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A missionary call: Is it God's will for you?

Called to the Ministry
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 2, by Os Hillman

"Usually a person should keep on with the work he was doing when God called him" (I Cor. 7: 20 TLB).

We've all heard stories of men or women in the workplace that left their jobs for the "ministry." Certainly God does call people into vocational ministry. However, many times this move is more rooted in dissatisfaction with a career combined with a spiritual renewal or first time commitment to the Lord. The idea of a "higher call" can also appeal to our sense of a greater and nobler destiny.

We have incorrectly elevated the roll of the Christian worker that serves within "the church" or a traditional "ministry" role to be more holy and committed than the person who is serving in a secular environment. Yet the call to the secular workplace is as important as any other calling. God has to have His people in every sphere of life to meet the needs of His creation. Also, many would never come to know Him because they would be separated from society.

I learned this lesson personally when I sought to go into "full-time" service as a pastor in my late twenties, only to have God thrust me back into the workplace unwillingly. This turned out to be the best thing He could have done for me, because it was never His will for me to be a pastor. He knew I was more suited for the workplace.

We are all in missions. Some are called to foreign lands. Some are called to the jungles of the workplace. Wherever you are called, serve the Lord in that place. Let Him demonstrate His power through your life so that others might experience Him through you today. View your vocation as means to worship Him.

Paul said it right; "In most cases we're going to remain in the place where He first called us."

Feeling that God is calling you to missionary service?

"How can they hear without someone preaching to them?" -- Romans 10:14

Take these steps to discover if He is calling you

  1. Read everything about missions and missionaries that you can get your hands on.
    • Start by reading the story of Susan Fitkin's call. She's a lady who had a dramatic "call" to global evangelism, a call which led her to be a mobilizer and vision-caster at home rather than an on-the-field missionary.
  2. Get involved in the missions mobilization and education program of your local church
  3. Go hear every missionary speaker that you can. God sometimes chooses that time to clarify His calling to young people.
  4. Talk to your pastor.
    • Verbalizing your thinking with him and enlisting his prayer support may help you sort through various issues.
  5. Throw yourself into active ministry through your local church.
    • Learn to minister effectively in your own culture before you attempt cross-cultural ministry.
  6. Go on a short-term missions trip like SNU's "Commission Unto Mexico." [ more info on Mexico trip ] A cross-cultural mission trip will give you a taste of life on the mission field and a good opportunity to sense God's leadership.
  7. Contact a missionary sending agency.
    • If you are Nazarene, contact candidate coordinator John Cunningham in the World Mission Department at Nazarene Headquarters
  8. Consider giving a year of volunteer service overseas before deciding whether you should offer the rest of your life.
  9. Persevere.
    • In her book, Ventures of the Heart, Lela Morgan says that early Nazarene missions leader H.F. Reynolds told a young would-be missionary: "Brother Winans, we cannot send you to South America; but if God has called you, you will go or backslide."

God's leadership: Key elements of a divine call

In reflecting on a case study used in Theology of Missions class, student Kimberly Jayne noted that some common elements of a call into long-term or career ministry were:

  1. A metaphysical encounter with God which establishes a sense of calling (This may as dramatic as the burning bush episode Moses had in Exodus 3 or it may be a gentle whisper like the still small voice Elijah heard in 1 Kings 19).
  2. A time of reflection or doubting of the calling
  3. An affirmation of the call through the Body of Christ (the Church) 
  4. A willingness to obey that puts no conditions on where you are willing to go or on what God may ask you to do

Wanting to know God's will? A stick figure diagram can help you. . . [ read more ]

from Evangelical Missions Quarterly . . .
  1. God delights to call his children in unique and personal ways. He doesn't use a cookie-cutter template or a 10-step formula.
  2. Before revealing his unique callings, God always provides more general callings to His people -- callings to salvation, holiness and obedience. If we miss these, we will never hear God's more personal and peculiar callings.
  3. Hearing a call to ministry is not a measure of spiritual commitment.
  4. Calling is not a status to wear. Responding to a call always requires doing.
  5. Being called is not a reflection of giftedness. Calling is more than the sum of our gifts. It is individually sculpted to incorporate both God's purposes and our passions

     --Gary Corwin, in his editorial "Calling and Character," published in the January 2000 issue of EMQ

   Dr. Doug Samples' book Call Waiting is a great one to explore the possibility that God might be calling you to full-time ministry [ more info ]

   "God's calling plan" by Gordon MacDonald in Leadership Journal [ read article ]


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When does God call people to long-term missionary service?

* 21% were called as a result of a missions education service in their local church
* 20% felt God calling them after listening to missionary speakers
* 19% were called because of their own family's missions vision and conversations
* 10% heard God's call through reading missionary books

-- Terry Read, missionary and missions professor