Becoming a missionary: 4 ways to get ready to go
June 2015

By Tim Hartman — What does it mean to be properly trained for cross-cultural service? In the past, the automatic answer was: have a four-year Bible degree and a willingness to go. But this degree requirement can lead to the misconception that the Great Commission is only for trained professionals.

At the other extreme, some organizations simply look for a willing heart, but that has led to problems both for the person going and for the ministry on the field. 

Beyond the necessary skills and training you may need for a specific opportunity such as medicine, agriculture, business, or teaching, are you able to meet the spiritual needs of the lost? What does it mean to be competent as a missionary?

1. Know your Bible

Knowing your Bible does not necessarily mean formal education.  Sometimes someone who has taught Sunday school for 30+ years knows their Bible better than a young person with a Bible degree. Knowing your Bible means you are studying it for yourself and processing God’s Word like a spiritual meal. It means you are living it out in front of others. You are able to share its basic concepts. It involves sitting under solid Bible teaching. And it includes fellowshipping and sharing life with other believers. Most importantly, Bible knowledge comes when you are in fellowship with the God of the Bible.

2. Know how to disciple  

Discipleship, helping people become followers of Jesus, is the basis of missions. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus commissioned us to make disciples, not converts, of all nations by teaching them to obey everything he commanded. This goes beyond reciting John 3:16or praying a prayer. Discipleship might look like two or three people gathered to open the Bible and study it themselves under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Many of these discipleship groups become new church plants. You may know how to recite the “Romans Road” or similar evangelistic tools, but do you know how to disciple? Every Christian needs it and should be involved with it.

3. Serve internationals at home

What better way to prepare for cross-cultural ministry overseas than to do it at home first? Western Christians can interact with people from other cultures like at no other time in history. God is bringing the nations here. They come as refugees, immigrants, and international students. As a result of this dispersion of nations, often referred to as diaspora, there are opportunities for involvement. With involvement comes exposure. With exposure comes learning. With learning comes experience. Do you feel a calling to work among Muslim people? See if there are Muslim people in your area and get involved with ministries that reach out to them. If you’re not willing to serve here, are you sure you’re ready to go serve overseas?

4. Serve in your local church

There is no better environment for ministry training than the local church.  Not only are there opportunities to serve, but these opportunities usually come with mentoring from others. As these mentors watch you serve, they speak into your life to strengthen and build you up. So, when the time comes to apply to serve overseas, there are people who can attest to your abilities and skills in ministry. It is the church that commissions and sends out missionaries. Involvement in the local church leads to the church standing behind you and supporting you as you go.

It is important to remember that specific competence requirements will vary depending on the mission agency or organization you choose to go with. However, training begins at home, so take advantage of the many opportunities available in the midst of preparing to go overseas.

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Tim Hartman
Tim served as a SEND mission coach, helping new missionaries journey along the path to cross-cultural service.