My great-aunt spent the majority of her life proclaiming the gospel in East Asia. Her example of longevity reminds me of the early missionaries who packed their belongings in coffins and said their final goodbyes as they moved overseas. They left knowing they would likely never return home. Missionary service was for life.
Advances in modern technology, air travel, workforce globalization, and the involvement of sending churches with vast resources have led to unprecedented opportunities to be involved in the Great Commission. Today, many Christians have the opportunity to go to the nations, for at least some amount of time. But when we go, how do we discern the right length of service?
Much is required from those who have been given much (Luke 12:48). Therefore, we have a responsibility to assess and steward our opportunities with the help of our church. Wisdom is given generously when God’s people pray (James 1:5). So pray fervently and ask your church leaders to help assess your prospects for short, mid, or long-term missionary service. In particular, ask them to assess your faithfulness, qualifications, and readiness for service.
Prioritize Faithfulness Before Going Overseas
Faithfulness is a prerequisite for any kind of service. These questions can help: Are you a maturing disciple? Do you regularly spend time in God’s Word and in prayer? Do your church leaders consider you a faithful and active member of your local church?
Even if you have limited time or ministry experience, if you are a faithful disciple of Jesus, short-term trips can be a great opportunity to bless gospel ministry in a far-away place and gain a deeper understanding of the spread of the gospel.
Consider Your Qualifications and Skillset
If you are a teacher already qualified to teach overseas for a year or two, prayerfully explore opportunities and ask your church for counsel. With the general ease of remote working, consider a mid-term opportunity to work or attend school overseas for a few months or longer. The opportunities are vast and often provide educational and career benefits alongside ministry opportunities.
As you evaluate qualifications, carefully consider the qualifications in Scripture for deacon or elder service in the church. Deacon-level qualifications are helpful for any mid-term role. Even if you are pursuing an overseas career assignment or a degree at a university overseas, your work and ministry will be strengthened by the godly character described in 1 Timothy 3. Some of you will meet the biblical qualifications for an elder or overseer. If so, prayerfully consider whether you should serve mid or long-term in a place where pastors are most desperately needed.
Evaluate Your Readiness
You might need a few years of preparation for long-term service but could take a short-term trip today. Seek counsel from your church leaders as you evaluate opportunities. Importantly, unless you are trained for and prepared to help plant a church, never commit to mid or long-term service until your church helps you find a church on the field.
Never commit to mid or long-term service until your church helps youon the field.
If you are not ready for long-term service today, prepare to be ready. As helpful as short and mid-term opportunities are, the primary need among the unreached is still long-term workers. The harvest is still plentiful and the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37). We will always need Christians who commit to go, learn the language, and live among those who don’t have access to the gospel.
Discern Your Role with Your Local Church
Jesus Christ has given his church a mandate to take the gospel to all nations. Yet, we must discern our unique place in Great Commission work.
You may not pack your belongings in a coffin, but you are building upon the eternal work of those who did.
So, take a bold step today. Ask your church family to help you discern how you’ve been gifted to serve. Once you prayerfully determine your qualifications together, take the next bold step of obedience. Whether for a week or a decade, join with those who went before you and play your part in the most important work of all time.
You may not pack your belongings in a coffin, but you are building upon the eternal work of those who did. The harvest is plentiful and laborers are few, pray to the Lord of the harvest and ask that he will send you.