Is God calling you to the mission field?
Both of our page three news items concern overseas mission. Have you ever wondered if the Lord is calling you to be a missionary? If so (or even if not so!), here is a checklist to focus your thinking and that of any church engaged in this great enterprise.
Are you truly converted to Christ? Many in today’s world missionary force – including some professed evangelicals – have never personally ‘been to Jesus for the cleansing power’. Like John Wesley of old, they think being a missionary will save their souls. But not even this ‘good work’ can get you to heaven (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) – salvation is only through the merits of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the New Testament principle is that we can only ‘declare’ what we have ‘seen and heard’ (1 John 1:3).
Do you understand the true gospel? There are many false gospels, but only one true gospel. Salvation is not the product of human willpower; it is from the Lord. The gospel’s contours are defined by the doctrines of free and sovereign grace; its focus is Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). Even ‘born again’ preachers are not always clear about the biblical gospel. So if you understand the gospel, think twice before you rule out the mission field! You are in a small minority and the world and the church desperately need you.
Are you called to preach?There are only two ‘calls’ in Scripture – the call to salvation and the call to preach the gospel (Romans 8:30; 10:15). In biblical terms, a missionary ‘call’ is simply a call to preach the gospel (Romans 10:14-15), not just to live as a Christian overseas. Everything else, including geographical location of service, falls into the category of ‘providence’. The Spirit gives inward leadings and intimations, but fundamentally his providential guidance is mediated through the Bible, prayer and circumstances.
Is the Lord prompting you to ‘go’? This is vital, since mission begins with God, not with missionary or church agencies (Isaiah 6:8). Only those made willing by Christ are to venture forth. Self-motivated ‘volunteers’ and do-gooders are the bane of missionary work. Evangelical agencies can be of great help, but the hand of God must be there first.
Are you so involved in gospel work at home that you find it difficult to conceive of serving abroad? So it should be! You would make a poor missionary if you did not serve the Lord with all your heart, wherever you are (Colossians 3:23). Your local church may also need help in coming to terms with this, since they should really miss you if you go! ‘Negative guidance’ for being a missionary – such as ‘being out of work’ or ‘unable to exercise my gifts properly where I am’ – is unreliable.
Are you prepared to work in a team? This is the New Testament pattern. Paul worked with Barnabas, Silas, Mark, Luke and others. Even Jesus Christ worked with twelve disciples. Pioneer evangelism must not be confused with maverick evangelism. If you are cantankerous and quarrelsome, mortify such sins and put on submissive humility. Sadly, missionary work can attract arrogant individualists, who make life a misery for their colleagues.
How old are you? Are you a young person? Give your best years to this glorious work – don’t put it off! Are you ‘young retired’? Don’t disqualify yourself. You have the gospel; and vital, mature experience. The Lord still calls servants to work in his vineyard at the eleventh hour (Matthew 20:1-16).
Do you speak English? You may not even need to learn a new language, as 70% of the world speak English to some extent. Whatever your language, there are vast numbers who speak it; and they are on the broad road to destruction. They need the gospel – and you have it (see Romans 1:14-15)!