The Missionary Call

Status
Not open for further replies.

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
What is the Missionary Call?



Is there one?

Is it the same call or different call that a pastor gets?

How does one get this call?

It cannot be related to the Macedonian call can it? Paul was already called and sent out (released) by Antioch when he got this Macedonian call, which appears merely a refinement of direction rather than a call into missions.

Does the call come to someone by himself or through the church? Can a church or body convince a private individual of going into missions and thus help a person get the call?

What are the signs of having this call? What are the Biblical precents we have for demanding a missionary call?

How is this distinguished from, "Well, I want to be a missionary..." ie. how does a church examine a person to see if they really have the missionary call?



How does the missionary call relate to recruitment efforts by missions? I.e. how do we wait for God's call and yet promote the needs? It appears God works through these means.
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
Great questions and ones that I've asked umpteen times myself. Having a call is a common phenomenon among missionaries I know, but not at all universal.

For us, one Friday we received a letter in the mail from an Ethiopian who PS'd that if God ever called us to Ethiopia, he was sure we would have a productive ministry. We threw it in the circular file. The next Sunday, Gary went to church while I stayed home with my elderly and ailing mother. At exactly the same moment, while he was in church taking communion, and while I was at home listening to BBC news, we were both overwhelmed with a burden for Ethiopia. We got together on it over lunch and then called the guy who had sent the letter. He told us that when he met Gary (a couple months earlier), he heard a voice saying that we were being called to Ethiopia.

I think the stories are as varied as the individuals. I'd like to hear some of the others who have been called.
 

jambo

Puritan Board Senior
I have always been curious as to why someone in ministry in your own country is a pastor yet if he does exactly the same thing in a different country he is considered a missionary. I visited one church and above the main exit door was a sign saying "You are now entering our mission field" Pastors and missionaries a really one and the same thing.

Missionary calls come in all sorts of ways and come over a period of time. Some impulsive or impressionable people hear a sermon or a report on the needs of situations in Africa, Asia or wherever and want to go. That is a bit like the seed that falls on the rocky soil. The same could be said for those with an adventurous spirit, or with the desire to travel and see new places, a desire to live in a better climate, maybe some just want want the attention whilst others are engaged in a form opf escapism. People in any of these categories can latch onto anything: buit that is not a missionary call. Those who simply "want to be a missionary" need to ask why they want to be one. If it is for any of the reasons outlined then it is pointless. If it is because they want to preach the word to needy people then take it to the next step.

My wife and I served on the missionfield in the Irish Republic for 10 years. I cannot speak for others but in our case it was like a growing mustard seed that we tried hard to resist and choke its growth. People told us that if we can do anything else other than go into the ministry (or missionfield) then do it which is what we tried to do. However over a period of time we really felt compelled to go. It was basically a growing conviction that this was the way the Lord was leading.

I think missionary calls can be assessed by the advice of church elders and the counsel of others. Common sense shoulfd be applied. If you cannot stick the heat do not go to a hot country. If you have a delicate stomach do not go to a country where you cannot cope with the food. If you are not ready for lonliness, setbacks, discouragement etc then stay well clear of ministry full stop.

If you asked every missionary what their call was they would each tell you something different but common to all would be that conviction that this is how they can use their gifts in the service of God.

If a person feels called to a particular country then he needs to weigh up the mission agencies working there. Sadly some mission agencies are evangelical cowboys. Others are naive, some mission agencies have policies that trample over the local church having the attitude that "we know best" and ignore local church leaders. Other mission agencies treat their own workers shamefully. The best mission agencies are those which listen to, support and serve the local church.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I have always been curious as to why someone in ministry in your own country is a pastor yet if he does exactly the same thing in a different country he is considered a missionary. I visited one church and above the main exit door was a sign saying "You are now entering our mission field" Pastors and missionaries a really one and the same thing.

