5 myths of the missionary call

Tags: Exploring Missions, Story, US Office

The CallThe term "missionary call" should never have been coined. It is not scriptural and therefore can be harmful. Thousands of youth desiring to serve the Lord have waited and waited for some mysterious "missionary call" that never came. After a time they became weary of waiting and gave up on the idea of going to the mission field.  -J. Herbert Kane, 1978

By Tim Hartman, missions mobilizer for SEND International

That “mysterious missionary call” that J. Herbert Kane talks about has been the center of debate for generations. It is arguably the most misunderstood term when talking about the Great Commission. In my time mobilizing people into mission, I have discovered five common myths concerning the missionary call.

Myth 1: The call happens at a definitive, memorable moment in time.

Some people can name the time and place they knew God was calling them to be a missionary. For people like me, it was a variety of circumstances. It was exposure to cross-cultural ministry via short-term opportunities. It was people in my life who were passionate about God’s heart for the nations and exuded that passion. Was it a decisive moment for me? No. Was it clear to me over the course of time that God was leading me into mission? Without a doubt, yes!

Myth 2: The call is only for those who are specially gifted.

Some feel being a missionary is only for those who are super-spiritual and are endowed with something special. Anybody involved in missions will be the first to admit they feel the least capable to be bringing the light of the gospel to the ends of the earth. But, isn’t that the attitude we all should have? 2 Corinthians 4:7 reminds us, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (ESV)

Myth 3: I can only take steps into missions once I am called.

The best test of whether or not God is calling you is when you start taking those first steps. The call can sometimes be more of a series of confirmations as opposed to a specific event. Let me give an example. Blaine is a young man who has always had a heart for Japan. He didn’t know where it came from—he claims it’s always been there. Recently, he knew it was time to step out and explore what serving in Japan would look like. It was a struggle at first. Was God really calling him to this? After all, he never had a specific call. But, Blaine pushed forward in taking those initial steps. Blaine is now heading to Japan for three months and being mentored by career missionaries with an eye toward long-term service.

Myth 4: A missionary call is completely irrelevant to becoming a missionary.

Throughout Scripture, God moves people to accomplish His purposes in the world. The church only moves forward when God is working and calls people to do great things for Him. In Acts 13, the Holy Spirit specifically sets apart Saul and Barnabas “for the work to which I have called them.” Notice how God didn’t call the entire church in Antioch to go. Scripture said there were several teachers and prophets gathered at that church, but only two were specifically called to go. The church instead sent and supported the two who were called. The call of God confirms the moving of God, and if God is moving, He will be with those whom He calls, to the very end of the age.

Myth 5: The Great Commission only applies to those whom God has called.

The Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 applies to all believers. Yes, we are not all called to go, but we are all called to be involved in making disciples of all nations. Locally, that means crossing the street, crossing the office, or crossing the coffee shop to share the love of Jesus with others.

Globally, that means praying and supporting those who go. Not going does not mean not doing. God’s mission is bigger than going overseas. Each one of us has a sphere of influence that God has placed around us; in some cases, we are the only light. Each one of us has people we know who are being sent that need our prayers and finances to reach the unreached in foreign lands.

Are we being faithful to what God is asking us to do in missions? As John Piper puts it, “There are three kinds of Christians when it comes to world missions: zealous goers, zealous senders, and the disobedient.” Which one are you?

I really feel these myths and misconceptions on calling have been created by the Enemy to keep all believers from being truly mobilized into God’s mission. Imagine the work that could be done if all Christians took the mantle of Great Commission work upon themselves and not only discovered their role but zealously fulfilled it, all for the sake of God’s glory!

What keeps you back from learning your calling in missions? Pray about it. Ask God to open your eyes and heart to understanding. Read Scripture and see how many imperfect people in the Bible were called by God to do extraordinary things. Ask questions of those involved in missions. Hear about the lives of current or former missionaries. Most of them wrestled with the same questions you may have!

Our missionary calling is not something God wants to keep secret. He desires to use each of us to reach the lost with the gospel and bring the saving message of Christ to the ends of the earth. 

Click here to read more about the missionary call.

Jake served in the Philippines for several years before he felt sure of his call. Read his story.  

God is calling missionaries from many nations to reach many nations. 

Already feel called to missions? Check out SEND's opportunities to go.