There are many missionary qualifications, but these six C-s are crucial for every missionary to have.
Calling – This first C of missionary qualifications includes both the internal compulsion that “God is calling me to the mission field” or “I feel that this is something I must pursue, unless God show me otherwise,” and the external validation or verification of one’s calling by local church leadership; i.e. they are willing to commend the candidate as someone who has proven the qualification below in the context of real-life, observed ministry and experience.
Character – I Timothy 3, Titus 1 stuff. As a missionary, the individual will be a representative of Christ, the Gospel, and their sending church. You don’t want to send anyone you wouldn’t hire on your church pastoral staff.
Conviction – Another missionary qualification is knowing the Word well. One who understands a sound framework of theology and knows how to apply it to real life. The candidate knows the Gospel well and its implications for life and ministry. One who has unshakable confidence in God, in the Bible, and in the Gospel.
Competence – The candidate should have solid ministry skills. Through exposure, experience, and mentoring, the individual should have proven that they can do they things they project to do on the field: evangelism, discipleship, teaching, training, leadership development, etc. If they haven’t seen and participated in healthy church ministry and leadership involving others, they will not be able to do it on the field. If they’ve never been a part of a church plant, they will struggle with church planting in a cross-cultural context. Part of competence is the trait of initiative: someone who sees a need and just meets it without being asked; someone who has an idea and starts working on it without expecting others to do it for them; someone who comes up with solutions rather than just criticism or identifying problems.
Chemistry – This is interpersonal skill, social graces, a value for growing, keeping, and enhancing relationship, a team player. Work on the field is dependent upon an individuals ability to communicate with others, work through issues with others, resolve interpersonal conflicts, and apply grace in relationship with others, both colleagues and nationals. Clear communication, gracious and loving servanthood, ability to work with others are essential.
Cross-cultural capacity – While this missionary qualification shouldn’t have to be stated, it is amazing how new missionaries arrive on the field and claim to “just not like the food here” or “my tongue is incapable of producing the language” or “it’s too dirty here,” and such like. If the candidate does not value the wonderful dissonance of differing cultural values, sounds, sights, smells, etc., before they go to the field, they will be in for traumatic adjustment or lack thereof once they arrive on the field. Get them exposed and monitored before they go. If they don’t have an inclination to love other cultures (and all that goes with it), please don’t send them.
David C. MeadeDavid is the founder and General Director of Propempo International. He has over forty years' experience in church planting, pioneering field ministry among UPGs, and leadership both on the field and in non-profit organizations. He is local-church-oriented, serving as missions pastor/elder for over twenty years. He loves teaching and mentoring church leaders and missionaries preparing for service in the tough places of the world.
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