Missionary calls come in all sorts of ways and come over a period of time. Some impulsive or impressionable people hear a sermon or a report on the needs of situations in Africa, Asia or wherever and want to go. That is a bit like the seed that falls on the rocky soil. The same could be said for those with an adventurous spirit, or with the desire to travel and see new places, a desire to live in a better climate, maybe some just want want the attention whilst others are engaged in a form opf escapism. People in any of these categories can latch onto anything: buit that is not a missionary call. Those who simply "want to be a missionary" need to ask why they want to be one. If it is for any of the reasons outlined then it is pointless. If it is because they want to preach the word to needy people then take it to the next step.

My wife and I served on the missionfield in the Irish Republic for 10 years. I cannot speak for others but in our case it was like a growing mustard seed that we tried hard to resist and choke its growth. People told us that if we can do anything else other than go into the ministry (or missionfield) then do it which is what we tried to do. However over a period of time we really felt compelled to go. It was basically a growing conviction that this was the way the Lord was leading.

I think missionary calls can be assessed by the advice of church elders and the counsel of others. Common sense shoulfd be applied. If you cannot stick the heat do not go to a hot country. If you have a delicate stomach do not go to a country where you cannot cope with the food. If you are not ready for lonliness, setbacks, discouragement etc then stay well clear of ministry full stop.

If you asked every missionary what their call was they would each tell you something different but common to all would be that conviction that this is how they can use their gifts in the service of God.

If a person feels called to a particular country then he needs to weigh up the mission agencies working there. Sadly some mission agencies are evangelical cowboys. Others are naive, some mission agencies have policies that trample over the local church having the attitude that "we know best" and ignore local church leaders. Other mission agencies treat their own workers shamefully. The best mission agencies are those which listen to, support and serve the local church.


Are pastors and missionaries the same thing? And how about evangelists too?

It seems that they have different areas of focus. A pastor is called to focus on a church, an evangelist is called to focus on outside the church but within one's own culture. A missionary seems one called to go "out" and cross cultures to plant churches. Pastor seem to...well...pastor churches that are in existence. Evangelists seem called to plant churches within one's culture and missionaries seem called to plant churches in other cultures or train other to do so.

Therefore, it does seem that distinctions can and should be made.

If we consider everything "missions" then really, for all of our good intentions, nothing becomes missions.

If we consider every ounce of earth equally a "mission field" with the same priority of need, then we can lose our urgency to go to the darkest areas we can find.
 

jambo

Puritan Board Senior
I think pastors and missionaries are the same thing and I also think that pastors and missionaries are not the same thing.

I know people go on the missionfield and are involved in all sorts of roles. Some may be tentmakers, some may be engaged as doctors/nurses/teachers etc, others may be involved with street children, social relief etc but the end in mind is to make disciples of all nations. This can only be done through the church and with the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

If I can be bold I would go as far as saying that if you are not engaged in making disciples then it is not missionary work you are involved in. Missionary work equates to church planting or church development. The two are very closely linked as first of all the church needs to be planted and secondly it needs to be nurtured. These are the two basic stages in the great commission to make disciples of all nations. Preaching (evangelism), teaching (discipling) and baptising (church growth).

Evangelism leads to conversions; conversions lead to new churches; new churches nurture new believers who become disciples. (or new Christians join existing churches and are discipled) As the people grow in the grace and knowledge of God the church is developed and new people who were new converts now become disciple makers themselves.

Strategy of missions now is to have a team rather than loan singles or couples. Within the team one may be an evangelist, a pastor or even an evangelist/pastor. There may be a different focus but there is a big overlap and appropriate gifts are used accordingly.

Traditionally one thinks of darkest Africa but this is a misnomer. Think of Europe the continent of the Reformation yet church growth in Africa, South America, Asia is by far exceeding that of Europe. Indeed I know of missionaries from Latin America working as church planters in Spain. I know of far eastern Christians working in the UK. Are the cities of Africa any darker than the inner cities of America or the UK? I know there are those in Islamic countries, communist countries etc without scriptures and far from any evangelical witness. Although we must seek to meet those needs, we also need to realise there are many unreached people not too far from where we live.

