“What do you mean I don’t have to choose between work and missions?”
Michael* (name changed for security) was initially perplexed as I explained to him what it biblically means to “live on mission” as a follower of Jesus. He had a strong desire to go into missions, but he thought that meant he had to give up his job, his experience, his passion and go do something else in order to make a difference for God’s Kingdom.
Unfortunately, this is a common misconception among the average believer in most churches today. I had the same misunderstanding early on in my walk with the Lord. When missionaries visited our church and shared about the ministries they were doing for the Lord, I never once saw someone like me—the average believer sitting in the pew with a 9-to-5 job—as being able to do the same thing.
Me go into missions? I’m just an accountant. How can I do that? I’ve never been to Bible school or seminary. I’m not a gifted preacher or evangelist. I’m not even that good with languages.
These were my hesitations as a young follower of Christ. I loved the Lord and wanted to serve him, but as an accountant, I thought all I could do was pray for and financially support those who were “called” to give up everything and become a “missionary.” Don’t get me wrong. I was happy to do that, plus go on the occasional short-term mission trip for good measure.
I never dreamed in a thousand years that I, an accountant for a national bank, could be sent out to the nations. I wasn’t taught or shown biblically that my occupational knowledge and experience was useful for the work of God among the unreached. Instead, it seemed those things were simply intended to support myself financially and maybe support others who were “called” to go. That is, until I found out I could use my vocational skills and experience in missions. That changed everything!
You mean I can use my skills as an accountant in a strategic place where I can contribute to God’s work among the nations and be a witness among those who don’t know him?!
Yes, you can! You don’t have to choose between work and missions!
Is this a new idea? Is this a new model of missions for the twenty-first century? Not at all. Sure, we all know about the Apostle Paul, the famous “tentmaker” who literally worked on making tents to support himself while he preached the gospel to the Gentiles. However, this concept goes back much further. In fact, it goes all the way back to Genesis!
Remember what God told Adam and Eve after he made them in his image? He said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Unlike any other creature God created, Adam and Eve bore the image of the living God. They became his representatives on Earth with the mandate to fill the world with more image-bearers. They were given the responsibility to steward well God’s image and all that God created. Their work was their mission. Their mission was their work.
Genesis 2:15 tells us, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
We mistakenly have the impression that because everything God created was “good” and humans made in his image were “very good,” that Adam and Eve had no role to play in God’s created order. They could just enjoy taking walks through the Garden of Eden and observing the variety of animals around them without applying themselves to productive activity.
However, even though the world God created was perfect, it wasn’t complete. It needed to be worked and kept. The word for “work” in this passage means to “cultivate” or “tend.” The world was like a big, white piece of canvas perfectly mounted on a wooden frame next to a beautiful assortment of acrylic colors and a wide variety of brushes. Then God let Adam and Eve use the knowledge and skills he gave them to wisely utilize those colors and brushes.
Does that mean that God, the Creator of the world around us, has “called” us to be co-laborers with him to fill the earth with the knowledge of him? Yes, it does!
Look at what is inserted between the creation story and God’s placement of Adam and Even in the Garden. We read in Genesis 2:11–12 about the location of gold, bdellium, and onyx stone. Why are they mentioned in the creation story? These are examples of valuable resources God provided for humans to uncover and utilize appropriately.
God could have made wooden shelters or boats for Adam and Eve, but he didn’t. Instead, he provided the trees to make these things. God could have made tools for Adam to tend the Garden. Instead, he provided metals and stone to make those tools. God could have made irrigation channels for Adam. Instead, he created rivers that Adam could divert to water the crops.
So God has provided me the knowledge, skills, and resources I need to obey his “calling” to “work and keep” the world he has created? Yes!
Ask yourself, What resources, skills, or knowledge has God given me to use for his glory and purposes? Then go and use them. Or are you waiting for a “burning bush” experience to be told what to do with the gifts God has given you? Could it be that you just need to look at the needs and opportunities around you and then apply those gifts?
We read in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ask yourself, What resources, skills, or knowledge has God given me to use for his glory and purposes? Then go and use them.
Going back to my conversation with Michael again,
Okay, I understand now, biblically, that I am called to participate in God’s purpose for humans as his image-bearers and that he has given me knowledge and skills to do so. But how do I do that practically? How do I know where to start searching for the right opportunity in the right place where Christ is not known? What do I need to know to work in an international marketplace?
This is where Scatter Coaching can help!
Scatter Coaching equips Jesus-followers with high-quality career coaching and development for international employment in strategic places.
We work with candidates like Michael to help them in three important areas:
1. Forming and communicating their “personal brand.”
2. Honing their interview skills for international interviews.
3. Developing a personal job search strategy.
For Michael this meant understanding how God gave him a unique combination of education, skills, and experiences and communicating that on his resume, LinkedIn profile, and social media.
We worked with him to develop stories he could share in an interview to answer “behavioral-based questions” that demonstrate how well he works with others.
You don't have to choose between work and missions!
Lastly, we were able to help to determine a key location where his skills and experience were in demand and connect him with a trusted job recruiter working in the region. Through this collaboration, Michael was offered a position that eventually led to him leaving his home country and moving to a large city in Southeast Asia.
Today, Michael is living out who God created him to be and using his skills and experience to make a difference for the Kingdom in a place where Christ is not known. He didn’t have to choose between work and missions, and neither do you!
You can follow the Apostle Paul’s example and walk in the good works God has prepared for you while bearing him image so others will come to know him as well.
As Billy Graham once said, “I believe one of the next great moves of God will happen through believers in the workplace.”
If you are interested in what this might look like for you, please reach out to us at ScatterCoaching.com.
Sean has twenty-one years of experience overseas working in accounting and finance and serving local communities with his family, primarily in Eastern Europe. He is passionate about coaching and supporting people to find roles that fit their unique gifts, skills, and experience for Kingdom purposes. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a BS in accounting and has used his communication, cultural, and interpersonal skills to navigate the bureaucracies of foreign governments to establish viable programs and organizations.