How Do I Know I'm called to Go?
Matthew 28 commands us to go and make disciples of all the nations. Whether we are in the States or overseas, we are to be disciple makers. The question is, where does God want me, personally, to be a disciple maker? My backyard? My neighborhood? Another city? Another state? Or could God possibly want me to make disciples in another country? What exactly is the missionary call?
Is the missionary call a call to be a disciple?
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)
- We are all called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, so the missionary call is not a call to be a disciple.
Is the missionary call determined by need?
Which has the greater need? Mauritania or India?
In Mauritania, there are about 3,900,000 lost people but fewer than 10,000 Christians. In India, there are approximately 1,125,000,000 lost people but around 25 million Christians.
Which has the greater need? Highly developed Japan or undeveloped Papua New Guinea?
In Japan, only around .4% of the population claim to be Protestant Christians.
In Papua New Guinea, many of the population still live primitive bush lives, yet according to Operation World,1 “almost the entire population has links to a Christian denomination.”
- The need is everywhere and difficult to determine relatively, so the missionary call is not based on need.
Is the missionary call the same for everyone?
America’s first Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), said that his burden began from contact with others who had a vision for foreign missions.
In response to James Fraser’s plea for help in reaching the people of Southeast Asia, Isobel Kuhn (1901-1957) responded: “Lord, I am not a man, but I’ll go.”
Dr. John Dreisbach’s brother had dedicated himself to becoming a missionary but died when struck by lightning on the family farm. Dr. Dreisbach (1921-2009) said, “I felt that God wanted me to take my brother’s place in the missionary ranks.”
Contrast Paul’s dramatic call with Timothy’s more ordinary call.
- Paul had a personal call directly from God (Acts 26:12-20).
- Paul received church confirmation for a specific “work” in Acts 13.
- Timothy seems simply to have accepted Paul’s strong urging to join him (Acts 16:3). On a certain level, his call came from Paul!
- Timothy had his calling confirmed with prophetic statements by Paul and other church leaders (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).
Is the missionary call invariably a call to spend one’s entire life of ministry in one country or location?
C.T. Studd served in China, India, and Africa. He served in China with the Cambridge 7. He served in India for six years (1900-1906), and in Africa he began ministry in 1910 under the Africa Inland Mission but later served with his own agency, the Heart of Africa Mission.
Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission. Though he gave his life for the Chinese people, he spent as much time out of China as in it. He was a missions speaker in many countries.
David Livingstone originally had hoped to go to China, but he met Robert Moffat and ended up spending his life in Africa.
Is the missionary call an emotional response to a message?
If the response is mainly emotional, the call will likely fade when the emotions change and the storms of ministry begin.
- An emotional response is maybe part, but not all, of the call.
Is the missionary call a sense of guilt, especially regarding the poverty and disease of suffering people?
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
- Many people visit poverty-stricken countries and come away with pity for the people, but that feeling of compassion is not a missionary call.
How do you know you have the missionary call?
- Personal sense of leading
- Personal preparedness and giftedness for that ministry
- Passionate desire to serve the Lord and obey the Great Commission
- Confirmation by other believers, particularly the leadership of the church
The missionary call has both personal and corporate elements. The personal part is a subjective element of burden and fire in the heart to meet the need. The corporate part is agreement and approval from the body of Christ, especially spiritual leaders, that God is so leading.
Summary definition: A personal conviction, based on God’s Word and peace in the heart, on a sense of the need and one’s fitness for meeting the need, and on the confirmation of mature believers, that one should serve a particular people in a missionary capacity.
1 Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World: 21st Century Edition (Harrisonburg, Virginia: R. R. Donnelley and Sons, 2001), 509.