How do I become a missionary is a question I have heard many times over my career in missions. It’s an honest question and it’s a good question. While there is no simple, concrete answer; I do think there is a process the Lord has in mind. A process that when “fleshed”out will look different to everyone all the while having several of the same, key components.
I have been the director of a christian missionary organization, Modern Day Missions, for the last ten years. Almost every day, I say a few different prayers over our missionaries and over our organization. However, I always start my prayer out of the place of Luke 10:2 (The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few) and I ask god to CALL, EQUIP & SEND thousands of harvesters to the harvest field. It is with those three words that I want to start our convo on the topic of, “How to become a missionary”.
Everyone upon their confession of faith in Christ is CALLED to become a witness or a missionary for Christ. It’s a major part of our Christian faith. However, a good handful of those will be CALLED to a more dedicated role of a missionary by vocation. In other words, being a missionary is now not just your calling, but also your job. It’s your work. It is now your 40+ hour a week labor of love. If you and your accountability structure around you i.e church, family, friends, mentors all see that your calling is to be a missionary by vocation then the next step is getting EQUIPPED. *Please know that you should never do missions alone!! You should have a team of people around you to prep you, help keep you accountable and offer you oversight while on the field.
Getting EQUIPPED can look like a thousand different things. Some people go to Bible College, some people go to Discipleship schools, others sign on with missions sending agencies where they are equipped and sent out of the same place. While others are equipped by a season of missionary mentoring or internships… The list goes on and on. There is not necessarily a right or wrong, but it is important to have a preparatory season before that huge step into full-time missionary life.
The final stage is the SENDING stage. This stage is really made up mainly of five different options. I have listed them out below with a bit of definition and hopefully clarity.
Sent by your home church – There are many home churches that have a strong missions focus and are heavily involved in missionary efforts. If your home church is considered a “sending church”, then this could be a possibility for you. This basically means that your church will be providing your spiritual and ministry covering and also processing your funds and all things that pertain to that.
Start your own non-profit – If you feel like you are going to be raising large amounts of money beyond what it takes for your family to live on the field, this *could be the right option for you. To establish your own 501(c)3 with the government is time consuming, costly and requires attention to detail, but it is an option. With this option you have to establish a board to help govern your organization and have people to help manage the finances, donor receipts etc. I would not recommend this route especially in the early stages of ministry unless you know that you will be raising very large amounts of funds beyond your living expenses.
Sent by your denomination – For generations many denominations have invested heavily in the missions world. If you are someone who is a part of a denomination that has a healthy sending structure this could be the best route for you. Every denomination handles missions differently and those difference can be huge. It will be important to do your research to find out the pros and cons of how your denomination handles missions.
Sent by a Missions Sending Agency – There are dozens of missions sending agencies in the world. A traditional (MSA) many times offers a turn key approach to missions. In this, when you sign on with them you become a part of their missions visions, values, plans and goals and you fall in line with the dozens or hundreds before you. Also, most MSA’s require you to go through their specific equipping classes, training etc. It’s important to note that when looking into MSA’s that you realize and understand that what your vision is for your specific mission might not be the same as theirs. For example, if you filled called to do a certain ministry in a certain country, please be sure to do your research to find out if that is even possible with that particular MSA. While MSA’s are great in that they offer oversight, counseling, support and take care of financial and administrative work, partnering with one can be confining and limiting depending on what your vision is for you and your family.
Partnering Organizations – This day in age, most people who are seriously interested in missions have been through some type of significant ministry training. While the training may not have been cross-cultural related, many people fill equipped enough and in a healthy enough of place to take the step into the missions world. Also, many people have a home church or an organization that they are a part of that is doing missions work, but that church or organization can’t or won’t give them non-profit status and process their funds. What they really need at this point is an organization to partner with for a few different reasons:
** They need a non-profit covering to raise funds through so their donors can get tax-breaks. They need an organization to provide an online platform to raise funds on and process and transfer those funds. They need help with financial and administrative type questions and work. In other words, these people have the vision and accountability in place for missions, they just need the covering in the non-profit, financial realm. This is where partnering organization come into play. They partner with you with their services so you can fulfill your missions vision. Modern Day Missions, the organization I work for would fall into this category.
People are becoming missionaries everyday. All of them start with that age old question, “How do I become a missionary”. If that is you, hopefully this article has provided you with a level of clarity, direction and peace.
By: Marvin Slaton – Modern Day Missions Director – firstname.lastname@example.org