In the first-century, followers of Jesus grew from a few hundred on the day of Pentecost to over six million by the end of the third century—considerable growth by anyone’s calculus.
Rapid spread of the gospel was less about the work of religious professionals and more about ordinary Christians who gossiped the gospel to friends, relatives, customers, coworkers, masters, slaves, fellow soldiers, and others in their commercial networks. Two thousand years later, the workplace is still the most strategic mission field in the world. Throughout the course of business, God can use us to draw people to Himself.
David Gowdey and Gil Sheehan have found this to be true at Barrington Gifts, a business they co-founded 22 years ago. They see Barrington as more than a company that manufactures and sells luxury leather products. Gowdey explained, "We believe that gifts are at the center of the most important relationships of our lives, and we're dedicated to the art of giving." Barrington's factory in China allows them to create competitively priced high-quality products and to demonstrate Christ’s love by providing good, livable-wage jobs that give people dignity and allow them to rise from poverty.
From the day they launched Barrington, Gowdey and Sheehan have been committed to bringing God glory through the way they do business. But it was a number of years before they realized how God wanted to use them to spread the gospel through their business. As it happened, both men became convicted that they should share the gospel with a certain supplier with whom they had done business for six years. After a meeting, they asked if they could tell her about the most important thing in their lives. They explained the gospel message, and in response she asked, "If this is the most important thing in your lives, why are you just now telling me about it?"
After this humbling wake-up call, Gowdey and Sheehan committed themselves to creating an environment at Barrington that fosters spreading the gospel in appropriate ways. And sometimes this happens in unexpected ways. For example, when a young deaf woman was hired to work in the factory, some of the workers wanted to learn sign language so they would be able to communicate with her. Barrington’s factory director started a signing class, and when an employee asked to learn how to sign the gospel, this was added to the curriculum. The class learned to sign the gospel and practiced it over and over. As a result, several workers in the class came to faith in Christ and, eventually, the young deaf woman came to faith.