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“Should I go on a mission trip?” And other flawed questions you are asking

Nov 26, 2015 | Darren Lung

“Darren. Go to East Asia.”
“This is God speaking.” 

And that is how I first heard the call to go on a missions trip in my first year of university. Just kidding.

But don’t you wish it were that easy?

When you feel like discerning God’s will sounds like a Bieber song

Sometimes, the process of discerning God’s call to participate on a summer missions trip or a year-long international internship can feel a little bit like rolling the dice. Or reading tea leaves. Or licking your finger and sticking it in the air. (Disclaimer: those methods do not represent the views of P2C-S).

That is to say, discerning God’s will can sometimes feel like the words in a Justin Bieber song: “You don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go … what do you mean?”

Pin the map by Daniel Denomme

What does God want me to do?!

I think you can probably relate.

Don’t you feel a little bit like you’re getting mixed messages from God? Doesn’t it sometimes just feel a little bit too mystical? How are you supposed to know if what you are feeling is yesterday’s leftovers, or a true movement of the Holy Spirit?

But I have a question for you: “What is your default?”

When you step back and think about a summer missions trip, are you inclined to say,

a) “Missions are great, and I’m going!” or do you begin with,

b) “I don’t want to go, but Jesus, if you want me to go, you better make it REALLY clear!”

Let’s be honest. What most of us have is a default position of going on a missions trip if we hear a booming voice from heaven, see it written in the clouds, or if we get some sort of mystical feeling.

I want to challenge you to suspend your current position on the subject and to reconsider your starting point.

A brand new starting point.
Start from hope, not from fear.

I’ve observed that as Christians, we can often live out of fear, and let our hesitations dictate the course of our lives and the decisions that we make. Specifically, when it comes time to thinking about missions, we don’t start with a deep conviction that God is sovereign and is good.

Rather, we start from a place of insecurity, hopelessness, and trepidation.

  • “What if God doesn’t provide?”
  • “What if my parents disapprove?”
  • “What if this isn’t God’s will for my life?”
  • “What if … what if … what if …!!!”

Well, what if Jesus had other ideas for your life?

Jesus told his followers this: “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10)

Now, don’t hear me saying that Jesus promises us an easy ride. He didn’t. Jesus never promised us safety, security, and a life free of challenges. In fact, he promised us that in this life we would have troubles, hardships, and difficulties.

But he also promised that he would be always be with us. And what Jesus promises us is so much better than a life of comfort, ease, and security.

Jesus promises us a life full of hope and possibility and the power to overcome fear.

on a bench

What if your “what if’s” are paralyzing your life? 

So often, we back ourselves into a corner and fixate on potential obstacles, rather than lifting our heads and looking at the big picture. We serve a risen King who frees us to dream God-honouring, kingdom worthy dreams.

  • “What could God do in the world through me?”
  • “What does God want to do in and through my life?”
  • “How can I help someone know Jesus, who has never heard?”
  • “How can six weeks change the course of eternity for my peers overseas?”

While I want to make wise decisions, I also never want to allow my fears to dictate my life.

If I had allowed fears to dictate my life, I would never have gone on an international internship to East Asia. I would never have had the honour of discipling my friend “Bree” who now leads an underground house church in the capital city of that country. I would never have gone with him back to his village for a week, where there was no electricity or running water. I would never have had the chance to fellowship with his grandfather, who became a Christian through a foreign radio station.

If I had let fear dictate my life, I would never have had the opportunity to live in a missional community the way I did in East Asia. My team of five went in as strangers, but we came out as family.

If I had let fear dictate my life, I would never have sat on the side of the road eating mystery meat, East Asian music blaring, enjoying a city that I had never been to, but was slowly starting to feel like home.

eating street meat

So what’s your starting point as you think about going on a summer missions trip? Are you fixated on the unknowns? Are you obsessed with the “what ifs ….” Or are you dreaming big? Are you living in the hope of what God can do through you? Are you wanting to live out the adventure to which God has called you—obstacles, challenges, difficulties, triumphs, and all? – Darren

Try this question on for size

If we live in the shadow of the “what if …”, we will never experience the exhilaration of living in the freedom of “what could be …”

So what’s your starting point as you think about going on a summer missions trip? Are you fixated on the unknowns? Are you obsessed with the “what ifs ….”

