Essential Preparation for Missions: A Robust Knowledge of God :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Essential Preparation for Missions: A Robust Knowledge of God

Erin Bollon
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Missions training was something I deeply cared about as a teenager and young adult. I read missionary biographies and knew that life in a foreign country often entailed physical hardships. In my zealous desire to prepare, I went through a period when I took only cold showers as a form of missions training. I thought of my dream home as a “dingy apartment in Asia.” I look back on that younger version of myself and smile. I don’t believe any of that preparation was wasted (even though I enjoy hot water and a lovely home in Taiwan). But I have since learned so much more of the kind of preparation that is actually needed for cross-cultural ministry. I could list things such as language training, technical skills, or the ability to be separated from loved ones. But the one essential aspect of preparation I want to write about is simply this: a missionary must have a robust understanding of who the God of the Bible truly is and be able to relate that knowledge to life.

Know Who God Is

When I look out the window of my living room, I see the rooftop of a temple where a Chinese god is worshiped. Last night as I took a walk, I saw my neighbor making offerings to the spirits of his ancestors. In Taiwan, I am surrounded by idolatry. When my neighbors and friends contemplate the idea that there is only one God, they say things such as, “Wouldn’t he be so busy? How can he help everyone at the same time?” The concept of only one true and living God is foreign to their thinking. Have you ever noticed how much the Bible has to say about this aspect of who God is? The Bible is full of verses like Isaiah 45:22 “There is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.” Since I’ve lived in Taiwan, I’ve had to study to know more of what the Bible says about who God is. And I’ve had to learn to be ready to speak it. I’ve come to treasure this knowledge of God. Our God is not like a man-made god. He is the only God. He’s the all-powerful Creator. He is merciful and compassionate.  

If you want to serve in missions, it is essential that you have a robust knowledge of who God is. The God of the Bible will be challenged, denied, called “foreign,” or called just the same as other gods. You might work among people who are religiously devoted to false gods, or those who are materialists and just living for a good life now.  You will probably share the gospel with some of both. You need to know the truth of who God is so that you can confront all that deception with truth.

Know God’s Heart Toward You

Not only do you need to know who the Lord is, you need to know His heart towards you. An unshakable certainty that God is completely in control of your life and that He is always good to you is essential preparation for any missionary. This is often the more painful preparation. The Lord allowed my husband and me to have what at the time seemed just short of an eternity on deputation—it was six years from the time we were accepted with GFA until we finally made it to Taiwan! There were times during those years when it didn’t feel good. I remember sitting in a room of a missions apartment in Nebraska, surrounded by God’s gracious provision for us through a sweet church, but my heart was full of doubt and mistrust as I wallowed in self-pity. “Lord, why are we still in the States? We wanted to be in Taiwan a year ago. Why don’t You provide the support we need? Are You being good to me?” Those were dark, painful moments. I thank the Lord He didn’t leave me there, but kept bringing me back to His Word and what He says about Himself. I needed those times to strengthen my trust in the Lord’s goodness. That was essential preparation for much harder things to come. I needed to know with absolute certainty that nothing could separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Know How to Trust Him

Part of the preparation for missions work that the Lord will certainly bring into your life is difficulty. He is going to entrust you with hard circumstances that will force you to grapple with your factual knowledge of the His sovereignty and love. He will give you opportunities to choose if you will believe Him or not. Don’t squirm under the pressure of those hard times, trying to find a way to wiggle out and get away from the pain of the moment. It’s much easier to learn to take cold showers than to learn to trust in difficulty. But God is giving you a beautiful opportunity to grow in knowing His goodness. He is giving you a time to praise Him in the middle of pain. Go to the Scriptures, and get to know the Lord.

The beautiful thing about the way our Lord works is that the times that test our knowledge and trust of Him are the very times and circumstances that He is using to grow our trust in Him. The essential preparation that we need for missions is to know God, that He is the only true, living, loving God. He wants you to be prepared to serve Him more than you do. And He will certainly do it. Let Him give you this essential missionary training.