Whether you perceived it through a gentle whisper or a monumental experience, when God grips your heart for overseas missions, you know.
This is a wonderful, yet also uncertain realization, as it leaves you thinking, “Now what?”
What do you do with this interest?
First, know that even though this may be a time of uncertainty, you can be encouraged that you are not alone in this endeavor.
Second, don’t wait to start the conversation with your church. Too many times, people don’t have these conversations with their churches. Or they wait until they are at the point in the process where they only ask for money. God placed you in the church you are in for a reason. By starting this partnership with your pastors and church leaders now, you are opening the doors to deeper discussions, discipleship, accountability and exploration into what and where this interest in missions may lead.
Acts 13:1-3 (NIV) provides a model for your partnership with the church as you pursue missions:
“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen … and Saul [Paul]. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
Discuss your spiritual gifts. (Acts 13:1)
The early church placed a large focus on a person’s spiritual gifts, noting in Acts 13:1 the prophets and teachers among them. They believed if these gifts were God-given, then they should be used. The listed individuals in Acts 13 were actively using the gifts God had given them, and they were building relationships with others while doing so.
In your conversations with your pastor, identify your spiritual gifts. Then determine how these gifts can be used within your church now in preparation for overseas ministry.
Build an authentic relationship. (Acts 13:1)
The names listed here in Acts show us that these individuals were known by the church before being sent out on mission.
As you discuss your interest in missions with your pastor, strive to build an authentic relationship in which you are honest and transparent. Allow these conversations to be the catalyst for spiritual development and maturity to take place.
Building a relationship with your pastor and church leaders opens the door for them to better know you and what God might be calling you to overseas. They want to see you move into the potential of what and where God is leading you to, and they want to invest in you to help make this potential a reality.
Get involved and invest in ministry now. (Acts 13:2a)
The individuals in Acts 13 were engaged in worship and prayer. This wasn’t just a once-in-awhile gathering. This was normal, regular practice. They were involved in this ministry because they were invested in their church. They were using their gifts and were able to see where God was using them and what he was doing through them through their worship, prayer and fasting — before they went out on mission.
Invest in your church, and get involved in cross-cultural ministry now. Use your gifts, and build relationships with others as you serve. Serving locally will provide an invaluable training ground for your overseas ministry. And it will enable your church leaders to guide you as you develop and invest in the kingdom through those gifts.
Receive confirmation of your calling. (Acts 13:2b)
The leaders of the church at Antioch took time to worship and fast. They separated themselves from life’s distractions in order to spend time corporately with God.
During this time, they heard the Holy Spirit speak to them, saying, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” We may not know for sure if these two men had already perceived this calling, but we do know that this is a definite confirmation of their calling through the church.
Through relationship with and involvement in your church, you will receive corporate confirmation of what God is calling you to do. Have your church leaders pray with and for you in order to receive this confirmation of missionary calling.
Be sent from the church. (Acts 13:3)
Once confirmed, be sure that the church commissions and sends you to this work. Being sent from your church assures the support you will need, which will be deeper, more life-giving and longer-lasting than what mere finances can provide.
Know that these steps will take time, and that God wants you to take this time to be better prepared and equipped for what he has in store for you. Remember, it took Paul over a decade before leaving for his first cross-cultural ministry. Embrace this time. Learn, grow and be actively involved in the work he’s doing. You will be so glad you did.
For more on how to partner with your church, check out our three-part series on the sending church, starting with “What Does It Mean to Be Sent?”‘