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Stories & Blog

Sent With Purpose: How to Become a Missionary

Sent With Purpose: How to Become a Missionary

If you grew up in a church that sent workers to the mission field, you may have a clear idea of what missionary life looks like and why it matters in the church. But if you didn’t, you might feel a little in the dark about the whole thing. If that’s you, you’re not alone.

What does it mean to be a missionary today? Is everyone a missionary? What are the benefits and challenges of missionary life?

If you’re asking any of those questions, keep reading. In this blog, we delve into the purpose, task, and qualifications of being a missionary, the famous “missionary call,” and the process for becoming a missionary worker. Plus, find ideas for preparing yourself and your family for the mission field (even if you’re not ready to go yet).

Let’s start off with the basics.

Am I Called to Missions? PDFConsidering missions? Download our free guide, “Am I Called to Missions?” to help you discern God's leading.

What is a missionary?

You may have heard the saying, “Every Christian is a missionary,” meaning that every believer should be an ambassador for Christ and tell others about him — which is true. But there’s an aspect of being a missionary that doesn’t apply to every believer: the act of being sent. Author Elliot Clark said, “Not everyone should bear the title of those set apart and sent out from the church on mission.”

Christian missionaries are sent from a local church to a specific location or ministry. Often that looks like moving to another country and learning a new language, but not always. A missionary could be sent across town or to a different region of their own people group. The point is that while missionaries share the task with every believer of proclaiming the gospel, they’re distinguished by being intentionally sent to a specific place or work.

What’s the purpose of Christian missionary work?

Pastor and author John Piper said, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Christian missionary work has the goal of God’s glory among all people and completing the last command Jesus gave his people: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20). According to the Great Commission, the purpose of missionary work is to make disciples of all nations, baptize believers, and teach them to obey Jesus.

What does a missionary do?

A missionary nurse uses her medical skills to serve the community on mission.
Crossworld missionaries use their professional skills to serve people and make disciples.

If the purpose of mission work is to fulfill the Great Commission, then the missionary’s task is to make disciples. How they do that varies for each person. Some missionaries make disciples by engaging in church-based ministry, such as being a pastor or youth group leader. Some make disciples by engaging in marketplace ministry, such as a nurse or teacher who sees their workplace as their venue for ministry. All missionaries build relationships with people in their community and share the gospel in the context of everyday life.

Do I need a call to be a missionary?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that you need a specific call from God before you pursue missions. Waiting for a “missionary call” keeps a lot of qualified Christians from going to the field. True, some people experience a moment of God’s clear leading, but many don’t and it’s certainly not a requirement.

There’s even a sense in which no one is called to missions but rather every believer is called to God who sends us on mission to accomplish his work in the world. All of us are commanded to make disciples, no matter where we live or what we do for a living.

What are the requirements for becoming a missionary?

Very few! You don’t need a seminary or missions degree. You don’t need to be able to speak another language at the outset. It can be helpful to have taken a short-term mission trip or gotten ministry experience, but it’s not a deal-breaker if you haven’t.

Some mission organizations require you to be an active member of a local church. Besides that, the main qualifications are the soft skills, like loving God and people. Here are some characteristics that are common among many missionaries:

Distinguishing marks or traits of a missionary

What are the pros and cons of missionary life?

No matter where you live, there are good things and hard things about following Christ. Most Crossworld workers who have chosen to serve overseas would tell you that the benefits of being a missionary far outweigh the challenges.

Benefits of being a missionary:

  • Introducing people to Jesus who have never heard his name before
  • Seeing God answer prayers and work in miraculous ways to transform people’s lives, and getting to share these stories with family and friends back home
  • Experiencing the beauty of other places and cultures
  • Having friends all over the world
  • Watching God’s kingdom grow as people come to faith

Challenges to being a missionary:

  • Saying lots of goodbyes and not knowing where to call home
  • Experiencing the ups and downs of ministry
  • Enduring the stress and loneliness of cross-cultural life
  • Helping your children find their identity as Third Culture Kids

Read Crossworld worker Brian’s story about the trials and rewards of his missionary life in Brazil.

