Editor’s Note: As a Recruitment Coordinator in the Sending Center, Dan is always looking for new missionaries. Below, Dan passes on some helpful advice he received from John Yenchko, a pastor and former Serge board member about discerning your call to cross-cultural missions.
How you can know if you’re called to go?
Years ago, John and I were discussing my plans to go back to Ireland to spearhead a new church plant there. I wasn’t quite sure about it and welcomed any advice he could give. His response turned out to be very helpful indeed.
“Dan,” John said, “there are really only two questions to consider. The first is, ‘Are you willing to do the work?’ That is something only you can discern.”
He continued, “Question number two is, ‘Are you able–that is–gifted, for this particular task?’ and that’s something you can’t really answer by yourself. Others must decide that as they evaluate your ministry; it’s a question for the Body.”
These two questions have since given me a paradigm for helping others discern their direction in ministry. In my role as Recruiting Coordinator, my interaction with a potential missionary often boils down to working through “Are you willing to go?” and “Are you suited to go?”
So, if you have ever thought of pursuing ministry, ask yourself:
Am I willing?
Has your heart ever leaped when hearing of the opportunity to undertake a Kingdom task? Or have you ever felt deeply burdened to extend yourself in the face of great need?
I remember Jack Miller announcing a short-term ministry trip to Ireland back in 1977. It sounded like the adventure of a lifetime! Quickly though, I was tempted to rule it out because…” God doesn’t call you to do things that are fun.” I didn’t realize at the time that not everyone would consider a trip like this fun.
Don’t assume that everyone else is equally eager to mount the charge (whether it’s to evangelism, discipling, diaconal ministry, and so on). Perhaps that stirring is the voice of God calling you into battle.
Fortunately for me, Jack pursued me for that short-term trip, and thus began a close, fifteen-year association with Ireland and a lifetime missions focus.
A Word of Warning…
You may indeed want to do some kind of missions work, but question yourself further. Don’t confuse godly desire with discontent.
Many may sense a call to missions when really, they are frustrated with their jobs, their churches, or their culture. I can think of no instance in Scripture where a discontented man or woman is launched into ministry.
Moses seemed content to tend the flocks when he encountered the burning bush. Peter was enjoying a successful fishing career when Jesus laid claim to his drive and talents.
Am I able?
I may be willing, but am I able? John told me that I could not answer that question alone.
Well, okay, sometimes I can answer that question myself–I really don’t need Dr. Scott Myhre to tell me that I wouldn’t be a lot of help on the Uganda medical team.
But still, the gifts we do have are readily apparent to those around us. Often Christians fall into their ministry niche “naturally…by grace.”
Wherever my friend “Ron” goes, he can be seen pastoring people in a low-key, one-on-one setting. It just happens. Those of us who know him well see the pattern of a spiritual gift in action.
So, is he gifted to ministry among the refugee community of Southall? Yes, I believe so. He knows himself to be willing. Many close associates have deemed him able.
Ambition or Anointing?
What if my interest does not arise from a divine initiative? After all, my desires will never be fully pure until I meet Jesus! Fleshly ambition is the antithesis of call. I can have all sorts of wrong motives for chasing a position in ministry.
Perhaps, for example, a hidden desire for self-glory is leading me to pursue recognition and affirmation. Maybe I have “grown weary in well-doing” in my current circumstances, and I want to move on to a smoother path.
Maybe I am just confused and tempted to jump into ministry as a result of an error of judgment. At such times we need brothers and sisters to furnish a reality check on our desires.
If you think you are ready to plunge into a new Kingdom role, first ask three people–who know you well–if they see this prospect as a good fit for you.
A Word of Complaint…
It seems to me that the church has often failed folk at just this point. It’s almost as if we are so glad to find someone willing to undertake missionary service that we think the only polite thing to do is pat them on the head and help them pack!
Several missionaries who endured unhappy terms have told me, “I really wanted people to help me think through my decision, but everyone discounted my own doubts and kept urging me forward.”
The first time I heard this, I promised myself to ask all the hard questions I could think of to anyone seriously considering missions.
If someone asks you about their suitability for a certain ministry, be loving, be wise, and be honest. Speaking the truth in love can turn these times into a joint exercise in discerning the Father’s will.
Body and Spirit
When the Body works to confirm the inner longings of the Spirit in an individual’s life, Christ is glorified and we are moved toward a measure of maturity in the Church. On such a path, the King marches forward in history!
After my conversation with John, God took us through a two-year period of evaluation and transition. As we worked together, it became clear to me that I was not called to spearhead our next Irish church plant.
Under the direction of our leaders in the Mission, Nancy, the kids, and I returned home, where I took up responsibilities in our Home Office. For many years now, I have found great joy in helping people move forward in obedience to Christ, as I pose the questions, “Are you willing?” “Are you able?”
For a recent more recent discussion of calling, my coworker, Ashley Hosan, and I presented our thoughts in a Serge webinar, Passing the Baton, which outlines our thoughts on how each of our generations has processed God’s call.