How to Prepare to be a Missionary - Radical

How to Prepare to be a Missionary

When you consider the task of global missions and what it requires to be a missionary, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed and discouraged. I’d like to provide a few steps to take now to help you begin to prepare for taking part in that great task.

1. Get Counsel

There are but a few cases of a bold missionary who went, despite everyone telling them not to go, that have turned out well. It usually ends either in a whimper or spiritual carnage. Proverbs 18:1 explains why: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”

Moving to a new land for the sake of the gospel is difficult. There are a lot of factors to consider on the way, and only a fool would try to do that without getting as much good counsel on the way as possible. 

Talk to Those Who Know Your Character

You need counsel from parents, mentors, and pastors who have a good sense of your spiritual maturity. It may be frightening to hear their evaluation of you now, but better to have your pride hurt a bit now than to rush into a situation you are not yet spiritually grounded enough to endure.

Better to have your pride hurt a bit now than to rush into a situation you are not yet spiritually grounded enough to endure.

Talk to Those Who Understand Your Giftings

Are you suited for cross-cultural ministry? What kind of cross-cultural ministry would suit you well? It is not helping anyone to force an accountant to be an artist, and yet often, when it comes to missions, we try to force ourselves into a ministry like that of William Carey, Elisabeth Elliot, or the missionary who visited your church last year. 

Talk to Those Who Understand Global Needs

You also need counsel from people who understand the needs of different contexts. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve met missionaries who act like they’re gospel pioneers when there are five young churches already in their city that desperately need support. We should seek to serve the kingdom in the ways that are needed, not with what we think is needed.

Build the habit of asking and listening to advice as much as possible, if you want to position yourself to serve in meaningful, faithful ways.

2. Develop Friendships with Different People

It’s great that you have a heart for the spread of the gospel, but how are you with people? How are you with people who have different opinions or politics than you? How do you react when people deal with conflict differently or are offended by different things? You need to grow the muscle of loving people who are not like you, not just loving from a safe distance.

Connect with an international student group at a local college. Move into an apartment complex where refugees are housed. Start eating lunch at a restaurant where you’re the minority. Start attending the senior adults’ Bible study. Even if you live in the most rural, monochromatic town in America, somewhere, there are people different from you. Without foolishly walking into an unsafe situation, find ways to begin friendships with people who are not like you.

3. Develop a Heart for the Local Church

Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church (Matthew 16:18). If you want to be a part of a missions strategy guaranteed to succeed, center your Christian life around the local church. It’s the only institution in the world that has that kind of promise of victory. 

The local church is also the means God has provided to not only keep the gospel message clear (Galatians 1:8) but to keep Christians until the final day (Hebrews 10:24–25). If you want to help people not only hear the gospel, but also persevere in their faith, you need to help them value the local church, not just by your words, but also by your deeds. 

4. Develop a Marketable Skill

There are exceptions, but most places in the world with few to no believers are not actively looking to give visas to people teaching the Bible. You will likely need another reason to give the local government for them to let you live there. 

If you want to be a missionary, don’t just get a Bible degree, learn a skill that has apparent value even to unbelievers.

Let me put this practically. If you want to be a missionary, don’t just get a Bible degree: learn a skill that has apparent value even to unbelievers, like teaching, nursing, engineering, or accountancy. 

I’ve known young folks who are discouraged by this news because they want to give their lives full-blast to the gospel, and those other things feel like a waste. Remember Paul told Timothy that it was by giving careful attention to his life and his doctrine that he would save his hearers (1 Timothy 4:16). God has regularly used the conduct of Christians to confirm the truth of his gospel. Having to work another kind of job to live somewhere doesn’t have to be a hindrance to gospel work—it can help adorn it.

5. Cultivate Flexibility

Whatever the situation is in that place to which you hope to move, it will change. You may spend years trying to live in a specific country, only to have to leave because of politics, health, or something else. The nature of your ministry will likely change many times.

Cultivate flexibility now to guard yourself against frustration when those changes come. You can do this by grounding yourself in what is most important. The gospel does not change. Sinners still need to hear the gospel. Young churches need to be strengthened. The rest is decoration.

6. Pray Often

This is last because it’s most important. Submit your plans, hopes, and desires to the Lord. Ask him for help and guidance often. Pray for him to fuel good desires and ambitions in your heart. And trust that what he is going to give you will be good, even if it’s not what you expect.

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


That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs are receiving the least support. You can help change that!