the church. Jo said this is a stigma for single leaders as well.

“Jesus was single. He did not have children. Yet He had a complete life. The one we’re modeling ourselves after was single, but I’ve seen in context where single people aren’t taken seriously, where people’s views aren’t validated, where we haven’t celebrated that season of life.”

In the end, Jo said every one of us is called to serve God’s Kingdom in some way because we have been given talents by the Lord.

“There’s an accountability, as the parable of the talents shows us. We don’t get to pretend. We have to work. That’s not to say that it’s easy, but it is important. We are made in the Lord’s image, and he has given us qualities that he delights to see used. So let’s use them.”

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1 Comment

  1. Lawrence Turner on November 28, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    God created the idea of exchange of value (money, labor, goods, services) between parties for mutual benefit. This idea translates into what we call the marketplace. Somehow, it crept into the psyche of the Church that this became “less than” other spiritual endeavors considered “holy.” The marketplace became earthy and represented corruption. This was never God’s intent. He uses the marketplace as a wealth generator to provide the resources to sustain families, communities, and, yes, churches. Business men and women are Christ’s ambassadors in the marketplace to reflect His goodwill, intent, and character. God’s desire is that we as believers co-labor with Him in His designs to redeem that which has been lost. In a fairly recent large gathering of business leaders and practitioners, the speaker posed a question to a room of nearly 500 people. He asked how many business people had been approached by church leaders who asked for money and donations. About 500 hands were raised. Then he asked how many of those church leaders asked about their businesses and offered to pray with these business people concerning the welfare and blessings of their businesses. Not a single hand was raised. This is appallingly amazing, considering those same churches depended on those businesses for their success and impact in their communities. I loved this interview as it raises the importance of recognizing the holy calling and gifts that God has bestowed upon His church through the folks He has called to marketplace activity and vocation. I agree that we need to commission our business people just as we commission our missionaries……for they are not at all that different. In fact, their callings are the same although they may operate in different spheres of human endeavor.