Or are you dreaming big? Are you living in the hope of what God can do through you? Are you wanting to live out the adventure to which God has called you—obstacles, challenges, difficulties, triumphs, and all?

It is time to move forward with the hope that comes from knowing that the God of the universe is with you!

If you can relate to this, I invite you to ask God to change your starting point. Here is something I’d like to invite you to say to the Lord:

Jesus, I will begin my considerations for this summer from hope and surrender my fears in to your hands because I know that you are greater than all my fears. I know that you have not given me a spirit of fear or timidity, but one of power, love and self-discipline. By faith, I will seek to go on an international trip so that other’s might have the chance to discover you. Help me to walk in the freedom that comes with walking by your Spirit. Amen.

East Asia group w arches

Am I “called”? Use your brain, not your gut

Another area that I want to challenge you to reconsider is what we mean by “sensing a calling.”

When it comes to deciding what to do about going on missions, we so often ask for some sort of gut feeling and then label it a “calling.” The problem is, a lot of things can influence how our guts feel. Eating that last piece of greasy pizza with garlic dipping sauce, for example, does it for me.

Did you know that God has given you a brain? I’m willing to bet that your brain works pretty well. It may get a bit slow at times, but generally speaking, I bet God has given you a great brain!

While God does sometimes use impressions and gut feelings to guide us, God has also given you a mind, and expects you to use it. In fact, God gave you a new-creation mind when he redeemed you from death through Jesus Christ. It says in 2 Corinthians 2:16 that we have been given “the mind of Christ.”

Now that, my friends, is one solid mind!

Not only that, but the living and active Holy Spirit dwells in all believers! The Spirit of the living God dwells in each one of us, and he is called the Counsellor, the Truth teller, our Guide. As we live in surrender to God, prayerfully allowing him to direct us moment by moment, we can be sure that our thoughts and desires will align with his thoughts and desires.

landscape

How do you discern God’s leading? 

In the fall of 2010, Tara (my wife) and I were asking ourselves, “what’s next?” We had spent several years leading the campus ministry at the University of Calgary and we were at the juncture where we were wondering which path to take: to stay, or go.

We knew we still wanted to stay serving with P2C-S, but we also knew we were wanting to make a change. We were fairly new into our marriage at that point, and we were about to have our first child. We both loved our previous experiences living abroad before we were married, and were wanting to take advantage of our mobility.

And so we thought: “Let’s go overseas for a year!”

What came out of that was two years on an international internship in Glasgow, Scotland. We made the decision to go to the UK over dinner one night.

We did not have supernatural visions.
We did not see signs and wonders.
We did not hear a booming voice, or have a mystical glowing feeling.

Instead, we asked ourselves several questions:

  • “How has God wired us?”
  • “What do we want to accomplish in this next season of life?”
  • “Where are the areas that we need to grow and develop?”
  • “What are our core values?”
  • “Do we want to go?”
  • “Where are there strategic opportunities to serve, considering our time in life, gifts, and talents?”

After asking ourselves these questions, and answering honestly, we came to the conclusion that an short-term placement in the UK was a good next move for us.

Then we prayed about it: “Lord, this is what we’re moving toward. It makes sense. We know you love the world, and we know this aligns with our gifts and values. If you don’t want us to do it, then show us, but otherwise, we’re going for it!”

What unfolded for us was two of the richest years of our lives; both spiritually and relationally. It would be dishonest to say that everything was fun and that ministry unfolded the way I envisioned it. In fact, they were actually two very difficult years for me.

In those hardships, God pruned many of the rough, hardened, callous parts of me. I experienced a sort of mild depression during those years, but out of that came an intimacy of walking with Jesus that I had never experienced before. Out of the valleys of my personal struggles came a fruitfulness in my life that was unexpected, but was much needed and desired.

As you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, as you immerse yourself in God’s Word, and as you pray and seek wisdom, you can decide what you will do. The outcomes might surprise you, but God has given you the ability to discern the next steps using your Christ-redeemed mind!

