Christianity 201

June 19, 2010

Raise The Cross

Several years ago, a long-time customer came into our bookstore and brought with her a new purpose and a new motto for our business, “marketplace ministry.” It was a fresh vision and a reminder that we should try to be more present in the public square, in civic life, and less dependent on churches which so often let us down.

The phrase “marketplace ministry” also reminded me of this quotation:

“I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace, as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a high cross between two thieves: on the town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, in Latin and in Greek…. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. Because that’s where He died. And that is what He died about. And that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about.”

This quotation belongs to Scottish theologian Dr. George MacLeod (1895 – 1991). According to Wikipedia, MacLeod is also the founder of the Iona Community, an ecumenical movement committed to social justice issues and “seeking new ways to live the gospel of Jesus in today’s world.” Most of its activities take place on the Isle of Iona and its interdenominational liturgies and publishing are developed by the Wild Goose Group, the name taken from an ancient Irish symbol of the Holy Spirit. (Apologies to “dove only” readers!) Its books and music resources deal with social justice and peace issues, spirituality and healing, and innovative approaches to worship.

Someone years ago taught me that so much of what the church considers “outreach” is actually “indrag.” We need to find ways to engage the concept of “marketplace ministry.” Evangelicals have long neglected issues of social justice or relegated the ’social gospel’ to mainline churches. But that is changing. And perhaps the thing we need to do in the center of the marketplace is to live out the gospel with visible demonstrations of Christ’s love, not just taking the quotation above as a call to loud street preaching.

Is there someone in your sphere of influence to whom you can give “a cup of water” to today?


  1. Thank you for that quotation from MacLeod. The career of Daniel provides a richly rewarding model for believers in the work world. My book, JOB-SHADOWING DANIEL: WALKING THE TALK AT WORK, suggests that believers look to him as a workplace mentor. He spent only one night in the lions’ den, but probably 70 years or so in a work world filled with unbelievers.

    Comment by Larry Peabody — June 20, 2010 @ 11:06 am | Reply

  2. Can you give me the source from which this quote is taken? I have been trying to locate it, but canot find it.

    Comment by B Bueckert — September 28, 2012 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

    • We’ve been working on it… everybody uses this quotation and agrees on the attribution, but finding where it first appeared is another matter entirely.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 28, 2012 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

    • See comment # 3

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 28, 2012 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  3. According to a Googlebooks preview of “Daily Readings with George MacLeod”, the quote is taken from page 38 of a book called “Only One Way Left”, available through who describe the book this way: “Only One Way Left is based on a memorable series of the Cunningham Lectures delivered in 1954 by the founder of the Iona Community at New College, Edinburgh, where the audience increased from lecture to lecture until there was standing room only. Repeated as the Auburn Lectures in Union Theological Seminary, New York, these presentations created as deep an impression across the Atlantic.”

    Comment by Ruth Wilkinson — September 28, 2012 @ 8:07 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks for your help. I’ll have to try to locate copies of these books.

    Comment by B Bueckert — September 28, 2012 @ 9:41 pm | Reply

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