What made you type in that google search about becoming a missionary? Is it some need that’s pulling on your heart? Did you spend part of your younger life in another part of the world? Are you looking for a change from life as you currently know it? Do you want to raise your family in a different setting? All of these may be contributing reasons and may be valid.
What about the ‘call’? Does everyone need one?
For my wife and I, some of the reasons mentioned above contributed to our going to Africa and serving God there. The REAL reason we went was a deep sense of His calling us to serve Him. There is much written about the “Missionary Call”. You can Google about it. Is it a calling to a geographic place? Is it to a certain group of people? God’s calling starts with abiding, trusting, and resting in Him. He may lead you to a place or bring a certain people group to your mind. It was a deep assurance that God wanted us in the Congo and later in short term assignments in South Africa and Kenya that sustained us through all we encountered. There were many times of blessing, but also times of testing, trials, and suffering. We both had interests in missions in our growing up years. It was one of the reasons that we based our marriage on.
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The process of mission agency shopping, talking with missionary kids and others considering missions, and knowing from God’s Word what was written about going into the world to be His witness; all had factors in our proceeding towards Africa. When we were preparing for our final interview with the mission agency’s board members His calling to trust and rest in Him confirmed our decision. It wasn’t our preparation, our interests, or our love for the Lord. It had to be that deep sense of His calling us.
During our years in Africa we interacted with other missionaries who ended their assignments early. Some were for valid reasons of health, family, finances, government actions and nationals taking over the work. However, for some it was because their reason for going into missions was not anchored by God’s calling on their lives. Thinking of missions? That’s great! Know His calling on your life.
- Dave & Lucille Rondeau - retired missionaries who served for over 25 years. Dave was an RN and Navy Nurse Corp Commander. Lucille was a bookkeeper and school assistant.
Command versus Calling
The way that I look at this discussion on “calling” is to look at 2 different words – “Command” and “Calling.”
When we read scripture, especially Matthew 28 & 2 Corinthians 5 (see below), it seems clear that every believer has been given the role as ambassador & has been commanded to make disciples. As part of our new lives in Christ, we have a mandate or a command to make disciples. Every believer should be doing their part as ambassadors for Christ...preaching a message of reconciliation.
Matthew 28: 18 - 20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
2 Corinthians 5: 17 - 20 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
This is a command! We don’t have a choice. We can’t get a “free pass”. We are ambassadors. As ambassadors our goal is to represent the one who sent us. We represent Jesus. We speak his message. We do his will.
As a result of this “command”, we don’t have to wonder whether God wants us to share with lost people. We don’t need to decide if we should make disciples. The only questions that you need to answer is:
- Where does God want me to live & make disciples?
- What is the way that God wants me to share my faith with others?
So why do I hear people talking about calling?
I believe that God can give a very specific call to certain people concerning missions. I don’t think it happens to everyone in a specific manner, but I know for sure that the Lord can clearly call.
It happened in my life. The Lord gave us a definite & undeniable call to the Arab world…even to a specific location. It was obvious and it was clear.
I have other friends serving alongside of us who did not have a specific calling to our city, but who know that the Lord put Muslim peoples on their heart. This is still a calling but not as specific. There are others that know that the Lord wants them to reach the unreached, but they never had a call to a specific people or religion.
In my mind, these are all calls. They may vary in their specificity, but they are all the gracious voice of Jesus prompting someone to take the next step in missions.
Do you need a call to serve in missions?
The simple answer is no. The more complex answer is - absolutely. What do I mean?
Well, we all have been given the command to make disciples of all nations. So, if you decide to just “go” to the unreached to make disciples, praise the Lord. No call necessary!
But in reality, I believe that whether you stay in your home town, move to a different state or move around the world, you should know God’s leading in your life. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves, “Have I been called NOT to go” or “Have I been called to move to another state?”.
My point is that we should be asking God about all of the details & decisions of lives. So I do believe that if you ask, Jesus will make it clear what your next step should be. Is that a call? Perhaps not in the way that people expect when they are thinking about missions, but I would still say “Yes.”
Why do I believe callings are important?
The only reason that I think that having a call is important is for “endurance”. If you know that you have been called without any doubt, then when times get tough, you will have more chance of sticking it out. In my mind, if you have a calling from the Lord to go to a certain place, you are not to move until the Lord releases you or gives you a new calling.
In my personal experience, people who don’t have a specific calling in their lives find it easier to pack up and move locations with times get tough. Not 100% of the time…but from what I have seen.
When you have a call of Jesus on your life…you do whatever it takes to try to answer that call. When you have the command of Jesus on your life, you should also do whatever it takes to obey the command.
- Toby Miles - living in North Africa and sharing Jesus there using Business As Missions. Prior to that, Toby served in E Africa as a teacher to missionary kids at the school where he grew up.
How do I hear the call?
For me, I hear Jesus calling me, ‘Come…’ and in this way I have received the call of God. As Toby said, ‘the sheep know the shepherd’s voice’. As Dave said, ‘it starts with abiding, trusting and resting in Him.’
Here’s how the ‘call’ looks in my life. Daily, I wake up, make myself an espresso and sit before God with His Word open before me. He meets with me there in the pages - sometimes profoundly, and sometimes somewhat unremarkably. Or maybe He meets with me on a walk or a run while I’m soaking in the glory of the skies or listening to the whisper of the trees, I hear Him say He loves me. And sometimes, in those moments as I learn to love Him back, there is a place or a people group or a certain ministry that I know He is pointing out to me.
Come … follow me.
He is saying, “Come… follow ME’ and I love His voice - even though it means a change - a change in culture or place, or a change in a friend group or area of ministry. He says ‘Come…’ and I have the courage to join a mom’s group in a new culture where we helped plant a new church. He says, ‘Come…’ and, in my own hometown, the unhurried movements of a woman who needs my assistance as she walks through her last days before Glory become incredibly precious to me. He says, ‘Come….,’ and I experience the thrill of confident hope in God as I speak His Word at a conference - confident because I KNOW that HE called me there. Do you hear Him? Is He saying, “Come… follow me?’ That is your call. There’s no better life than to follow.
- Amy Falke - living in the US and volunteering in her church and community to share the love of Jesus, part of a Business as Missions, previously planted a church in Australia