Rethinking My Pathway to Mission—and Yours—Through the Marketplace

God sent my wife and me to the mission field and refined our calling in a surprising way. Iris and I had always felt a burden for the nations and knew God wanted us to make him known to unreached peoples overseas. Several years ago, I left my career and our family went through the process of being sent out as field personnel through the IMB. It was the avenue for service that we were closely familiar with, and it was the direct path we had seen taken by many of our mentors ahead of us.

I remember the feeling of finally arriving in South Asia—the honking cars, busy streets, and unreached people around every corner. I began studying language, making friends, sharing the gospel, and discipling local believers. Through local discipleship training, I formed several friendships with business professionals.

Professionals as Conduits of the Gospel

Marketplace Workers: Fuel for Limitless Sending

I began noticing a surprising pattern in my conversations with Christian professionals. They saw a huge disparity between the calling of the “full-time minister/missionary” versus the call of a “normal working Christian.”

My Christian language helper confided in me how envious he was of missionaries who got paid to share their faith. Another man, who ran a small IT business, was frustrated that his brother was in full-time ministry, but he was obligated to work and “miss out” on ministry while providing for the family.

Yet another friend expressed the belief that discipleship networks were only for pastors and not for him. There was a widespread misconception that ministry and evangelism were reserved for the few who could pursue it as a full-time career. This wide gap in gospel understanding raised within me a deep passion to teach these men that gospel ministry was for all Christians at every station in life.

“There was a widespread misconception among local Christians that ministry and evangelism were reserved for the few who could pursue it as a full-time career.”

This conversation revived in me a key concept we all need to consider as followers of Christ: our lives are not divided into separate “sacred” and “secular” categories. In his book, Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller talks about the redemptive, gospel-centered purpose of work. He shares a powerful quote from William Diehl that reminds us:

If laypeople cannot find any spiritual meaning in their work, they are condemned to living a certain dual life; not connecting what they do on Sunday morning with what they do the rest of the week. They need to discover that the very actions of daily life are spiritual, and enable … people to touch God in the world, not away from it.

A new desire surfaced the more I trained these men and the more I drew on my past experience of gospel witness in the workplace. I felt the Lord whispering to me, “You need to be modeling that type of ministry yourself. You need to rethink your platform for sharing the gospel cross-culturally.”

Considering Our Most Strategic Place of Ministry

During this season, IMB began to cast the vision for limitless missionary sending through the strategic use of professionals, students, and retirees. They began to emphasize that, just as full-time missionaries are vital for church planting, business professionals and students have the opportunity to model the gospel in entirely new venues.

As I spent time in concentrated prayer and Bible study in regard to this new limitless vision, the Lord led me to 1 Corinthians 9:11–12, where Paul examines the use of liberty regarding the rights of a believer. He argues that his rights—including the right to make a living through gospel work—are never beyond surrender to Christ.

I began to sense God asking me if I was willing to lay down my own “right” to make a living from my ministry. Was I willing to serve as a kingdom-minded professional toward limitless sending? Were we willing to support the vital work of full-time church planters by making room for a future couple to come and take our place, and changing how we served?

After continuing to pray and discuss with trusted friends and family, we concluded that this was precisely what the Lord was asking of us. Much to our surprise, we found ourselves returning to the United States, resuming my career, and making plans to redeploy among unreached peoples as business professionals.

Limitless Pathways for You in Missions

The idea of career fields serving as a pathway to mission has great implications for all Christians who consider the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20). Jesus’s call to spread the message of redemption is not just for the full-time missionary but for each of his followers as they go:

  • into study
  • into the business world
  • into healthcare
  • into education
  • into retirement

The call for each of us is to make disciples, whether we are nurses or students, engineers, or full-time church planters. The question is simply a matter of location. I want to encourage you to consider what you do well, and then consider where you can put those skills to use in a strategic way for the mission of God.

Increasing opportunities exist for you to use your skill sets to represent Jesus among unreached peoples and places all over the world. God has plans to use the natural inroads of jobs and life stages to bring his light of truth into the darkest pockets of the world.

“The call for each of us is to make disciples, whether we are nurses or students, engineers, or full-time church planters.”

Looking back, we definitely see the Lord’s hand guiding our journey and preparing us for the assignment ahead. We are so thankful for our friends and co-laborers working among the unreached, and we eagerly await the day when we get to rejoin them. I share these things in the hope that God will stir hearts to join us. Consider how God may be calling you to make disciples among the unreached, even through unexpected means.

For more on evangelism in the workplace, check out this article.