This is the final post in our missionary call series. We hope that the Lord has spoken to your heart as you have worked though the previous posts.
In the last post, we saw that there is evidence to support the claim that, if one is properly relating to God and pursuing godliness, there is little to fear in terms of missing God’s call. We made the point that, just like the children of Israel following the deliverance from Egypt, they were not responsible to find the promised land. They were responsible to follow the cloud and the pillar. God would lead them as long as they were faithful in what they knew to do.
That’s what Augustine meant when he said, “Love God and do as you please.”
Loving God will have an effect on obedience to what you already know to do and will also have an effect on the decisions you make. But loving God is the key.
So, what does loving God look like? How can we put ourselves in the spot where we can believe that the decisions we make accord with the will of God?
We know that God’s purpose in His dealings with His children is conformity to the image of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” That is to say, to make us Christ like or holy. Hebrews 12:14 tells us to strive for holiness, without which we will not see God. So how do I pursue this holiness? How do I become more like Jesus Christ?
We find a pretty clear answer in 1 Timothy 4:7-8: “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Here, Paul tells Timothy that he needed to train or discipline himself for godliness, making the connection to an athlete who undertakes some physical training or discipline for the sake of sport. In the same way that an athlete undergoes physical training to become proficient at some physical activity, so the child of God must undergo spiritual training to become proficient at holiness.
The obvious question to be asked here is, so what are these training activities that will make me more Christ like and put me in a good place to follow God’s leading in my life? I am glad you asked.
There are a number of contemporary authors who have written significant books about this very topic – spiritual disciplines.
Richard Foster wrote “Celebration of Discipline” in 1978. More recently, Donald Whitney has written “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.” In his introduction to this book, Whitney states that there are three main catalysts that God uses to change our lives and make us more holy but only one is largely under our control.
He uses people to change us – the iron sharpens iron principle. He also uses circumstances – God works out all things for the good of those who love Him. And He uses spiritual disciplines. This catalyst differs from the other two in that when God uses the spiritual disciplines to change us, He is working from the inside out. And we must remember that there is a specific purpose for these disciplines and that is godliness or holiness. And this godliness or holiness is the place where we will most naturally follow God’s will or His direction for us.
Do you wonder what these spiritual disciplines are? You can probably guess some of them already, but you may be surprised by some that are in the list. We will list them to finish this blog post and then in the next year we will occasionally pull one of the disciplines out and examine it. Our prayer is that God will challenge each one of us to a deeper walk with Him resulting in holiness.
Here is the list of spiritual disciplines:
And don’t forget that the purpose of engaging in each of these disciplines is godliness. We are not saved by doing these things. Only God can save. But we are made more godly, more Christ like by the practice of these disciplines.
Do you already do some of these disciplines regularly? Which of these are surprises? Is there one or two that might be more challenging for you? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
Identifying the Missionary ‘Call’
While God can certainly give us inner promptings, His will does not need finding because it was never lost. It is in Scripture.
Are you “called” to be a missionary?
Discovering God’s will for your life can be daunting. What if I miss God’s best? What if it’s outside my comfort zone? What if I can’t hear God’s voice? What if I misunderstand it? What if I misinterpret it? These questions can create some very real anxiety—or avoidance.
Nevertheless, God does not want us frozen by fear. While God certainly can give us inner “nudges,” His will does not need to be found because it was never lost. His complete, entire will is contained in His Word. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises…. (2 Peter 1:3a, 4a)
The Bible reveals God’s will: for us to disciple the nations. That is the big picture. To be sure, Scripture does not tell us everything. God’s plan for the details of our individual lives are often secret (Deuteronomy 29:29). However, if we simply obey what we know, He will guide us:
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way. (Psalm 37:23)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
We cannot decipher God’s sovereign will for every detail of our future. It is futile to try—God, after all, “frustrates the plans of the peoples” (Psalm 33:10). But God has given us a quite comprehensive guide on how to conduct ourselves in a manner that pleases Him and conforms us to the image of His son. And within those parameters, we actually have freedom to choose what we enjoy.
