Authored by Tina Kapp
The English word “mission” was first used around 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad. It’s derived from the Latin missionem, meaning “act of sending.” In the Latin translation of the Bible, Christ uses the word several times when sending the disciples to preach in His name:
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’”1
“Then He said to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”2
“And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”3
To be a missionary means to dedicate the majority of your time to spreading God’s message of love and hope. Many men and women of God throughout the ages were called to leave their jobs and home countries to devote their full time to reaching those who had never heard the Gospel. My hat goes off to them; with the sacrifices they made and the challenges they bravely faced, they truly deserve their place in Christian history.
But I think that we sometimes forget the other roles that men and women of God in the Bible played. Some were prophets, some were kings or queens, and some held what would be considered rather ordinary jobs. There were different ways that God used men and women to spread the Gospel. Not all were what we’d consider a missionary these days. Some preached the Gospel while holding other jobs, such as carpenter, cook, advisor, musician, teacher, builder, accountant, tent maker, jewelry designer, artist, gardener, lawyer, or doctor.
In this podcast, I won’t talk about the different types of people God uses but the different ways God chooses to use them. Some hold a full-time job and others dedicate all their time to mission work. Does it mean that only one is following the call to serve Jesus?
News flash! You can be a messenger of the Gospel even if you have another job or a career or are attending school or college. You may not be able to give your full time to being a missionary, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t dedicate some of your time to sharing the message of love and hope with others. What makes you qualified for such a position is your desire and commitment to share your faith with those around you, as well as the way you live your faith—the way you handle challenges, deal with difficult people, uphold Christian values such as honesty and moderation, and give God the credit for your successes.
I recently chatted with a friend who worked for an IT company. When a colleague of his went through a bad breakup, he comforted her and explained how the Lord can bring something good out of every bad experience. He shared verses with her about the Lord always being there and gave her inspirational material to read on the subject. She was so amazed at his wisdom and the answers he gave her that she asked him why he was only working in IT and was not a preacher or a missionary. The fact is, if he had been anywhere else but there, he wouldn’t have been available when she needed a shoulder to cry on, and most of all, when she was desperate for the Lord’s answers to the problems she was facing.
God’s call for you might be different from everyone else’s, and thank God for that. He made us with different personalities, different talents, different passions, and different interests. If He wanted for us to give all that up in order to fit into a tight mold of what some people have determined Christians, disciples, or missionaries are supposed to be, I for one would have a pretty rough time of it. In addition, I think we’d only reach a certain type of people. In fact, I think the Lord likes us being different. Look at the range of disciples He chose: from fishermen to tax collectors to zealots!
I believe that everyone has a unique calling, a purpose for their life, and that doesn’t mean doing only one thing! Like many men and women in the Bible, God called them to do different things at different times to fulfil His will. Our job is simply to find what it is He wants us to do and then, as Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “do it with our might.”4
In the Louvre, in Paris, there is a famous painting by Murillo. It is entitled “The Miracle of San Diego.” A door had just been opened, and two noblemen and a priest have entered a kitchen. They are amazed to find that all the kitchen maids are angels. One is handling a water pot, another a tray of meat, a third is carrying a basket of vegetables, and a fourth is tending the fire. A message of the picture is that no job is unimportant if we do it unto the Lord.
Another interesting thing is that some of the more famous missionaries you may have heard of or read about had to spend a good portion of their life either studying a trade or working until the time was right for them to go to their field of calling.
David Livingstone worked in a cotton mill from the age of 10 until he was 26 to support his family and put himself through medical school. He later said those 16 years taught him persistence and endurance, which he needed a good deal of in order to make it through the struggles he faced in Africa. He finished his studies and became a qualified doctor, which was a very important part of his missionary work. It also enabled him to discover some early treatments for malaria. Livingstone was one of the first medical missionaries to enter South Africa, and the first one in central Africa. He was often the first European to meet local tribes. He won their trust as a healer and “medicine man.” He was particularly sought for his skills in obstetrics, the surgical removal of tumors, and ophthalmology. He was also a respected biologist, explorer, civil rights leader, and cartographer.
