“I feel like God may be calling me to be a missionary, but how can I tell if it’s really Him?
Without any exaggeration, I’ve probably been asked about the missionary call in one form or another more than 100 times during the 30 years I’ve been involved in global missions in various capacities.
Since the only description we have in the New Testament of a functioning local church being commanded by God to send out some of their own members as missionaries is found in Acts 13:1-4, I’m convinced that the three foundational principles which compose the calling and confirmation to be a missionary are found in these important verses.
Before I unpack these principles, it’s important to note two things that we are told about this church:
First, this church had a recognized leadership team of five men, all of whom are named.
Second, it was while these leaders were worshiping/serving the Lord and in the midst of fasting, that the Missionary God spoke to them through His Holy Spirit and called two of them to be set apart as missionaries.
Missionary Call Principal One
The call to missions is first and foremost a call from God to do some kind of specific WORK, not primarily a call to a location or specific group of people.
Because God is always a good steward with the people that have surrendered their lives and their life-inventories to Him, the WORK that He calls missionaries to do will always entail doing something that flows from a person’s life experiences and likely their educational, vocational, and ministry background.
Keeping this in mind, the key question a potentially-called missionary should be able to answer is this:
What specifically do you bring to the table that you believe God is calling you to use to further His purposes and assist with the expansion of His kingdom to the ends of the earth?
Missionary Call Principal Two
The calling and confirmation to be a missionary is definitely personal–given directly to the person that He calls to go.
Paul and Barnabas personally heard the Holy Spirit speak to them and tell them that they were to be set apart or separated in some way from the other members of that local church in order to do the work that God was calling them to do.
Although it probably doesn’t need to be said, proceeding down the path of becoming a missionary without being absolutely convinced that God has called you personally would be foolish.
Missionary Call Principal Three
A person’s calling and confirmation to become a missionary will also be revealed to at least a handful of other members of their local church.
As this text makes clear, the Holy Spirit spoke to those that were called to go, as well as those who were called to send and release them to the work God was calling them into. All five of the men were recognized leaders and co-servants with Paul and Barnabas.
As every healthy believer serves in their local church, they do so under the oversight of one or more leaders of the church. And their ministry is almost always done side-by-side with other brethren and fellow servants from the church.
A person who believes God may be calling them to become a missionary should share what God is stirring in them with those they serve under and those they serve alongside, confident that God has shared with a few others what He has spoken to them personally.
If those the person shares with acknowledge that the idea of this person becoming a missionary is something they bear witness with and can see God doing, that’s a fairly strong indicator that the calling just might be from the Lord.
If the others don’t respond positively to the idea of this person becoming a missionary, it’s a pretty good indicator that either it’s premature to seriously consider becoming a missionary, or, that God’s plan for them to touch the world is to be a sender rather than a goer.