How many times have you heard a sermon or read a blog where the author says something like “It doesn’t matter if you go around the world or around your block, we are all missionaries.”? I feel this phrase is used quite frequently and rightly so as the Bible does indeed tell us that we are to “Go, therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) as well as that we are to be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That last verse does indeed show that no matter where you are called to go, you are called to go as a witness of what Christ has done.
The only problem I have with the idea that “we are all missionaries” is that sadly some people just use it is a crutch or excuse for them not to do something God is laying on their heart. So instead of following a calling from God to go overseas and serve for a year, someone may comfort their lack of following God’s call with the idea that they can still be a missionary in their current town.
The issue I want us to consider is am I really following God’s call to mission work, whether HE is calling me across the ocean, across the State or across the block? Or am I merely using this idea of being a missionary wherever I go to instead reject God’s leading and just do whatever and go wherever my heart desires?
To help you discern where you are at, I thought I’d briefly share how I went from someone who refused to go on a short term mission trip to someone who is currently serving overseas full time and has been for over 8 years. Basically how the Lord showed me I was making excuses when HE was calling me somewhere else.
When I was in college, my college pastor asked if I’d be willing to go overseas for about 10 days and share the Gospel. I told him no because it was too long of a time and just too far away. To make myself feel better about rejecting his offer, I told myself that I can be a missionary where I am at right now and don’t need to worry about going overseas. My hometown needed a lot of mission work anyways so if anything I was doing God a favor by staying in town.
But God wouldn’t let me get away that easy. As I prepared for graduation I discovered I would be able to graduate a semester early and thus started to look for opportunities to travel the world, (missions wasn’t on my radar at this point). But after searching for job opportunities in countries I wanted to visit, I was left with nothing. A friend recommended I check out our Church’s mission offerings as they might have something that fit my requirements. I went on to check and found one mission opportunity that met all of my requirements. It just happened to be in that same country my college pastor had asked me to visit with him a few years before!
At this point I could clearly see the Lord’s hand in leading me to where I now have been serving for over 8 years. But it took years and the right opportunity for me to actually stop and listen to God’s leading. My plan was to go and travel a bit then come back home and start chasing the American dream. Instead, God would ship me overseas and totally change all my plans to instead align with HIS plans for my life.
I meet so many people who, once they hear that I am an overseas missionary, say things like “Man that’s so awesome. I wish I could do that but….” Insert whatever excuse you are currently using or have thought why you can’t serve abroad. “But I have too much debt.” “But I am not good at learning languages.” “But I couldn’t be away from my family, friends or pets for that long.” “But I just got a great new job or new promotion so God is obviously leading me in this direction.”
These people comfort themselves by reminding themselves that “we are all missionaries.” Yet they fail to actually live out what that means in their daily walk. They are so busy chasing the American dream or whatever hobby or dream they have that they have completely neglected God’s call to mission work.
This isn’t meant to guilt any of you into coming overseas for mission work as guilt is a terrible motivator. Instead, it’s a challenge to all of us: Am I being a missionary? God has called you somewhere to be HIS voice and HIS hands. Are you in the right place? Are you avoiding overseas work because it seems too scary? Or are you too busy chasing your dreams to be a missionary right where you are at?
In the following weeks and months my hope is to better flesh out what it means to be a missionary no matter where you live, but as we do that please check your heart and prayerfully consider this first element of being a missionary: Following the Lord’s call on my life. If we miss this first element of what it means to be a missionary, we will most likely fail at all the others. Where is the Lord leading you to be a missionary? Answering this question truthfully can change your life. I hope it does!