Straight Talk About Career Missions
Courtesy of Allan Sherer. Used with permission.
People can easily see career missions from a binary framework: either “on” or “off.” To put it another way, people often only see one giant step from “here” to “there” – from Greenville to Khartoum non-stop. Once someone has the vision of reaching another people group in another place, they often feel that the only thing that matters is “getting there.” But potential career missionaries cannot get locked in on the destination because, to God and to us, the journey is every bit as important. Whatever someone does and wherever they go, we want to know that they are prepared to minister in a way that will be fruitful and Christ-like.
While no two journeys are exactly alike, there are some general guidelines. We believe that the path to global missions is all about what people are doing right now. If you believe that at some point in the future you may come seeking financial support for some kind of mission endeavor, please inform your church leadership as soon as possible. The chances of most churches supporting anyone that they really don’t know and haven’t observed in ministry and leadership are extremely small. Your church should want to walk with you through this journey by giving you opportunities to learn and grow and demonstrate your gifting for ministry.
Here are some fundamental stepping stones to a growing participation in global missions:
Show Up! Get involved with missions at your church, including prayer times. Pray consistently and passionately for other missionaries. If you cannot demonstrate consistency and sacrifice to join in corporate prayer for other missionaries, why would you expect your church to consistently and sacrificially support your work in prayer?
Read Up! Just as a physician or teacher works hard to be up-to-date with current trends and best practices, potential missionaries need to know these things in the realm of missions. Going “depending on the Lord” is not the same as being unwilling to work hard to prepare. The Frontline website has a good list of resources to get you started.
Serve Up! Everyone who is serious about pursuing career missions should be involved in a ministry of care and communication with his church missionaries. You should faithfully, passionately, and consistently carry through with the ministry of praying for and communicating with an existing missionary family. If someone is unwilling or unable to organize his life to passionately pursue the success of other missionaries now serving in the field, how can they reasonably expect such care for themselves? If someone is have trouble being organized and consistent in communicating while they are living here at home, what will they do when they are on the field?
Step Up! Lead something – a small group, a Sunday School class, a ministry, a mission team, etc. Much of missions is about leadership, initiative, being willing to do hard things even when you do not feel like it. If someone is going to ask to be funded for an indefinite period of time to work with little supervision on the field, a church will want to be able to actually see him take responsibility for a ministry and be able to follow through effectively.
Prep Up! There are many opportunities to receive essential preparation. FMI offers opportunities through FX Conferences and the NEXT Program. You may also need to consider additional schooling, certifications, and/or learning a trade.
Sign Up! You should expect to go on at least one short-term missions trip and, in most cases, a mid-term missions trip that reflects the kind of ministry you hope to do. This is a sort of “try it before you buy it” approach that reflects the reality that more than 50% of missionaries do not finish their first term. While a short-term trip is not the same as moving to a place permanently, it does at least help to erase some of the romantic aspects of living and working cross-culturally. The NEXT program is a great place to get some mission trip experience.