“What does your church say about going to Ghana?”
Hmm…. Now that was a question I hadn’t considered before. What did my church have to say about what country I was serving in and what I was doing while there?
When someone asked me that question after I returned from a summer mission trip to West Africa, I was a little surprised. It’s not that my church wasn’t involved in sending me. They had financially supported me and told me they were proud of me. But when I stopped and thought about it, I realized I hadn’t taken a moment to think about how my personal calling connected to my church’s ministry.
Several years later, I now get to connect with newly appointed missionaries and often recommend they have their church speak into where and how they serve. Many people have the same reaction I did: “Umm…. What?”
But time after time, we’ve seen that healthy missionaries are sent with a healthy community behind them, and a healthy community often includes a church that has participated in discussions about where a missionary should serve.
After all, your community often knows where you would best thrive, and they can also share about where they are most excited to see God move through their support.
Your calling impacts your community.
When it comes to something so seemingly personal as a missionary calling, it can be hard to think of why your community’s opinion matters. But over and over in Scripture, as God calls individuals, He calls a whole community to something.
For instance, when Noah was called by God to build an ark, his whole family was saved.
When Abram was called, not only were his family and servants’ lives disrupted, a whole nation was born.
When Jonah was called to preach the Gospel to a sinful city, his calling impacted those on the boat on which he tried to run. When he surrendered to the call, his actions changed the lives of an entire city.
Your calling will impact your community. As your community supports you, the one they’ve sent, they get to know the people you are serving. Instead of a faraway place on the other side of the globe, your work creates a tangible tie connecting your community to how God is moving among other peoples.
Your community will understand in a new way the spiritual challenges of the culture where you will live. And they will help equip you to reach the people through prayer, support and encouragement.
Your community impacts your calling.
In Acts 13, we see the church worshipping together when God tells the church to set apart Paul and Barnabas for missionary service. The Spirit confirmed what the church knew of Paul and Barnabas: They had a talent and passion for sharing the Gospel in unreached areas, so the Antioch church sent them to do so.
Your church family is a part of your calling. They have been a part of the discipleship that has gotten you to the point of serving as a missionary. They have worshipped with you, ministered alongside you and grown with you in your knowledge of the Gospel. They know your strengths, and they have witnessed your challenges as well.
Who better to speak to where they think you’ll thrive in ministry?
Tina*, a TEAM missionary in the Middle East, experienced this firsthand. She was deeply involved in a small group at Irving Bible Church in Irving, Texas. This small group hosted missionaries several years ago who talked about their work counseling ministry leaders from around Asia. The missionaries shared a need for a hostess to welcome their guests and make them comfortable while they sought counseling.
After the missionaries’ visit ended, Tina’s small group began praying for God to provide the right person to serve as hostess for the counseling center. A few months later, Tina tentatively told her small group leader, “I think I might be the one we are praying for.” Now, Tina is on the field serving as the hands and feet of her entire small group.
Without her small group community, Tina never would have known about this opportunity to serve. Without her calling to serve, her small group might have moved the need for a hostess to the backburner. Instead, Tina and her small group were deeply involved in filling this need.
So why does this matter?
Your community will be impacted by the work you are doing overseas, and you will be impacted by your community’s support.
At TEAM, we encourage people considering missionary service to talk with their church about what places and people groups their church feels called to serve. By involving trusted members of your community in your discovery of where you should serve, you are honoring the ways your community has walked alongside you as God has called you to ministry.
If you would like to start the conversation with your church, but aren’t quite sure how, feel free to contact a TEAM missions coach today! They can help guide you and your church through opportunities and ministry areas that could be a great fit for you both.