To Be a Missionary, Tell the Right Story

to be a missionary
What does it take to be a missionary? Is it about having the right training, vision or passion — or is there something more?

So, you want to know if you have what it takes to be a missionary? Well, brace yourself.

Everyone has an opinion. Some folks will tell you all it takes is the right training. Others may tell you that it takes the right passion. Still, more good-intentioned people will say that the right vision is all you need.

But rather than the right training, passion or vision, we must start with the right story.

We humans like to talk about ourselves. If we start with ourselves, though, we’ll never have what it takes to be a missionary. A missionary is someone who hears, understands and tells God’s story. If you want to know what it takes to be a missionary, we have to start there.

So, how do we become good storytellers?

Listening to the Right Story

For David Bosch, learning to tell God’s story meant stepping outside his societal circle.

David was a white Afrikaner who lived most of his life under South Africa’s apartheid government. As a nationalist, he held little regard for black citizens. That is, until he went to college to study education.

He joined a Christian student association. And that’s where David, who had always lived near black South Africans… actually met some. In the next few years, David slowly began to rethink what it meant to be a Christian in South Africa.

He switched his major from education to theology. He moved to Switzerland to complete his Ph.D. in New Testament. He even assisted new churches in a neighboring community.

Yet, the ultimate change was David Bosch himself.

David had a heartfelt desire to help churches in rural areas and among oppressed people. But it took him years to understand that the Gospel transcended the racism of his youth.

After two decades of missionary work, in 1982, he co-authored an open letter to the Dutch Reformed Church to join with black churches and repent of apartheid.

When we listen to God’s story, it begins a process that transforms both who we are and how we live our lives. David first thought he should evangelize black South Africans but keep separate from them. But as God’s story transformed his heart, he recognized that to be a missionary, he must also stand against prejudice and love his neighbors as himself.

Living the Incarnation

Years after he embraced God’s story, David Bosch said, “Mission is, quite simply, … the good news of God’s love, incarnated in the witness of a community, for the sake of the world.”

So, how do we hear, understand and tell God’s story? It begins by dwelling on the message of God’s incarnational love.

Christians often use the word incarnation. But sometimes we forget how radical it is to say that God became flesh. It’s even crazier to realize how Christ entered the human condition. He was not a mythological hero. He had weaknesses. He suffered. He was led into death.

But here is the point: So great was the Trinity’s love that the Son became the sacrifice and, upon resurrection, the one true man who redeems creation.

The overflow of love is mission. As we embrace the love embodied in Christ, we also extend the mission God has to reconcile a broken world. When we actually hear the story of God’s love for us, we develop a love for what God loves.

Embracing Change by God’s Love

If we let God’s story shape who we are, our lives will inevitably change. That doesn’t mean we change to be different than who we are. Rather, God transforms us into who we are actually meant to be.

Sin makes us look inward. We elevate ourselves. We tell a story where we look good. But when we know God, we let God shape our interests as they were originally intended: in worship of our Creator.

David Bosch didn’t walk away from his God-given talents to be a missionary. He let his dependence on God lead him, through the unique people he met, and the particular capabilities he had, to a deeper, richer, more joyous participation in the Gospel.

God has told us the story of His love, embodied in Christ and proclaimed through the Holy Spirit working in our lives. We tell that story, through all we do, wherever we go.

If you let God’s story transform what you love, why you serve, and how you act, you will have what it takes to be a missionary. It just takes obedience to start your journey into the mission of God.

But you’ll quickly learn that something as simple as God’s story will revolutionize your entire life. Every day thereafter will start a new chapter in your journey in profound and indescribable ways.

Want to learn more about being a storyteller on mission? Talk with a TEAM missions coach today to discover where God may be leading you!

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About the author

Peter Hanson

Peter Hanson lives in Chicago, but is at home in any global, cosmopolitan urban center. One of his life goals is to have an intelligent and informed conversation on most any topic imaginable, preferably over a cup of coffee.


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