How do I prepare to be a missionary?

If you decide to become a missionary and join a missions agency like Crossworld, you’ll go through missionary training. But you don’t have to wait until then to start preparing.

Cultivate your heart toward the least-reached by praying for the nations, reading your Bible every day, and reading missionary biographies.  

If you know where you want to serve or what type of ministry you want to do, you can prepare for those specifics. For example, if you want to become a missionary in Africa, begin studying the local language and primary religion, or look for ways to meet people from that region. If you want to become a missionary nurse, get experience in a rural hospital or take a medical mission trip.

Talk to your pastor about your desire, and if you aren’t already, begin serving in your church. Learn to make disciples here so you’ll be better equipped when it’s time to go. (Take our free “Discipling Tree” online course.)

Explore more ways you can begin preparing to become a missionary.

What’s the process to become a missionary?

Every person’s journey to become a missionary is unique. One of the best things you can do is join a mission organization like Crossworld, because there can be a lot of stumbling blocks on the way. A mission agency has the expertise and resources to guide you through the process and help you get to field — and stay there — successfully.

Each agency is different, so it’s important to ask questions about the process before you join. Here’s what the process looks like to become a missionary with Crossworld.

Five-step process for getting to the mission field with Crossworld

  1. Connect
    Start your journey by connecting with a Crossworld missions coach. Share your heart for ministry, talk through obstacles, and ask all your questions. Connect with a coach right now.

  2. Apply
    Your coach will be your guide as you complete your online application to join Crossworld. Don't forget to engage with your church along the way.

  3. Train
    To help you succeed in your cross-cultural life and ministry our seasoned professionals will teach you how to maintain holistic health in a new environment, learn cultures and languages, raise support, plan for crises, integrate faith and work, and of course, make disciples.

  4. Prepare
    Work through a personalized plan to prepare you for cross-cultural life, including things like mentorship, spiritual formation, vision trips, financial goals, and professional development. Your coach will track with you to celebrate victories and keep you focused on the finish line. 

  5. Go
    Take a deep breath. You’re ready to pack your bags and board the plane! Your Crossworld teammates will meet you on the ground in your new location where you can start living your dream. 

How do I become a missionary with a family?

Taking your kids overseas can be one of the most daunting aspects of becoming a missionary. But your kids can be one of your greatest assets in ministry! They’ll provide connections with other families in your host community, and they’ll probably help you learn the language because they’ll pick it up faster.

It’s important to find a location and ministry that meets your family’s needs, including dietary restrictions, education options, and healthcare availability. Your missionary kids, or Third Culture Kids (TCKs), will need as much or more care during your time overseas as you will. For that reason, look for a missions organization that prioritizes the whole family and devotes resources to TCKs.

Read Crossworld worker Chloe’s story and 5 tips to help your kids thrive.

How can I prepare my children to become missionary kids?

You may find that your kids are more excited about moving overseas than you are. Kids are resilient, so the saying goes. But you still want to do your best to prepare them well.

Ideas and activities for missionary parents to prepare your kids to be missionary kids

Bring your kids into your personal preparation. Start a family prayer time for the nations, and help your kids find each country you’re praying for on a map or globe. Read missionary stories for kids (like these) and download a language learning app to start learning vocab words together. Buy some snacks from an international grocery store and play a flag quiz while you eat them.

If you have the opportunity, befriend a missionary family that has kids near your kids’ ages. Help them become pen pals or find other ways to talk so your kids can learn what being a TCK is really like.

What questions do you have about becoming a missionary?
Email our missions coaches at [email protected].

Am I Called to Missions? PDFConsidering missions? Download our free guide, “Am I Called to Missions?” to help you discern God's leading.

Are you ready to take the first step toward becoming a missionary? Talk to a coach today.

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