“Successful missionaries are teachable.”

Being teachable has been identified one of the top traits of successful missionaries. But how do you discern if someone has that trait? Or, more to the point, if you do? What does it look like, feel like, and sound like? Here are some questions to ask: 

1. Seeking input: How much do you value the input of others? Do you seek advice from people? If you don’t seek out the perspectives of others, it implies you don’t see a need for them or a value in them. If you don’t value the opinions and perspectives of others, you won’t receive instruction, input, or correction from them.

2. Admitting faults: How easily do you acknowledge that you were wrong? The more you’re committed to being right, the less you can hear a different perspective from others.

3. Honoring others: How easily do you praise others? It seems to me that people who freely praise others more easily receive comments and critiques from others.

4. Receiving correction: How do you respond when someone corrects you, or corrects something you say? Is your first instinct defensive? Are you puzzled as to why they think another way is better? Or do you listen, make sure you understand, and thank them?

Do you recognize that you fall short in these areas? Good news: it’s never too early or too late to grow! Everyone’s life includes opportunities to practice these behaviors, and as you practice them, they will become more natural to you.

Answer from David, who served with One Challenge for twenty years in Colombia, Guatemala, and the US and currently serves with Mission Data International.

“Emotional stability, spiritual gifts, maturity.”

Read this article titled: Qualities of Effective Missionaries. It is one of the Monthly Missiological Reflections (MMRs) prepared by Dr. Gailyn Van Rheenen, Professor of Missions at Abilene Christian University. These reflections cover a wide range of practical missions issues and attempt to offer missiologically and theologically sound suggestions. 

Characteristics highlighted include emotional stability, giftedness, and maturity.

Answer from AskaMissionary.com

“We need people prepared to rely on God’s strength to do what others can’t or won’t do.”

Read Hebrews chapter 11 lately? When we read about the “heroes of the faith” in this famous text, men and women known for great exploits, we’re disposed to view them as “super” and ourselves “average.” It’s the easiest thing in the world to think they were extraordinary and we are ordinary. They were special, and we are not. That any comparison is like chalk and cheese. Enoch, Abraham, Rahab, Joseph, Moses, widows, martyrs. People of whom the world was not worthy.

But then we come across a clause in verse 34 that casts a whole new light on these champions of the past: “Out of weakness they were made strong.” They were as weak, broken, vulnerable, sinful, and, well, as ordinary as the rest of us. Which is precisely what qualified them, and qualifies people today, to take the message of Jesus to other parts of the world. They don’t rely on their own strength. On the contrary, they are weak-made-strong followers of Jesus. And they are marked by the following:

1. Faith: They have personally experienced the transforming work of the gospel and can’t keep this news to themselves. It’s too precious! They know Jesus and want others to know him too. You wouldn’t call them half-hearted! They would give their lives so that others might live. Such is their faith in God.

2. Teachability: These are not people who think they have “arrived” in terms of what they know or how great they are. They don’t think they have nothing more to learn. Rather, they crave new learning opportunities, seek out mentors, depend on others, and ask advice.

3. Humility: Good cross-cultural workers recognize that they no longer belong to themselves but to Jesus, and, as such, there’s a humility about them. They are prepared to do what others won’t or can’t do, and they don’t need the credit for it. They deflect praise when people commend them for “being so sacrificial” and absorb criticism when people think they’re crazy.

4. Effectiveness: They have a spiritual track record, are familiar with the Bible, and are known for their hard work. They understand that if they are not sharing Jesus with people here, it’s unlikely they will share Jesus with people somewhere else in the world! Leaders at their churches recognize that God has wired them for mission.

5. Availability: They are not just willing to go and serve elsewhere, they are preparing to go! Their prayer is “Here I am Lord, send me!” They understand that life offers them countless options, but, weighing it up, and risking criticism, they prioritize mission.

6. Weakness: The people who make good cross-cultural workers are qualified by their weakness, knowing their strength is in Christ. That’s how it works in God’s kingdom; we are not disqualified by our weakness, but by our subtle resistance to God’s will in our lives. What qualifies us for service in the kingdom of God is as Hudson Taylor, missionary to China put it: “God was looking for a man weak enough to use, and he found me.”

Answer from Simon, who serves as National Director of Pioneers Australia.

Note: This answer slightly adapted from a blog post on the website of Pioneers Australia.

“God is able to make you into all you need to be.”

The only required characteristic for being a missionary is that you have complete and utter faith in the Lord. God does not choose the equipped… he equips the chosen. God has changed me daily since I have became a missionary. I was not anywhere I should be when I started, but as what God has asked of me has changed, I have changed as well. It is only because I allowed him to work. It is nothing I could have done on my own; it is all because of him!

God is able to make you into you need to be. All you have to do is say yes!

Answer from Emily in South Carolina, who has served with Salvation Ministries for four years, including service in Mali and Uganda.