We were having lunch with a couple families and one of the young moms, who’s been wondering about global mission and knows our background as long-term mission workers, heard us refer to our “call” to cross-cultural ministry. She’d obviously heard such words numerous times in the past from various people, but it was clear that they didn’t seem to refer to anything onto which she could get a firm grasp. “Maybe you can explain that for me…. What does it mean to “get the call to missions” or have a “missionary calling?” It had been a long time since I’d been asked that. I had a stock answer in the back of my mind – the one with which I would have answered such a question 10 or 15 years ago – but I paused, prayed, and tried to think afresh at what it means to us today to discern a calling to serve in global mission.
When we were heading to the “mission field” in the early 90’s, we had a fairly “old school” sense of that “call.” It involved getting some sort of specific message (in our case the CoMission’s “Red Door” video). It involved being leaving home (both residence and cultural setting) and being “sent out” from a place (the US) that had something (the Gospel), to take to someplace (the former Soviet Union) that didn’t have it. (We still probably had the sense that the map of the world could be colored with two crayons, for “reached” and “unreached” countries, nations that sent missionaries and those who received them.) In a sense, I have always described what “the missionary call” is by telling the story of our own engagement, which began over 20 years ago. However, we’ve learned a lot in that time, as has the global church. Here’s how I answered that question this time… what do you think? The Missionary Calling is a convergence or alignment of three things (and it doesn’t have to be anything like a “special” vocation” that displaces us from (the safe and “Christian”) “here” to some “other” (distant, unenlightened) people(s).):
- Self-awareness (in a holistic sense)
- Love for the Church, the bride of Christ
- An appreciation of God’s mission and a desire to participate in it.
1. We understand who we are, both before God and in and of ourselves. Some call this our “wiring,” our design. There is also an element of emotional intelligence: knowing not only who we are but what and how our manner of expression communicates to others. We certainly should have a grasp on our temperament, our personality, our strengths, our passions, and be able to tie them in to some more-or-less integrated sense of “who I am” and “why I am this way.” Without this, it is very difficult to maintain integrity and balance, particularly as one moves into a different social and cultural context. God has designed each of us for particular works: Eph. 2:10 refers to us, in this sense, as “His workmanship.” We need to be able to appreciate that unique handicraft within us.
2. We really love the (big C) Church. While that doesn’t disallow deep affection for one’s own tradition, heritage, doctrinal emphases or distinctives, it relativizes all these in a passion for the Bride of Christ, and seeing her made strong and beautiful. One can do a lot of praiseworthy things out of a love for one’s “own” confession – but a true “missionary call” will always grow out of a heart for that which Jesus said that he was setting out to do: “I will build my church.” (Mt. 16:18)… not ‘I will help you build your churches…’
3. We recognize that God is on a mission, and that captures our hearts and imaginations. We appreciate that his desire is to bless all the nations of the earth through the crucified and risen Messiah. We accept that he has chosen to do so through people like us who are willing to – no more than willing, intent upon – being disciples, learners of the Master who are committed to drawing others into such a relationship, and bringing them together in a community which lives out the reality of what it means to be “in Christ.” If these things – a growing element of self-awareness, a deepening love for the Church as a global body, and a passion for God’s mission – are present and coming together in your heart and mind… you don’t need anything more to “be called”: you just need to find someone to help call out of you what is already there, and help you see the next step. That’s one of the things I love about ReachGlobal. We develop, empower, and release people into fruitful involvement in what God is doing to transform individuals, communities, and nations through the hope and power of the gospel… “brand” (ours or anyone else’s) doesn’t enter into it. If that’s what you’re looking for, let us know… we’d love to help.