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For those asking: Do I have what it takes to be a missionary?

Mar 06, 2017 | Dave Dishman

“Being a follower of Jesus and going to the world has always involved risk.” – Dave Dishman

The title labourer isn’t for the weak-hearted

To answer the call to follow Jesus and go sounds simple, but it sure ain’t easy. Going will involve a great deal of hard work. It’s not bad work, certainly not drudgery, but it takes real effort.

Why do I think so?

1. Funding your going will be hard

First, if you are going somewhere far away (we’re talking about the ends of the earth, remember), you’ll need to find a way to pay to get there and stay there. Not many mission agencies provide all-expense paid experiences, and none will provide five-star accommodations. You will have to pay your own way or enlist sponsors who will give you the funds to go and serve. If you do find an agency that will pay your way, you’ll find it’s not a lucrative career.

So, that’s real work.

by Gabriel Ting

2. Leaving home will be hard

Leaving your current location can be hard work. It’s hard to leave the ones you’re close to, like your friends and family. It can be hard to leave a good job or comfortable living situation.

It may be hard for you to travel, or to eat unfamiliar dishes, or to try to keep a strict diet and avoid certain foods. The new climate can be hard: it can be either too hot or too cold or cloudy all winter or terribly polluted, as many major cities in the developing world tend to be.

You’ll have to work hard to deal with such obstacles and inconveniences. But that’s just the start, just what it takes to get going.

“While all of this is hard work, happily, it is also passionate work. It is work that you can throw your heart into. It is work that you can give your full attention to, it is work to which you can give your life.” – Dave Dishman

conversations3. Making disciples will be hard

You will work really, really hard when it comes to making disciples, preparing to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

To have multiple conversations about the reality of Jesus Christ and the truth of the gospel involves unfamiliar levels of exertion. To go again and again and again requires a new order of energy that you may not be accustomed to spending. Teaching new followers of Jesus and to observe all that he’s commanded is not a talk wrapped up in an afternoon seminar.

It takes patience and compassion and insight.

You may need to learn a new language to do any of this effectively. You will need to study and practice and learn new skills. You will need to learn to fail and start again. That’s hard work. Great teachers are made, not born, and to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples of Jesus involves, at the very least, becoming a good teacher, if not a great one.

While all of this is hard work, happily, it is also passionate work. It is work that you can throw your heart into. It is work that you can give your full attention to, it is work to which you can give your life. To do so would be a life well spent.

"Falaises" by Sjoerd van Oosten

And going will be a little risky…

1. To your life

Of the twelve disciples of Jesus, ten died as martyrs for the faith including Peter, who, as he was being crucified, asked to be turned upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to be killed in the same manner as Jesus.

The Apostle Paul also died for his faith in Jesus, beheaded outside of Rome after a long imprisonment. Both Peter and Paul are believed to have been condemned to death by Nero, the Roman emperor at the time. This same Nero reputedly lit Christians on fire atop pyres to light his garden parties and fed Christians to the lions to entertain the masses. Let’s just say that not many mourned his death back in the day. Today, radical Islamists still behead Christians who refuse to recant their faith.

Being a follower of Jesus and going to the world has always involved risk.

2. To your health & well-being

There’s the obvious risk of violence, but there’s also the peril of disease. Christian aid workers labor tirelessly to battle Ebola and other diseases at great risk to themselves. Many have died attempting to care for others. Every place you go brings a risk of illness or robbery or violent crimes or political upheaval or traffic accidents.

3. To your career & reputation

As you consider going to the world, there’s also the potential risk to your career or to your financial well-being. Current or future employers may look down on you serving the Lord in this way.

Delaying graduate school or putting off career plans can be risky—you’re not sure how things will turn out if you go.

Your reputation will be at risk. Many people, even many good, Christ-following people, will not understand your desire to go to the ends of the earth for Jesus Christ.

It’s not normal, it’s countercultural, and you will be misunderstood.

That’s uncomfortable and risky.

4. To your marriage & family

If you’re single and desire to be married, going can feel risky. Does the Lord have someone for me? How will I find this person if I’m in a strange, distant land?

If you’re married, it’s risky–can my marriage survive this crazy situation? Unfortunately, some do not.

Will my kids be safe? Will they develop normally in a new culture that’s not our own? What will happen to my family and friends whom I’m leaving behind?

“Being a follower of Jesus and going to the world has always involved risk.” – Dave Dishman

Hard, risky & worth every second

Going to the world is fraught with risk.

But you know what? So is staying home and playing it safe. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow, whether in Denmark or Detroit. Random events affect good people and bad everywhere you go.

The best place to put yourself is where God would have you. It may not feel safe, it may be risky, but it’s a good place. All the great payoffs in life come with risk.

Who better to risk for than the Lord? When better to risk than now?

“The best place to put yourself is where God would have you. It may not feel safe, it may be risky, but it’s a good place.” – Dave Dishman

A quiet word about suffering

Suffering. Let’s tread lightly as we approach this topic–sneak up on it if you will. Sort of like you’re approaching an elephant in your living room.

It’s really, really interesting, but you don’t want to get stepped on. Or pooped on.

The apostle Paul, one of the first and greatest of all missionaries left us this account about his adventures of going to the world for Jesus.

Notice the suffering:

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
Three times I was beaten with rods.
Once I was stoned.
Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hard- ship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

—2 Corinthians 11: 23-29

by Gabriel Ting

Danger, risk & suffering will be normal fare

Going to the world as an emissary of Jesus means that you quite likely will suffer for it.

You for sure will have sleepless nights and exhausting days. You will eat something that makes you sick and you’ll fend off mosquitoes in the night.

All normal, but still not pleasant.

You and your message may face rejection. Some will gladly listen, but many will not. Some will oppose you face-to-face while the passive indifference of others will eat away at your enthusiasm for the Lord and his calling on your life.

Finally, some will face, like Paul and countless others, physical blows and beatings. It’s a sobering fact, but angry people still kill Christians in retaliation toward the message of Jesus. This happens today and yet is rarely even talked about. Honestly, most of the world won’t care if it happens to you.

Most likely, however, you’ll suffer the disregard and ridicule of those who don’t believe in your cause and who don’t understand what motivates you. It will pain you because many won’t even want to know. That’s actually quite normal. You are a messenger of Jesus to them as well.

We do well to remember what Paul says later in the same passage:

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

“Going to the world is fraught with risk. But you know what? So is staying home and playing it safe. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow, whether in Denmark or Detroit. All the great payoffs in life come with risk. Who better to risk for than the Lord? When better to risk than now?” – Dave Dishman

Images:
“Falaises” by Sjoerd van Oosten
All other photos by Gabriel Ting

About the Author

Dave Dishman

Dave serves on staff with Cru (our US ministry) as the National Innovation Director for Global Missions. He lives in Colorado with his wife Dawn and is the father to three adult children. This post is an excerpt from “GO: Following Jesus to the End of the Earth” published by Cru Publishing. Follow Dave online at his blog: GO! and make sure to subscribe!

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