Where Does a Missionary Call and Guidance Come From?

God calls, gifts, and guides His people in missions. He influences us in a host of ways such as international mission trips, reading missionary biographies, sermons, Bible study, personal relationships, love for languages, or ministry with internationals. Mission agencies wisely ask candidates about their call to missions. While they rarely ask it this way, a good question would be, “Who called you?” Sometimes, honest candidates would have to respond that it was their Mom, other missionaries, their pastor, or their “significant other.” The only call that will sustain a missionary through the years is one that comes unmistakably from God.

The God who saves is also the One who calls and guides. We must look to Him for the answers we need. You know, Paul might have surrendered to missions out of guilt for having persecuted the church, seeking to rescue those he once hunted. But the Bible tells us that there was a divine source of his call. Paul recounted his salvation experience on several occasions, but in his Acts 26:12-18 account, Paul declares that Christ called him to be a missionary to the Gentiles even from the moment of salvation.

We also see divine guidance in his life regarding where to go in fulfilling that call. In Acts 16:6-10 “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

As Spurgeon said, all Christians should be burdened for the lost, and all believers are to be involved in international missions, but some are to be goers and some are to be senders, according to God’s plan. (Romans 10:13-15) There are at least three things that are true about goers and senders: both are biblical and have a divine role to fulfill in missions, neither is more important than the other, and neither is possible without the other.

Is God calling you to go or to send? Is He calling you to give or to go, to send or to be sent, to spend or to be spent; there is no other option. You are either a goer, or you are a sender, or you are in sin.

Ultimately, our goal is to glorify God and see that His glory covers the earth as the waters covers the sea—whether we stay and send or go and tell. Night is coming when no one can work. Once you hear His missionary call – no matter how it comes – how will you respond? You can say “No,” and you can say, “Lord,” but you cannot say “No, Lord,” because the moment you do, He’s not; You are (Luke 6:46).

Dr. David Sills

Dr. David Sills is the founder and president of Reaching & Teaching International Ministries, a missions professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaker, and author.

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