People can be emotionally moved by a dynamic speaker. But an emotional feeling will only sustain someone on the field for a short time. A true calling by God on their life is what is necessary to keep a missionary on the field.
How does one know they have been called to mission work?
First there is an internal compelling desire to serve the Lord in some capacity. The person cannot deny that God is leading them, by the Holy Spirit, to perform a task. The best external indicator of God’s call is one’s pastor. He can often see fruit in the person’s life and recognize God’s leading. Of course a man can be wrong about God’s calling, but most pastors will make a mistake the other direction—they may think someone is called when they are not. Therefore, if a pastor thinks the person is either not called or not ready, then he should honestly and prayerfully seek the Lord’s clear direction.
Once God’s call to be a Christian missionary has been confirmed, then the person should begin preparing for service. Many decisions must be made in the process:
Where to serve is one of the many decisions to make.
Preparation for missionary service should begin by seeking the pastor’s council on a missionary agency. The mission agency does not take the place of the pastor or the church, but they assist the pastor in getting the missionary to the field. Therefore, the candidate’s pastor can recommend a mission board that he is comfortable working with. The mission board will have their own requirements for missionary service. This may include a certain level of Bible knowledge or specific training based on the type of mission work to be done.
It is possible that the pastor recommends that the candidate not use a mission board or agency and work through the local church instead. This is a good arrangement as long as the pastor helps the missionary prepare for service on the field. The church will need to take a more active role in the missionary’s life as a mission agency normally handles the financial and tax information. A pastor and church may not be prepared for these extra responsibilities.
Many boards will require that the missionary have a college diploma or degree. This may or may not need to be a Bible degree. They are interested in knowing that the missionary candidate has enough character to complete advanced training. The board can recommend programs where the candidate can get the Bible training they need.
On the Job Training
If the missionary will be involved in a ministry other than church planting, he may need special training beyond Bible school. This may be practical training such as on the job experience if the missionary will be involved in trade type ministries like construction, medicine, agriculture and others. If the missionary will work as a teacher, or in some other professional field, he needs formal training in this area.
A foreign missionary may need to go through language training. As much as possible the missionary candidate should begin personal language study before he has to dedicate himself to regimented language training. With the online tools available to missionaries today, a candidate can get a head start on his language training before he arrives on the field.
Reading missionary biographies will help the candidate learn about life on the field. Knowing that men and women have gone through incredible trials of faith gives encouragement to new missionaries when they are preparing for Christian missionary service. These stories are brought to mind when the missionary has their faith tested on the field.
See the Field
Reading missionary biographies will help the candidate learn about life on the field.
Short-term mission trips help the candidate get a burden for people. It is one thing to read about a country and know all the facts; it is a very different thing to interact with people and get a burden for their need for Christ.
Like-minded Fellowship and Counsel
The Christian missionary candidate should get to know other missionaries. These could be missionaries who are working in the same field as the candidate or in other countries and ministries. This gives the prospective missionary a chance to build relationships with people who understand what they will experience on the field. Veteran missionaries can be called upon to give council and encouragement during trying times.
One of the last things a missionary must do before getting to work on the field is to raise their prayer and financial support. This involves several months of visiting churches, pastors, friends and family to share their burden for missionary work. This can be a precious time of fellowship with other believers who partner with the missionary to support their work. It can also be frustrating knowing that there are lives on the field who can be touched and changed by God’s salvation. The missionary must continue to keep their eye on the goal while enlisting other Christians to be a part of their ministry team. This time of support raising is part of God’s plan to prepare the missionary for the needs he will have on the field.
Preparing to become a Christian missionary takes time. Rarely does someone have God’s call on their lives and then go to the field in a matter of weeks. It is a time of preparation for long-term service. This preparation can take years. But the missionary will be properly prepared for a lifetime of service.