God has called all believers without exception to engage the Great Commission, making disciples of all nations. But is there a special calling for some to become missionaries in the vocational sense of the word? Absolutely!
God calls men and women to uproot their lives, prepare for service through theological education and launch into cross-cultural environments to learn the language and culture of a specific people and give their lives to reach them with the Gospel of Christ.
So, how do you know if you’re called? Consider these three things:
1. Your internal call. The internal call involves inward desires. Are you a growing disciple in your church? Does your heart yearn for the conversion of sinners? Are you actually engaged in sharing the gospel with other races and ethnicities through your local church? Have you taken opportunities to inform your inward calling by traveling overseas on mission trips? How you answer each of these questions will assist you in determining whether you possess and are acting upon the internal call to be a missionary.
2. Your external call. The external call involves the affirmation from others that God has called you to be a missionary, particularly members of your local church and your pastor/elder. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows you well when you tell them you believe God has called you to be a vocational missionary. Also, if you pursue appointment with the International Mission Board (IMB) or another agency, they will require you to provide evidence that others affirm your call.
3. God’s providence. Are you free from financial debt, or do you have a plan to be in the near future? Is your health in a good place – mental, physical and spiritual? If you are married, does your spouse share your calling? Are your kids young enough to be able to weather the experience of moving cross-culturally?
If the internal and external calls align, and God has provided the right set of life circumstances for you to go, it is time to declare your sense of God’s calling to your church and then to the IMB for a firm affirmation and then facilitation of your calling.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – John D. Massey is dean of the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article originally appeared in the spring 2020 issue of Southwestern News.)