How do I decide between becoming a missionary in a foreign country versus missions involvement from home?

“Don’t get too settled at home. Start with a year overseas.”

I was stretching out my seminary studies some, partly for financial reasons. I was studying part-time and working part-time. It was getting close to graduation time, and I wasn’t really making any specific plans. I was getting too settled with a local church full of seminary students and ex-students, all looking for answers.

Although there was quite an emphasis on discovering your gifts, friendship evangelism, and power evangelism, the overseas vision seemed to be very dim even though a number of us were in the seminary for cultural or missions studies. 

I also had a girlfriend and a job that could lead to the typical success story. I was thinking that within a year I could actually move up in my company, but then suddenly it was wake-up time.

“Hey, what am I doing with my original desire to go somewhere in the world for the Lord?” I wondered. “Isn’t that why I came to seminary?” Coincidentally, some mission representatives were on campus, and I found that I could use my mime skills in Belgium. I decided to join them for one year, but I’ve stayed for fifteen! 

Answer from Rick, who serves in Belgium.

Excerpted from the book Scaling the Wall: Overcoming Obstacles to Missions Involvement, by Kathy Hicks of Operation Mobilization.

“Ask God for discernment.”

You have a great question. Clearly God has given his people a global mandate to reach all peoples. This was apparent even to Abraham when God promised to make him the father of many nations and that all peoples of the world would be blessed through him (Genesis 12, 15, 17).

Jesus mandated that his message must go to the ends of the Earth (Matthew 24:14, Matt 28:18-20). There are needs everywhere; so how do you know God is calling you to another place? 

First, if you go elsewhere, are you willing to evangelize and disciple someone else to be an indigenous witness in their own place? Are you willing to learn a language to do this? Are you going to a people group that is unreached? People who “go” must have the right wiring to be effective. 

Second, what does your pastor and church say about your calling? 

Third, by going to a new place, are you doing work that must be done by a missionary because there are no/few Christians in that place to do it? Or would you be doing work that could better be done by nationals? Will you empower nationals to take over your work when you leave? 

Fourth, what would need to happen for you to return from the mission field? Satan will throw all kinds of things at you so you must know you are in the right place. 

Last, are you being led to make disciplemakers, like the apostles? Like them, would you move to new places if you had empowered others? 

I hope answering these questions will make things clearer. Attending a class like Perspectives On the World Christian Movement would also be very helpful. 

Ultimately, churches here ought to have people working in “Jerusalem,” “Samaria,” and “the ends of the Earth.” That means we must have a global perspective on local, national, and global concerns.

Answer from Steve, who serves with Mission: Moving Mountains.

“Open your heart to wherever God leads.”

Consider George Mueller’s thoughts on knowing God’s will: 

“I seek to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people is just here. When we are ready to do the Lord’s will — whatever it may be — nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome.”

Answer from John McVay, who has served in missions mobilization for more than thirty years.

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