Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

Thank you so much for joining episode 153 of Missions on Point. We're in a series on restoring missions in the church. This is number 12 in the bigger series that has to do with the centrality of the local church and missions, which is a preview of a book that I'm working on. This issue, number 12, is about raising up missionaries. There are many things that strike fear in the heart of a pastor. One of them is someone coming to him and saying, "I think God is calling me to be a missionary. Now what do I do? Can you and the church help me become a missionary and send me out to the field?" "Well, first thing is don't panic. This is a cause for celebration. This actually should be a normal feature in a maturing church, so praise the Lord and figure out what you're going to do."

No matter what the age or experience or maturity of the person asking the question, there is a pathway if God wants them on the field for them to get to the field and you want them to get to the field, being an excellent representative of the gospel, of Jesus Christ, of your church, and of quality ministry. The pathway for qualification as a missionary is very similar to that of the qualification as a pastor or an elder in your church, only there are added elements for cross-cultural ministry and the missionary role. One of the keys at the very beginning is to find or establish or acquire a proper mentor for this missionary candidate. If it is a couple coming to you, then probably it should be a couple that are assigned as mentors. This is something that is between sort of the church leaders and the missions team and the missionary candidate.

You want someone who is godly, who is mature in their outlook, who is willing to learn about missions alongside their mentee, this missionary candidate, and someone who is going to be very patient because it's probably going to take a considerable amount of time, depending on what their starting point is. I've divided up the training into three major areas of life. These are very well accepted in the community at large, not just the Christian community, but in development community. The first is being, the second one is knowing, and the third one is doing. We have the Trellis and the Vine book to credit for alliterating those. We have calling and character as being, conviction, having to do with biblical and theological training and comprehension as knowing, and we have competence as the ministry skills and experience. That's the doing part.

So let's start with calling and character. That's the being. This is what the person is at the root of their personality, their character. First calling, they say they have a calling. You need to test that, ask that. We have several episodes that deal with missionary calling. Just because someone says that they are called to be a missionary doesn't make it so. You see it over time, it's tested, and we see it confirmed and affirmed by the local church. Secondly, personal spiritual disciplines. This is no small matter and most beginning missionary candidates don't really have their act together with regard to their personal spiritual disciplines, and it is essential for a missionary on the field to be able to have spiritual nurture and feeding while they're on the field that is not dependent on outside sources. They have to know how to drink from the well of Christ themselves and see in the word, have good study habits, prayer habits and so forth for personal spiritual disciplines.

The third part is interpersonal relationships and developing that in their character, knowing how to solve conflicts, for instance, knowing how to resolve communication issues. Then there's elder or deacon qualifications, and depending on their role in the field, they will want to be qualified as an elder according to 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 or as a deacon in 1 Timothy 3 and other references, so that you know that they've got that sterling, above reproach kind of character as a Christian and as a leader. The last part of calling and character is reputation of integrity, and by that what we mean is having the same kind of character throughout all the elements of their reputation, financially, morally, spiritually, mentally, psychologically, even physically and in every other way.

The second major area of growth and qualification as a missionary is this knowing area. We call it conviction. It is biblical and theological training and knowledge, but it's also comprehension, knowing how to put the pieces together. Many times on the field, a missionary will be confronted with a theological conundrum, and if they don't have the right biblical understanding and framework in which to evaluate this theological conundrum, they may end up with the wrong answers or no answer at all. So they need to be thoroughly trained in Bible knowledge. They need to have theological knowledge of the basics of systematics, of biblical theology in general. Often this biblical and theological training takes place in a Bible school or seminary setting, at least a formalized training setting. They need to have an understanding of church planting, which means they need to be a student of church planting and church development.

They need to have an understanding of global missions, something about the history, some of the great biographies of missions, their heroes as missionaries. They need to understand global awareness, and that is what are the current issues and status around the world, but particularly in their region where they're going. What are the issues of the people of that region? They need to understand timeless missiology, and by timeless, I mean it's not just current fads and trends. It means what are the things that you stick to decade and century after decade and century that is biblical and strong and has the elements of what you need to get you to the end result, which we talked about last episode, in thriving, indigenous local churches?

Then lastly, regarding conviction, is an element of lifelong learning, aptitude and commitment. A good missionary needs to have an attitude of being a lifelong learner. You never stop learning the language. You never stop learning culture. You never stop learning how to grow in Christ and grow in grace so that you become more like Christ. This is part of who we are and we model that as learners in knowing more things in which to grow and to use for the sake of the kingdom. The third major area is competence. This is the doing part, and by that we mean actual ministry skills experience. It means the candidate may have to study and learn how to do certain kinds of ministries and to have experience in it.

