A potential kingdom worker once asked us, “What ingredients are needed to be a successful, healthy, long-term missionary?”
This is a great question, one that we think everyone who is considering getting involved in cross-cultural work should be asking. Simply put, we’d say major on the majors and don’t sweat the details, but we’d like to delve a bit deeper.
Being successful in cross-cultural ministry rests on four basic principles:
- Missionary ministry should be only out of direct obedience to God’s leading.
- Missionary work should be an extension of who you already are and what you already do.
- Missionary work should be an extension of a church body, both a sending church and the body of Christ in the location of service.
- Missionary work is most successful when it comes out of a life of balance and boundaries.
Obedience should drive everything we do as it relates to the kingdom of God. Out of obedience, we love God and we love each other, as Christ has loved us. Out of obedience, we go about as workers who don’t need to be ashamed. Out of obedience, we go to every nation and every tribe with the gospel. It is as sinful TO TRY TO BE a missionary if God has not directed you as it is NOT TO BE a missionary if he has.
Most people consider “calling” a special announcement from God to go into ministry, and it could be understood that way. We like to see “calling,” though, as what God has designed, gifted, educated and experienced you to do. WHERE you do that, we refer to as God’s leading. God’s leading for you changes; his calling on your life rarely does. If everything in you is designed to be a teacher, then you should teach. It’s God’s calling on your life. Where you teach would be God’s leading for you at this moment in your life. We use all these semantics to reinforce that successful missionaries are ones that apply their calling wherever God is leading!
Jesus established the church to be his body, his physical presence here on earth. Our assignment while here is to be Jesus to each other and share him with the world around us. We ARE the church, it isn’t some place we go to. It follows that missionaries should be part of and sent by the body of Christ in their home culture, and work to facilitate the work of the body of Christ in their “target” culture. All missionary work finds its foundation in the church and should move the church forward, in loving God, in loving each other and in expanding the kingdom of God.
Balance and boundaries are not things that most missionaries have. In truth, most of us don’t have them in our lives, especially in North America. Many things cause this, including the vastness of the need, the urgency of the task, the responsibilities of family and friends and even our own pride. Without balance and boundaries, though, things begin to fall apart. Picture a plate twirler: balance is not only needed to get the first plate twirling, but also to go from plate to plate and keep them going. Boundaries limit the number of plates that can be twirled. Break those boundaries, and the plates come tumbling down into a porcelain mess. Thriving and doing kingdom work in a different culture demands balance and boundaries!
Preparation for cross-cultural ministry requires commitment, and takes time. If you feel God is leading you toward this type of commitment, give us a call or shoot us an email.