RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- An American executive working for a major automobile company in Asia is just hitting his stride: top salary, big results, great industry contacts.
But it's not enough. He wants more than anything to tell the people around him -- many of whom have never heard the Gospel -- about the joy and hope he experiences in knowing Jesus Christ.
What should he do? Quit his job and go into mission work? Maybe. On the other hand, maybe he's ideally positioned to do mission work. Maybe that's why God nudged his company to send him to Asia in the first place.
"I had to bite my lip a few times when I was talking to him," admits Scott Holste, IMB vice president for global strategic mobilization, who encountered the executive during a trip to Asia. "My gut reaction was to say, 'It sounds like God is calling you to be a missionary,' because that is so much a part of our thinking."
Indeed, God still calls people to be missionaries every day. But in a complex, economically interconnected world where thousands of Americans live and work in places missionaries can't access, there are other possibilities. He can use all kinds of folks to accomplish His purposes.
"God may indeed be calling you out of a vocation as an engineer, for example, and calling you into full-time missions," Holste says. "But He may be wanting to build on the fact that you are an engineer -- that you have the skill set, the problem-solving ability and the creativity to bring to the task of expanding the Kingdom of God."
Holste is heading up an effort to encourage and equip "marketplace professionals": business people, teachers, medical workers, artists, students pursuing degrees abroad and others already working overseas or open to the possibility. The marketplace is the world. Countless American Christians already practicing their vocations have the professional skills the world wants -- and the hope the world needs.
More than one-third of the world's nations impose "high or very high" restrictions on religious activity, including mission work, according to the Pew Research Center, which tracks such restrictions in 197 countries. About 75 percent of the world's approximately 7 billion people live in those nations. The trend toward increasing restrictions, even in supposedly democratic countries, appears to be accelerating, Pew reports.
But God, the ultimate Creator, is endlessly creative. Governments, cultures and borders may prevent certain types of traditional mission work, but they cannot stop the spread of the Gospel. Church history has demonstrated that again and again, when merchants, teachers, artists, explorers, even slaves, have taken the Good News with them along the globe's trade routes –- they transform the places and peoples they met along the way.
There are other spiritual principles here. Work is holy, beginning with God's own labor: ... Read More