I wonder where the term "missionary" actually came from? It is not a biblical term. The church was founded on the apostles and prophets, with Christ being the corner stone (Eph 2.20) Apostles and prophets are no more but there are evangelists, pastors and teachers (Eph 4.11). I don't suppose the NT church distinguished betwen those working in Jerusalem and Judea as evangelists, pastors and teachers and those working in Samaria and to the ends of the earth as missionaries. They considered everyone in seeking to fulfil the great commission as evangelists, pastors and teachers. Perhaps then, so should we.
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
It seems to me--and maybe this is way off--that the whole concept of a missionary call has to be rejected by cessationists if they would be consistent. The call is clearly a non-canonical, divine communication.

However, in my context, cessationist missionaries are generally not consistent. They accept the reality of a missionary call (without insisting on it). They also work in contexts where people become believers (usually mbb's) as a result of dreams, visions, and epiphanies, without any discomfort.
 

Dawie

Puritan Board Freshman
I think the stories are as varied as the individuals. I'd like to hear some of the others who have been called.

A friend of mine in primary school told me that their family once read the Bible where somewhere it was written, Go to Israel.

They saw this as a call. Later they took the Bible, opened it up at random, and found on the page something to the same effect. So they sold everything and off they went to Israel.

This was +/- 25 years ago. In the meantime my friend got run over by a car there and died. The mother and other children left the father. To this day he is there alone. He had an idea that the Gentiles would all move to Israel in the end times, and he thought (as I gather) he was called to prepare accomodation for them. He tried to establish a camping ground there for this purpose. I don't think it worked out.

I managed to track him down via the internet, and it didn't look good. He asked me to help by being on the "lookout for antisemitism" in my country. So it actually seemed that he became a Jew, instead of vice versa. I never spoke to him again, but that has kept me sober when I've also felt called to the ministry, without the external call of God's people.

So I think yes, if God wants one as a missionary, He will do it by the same way as other services, by internal and external call.
 

Dawie

Puritan Board Freshman
Something I wonder about is, Are all false (uncalled) prophets unsaved? Or are there false prophets that will still go to heaven?
 
Last edited:

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Based on the experiences of Paul laid out in Scripture, and even with the OT saints, God does call people to specific works for specific times. Sometimes it's for their entire life, sometimes it's only for a season of their lives. If we are walking with Him, we will be sensitive to these things and follow Him.

I think about the idea laid out in the Psalms that God leads one step at a time. In my own experience, I was in a prayer meeting for missionaries and felt burdened to go to France. I didn't see how that was going to happen, but told the Lord I would go. No one knew about this desire, but shortly after that someone came to me and asked if I would be willing to join a summer mission team to France. I went.

I returned after that summer to finish my school and was asked by the leadership to return. I did. When my first term was over, I tried everything I could to go back. I was left feeling guilty because I had "abandoned the call", walked away on the Lord, etc. I finally realized my "call" was really only for a short time of my life, and I have always been open to returning should God call me to that.

Since then, God has lead me into other endeavors for His church, some for a long time, some for a short time. The "call" has not been much different from my "call" to go to France. We are the sheep of His pasture and He leads us where He wants us to go, and it is always for His glory and our sakes.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Are those experiences descriptive for that era of salvation history or also normative for this present era between the advents of Christ too (after the canon is completed)? I.e. Paul saw Jesus, Isaiah heard God. I only got an itching desire.
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
I was in Addis Ababa early this week and bounced this question off one guy who has been in-country for 15 years. He said that some people recount having received specific calls and others do not, but that almost all of them accept a specific call as legitimate.
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
I should add that the organization in which I surveyed (SIM) is about 80% dispensational/cessationist, with most of the rest being Reformed/cessationist. There are just a few open continualists in the organization but some still in their closets. This is speaking of stateside church affiliations only, not their practical views on the field.
 

etexas

Puritan Board Doctor
Is there a missionary call?

What does the Bible say about it?

That IS the question!


I see the general call of the Gospel, I see that every Christian is called to be a saint, but I also see that some were called to specific purposes.
Big Ditto! As an investor, I feel the Lord has given me a gifft of stewardship, I am am skilled in administration and am able to help charities and churches be effective with capital. Not as exiting as a missionary but it is my calling, on a field I would be useless. Why? Not what God has gifted me to do. :2cents: Pax.
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
T, You should have heard the sermon I heard tonight by a Chinese missionary whose been there - cutting edge - for 10 years.

