What If Your Church Won’t Send You Overseas? - Radical

What If Your Church Won’t Send You Overseas?

You love the gospel. You know the seriousness of sin, and forgiveness and eternal life are freely given to any who hears and believes. More than that, you love Jesus Christ himself. 

You want to dedicate your life to serving Christ, making him known in places where he is not yet known. And you’ve taken that wise first step of talking to the elders of your local church about it. 

And they said, “No.” 

Your own church is unwilling to send you overseas for the sake of the gospel. So, what now?

If this describes you, I’m sure you’re in a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions—some of which are righteous, and some not so much. Here are some questions to help you evaluate the merits of the rejection you’ve just received. My goal is not to criticize your church or you but to help you take the next steps of faithfulness.

Is it about you or the mission?

This is an essential yet scary question to ask. Is your church unwilling to send you because of something in you, or because they don’t care about the Great Commission?

Let’s be honest: it’s tempting to say they said no because they just don’t care about missions. If they understood, as you do, of course, they’d support this calling you feel. 

There are indeed churches that do not look beyond their doors, uninterested and unmoved when they hear of places where there are no churches or Christians. Such churches, if they persist in this kind of indifference, disgrace the name of Christ. If this is your church, you should leave. You need to find a congregation interested in honoring Christ with their lives, as well as their lips if you want to honor Christ yourself. 

While churches like this do exist, they aren’t the majority. I’ve met many Christians personally intimidated by evangelism, who think they could never move overseas. But I’ve rarely met Christians who are uninterested in the spread of the good news of the gospel. 

It’s much more likely that your pastors have seen something in you that would cause them to hesitate. Let me urge you to follow up. Ask honest, humble questions—what is it about your life, your character, or your doctrine they have concerns about? And now you face a different question: do you care about your pride more than you do the Great Commission?

Is it no or not yet?

It’s all too easy to hear a “no” as the crashing shut of a door forever. But there’s a reason why people say “never say never.”

Don’t hear those kinds of concerns as finding fault in you—you’ve just received a picture of how you can grow in Christlikeness.

Do your pastors see something in your life or character that means they would never send you? In my experience, if a church’s leadership won’t send someone because of concerns about their character, the health of their marriage, or their doctrinal immaturity that typically means not yet. Unless their concern is because of a medical condition or particular family responsibilities, I suspect what you’ve been given is an opportunity to learn what areas of your life you need focused discipleship. 

Don’t hear those kinds of concerns as finding fault in you—you’ve just received a picture of how you can grow in Christlikeness. Giving time to grow in those areas may delay your plan, but as the Persian saying goes, “A sharpened ax cuts twice as fast.”

Is this a pattern or unusual?

Sometimes a church says no, and it has nothing to do with you. Other things are happening that shape your pastor’s response. 

Are there particular hardships in the life of your church that might be consuming your pastors’ time and attention? Pastors get tired and discouraged too. They may have heard you just ask for them to take responsibility for one more thing at a time when they feel overwhelmed by everything else. Are there ways you can encourage your pastors and support the ministry you’re a part of right now? Could it be that they need to be strengthened, so they can be ready to send you?

Did your church just send out three new missionaries they’re committed to supporting? Maybe your church doesn’t know if they have the money to send you. 

Maybe they know something about the place or organization you want to go with that gives them pause. Take time to learn the reasons for those concerns.

Group decisions are always slower than a person’s, but it means you have more people than just you behind you once things start moving.

Maybe the place you want to go doesn’t fit with the church’s focus. The world is big, the need is great, and churches have limited resources. Can you give yourself to where your church wants to focus? 

Realize you aren’t simply asking for permission—you’re asking a whole church to give of themselves to partner in your ministry. Group decisions are always slower than a person’s, but it means you have more people than just you behind you once things start moving.

Have you listened, or just reacted?

It’s so easy to take a “no” personally, isn’t it? It’s so easy to listen to criticism simply to build your defense against it. Remember Proverbs 9:8–9: “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”

The missions world does not need another zealous scoffer. As you have hard conversations about your desires and your future, aim to be like the wise man. 

And just watch how God will use that.

Caleb Greggsen pastors an English-speaking church in Central Asia.


That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Together we can change that!