It is not unlike the responsibility the Israelites had as they made their way from Egypt to the Promised Land through the wilderness. They were not told to find the land of promise. They were simply to follow the cloud and the pillar, day after day after day. As they did day by day what they knew to do, God led them exactly where they needed to go.
Augustine wrote, “Love God and do as you please.” In other words, if we truly love God and are doing the day-by-day things we know to do, our aim will certainly be to please Him.
“To know the will of God we need an open Bible and an open map.” William Carey
Does that free us to live for our own pleasures? Hardly. “To whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). We are accountable to live intentionally, wisely, and submissively for God’s glory, not selfish benefit. And if we trust that God’s will is sufficiently revealed in Scripture, we will begin to see His missionary heart bleeding through every page—and we will sense that we are all called in some way, whether as goers or senders, to engage that mission.
Therefore, as William Carey, missionary to India, stated, “To know the will of God we need an open Bible and an open map.” The question of calling is not one of waiting to see a flashing neon sign over a world map or feel a “liver-quiver” when someone mentions the right country—it’s about assessing your abilities, circumstances, desires, and the opportunities in light of the global need.
For more information about the global need, read this post about the Billion.global vision.
How are you participating in the Missionary call?
Welcome back to our second installment in the series ‘Am I Called to Be a Missionary.'
As mentioned last week, the idea of a Missionary Call is a frequent topic of discussion at missions events and conferences. People are so concerned about getting it wrong that they would rather not do something unless they know that God has not called them to do so. We hope to bring some clarity to this topic of the Missionary Call.
So let’s get to Part two.
Is Everyone Called to be a Missionary?
With missions defined, next we ask, “What is a missionary?” And Scripture has a surprising answer.
Some have said that the word “missionary” is not in the Bible, but that isn’t quite true. We derive words like missionary and missions from the Latin missio, which simply means sending. The Greek equivalent is apostelló, from which the word apostle comes. While there were only twelve Apostles—“sent ones”—commissioned by Jesus to lay the foundation of the church, in a broader sense, anyone who is “sent” carrying the gospel message is a similar type of missionary ambassador.
We would think, then, that a missionary is simply sent to win as many converts as possible. But that wasn’t the Apostle Paul’s job description. After spending only a short time traversing the Roman Empire and planting churches in a handful of key towns, Paul says, “[F]rom Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:19). How had he “fulfilled” the ministry of the gospel—as in, mission accomplished--when millions of lost people remained throughout the Roman world?
It is not the missionary’s aim, necessarily, to see every single individual won to faith. Rather, a missionary is one who serves in a culture long enough to see a healthy church form, full of converts capable of evangelizing the rest of their people. Paul established churches as beachheads to ensure that the gospel would spread. When a healthy church with qualified leaders was planted and ready to own the mission for themselves, Paul’s work was done.
In recent years, a terribly disproportionate number of missionaries have been sent to minister in places that have already been “reached”—where there are sufficient evangelical believers already present to evangelize the rest. According to the Joshua Project, more than 90% of “missionaries” serve “reached” people groups.
Meanwhile, the “unreached”—those who have little or no access to the gospel, with no churches or believers in their context to share with them—comprise about 7,000 people groups. That totals about nearly 4 billion people who have never heard of Christ. Most of these people groups live in North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, India, and the Pacific Islands, a region of the world known as the 10/40 Window (based on lines of latitude and longitude).
Unlike most unbelievers the North America and Europe who could easily hear the gospel through a Christian friend or nearby church, unreached people generally have no churches to visit, friends to call, or sermons to stumble upon on the radio. Though some may have heard of a “Jesus,” they have never understood the gospel itself. They are lost.
God may be drawing you to become a Pauline-type, pioneering missionary, “fulfilling the ministry of the gospel” among people who will otherwise perish without hearing about Jesus. Or perhaps he is leading you to be a Timothy-type missionary who comes in after the pioneer to strengthen and build young communities of faith (1 Timothy 1:3, 2 Timothy 2:1-2).