He pointed that finger into our congregation and said "If you want your congregation to really have a heart for mission, pray for God to rise up a man who is willing to DIE for a people and shoot him out like a bow and don't expect to see him again." He gave the story of the Moravian Missionaries who laid hands on two souls who stood outside the gates of a leper colony in Palestine and when the gates closed behind them, they new they were never coming out alive.

It was powerful to listen to the man. I think he was 10 feet tall.

He and his wife have been running an orphanage that the government consistently threatens to close down but has not followed through yet. We often beg God when they turn the screws on them. He has 500 orphans and an unknown number of widows which are attended to every day. He travels all over to meet with church leaders secretly and plants house churches all over. He publishes Reformed books translated to Chinese as well. On top of that he's 58 years old. Great night.

This was one different man. Having been to China already, this encouraged me to pray all the more for men willing to die, already dead-set in their heart to their mission for God's work to get done.
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
Are those experiences descriptive for that era of salvation history or also normative for this present era between the advents of Christ too (after the canon is completed)? I.e. Paul saw Jesus, Isaiah heard God. I only got an itching desire.

In the scriptures God spoke to different people in different ways--compare the boy Samuel and Isaiah's vision. You and I both just got the itchies. Other missionaries, including cessationists, tell of dreams and visions in their missionary calls. SIM accepts this although it is otherwise pretty consistently cessationist.

I have heard that the more clear and explicit the voice of God, the more one's faith in the content of the message will be tried. Certainly Eli's reassurance of Hannah was not explicit but she just had to go home and be a wife to Elkanah. The most explicit communication in the scriptures was the command of Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and that was most sorely tried. Can one make a principle of this?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Yes, I have never heard the voice of God. Christians seem led by the itchies in this day, 2nd by Scripture and confirmed by the larger body of Christ. Due to this, some deny a missionary call altogether.
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
Yes, I have never heard the voice of God. Christians seem led by the itchies in this day, 2nd by Scripture and confirmed by the larger body of Christ. Due to this, some deny a missionary call altogether.

How do you understand those who report missionary calls in the form of dreams or visions or audible voices? Are these necessarily bogus (tainted fish for supper the night before) or are they, on occasion, legitimate exceptions to your otherwise-cessationist views? Maybe there is another alternative for understanding these things or maybe they are in your "Don't understand yet" theological cubbyhole.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I think all things are providential and that we have dreams according to God's will. Whether we call it a vision or a dream "sent by God" I don't know. 20% of the Cousins that have been ministered to report a dream of Christ as THE most or one of the most important factors in coming to Christ. So, you have hit on a point where my theological grid and my theology do not completely match up. Also, several evangelists I work with report dreams as the major influence in sending them to different places. I don't know. I am naturally suspicious and think eating before bed causes dreams, as well as our own desires, but God is the one who orchestrates all providences, so I am sure these things can fit together somehow.
 
Last edited:

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
By my logic (which may be faulty) dreams, visions, and the like can be either natural or supernatural phenomena. If natural, an "inner voice" can be either one's own desires or the "voice" of someone in the past, such as a parent who always said _________ under the circumstances at hand. Natural dreams have an obviously natural origin and they are easily forgotten or at least muddled. If there is no natural explanation, the supernatural options would seem to be from God or from fallen angels. It seems unlikely that the latter would bring Cousins to faith, particularly steadfast faith that endures persecution.

In the scriptures, there were some cases where hearing and obeying the voice of God turned out to be disastrous over the short term. God told Jacob to go to Egypt, yet from the viewpoint of enslaved Hebrews, the result was awful for hundreds of years, with no end in sight. Likewise, God told Samuel to anoint Saul but it looked like a huge mistake for Samuel's entire lifetime. It's only in hindsight that Saul's kingship makes some sense. Alec Motyer in his book on Exodus makes an excellent point of this in God's direction to turn Israel toward the sea.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
I was going to start another thread, but this question seems a natural extention here. Feel free to make it another thread if you think it should be.

