Many missionary biographies and stories mention the missionaries knowing since they were little children where they wanted to serve.
What if that doesn’t describe you? Can you still be a missionary?
My wife and I had considered these questions ourselves. We both knew from an early age we wanted to serve God with our lives, and we had pursued that desire through mission trips in high school and college. But even as we began seriously pursuing missions, we were faced with the question, “How can we wisely select a field of service?”
Enquire: The first step if you feel God may be calling you to missions is to pray. Pray for direction and clarity. Ask others to pray. In this searching process, draw close to God. Trust in Him and delight in Him while you wait.
Examine: What passions and talents has God given you?
Missions ought to be connected to a local church, but there are different avenues in which to serve: church planting, theological education, Bible translation, children’s ministries, medical missions, and the list goes on. There are also various methods: pioneer missions, creative access countries, team missions, theological education, and more. Identifying what you excel at and what you enjoy is a key step to narrowing down a location and type of ministry. This process should never be done alone, as the local church is a critical part of sending out missionaries. We met with our pastors, and they helped us make a list of our strengths, gifts, and passions. For us, we had a strong desire to be part of a team, to work alongside another missionary. We began looking at what missions opportunities were already in progress, and if they needed another teammate.
Here are some other questions to ask: Has God given you a burden for a specific area, religion, or people group? Hot or cold climate? Catholic or Muslim? Are there specific ministries you enjoy doing?
Explore: What is God currently doing?
Talk to a wise counselor who is acquainted with missions. Getting an accurate picture of the state of missions and current needs can be a great way to narrow down your options. I called my missions professor from Bible college and listened as he shared what God was doing around the world. Contact a mission agency (like BMM) and ask. They would love to share with you how God is working in different parts of the world and how you can get involved.
Expand: Start with connections you already have.
Begin with the contacts God has already placed in your life. Talk with missionaries that your church already supports. Listen to what the needs are in their country and ministry. My professor in seminary knew a few people connected with BMM. We called one of them, explained our desires, and asked for current missionaries who needed help.
One of the most clarifying conversations we had was over lunch with one of my seminary professors and a missionary friend. We shared the weight we were feeling of picking “the right” mission field. While there is certainly a need to use our life wisely and strategically, at the end of the day, there are needs for the gospel everywhere. They encouraged us, in light of all these factors, to prayerfully pick a place and pursue it. Missions is not about building a resume; rather missions is about following God’s leading to make disciples wherever God leads you.
For a missionary, determining the nation in which to serve can be a daunting task, but with God’s guidance each step of the way He will direct your paths and open doors you may never have imagined.
BMM Missionary to Malta
Luke Tanis along with his wife, Anna, serve with BMM’s team in Malta in church planting. Luke and Anna have three children.