Not everyone can be a missionary. However, everyone can have a part in the bigger task—by going, sending, supporting, or mobilizing others.
Either way, a missionary is not just an adventurous, free spirit stirred by a noble social cause. A missionary preaches the gospel with the aim of starting churches that can reach people groups among whom Jesus is not yet known and worshiped.
To repeat, it is clear that not everyone can be a missionary. However, everyone can have a part in the bigger task—by going, sending, supporting, or mobilizing others. What is your role?
Do you long to devote your life to this task? Do you have the desire to cross cultural boundaries, or help send those who do? If so, God’s Spirit may be directing you. We implore you to pray, study God’s Word, and obey God wherever He leads. Eternity hangs in the balance for billions.
Check out the ways that OMS Canada can help you make an impact on reaching the unreached.
Click here to visit our website.
Stay tuned for Part three in this series!
OMS Canada is a faith-based missionary sending organization. Our primary purpose is to recruit and mobilize missionaries who will take the gospel to the nations according to the command of Jesus Christ in the gospels and in the book of Acts. Matthew 28 contains what is known as the Great Commission.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in2 the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
One of the most frequent comments heard at a missions event or missions conference is ‘I’m not sure I’m called to be a missionary. This misunderstood idea of a call to missionary service is perhaps the single issue that prevents people from even considering missions as a vocation. Over the next six weeks, we will consider this idea of the missionary call in four blog posts and perhaps bring some clarity to the idea of the missionary call and the process of receiving the call.
Before we do that, though, we need to be clear on what missions is. This week we will talk about what missions is and is not.
What Missions Is and Is Not.
“Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” (John Piper)
God is a missionary God. He is passionately committed to spreading His fame and His glory to all nations.
So how should we define “missions?”
First, we must start with what missions is not. God commands His people serve the poor and hungry, but mercy ministry and social justice are not missions. If we reduce missions to providing relief, education, or compassion—in other words, if everything is missions—then nothing is.
Similarly, missions is more than sharing the gospel. If missions simply meant evangelism, then we could all do that in our hometown without crossing cultures.
To define missions, we must begin with the gospel, then work out to consider what God is doing in history.
The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection, and reign to save sinners. This was necessary because, although all human cultures have knowledge of God through creation (Romans 1:19-20), every people group has rejected God (1:21-23) and is born in sin, trapped under God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). Since God’s standards of good and evil are written on every heart, all are accountable for their sin—even if they’ve never heard of Jesus or read the Bible (Romans 2:14-15). Humans in all cultures are equally lost, in need of rescue from an eternity in Hell.
The good news is that “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus Christ—the ultimate missionary—left the comforts of heaven, crossed into our world, died in our place, and rose in victory. Now all who repent and trust in Christ are made right with God and given eternal life.
What is God doing in history? At the onset of God’s redemptive plan, he promised that through Abraham “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 17:3). Jesus, the promised offspring from Abraham’s line, purchased “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” on the cross (Revelation 5:9). Right now, God is making a people for Himself—bought by Jesus—from among the nations. We call that people the church.
Christ told His followers, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). We are commanded to disciple all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20) until the earth is “full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). God’s work in history will be finished when all His people from every tribe and language are worshiping Christ in heaven (Revelation 5:9).
The gospel is the message God is using in history to save and set apart a people for himself in the church from every nationality, language, and ethnicity. Missions, then, is what carries this gospel to all the nations. It’s the job of the church that’s between Christ’s first coming and His return.
So what is missions? Missions is the task of proclaiming the gospel to every people group that has not yet heard it, in order to establish churches—churches that will carry on mission by reaching their culture, teaching others, and sending missionaries out.
For more information about people, tongues, tribes, and nations, read this post about Unreached People Groups.
Next week we will ask the question “Is everyone called to be a missionary?”