Who do we send? The calling is individualistic in nature (or generally contained within the family going). But what about the sending church? Do we send someone simply because they show giftedness, are compelled and have a vision? What criteria do we use? What qualifications must be met?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Missionary orgs have rigorous screening processes. Is this what you are asking?

A clear calling, stability, good reputation from the sending church and adequate knowldge are all prerequisites.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
First line of questions:
Is this always the case?
Do mission organizations have rigorous screening processes?
What are their chief criteria?

Second line?
Whose responsibility is it to "screen" missionaries?
What are the prerequisites?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
First line of questions:
Is this always the case?
Do mission organizations have rigorous screening processes?
What are their chief criteria?

Second line?
Whose responsibility is it to "screen" missionaries?
What are the prerequisites?

Good questions.

Yes, most orgs have very strict screening processes. Some, like YWAM are more loosey-goosey and I see many errors in their approach. But most orgs thoroughly check out their candidates and even YWAM would claim that they do too.

Chief criteria: A clear missionary call, seconded by one's local church. A stable personality, a good history of physical and mental health. Being able to work well with others.

Usually, the steps in checking a candidate are like this: Appply and get to know a candidate. Check out basic doctrine. Check out what his or her home church says about the candidate. Check out his work and school history to check signs of perseverance and responsibility. Adminster bible, theology and personality tests. Take a personal history.

Then the candidate comes through a candidate school where they are put through some stressful group exercises to see how well they act under pressure and how well they act in groups. Some confidential personal histories are also taken to determine is any past sins, abuse, trauma will affect the candidate in times of stress overseas.


The mission orgs screen missionaries because, frankly, many churches rubber stamp anyone who wants to be a missionary. They listen carefully to the home church however and the home church ought to be screening the prospective missionary before sending him through the process.


Prerequisites often include some sort of degree (not necessarily bible...some bible schoolers have never succeeded in the "real world" and have only done well in their little bob jones bubble or elsewhere). Bible and theology tests are administered, keeping in mind that most mission orgs are more broad and often interdenominational. For tribal church planters, some orgs recommend or require linguistics. I went through GIAL in Dallas Texas (Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics) to learn linguistics. Then, after acceptance there is usually some cultural training to pass through. I went through CIT, the Center of Intercultural Training in Rutherfordton, NC (google it).

Once on the field 6 months to 2 years of language school often occurs, and sometimes a field orientation.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
The sending church trains up the candidate and nurtures him. If done correctly, then the mission org's check is merely a stamp of approval and a seconding of the sending church's approval. They interact with many evangelical mission boards and the pastors and elders of many sending churches sit on the boards of the mission so that there is oversight into what the mission is doing. The local church sends the missionary and the mission org is the channel through which they are sent.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
So, are you saying that the missionary agency is merely a tool for the local church to facilitate the sending of missionaries?

Here's part of why I asked this: missionaries are often the youngersters willing to go. They often have zeal, but little in the way of maturity. They often have knowledge, but it is not yet tempered by life, bringing wisdom. They often have pride, and can be a detriment to the mission field. They bring new ideas and vitality, but often lack discernment. They bring programs that are designed for results rather than resting in the sufficiency of Christ and Scripture.

These aren't all bad things. But they can be without wisdom, maturity and discernment. That comes from God, and usually through life experiences; and often through suffering. The mission field will bring both more quickly than home ministries. But I fear that we simply send warm and willing bodies too often, when we should be sending our best. The pastor who's served for 10+ years is better equipped to go to the mission field, plant a church and train up pastors, than any green masters level or doctors level graduate.
Should we send any man who does not meet the qualifications of an elder? Should we send any man who we would not welcome as a pastor of our church? In our philosophy in regard to missions we will not support a missionary that we would not welcome as an elder/pastor in our church (aside from minor philosophical differences). Most churches that I've been a part of could not make that statement.
These thoughts are probably more cohesive in light of my comments on the "Why Pastors Need a Seminary Education" thread, and even a little on the "Church Manses..." thread.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top