With NAYC starting up this week, I know that many young people are going to be praying for direction in their ministries. Without a doubt, I know some of those young people are going to feel the call to foreign missions. With that, I wanted to give you a list of 9 reasons that you shouldn’t become a missionary. I’m sure there are hundreds of these lists floating around the internet, but I wanted to put my own spin on the missions experience. I have compiled my own list, some from others, and some of my own. Missions is never something that should be taken lightly, and maybe these 9 things will help you think critically about your desire to do missions.
1. Don’t become a missionary if you think it’s going to make you a better Christian.
This one is so important. A lot of times, as Christians, we go to the field and expect to become these great spiritual leaders overnight. And unfortunately, that’s just not how it works. All of the great missionaries did not automatically become what they are just by getting off the plane in a foreign land. It took them disciplining themselves, both at home and on the field, and allowing God to chip away at their fleshly habits.
2. Don’t become a missionary if you aren’t willing to change.
Ministry was and is never about us; it’s always been about God. There is no one-size-fits-all type of doing ministry. What worked in your home country will not always work overseas. We have to be willing to become whatever it is that God needs us to be to get the gospel to the people we are ministering to. We need to be willing to leave behind our own cultures and way of thinking to adapt to new cultures. Are you up for a challenge, willing to be part of a team, eager to become more like Christ, and to make a commitment to take the gospel to those who have not yet heard?
3. Don’t become a missionary if you are aren’t ready to be overwhelmed and under-prepared.
It was hard to phrase this one. What I mean by this is that a lot of times on the field, you will run into situations that are brand new and completely foreign to you. You don’t know how to respond and have no expectations about what happens next. There are going to be moments where you catch yourself not knowing how to get home because none of the signs at the train station are in English. Other times, you’re going to feel so alone, because you can’t speak the language well enough. And when you’re at the grocery store and your foreign bank card was put on a hold, well, it’s going to be overwhelming. Are you willing to leave your comfort zone thousands of miles away and get comfortable with being uncomfortable?
4. Don’t become a missionary if you think it will be easy to live on the support of others.
Every year before one of my Short Term missions trip, I was tasked with raising a budget, and every single year, whether I thought I had figured out this fundraising business, it tested my faith, big time. At times, I would get so depressed because I had spent the last 6 months raising money, and I didn’t think I would be able to meet my deadlines to go. Now, imagine the stress of raising money for a few months compared to living on support like a full-time missionary. Full-time missionaries are 100% supported by the donations of others. Their homes, their cars, the food they eat, church equipment, their clothes, school fees for their children…everything. When they are overseas, missionaries do not hold secular jobs. They are in the full-time business of planting churches and winning souls. There is no time to work 40 hours a week to provide for their families. They rely on the monthly support from those who have graciously decided to support them financially. And when their money runs out, they have to leave the land that they believe God has called them to, to spend an unknown amount of time back in their homeland to raise support again. They are tasked with going from church to church to raise support, hosting fundraisers, and asking people for donations. And let me tell you – asking people for money is like pulling teeth. Sometimes, they are gone for years, and by the time they get back to their missionary countries, the works that have been started are often dilapidated because there was no one there to keep the church going. It’s not easy living on support.
5. Don’t become a missionary if you are expecting to see fruit.
A lot of times, especially in short-term missions, we get upset when we don’t see results right away. And that’s how it can be sometimes in the world we live in. Many are focused on the numbers, but in reality, numbers don’t give a full picture.
In 1912, medical missionary Dr. William Leslie went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After 17 years he returned to the U.S. a discouraged man – believing he failed to make an impact for Christ. He died nine years after his return. 84 years later, in 2010, two men went back to that same area only to discover that there was a thriving church still there. Are you ready to be patient or willing for someone else to come along and see the fruit of your labor? Read more about the story here.
6. Don’t become a missionary if you think it will exalt you above everyone else.
Yes, missions work is great, honorable even, but it doesn’t automatically put you at the top of the totem pole when you gain the title of missionary. Want to know some titles that are equally as great? Pastor, prayer coordinator, CMI leader, usher, church janitor even. God is the Vine, we are the branches. There is no ministry greater than the other. While it may seem that sweeping the church on Thursday afternoon seems pretty mundane compared to being over an entire country as a missionary, it is not going to get us any special “backstage passes with Jesus” once we get to heaven. We are all working for the same Kingdom.
7. Don’t become a missionary if you want to escape the sin you’re living in.
If you’re struggling with a certain sin in your home country, you will struggle with the same sin on the field. Point blank. This is not a hard one to grasp. The problem with sin does not lie in the country you live in, but in your heart. Particular sins need to be dealt with before you even consider being a missionary because the field will amplify them. It’s that simple.
8. Don’t become a missionary if you aren’t living Christ-like and sharing the gospel at home.
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT! Luke 16:10 says “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” If God can’t trust you to head to the church on Saturday morning for outreach, what makes you think He’s gonna trust you with an entire country full of lost souls? If you can’t get out of bed and pray in the morning, do you really think God wants to trust you as the person to intercede for the nation? And if you aren’t paying your tithes every paycheck, do you think God wants to bless you with finances overseas? Come on now. We can’t play God into thinking that He will give us His very best when we only give our bare minimum. God wants to bless us, but we need to make sure we’re seeking Him for Him, not for the things He can give us. He needs to know He can trust us with little before He can trust us with an entire country.
9. Don’t become a missionary if you love the call of God more than you love God, Himself.
Love the idea of being a missionary? Do you spend more time thinking about it than you do in prayer? Do you spend more time researching a country than you do getting into your word? It sounds almost insane, but you can love your calling more than you love the One that gave you your calling. Trust me, I’ve struggled with it myself. God has changed my heart and made me realize that all things stem from Him. Ministry stems from seeking God, not the other way around.
If any of these have helped you think more critically about your call to missions, please comment below. I’d love to know your thoughts. ♥kg