In Colossians 4:14, Paul refers to Luke as “the beloved physician.” Luke, the only Gentile to write a book in the New Testament, was also known as a historian and an educated man. Without his accurate writings, we wouldn’t have some of the well-loved parables or some of the details of Jesus’ life and actions, as they are not recorded in the other Gospels.
Nate Saint was a pilot and part of the Mission Aviation Fellowship, made up of Christian pilots from Britain, America, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. William Carey was a skilled writer, linguist, and printer. Hudson Taylor was a doctor and translator. Eric Liddell, a missionary to China, was a rugby player and runner for Scotland, winning the 400m dash at the 1924 Summer Olympics. John Morrison Birch was an American military intelligence officer and a Baptist missionary during World War II. Ida Scudder was a third-generation medical missionary to India who started the Christian Medical College and Hospital, which still stands today as one of the largest medical centers in India and the foremost teaching hospital in Asia.
While researching careers of different missionaries, I came across a blog by David Archuleta. He was the runner-up in American Idol 2008. He was 16 at the time and sang the hit song “Crush.” He’s a Mormon and he just left the United States for his two years of missionary service in Chile. I was very impressed with his openness about his faith and his willingness to put a pause on such a successful career to focus on his time with the Lord and helping others. He explained to his fans that he wants to use this time to connect with people one-on-one and to connect with the Father personally. In his blog, he writes about things he misses (TV being one of his biggest trials) and what helps him to stay focused on the mission.5 He said his participation in American Idol was part of the mission God gave him, and it has definitely helped him reach thousands through his fan base, who now follow his testimonies and are touched by his commitment.
It was amazing to me how so many of the missionaries I grew up reading about actually had some pretty impressive job skills, and God obviously orchestrated it so that they would have what they needed to be as effective as possible. Some missionaries didn’t have other jobs; they just went out and shared their faith with others, which is beautiful and has touched countless lives as well. However, I think buckling down and learning a career can also be an amazing part of one’s calling.
I’m sure that Moses growing up in Pharaoh’s court taught him a lot about leadership, which he certainly needed later. But that wasn’t the only part of his “learning experience.” He also had to work for 40 years as a shepherd in the desert before he could be ready to launch into his true calling and fulfill God’s purpose for him. I’m sure he didn’t feel like all he went through during those many years was great preparation, and it probably felt close to a monotonous 9-to-5 job, but he stuck to it and it paid off. I bet you he wouldn’t have traded that time of preparation for anything in the world when he was later able to see the ten plagues of Egypt, the Red Sea part, a cloud of smoke by day, a pillar of fire by night, manna and quail from heaven, and God coming down and scribbling the to-do list of the millennium on a stone. You bet it was worth it! All this was possible because he had gone through a long God-designed ordinary process that prepared him for these extraordinary moments.
God can use you in whatever way you are willing to let Him use you. If what you want to do is become skilled in something, you can still be one of His messengers to spread the Gospel in your part of the world. If you want to dedicate your life and skills to making missionary work your primary career choice, then He will use that, too. But in whatever way you decide to give your time to spreading the Gospel, you should do it knowing that it will never be time wasted.
One last thing: if God gives you talents or opportunities, don’t forget to give Him the credit for them. Make sure you use them wisely in furthering His command to preach the Gospel.6 Whether it’s being an instant witness—ready to comfort or encourage someone you’re working with—or focusing all your attention on your goal of becoming that artist, doctor, lawyer, pilot, full-time missionary, or whatever it is that God’s showed you to become. Never forget that God wants to use you in ways that you may have never thought of. And if you are interested and open to it, He will show you when the time is right. The sky’s the limit—unless you want to be an astronaut. Then … who knows?
1 John 20:21 NKJV
2 Luke 10:2 NKJV
3 Romans 10:14–15 ESV
4 English Standard Version
6 See Mark 16:15
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2012 by The Family International