Updated: Dec 1, 2019
The Shotgun Blast
So there I sat, with pieces of my shattered little universe scattered across the floor.
God had spoken.
“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14).
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).
The gospel will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come. Then the end will come.
The end of pain.
The end of suffering.
The end of war.
The end of poverty.
The end of oppression.
The end of homelessness.
The end of drug addiction.
The end of child abuse and domestic violence.
The end of murder.
The end of rape.
The end of hate.
The end of all refugee crises.
The end of death.
The end of brokenness.
One month into my Masters of Social Work degree program, I was brought face to face with this realization. All of my efforts, and all of the best evidence-based practices and strategies, would not bring an ultimate end to the brokenness of this world. Only the return of Christ could do that. Social workers are trained to solve problems, to find ways to help people overcome broken situations, but only the return of Christ can ultimately remove all brokenness. And He would only return once the gospel has been preached to all nations. The only option left for anyone to do then, if they want to see all brokenness end, is to share the gospel with all nations. Jesus had shown compassion to the poor and needy, and healed many, which is why I wanted to become a social worker. But He also always shared the gospel of the kingdom. Because the gospel is what people really need. I could still do social work things, but the gospel must take precedence.
God had spoken.
I was not called to missions. I was shotgun blasted into it.
There was nothing overly spiritual about deciding to work a regular job while making disciples. I was already in grad school when God shattered my little universe and showed me the need for the gospel to be shared among all nations. Not knowing what else to do, I applied to a missions organization. When my application was promptly rejected (too much college debt; “Good for you sport, but check back in 10 years.”), I started thinking more about using social work as a platform for ministry work. The Apostle Paul made tents to earn an income as he went along, and I knew of others who had done similar things, so maybe I could just be a social worker who made disciples. Plus this way I wouldn’t have to go to seminary and retake all of the classes I had already taken for my undergrad Bible and Theology degree.
I prayed about it for some time though, asking God for clarity. Basically I told God that if He wanted me to go the “traditional” route and raise support, He would have to somehow get me kicked out of grad school. The funny thing was, I actually started doing better in all my classes, getting A’s in everything and impressing my instructors. So the decision to use social work as a platform was solidified over and over again as time went on. It wasn’t so much of a one-time decision, it just became more clear this was the best option. Also the only option. So of the many reasons why it became more clear that I just needed to be a social worker who made disciples, here is a short list of the major ones:
It is possible that social workers are more likely to get into closed countries than “traditional” entry methods. The region of the world in which I wish to go is filled with conflict, extreme poverty, and mass movements of people fleeing violence and oppression. It seems to me that social work, then, is a golden entry ticket.
I don’t have to be a financial burden on anyone (1 Thess. 2:9). If somebody wants to help me out financially, I can still accept it, but I don’t need to rely solely on the contributions of others, which can weigh them down over time. I can pay my own way.
Student loan debt is less of a hindrance. I can work towards paying it off while actively making disciples in my spare time. And I can go overseas pretty much whenever I find a job in the country I hope to go to. So I don’t have to wait 10 years.
It avoids the risk of ministry becoming a job. One potential pitfall which vocational ministry-workers have to deal with is that of ministry becoming something you do only when you get paid for it. But making disciples is not a job. It is life.
It seems to me that if the vast majority of Jesus-followers out there will be ordinary people who work normal jobs, then we should begin teaching people, and modeling for them how to make disciples while working normal jobs. If they see us doing it, then they just might start doing it too.
Similar to the previous two reasons, going bi-vocational removes the “professionalism” which can come with being a vocational missionary/ministry worker. The logic goes, “If you get paid to do something, you must be good at it. So if I don’t get paid to do something, that means I’m not good at it. If I’m not good at it, then why do it? I’ll just leave it to the professionals…”
I could continue on with my list, but I think you get the point.
I believe being a “marketplace missionary,” is an effective way to make disciples because it models for all of your disciples how to make disciples while working their regular jobs, which is what they would be doing anyway with or without you. And working a regular job can open up doors which the “traditional” methods never could.
So as of now, I have graduated from school and am working a normal, social worker job, doing the work God has given me to do in Oklahoma City among the unreached people groups who He has brought here from the uttermost parts of the earth. I’ll do this until He opens a door for me to go to the country which I believe He has told me to eventually go to. And once there, I’ll find another normal social work job and work among the peoples there, making disciples who make disciples while working their normal jobs. And I’ll keep doing this until the end comes, until brokenness is removed from this earth, until our King returns.
Ben works as a Marketplace Missionary in Oklahoma City, OK. He has created a hobby of putting himself in uncomfortable situations.
Whether engaging clients in social work or mosques and temples in his city, Ben is committed to the core missionary task as a vital member of the UPG City team. Research, stories through photography, and teaching round off his contributions.