“Six early steps from my journey.”
There can be many possible first steps, depending on your situation, but here are some possibilities. These are the ones that have been important to my journey.
1. Get out or stay out of debt. It is very hard to launch out overseas when you are trying to repay a mortgage, student loan, or credit cards.
2. Travel overseas for an exposure visit. Visiting another country firsthand can give you the vision and understanding you need to move forward. Be sure to visit other missionaries while there and get some hands-on experience.
3. Get trained. There are many excellent training options. Which one suits you depends on what type of work you want to do. It could be a Bible school, seminary, YWAM program, etc.
4. Get people at home (including your church) on board with your vision. Find someone who can mentor you or serve as a model. Listen to what they have to say.
5. Learn as much as you can about your focus country or people group and about being a missionary in general. This can include making friends from that place who live in your home country, reading, studying the language, etc. Read books like Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper or The Great Omission by Robertson McQuilkin.
6. Try to become as healthy as you can and develop healthy habits. These can include the discipline of spending time with God, dealing with past hurts/struggles so that they don’t burden you on the field, etc.
“Here are some great places to start.”
First, let me say that everyone’s path is different, so there is not really an exact “right” place to begin. If you are the type of person that strives to get it right, let yourself off the hook with this one. If God wants you somewhere, he will get you there (remember, he whisked Philip from the road to Gaza off to Samaria in the Spirit — now that must have been some trip!)
Pray about this a lot! I can’t stress this enough. The path from here to there in missions is not usually an easy one. There will be many opportunities to question if you are truly on the right path both before you get on an airplane and after you arrive in a country of service. To the extent possible, you need to be at peace that this is, indeed, what God has planned for you next.
Talk to your home fellowship (church) leadership. Before you spend lots of time on the internet searching for places to go or agencies to help you get there, use the resources that are right there with you each Sunday. Your church may have all kinds of training and preparation opportunities available for those wanting to serve cross-culturally. Believe me, wherever you end up in the future, you are going to want a strong foundation at home to “go with you” and they will be able to do that best if you begin the journey with them.
Communicate with current missionaries that you know. People out there doing what you think God is leading you to do will be one of your best resources. How did they get their start? What do they wish that they had known when they were where you are? How would they recommend that you prepare? Most of us know at least one “missionary.” Get them on Skype (or email, Facebook, Facetime etc) and start asking questions and carefully listening to what they have to say. You will be helped. They will love it too.
Pray for the world. I know, I already said to pray, but the focus of this time is to pray for those who still need to meet Jesus. Often we forget that the most effective tool in our toolbox is prayer. Remember, if anything really is to happen in the kingdom, it will happen because God wills it to happen. Our major part in bringing about God’s will is prayer. Operation World(published by Intervarsity Press) is a great guide to use, but by no means the only resource out there.
Engage the cultures at your doorstep. In our excitement to follow God to the uttermost we often forget that God has brought the uttermost to our neighborhood. Most places in the US have first generation immigrants living and working there. If you intend to have an impact in some other country with some other culture, what better place to start than to get to know people of other cultures and religions here. How do you find them? My experience is that minority cultures tend to group. That is common of missionaries too, in other cultures. Begin with food. If there is an ethnic community near you there will be a place close by where they can buy food that reminds them of home.
You may wonder why I didn’t include a short term mission trip. Well, trips cost money, for one thing. None of what I have mentioned above — besides perhaps buying a copy of OW — will cost you a cent. Since there are so many things you can do without needing money, why not start there and let God lead you into the more expensive stuff as those steps become clear?
If, after you have tried out some of what I have recommended above (and that is not an exhaustive list, by any means), God still has you moving toward cross-cultural work then begin the process of searching out an agency family to partner with.
Your Great Commission waits. What are you waiting for??
Answer from Jeff Boesel, Director of Mobilization for One Challenge.
“Start by serving in your church.”
One of the best ways you can prepare for a missions ministry is to be actively involved in ministries through your local church. Not just attendance: involvement. And a level of involvement that makes you accountable to someone in that ministry.
That way you’re showing what kind of a worker you are, how you get along with co-workers, your responsibility level, responsiveness, and willingness to serve. This does several things. It shows you’re exercising your God-given gifts and skills to serve the body of Christ. It demonstrates your commitment to others in the body. It gives you opportunity to be involved in disciple making. And it allows leaders to observe you and then to be able to give accurate input on your readiness for additional service (including a missions role).
So if you’re not already involved, I encourage you to thoughtfully examine opportunities that are in line with your interests, gifts, and availability. Be careful not to just take a position because it needs to be filled. Seek out opportunities that you’re gifted for. If you’re not sure of your spiritual gifting, ask for some help on making that discovery. There are many assessment tools available either through your church or, if need be, online.
If you sense God has a missions role for you in your future, be intentional about making that known to the appropriate leadership in your church. Share with them how you have come to this understanding. Ask for their advice and direction. Clearly communicate any particular interests you have regarding the kind of ministry, locations that interest you, and your best understanding of the timeline.
It may be that your interests would make a good fit with ministries the church is already involved with. If not, the church leadership may ask you to consider other ideas. In so doing, God can use that input to re-direct your steps or to re-confirm your interests. Either way, you will want to work together in your preparation.
If your church has a missions program of any kind, get involved in it. If there is a team giving guidance to the missions program, and you are qualified to serve in that way, make yourself available for such a role. Start wherever you can. Volunteer your time. Take responsibility when it’s offered. This will enable you to fully understand the priorities, direction, and philosophy of the missions thrust of your church. It will open your eyes to a wide expanse of opportunity and need. This will also give the missions leadership opportunity to know you and understand your desire to eventually serve in a missions role.
Answer from Don Parrott, who has served as a mission pastor, missionary, and mobilizer and now with MissionNext. This is excerpted from the MissionNext newsletter, The Bridge.