I haven’t been on a mission trip in some time. The last trip that I recall was sometime in 2010 to Hatyai, Thailand.

It was such a wonderful experience – one that I will continue to look back upon fondly: Moments of deep intimacy with God and the team, seeking His will each day for what we should do next and how best to do it.

Last year, my wife and I committed to set aside a portion of our annual leave to doing missions beyond our doorstep. Things got slightly complicated when we realised in the middle of the year that we were expecting our first child, as it restricted our travel and movements.

But it was this very turn of events that caused me to consider: Is going overseas the only way for us to participate in “mission work”?

The answer seems obvious, but for some reason most of us still carry a conventional view of missions that paints a picture of overseas travel, crossing cultures and nationalities, eating different food, speaking different languages.

I’ve long held that view myself, and as much as we know that missions begins at our “doorstep”, it somehow doesn’t resonate as quickly with us.

As a compromise, I took a short break from my full-time job instead to spend a three-month stint with Youth With A Mission’s Discipleship Training School (YWAM DTS).

It was a bittersweet transition for me to take a sabbatical from work and have a time-out from the marketplace. I found myself suddenly liberated from the demands of working life but thrust into a community of people that I was not quite accustomed to seeing on a daily basis.

Being a missions agency, YWAM is basically made up of – wait for it – missionaries. Most of my DTS course mates were also full-time church workers, and I was amongst a minority who spent their Monday to Friday (and Saturday) working a full-time job in the marketplace, and only my “leftover” time in Christian ministry.

As a “marketplace” guy, the first few weeks at YWAM was definitely a challenge. Questions like: “Are you planning leaving your job to go into full-time ministry or become a missionary?” were in abundance.

I often found myself embarrassed by these questions; they were of course well-intended, but it left me feeling almost like a second-class Christian – what had I been spending the past 5 years of my life doing? Did it count for nothing?

In an attempt to give an adequate answer to these questions (and to assuage my own internal conflict), I would answer: “I’m a marketplace missionary”. It sounded confident, but the truth was that it was borne out of insecurity.

Faced with questions like these, I grew uncertain of what my role in God’s story was, and I was definitely desperately trying to find my place among this group of amazing missionaries.

Theologians and Bible scholars have long studied and contemplated the meaning of missions – what God’s mission in the world is and what the Church’s mission should be.

In my simple and (if I may say) child-like view, missions is essentially this: God’s agenda. And if so, we must certainly accept that God has an agenda everywhere – not just in the out-of-country locations that often form the “missions destinations” in our mind, but also in our offices, corridors, schools, homes, and streets.

We may not realise it, but even being in this “concrete jungle” requires us to “cross cultures”, speak different “languages” and be “all things to all man” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Imagine the fresh graduate accountant who is thrown into the deep end of the pool, having to navigate a new office culture, adopt a fresh set of terminology and social language for meaningful interaction with his peers and supervisors.

Missions is essentially this: God’s agenda – and God has an agenda everywhere.

What then do we make of this? It may be a matter of mere terminology, but I am reminded by this simple definition that I am in every sense, on a mission everyday.

A mission to seek God, to know what He’s thinking when He sees what we see around us; to understand His agenda for the people around us and places we enter; and to partner Him in what He intends to do.

I can have that same level of “deep intimacy with God, seeking His will each day for what we should do next and how best to do it” in my daily work, as I do on an overseas mission trip. This life is our mission field.

And as His children who seek to do His will in every arena of our existence, I dare say that we are all on a mission all the time; each one no less in “full-time” than the other. Full-time is a posture more than it is a position.

Towards the end of my course in YWAM, the community gathered to pray for those of us who were returning to our different spheres: Overseas missions, church, and the marketplace.

By that time, through the teaching sessions, I had learnt to accept and even embrace my role in the story that God was writing. This meant that I had resolved to return to the marketplace and seek an understanding of the work that God was doing there; to seek the shalom of the very city and office that I had long been placed in.

In every sense, the time of prayer was like a commissioning – a sending out. Many things were said, but what I remember most was the parting conversation that I had with one of the experienced missionaries. Before this, I’d never had the chance to share my thoughts with her.

She came up to me after prayer with a word of encouragement, saying this: “You know, Jon, although you are going back to work in your office, you are as much in the mission field as I am, as we are – in fact, the ground there in the marketplace may even be much harder.”

For those of us in the marketplace, our work and ministry is not second-class at all.

I have often repeated those words in my mind, not because I need the affirmation, but to remind myself each day that I do have a purpose where I am each day; to carry the heart and mind of God to the people I meet and the work I do.

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
Abraham Kuyper

The path back to work since then hasn’t been entirely smooth-sailing, but my mind often traces back to moments like this as a reminder that for those of us in the marketplace, our work and ministry is not second-class at all.

Yes, there may be daily tasks for us that may not intuitively fall into the category of “Christian ministry” as some of us have come to understand, but I am learning that God definitely has an agenda for wherever He has positioned me, even in this bustling city.

“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

The stark reality is this: There is a group/category of people that is within my specific reach because of my geographical location, profession, skill-set, and placement – and these are people that the heart of God is after.

In an age of technology and easy travel that makes our world a global village, we can easily extend our lives to friends from all nationalities simply by taking a walk on the city streets. Perhaps that is exactly what Jesus longs to do the most through each one of us, to reach those in every corner of the earth, first-world business districts included.

As I write this, my mind returns to a moment when I brought my two-month old daughter with me to work for a visit. It was exhilarating for me simply because I wanted to show her what I was up to everyday.

She may not have completely understood the full picture, but I found myself carrying an innate desire to reveal it to her and help her get it, even if it would take the next few years for me to do so.

I wonder if this is how God the Father looks at us – we think that we are bringing Him with us to work and to the office, but perhaps He is the One bringing us to work with Him.

And as His children, He calls us to partner Him because our mission must be this, as modelled by His Son Jesus Christ: To do only what we see our Father doing – and that He is always at work, everywhere in the world.