If you can relate to this, I invite you to ask God to give you clarity of thought, and to empower the Christ-redeemed mind that he has given you. I’d like to invite you to say to the Lord:

Lord, I surrender my preconceived notions of calling to you, and I ask you to help me use the mind that you have given me. Give me clarity of thought. Help me think through what I need to do to move forward to the next stage of life. Help me think through how I can be a part of helping the nations come to know you, using the time, abilities, resources, life circumstances that you have given to me. Amen.

fountain

Plan to go, be willing to stay

So what am I trying say?

Let me be direct.

You may be asking “Am I supposed to go?”

When the real question you should be asking is, “Am I supposed to stay?”

I know what you came here to find out: “How can I know if I am called to go on missions this summer?” The problem is, your initial premise needs to be switched. Rather than asking if you are supposed to go, what you should be asking is: “Am I supposed to stay?”

How many of us would spend countless hours stressfully praying about going on fully-paid vacation to Disneyland? How many of us would (figuratively) sprinkle ashes on our head when it comes to whether we should take that job offer or not? How many of us spent untold energy agonizing about what to study in university?

I ask these questions somewhat in jest, but I think you get my point. Many of you probably do pray about these types of decisions, but it seems to me that when it comes to missions, our default is toward anxiously wringing our hands, weeping, and fasting. We agonize over even the possibility and experience deep conflict as we ask if God really wants us to go tell others about Jesus. For some reason, we tend to become super spiritual when it comes to thinking about missions trips!

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing missions to a vacation. Not at all! HOWEVER, isn’t it funny how we apply a different decision making process when it comes to a summer missions trip than we do about just about anything else in life?

But it shouldn’t be this way.

Do I even need to ask?

We so often ask the Lord to turn heaven and earth upside down to give us some sort of “call” to go on missions, when the call to go is already there. Just crack your Bible open, and you’ll see what God thinks about missions.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations …” (Matthew 28:19)
“Come to me, and I will make you fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19)
“The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
“Therefore, be imitators of God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Are you listening?

Jesus has already invited you to join with him in what he is doing all around the world. There couldn’t be a more explicit invitation.

Jesus has extended his hand to you, and has invited you to join him in his Father’s business of redeeming and restoring a broken world to himself.

Jesus has already invited you to participate in this worldwide movement of his kingdom, as the gospel advances in the hearts and lives of people all around the world. He is in the business of transforming people, families, communities, cities, and nations.

And the coolest thing is, you get to be a part of that!

jumping

Asking a different kind of question is the best place to start

So stop asking if you’re “called” to go on missions. Instead, you should ask if you are supposed to stay. Don’t default to sitting back passively while others take Jesus up on his invitation to participate in changing the world. Instead, you should actively move forward, intentionally making plans and provisions to go, inviting others to join you, and joyfully taking part in God’s kingdom movement!

For those of you who are supposed to stay, you have an important role in his kingdom work too! You are staying because your role is to enthusiastically invest your prayers and finances in the spread of the gospel to those places where there is no gospel access.

Support your friends who are going with abundant generosity! Think through how you can invest your time, energy, resources to helping fulfill the Great Commission from here at home.

So what is your default?
What are your core values?
What is holding you back from fully engaging in the mission that Jesus has laid out for all believers?

For those of you who are supposed to stay, you have an important role in his kingdom work too! You are staying because your role is to enthusiastically invest your prayers and finances in the spread of the gospel to those places where there is no gospel access. – Darren

We have the privilege and honour of joining in Jesus’ mission to “seek and save the lost.” Will you take him up on his offer and join him?

If you can relate to this, I invite you to ask God to help you turn your paradigm around and set your default from “stay” to “go.”

I’d like to invite you to say to the Lord:

Jesus, I want to be engaged in what you are doing around the world. I want to be a part of your kingdom movement. Help me to not default to staying, but rather, default to going. I am not looking for a call to go—I already see it all over Scripture. Help me move forward in this ever present mission by planning to go, but being willing to stay. I whole-heartedly give myself to your mission to redeem the world. Use me however you please. Amen.

Images:
“Pin the map” by Daniel Denomme

About the Author

Darren Lung

Darren is the National Director of Global Missions with P2C-Students. While on staff with P2C Students he helped launch ministries at Queen’s University and in East Asia. He also spent two years in Glasgow, UK. He is married to a fantastic woman, even though he told her, while they were in university, he would never, ever date her. They have three beautiful kids.

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