The first bit is local church testing. Are they experienced in local church ministries? Have they actually served in a variety of local church ministries? Do they get along with the people and the ministry teams on which they serve? Secondly is life skills and experience. We're talking about things that are outside the local church or maybe outside spiritual things. If they're going to a relatively closed country situation, they're going to have to have life skills to work in some sort of a business. Whether by contract or whether they create their own business, they need to have business skills. So if you take someone straight out of college that's never worked a real job, never been employed for very long, and I'm not just talking about lawn mowing in the summer, I'm talking about some actual business experience, they need to understand something about accounting, something about marketing, something about customer relations skills, something about retention of staff, those kinds of things. Do they have that kind of experience, and marketplace experience?

The third area in competence is mission strategy, and what we're talking about is the practical aspect of that. We're not talking about on paper strategy. We're talking about working in a field team, working with a variety of different authorities in your life, putting pressure on you or leading you in certain kinds of ways. Because when you go overseas, you have all kinds of bureaucracy related to immigration and finances and lots of things related to maybe the national church and the mission agency and your own home church. Never does anyone have more bosses than a missionary on the field, because they have all of these people that claim to have some slice of authority over their life. They need to have good strategic thinking about how all those things line up.

The next thing is short-term missions experience, and we really do believe that short-term missions experience is a great test and a beginning for learning to be a good missionary. Short-term mission experience opens their eyes to the realities of what life is like on the field, and with a longer and longer timeframe, they may work from a one week short-term missions experience to two weeks, to a month, to six months, to even a year and a half or two as an intern before they actually are commissioned as a missionary. The next thing is advocacy and Barnabas team, and this relates back to the very first thing I said about mentoring. If the missionary candidate has someone from within the church that is walking alongside them as a mentor, an advocate, a friend, an encourager, even a challenger or a confronter, if need be, that person becomes a part of what we call a Barnabas team.

There are other episodes that deal with this. You can go back and listen to them on Missions on Point, but they need an ongoing advocacy within the church body, a smaller group that knows them more intimately and is able and willing and committed to pray with them, to work with them through things in all the areas of finance and logistics and prayer and encouragement, schooling for their children and communication, all of those kinds of things that the advocacy team plays point on for the sake of the church. The next thing in competence is chemistry with people. Chemistry is that generic term we use for a consistent godly way in working with people. They need to be people persons. A missionary task is a people-oriented task. If you're going to be a good missionary, you have to learn how to get along with people and learn how to be outgoing enough to make friends with strangers and to share the gospel with them.

It seems pretty obvious, but someone who is a recluse, a sharply defined introvert, is going to have a really hard time unless they change, and by God's grace they can. We want to see chemistry with people, a people-oriented grace that enables the missionary to get along with others and also to make friends and expand their sphere of relationships and influence to others. The last thing on competence is cross-cultural capacity, and by this we mean that the missionary candidate needs to have a growing stretch in their understanding and appreciation for cross-cultural features, the culture itself, the practices, the holidays, all of those kinds of things. I like to say that just because someone likes to eat at Taco Bell doesn't mean that they're a good cross-cultural missionary. In fact, I have known missionaries who thought that they were perfectly qualified on the field, and when they got there, they couldn't stand eating rice day after day after day after day after day. They ended up leaving the field because they didn't like the food. What kind of an excuse is that? That can be tested before you ever go to the field.

There are lots of other more sane kind of excuses that missionaries have had about not understanding or liking the culture, but this cross-cultural capacity and aptitude is essential to test inexperience before you get to the field, so you know if you're going to be absolutely willing to stay for the long term, for the sake of the ministry and the sake of the Lord. So we've run through this very quickly. I know it feels like you're drinking from a fire hose. The last question is how long does it take? How long does it take for a missionary candidate to go from the beginning, "I think God's calling me to be a missionary," to the end, the church commissioning them as a missionary? I would say it varies widely. In general, it's going to take at least a few years. In Paul's case, it took 12 years for him to be sent out by his sending church.

I don't think it has to take 12 years, but different people enter sort of the matrix of training and preparation with different skills already in their toolkit, so maybe some people are already qualified in many, many ways before they actually go to the field and they just have to put the final touches on some of the culture, the history, the understanding, all of those things before they leave. I have some dear friends, they were a retired couple, and when asked about their own field preparation, they told people, "God has prepared us for 25 years to leave to go to the field." I really appreciate and respect that. They have been very intentional about living their life in such a way that they were prepared to go to the field when the Lord called them.

If your missionary candidate has had good marketplace experience, has matured as a Christian, has been effective in service in the church, has been aggressive about learning all the things having to do with missions, their timeframe is going to be a lot less. They still need to qualify in character, in conviction and in competence as a leader in the church before they're sent out from the church to be a missionary. Those that start from the very beginning, perhaps early in their high school career, they're going to take much longer, but that also gives you that much more input into their life to be sure that they're ready when the church is prepared to commission them to go to the field. May God bless your efforts in restoring missions to the church, in repatriating missions to the church, by raising up missionaries from your church.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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