Why would anybody wanna be a missionary? In the place where my wife and I lived with our family as missionaries, the people did not feel the need to knock on your door or announce their arrival in any way. They would just walk in your home. We would be in the kitchen doing something and we would smell cigarette smoke. We would walk out into the house and follow our way toward the bedroom where we would find a complete stranger smoking cigarettes, sitting on the edge of our bed, looking at the pictures in the picture frames. That was just the culture.
Another story that I tell sometimes is about one time we were staying in a hotel in a very remote part of Asia. Let’s just say it was not a five star hotel. I think the rooms were $2 a night and when my wife went down to pay the bill the next morning, they charged her an upcharge of something close to $2.25 or $2.35. She said, “Why are you charging me higher than the advertised rate?” They said, “Well, your baby daughter spilled milk from her bottle on the bed sheets, and now before the next guests come, we are going to have to wash the sheets.” Why would anybody want that? Why would anybody want to subject themselves to what missionaries subject themselves to: humiliation, loneliness, suspicion, awkwardness, danger. Why would anyone want to be a missionary? Well, we have looked at a couple of answers to that question in three previous installments to this multi-part series on the question of why would anyone want to be a missionary?
There are lots of reasons why someone would want to be a missionary, but today’s answer is this: when God asks us to do something it is impossible to say “No, Lord” and mean it. Now, I thought for a long time that that was a quote that I heard from or read somewhere from Robertson McQuilkin (he was the president of the seminary that I attended) but I have not been able to confirm by scouring his writings, nor with a Google search that he was the one who made that statement. Maybe he said it in a chapel service one day or maybe I am misremembering altogether. The thought that stuck with me from seminary was when God asks us to do something, it is impossible to say “No, Lord” and mean it.
Some people think of Passion Life first and foremost as a pro-life organization. They think of us as bringing the Bible to answer the question of how God wants us to treat human beings, made in His image, from conception through natural death. Others think of Passion Life as a missions organization, taking the ministry of reconciliation to every corner of the globe, including many of the places that are least reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let me assure you that we are both. We are fully pro-life and we are fully missions. That makes us exceptional and unique. There are not many people on the planet doing anything like what Passion Life is doing right now. It is a work to which we have been called. Let me tell you from experience, when you are on the mission field and things get going and start to get tough, you want to make sure that you have been called by God to the work.
Here is how Paul describes it to Timothy in the book of second Timothy chapter one, verse eight, “Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God who saved us and called us according to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which has now been manifested through the appearing of our savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel for which I was appointed or called a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.”
My wife and I have been arrested. We have been subjected to intimidation sessions, when you are being held in a jail cell or an an interrogation room, your visa is being revoked, you are being expelled from a country, people are saying that you are crazy for being there, that you have made the wrong decision, and that you should give up, you want to be able to say, “God has called me to this.” You want to know that he has called you to this. You want to be confident that God has led you to this place of service in your life, and know that he is with you. You want to have that confidence.
Now here’s the thing, it seems far less likely to me that there are people serving the Lord with great passion and faithfulness on the mission field with absolutely zero missions calling than it is that there are lots of people out there who have a calling to deep faithfulness, but are ignoring that calling because of fear, personal preference, or a host of other things. Either way, what we are talking about is the doctrine of calling. It is the doctrine specifically of vocational calling. It is different from effectual calling where God is irresistibly calling the elect into a saving knowledge of him. What we are talking about is vocational calling. What does God want you to do with your life? How can you serve him and how can you be sure that what you are doing is following his will for you? Again, when God asks us to do something or calls us to do something, it is impossible to say “No, Lord” and mean both words. Now, why would anyone want to be a missionary?
Well, let me assure you, the call of God to serve in missions is for every single Christian. God does not call anyone into a relationship with Jesus Christ that he does not intend to use powerfully in order to make his name and his glory known to the ends of the earth. He does not call anyone to be a halfway Christian. He does not call anyone to be a half-committed Christian. He does not say, “Hey, you! I want you to follow me, and I want you to be willing to die for me.” Or say “You. I want you to go to church on average twice a month, not cheat on your taxes, and that will be good enough.” No, God calls each and every Christian to take up their cross and to follow him on a daily basis. Not every Christian does that, but if you read your Bible, it is pretty clear that that is exactly what God intends for all Christians to do. He wants people from every tribe, every tongue, every language, every people, and every ethnicity on earth to know him, to worship him, and to enjoy him forever. No Christian gets to decide whether or not they are going to be a part of that mission of God. Now, what he does leave to us to decide or leave to us to determine is what specific role he wants us to play in serving him in missions.
Are you called by God to be a “goer”? Has he called you to sell your house, go to the ends of the earth, learn another language in another culture, and make him known to those people? Maybe. Has he called you to be a “sender”? Has he called you to use your resources to financially support people who have a “going” calling so that they can deploy the mission calling that God has given to them? Has God called you to be a “prayer warrior”? Has he called you to pray for missionaries and for Christians around the world? Has he called you to be an “encourager”? Has he called you to write emails and letters and send care packages to missionaries on the field? Has he called you to be a “welcomer”? Has he called you to welcome foreigners from other cultures, be they refugees or foreign exchange students, into your home so that you can build relationships in a cross-cultural way to make the name of Jesus known to these people?
Let me be clear on one thing that is, admittedly, a debatable point. I think a major distinction needs to be drawn between world missions and local outreach. I am not a big fan of the term “local missions”. If you are sharing the gospel with your neighbor that is not missions, that is evangelism. There would be no need for two different words if they were the same thing, unless your neighbor happens to be a Burmese refugee.
All Christians should be involved in God’s plan of making his name known to the ends of the earth and drawing all people to himself. The Bible is clear that he wants to make his name great to the ends of the earth, and he intends to use us as his people to be the instruments that tell other people about him.
Matthew 24 says this, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Jesus says that to his disciples. And in the book of Acts, they go out and start making God known across the known world. Then people who were not Jesus’s immediate 12 disciples, people like Paul and converts like Barnabas and Timothy, joined in this calling of God taking the gospel further and further out. The truth is, the task is not yet finished. Go back to part one of this series on why anyone would want to be a missionary.
The answer in part one was because God is a missionary God and the Bible is a missions book. The call to make Jesus known to all people runs throughout all time, across each and every page of scripture in both testaments. We have inherited the call that the disciples had to go out, teach, baptize, and make disciples of all nations. It does not mean everyone is called to go, but it does mean that everyone has a role to play in world missions. Why would anyone wanna be a missionary? Because when God calls us to do something, it is impossible to say “No, Lord” and mean both words.