I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but when I see a tiny airplane on the cover of a journal, or a canvas that reads “Adventure is Waiting”, my heart starts to swell with longing. I immediately want to be on a plane or adding a stamp to my passport or in the middle of a busy European café, soaking in the sights and sounds.
When you pair a longing for adventure with a desire to share the hope of Jesus Christ with the world, missions seems like the natural next step.
I agree, you may be on to something. But while passion and excitement can be an indicator of a call to missions, it doesn’t always guarantee it.
So how can you discern whether your passion is leading you on the path to cross-cultural ministry work?
Why Does Calling Matter in Missions?
First, I think we need to ask ourselves, “Why does calling matter?” If our passions are leading us toward something good, like missions, discerning calling can seem somewhat irrelevant.
Here’s why making the distinction matters:
While passion often motivates us to do something, it waxes and wanes with time, and without a genuine calling, you’re left with an uncertainty when things get tough. Ultimately, we need to be sure we’re following God’s leading, not just our emotions. So, we let passion be an indicator of something God may be doing in us, but we still take it to him and ask where he is leading first. This helps us surrender our passion and make it about him rather than us.
It may very well be that he is speaking right into that passion. It may also be that he has other plans for us to wait on. Either way, we’ve given ourselves a chance to open our hearts up to the Creator and let him move. And we will not be disappointed in the plans he has for us.
How Do I Discern My Call to Missions?
Calling is a difficult topic to address and would probably take more than a blog post to really unpack it. But, from my own experience, I have found a few key things to be necessary when discerning next steps in my life.
I don’t know if I’ve found anything more powerful than prayer in the area of discernment. My mind plays too many tricks on me, weaving in doubts and contradictory thoughts. It’s a tangled mess up there! Prayer has a way of cutting through the overgrown branches of my mind and paving a clear path.
Take your passion for missions to God in prayer. He wants to hear the desires of your heart, so let him into your thought process. And as you’re praying, make room for him to speak through his Spirit and scripture. When we set aside our worry and settle our minds, we open our hearts to hear from God. In doing so, we become more sensitive to his voice and his direction.
2. Wise Council
I’ve always been an extrovert who loves being around people. But surrounding myself with people and leaning on those who actually have a voice in my life are two different things. God never intended for us to be alone. Our church community is our godly family who sharpens us toward living better lives with Christ.
As you let people in to your decision making process, they are able to speak into areas you may have never thought of on your own. So, in times of discerning what to do next, your community may be one of the strongest tools you have.
I have had many close friends, mentors and co-workers speak into my life over the years. Their words and challenges have rooted themselves within me, not only bringing life to situations I felt hopeless in, but also reminding me that I’m not alone.
Let others into the process of discerning your call to missions. Talk to your missions pastor or connect with a missions coach at TEAM who will talk to you one-on-one about discovering your calling.
This is a rough one. Anyone impatient like me? Go ahead, raise your hand! I won’t judge.
When we want to make a decision, we want to make it quick. Sitting in the unknown is so uncomfortable, and honestly, it’s frustrating! But when I’ve had big decisions to make in my life, sometimes I’ve tried to hurry them along when the process was just as important as the outcome.
Discerning your call to missions doesn’t always take a long time, but sometimes it does — and for our own good! So, if you’re struggling to find answers, give it more time.
In the meantime you can actively wait. Continue being faithful in pursuing God’s heart for your life. Continue talking to people and praying with people. Continue processing what you’ve heard from God and how you’ve seen him move. And let these things develop over time. It will grow you in ways that will only help as you live on the mission field.
Breathe deep, and trust that in the moments of unknown, God knows, and his plan is unfolding in your life even now.
If you feel like your passion is leading you overseas, I am so excited for you! Consider taking the next step, and go on a short-term mission trip. If you’re still unsure, continue taking next steps in discerning your call to missions. Wherever your journey leads, you’re already on the greatest adventure of your life by walking with him.