When you’re thinking about serving in missions, inviting your pastor or church leader into your journey from the beginning can be an invaluable source of encouragement and wisdom. But how do you start the conversation?
Brian Payne, the lead pastor at a church in Alabama where over 80 members currently serve overseas as missionaries, is passionate about supporting people who are considering becoming missionaries. Brian shares seven questions to ask your pastor or trusted leader when you’re thinking about serving in missions.
1. “When can I share my story with you?”
If you’re thinking about becoming a missionary, it’s important to let your church leader know early on in the decision-making process so that you can share your story with them.
“[Pastors] have [a] responsibility to disciple future missionaries,” Brian said. He recommends scheduling a time to share your story and explore how the church could support and encourage you.
2. “What small group or Bible study could I join?”
Serving in missions is not for the faint of heart or spiritually complacent. Brian said, “We need … missionaries who have a mature walk with God and their desires have been strengthened through the process of discipleship.”
In order to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally, Brian recommends meeting regularly with others in your church congregation to study a book or go through a video series.
As you study a book or navigate a video Bible study, talk about your observations and questions. Allow others to come alongside you as you grow into the person God wants you to be.
3. “How can I learn more about the purpose of missions?”
Brian discovered that if you join a class like Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, you’ll have a stronger foundation for your missions journey as you move forward. Join a local or online course to learn about God’s purpose for missions work. You’ll get to hear personal stories from renowned speakers, learn what God is doing all around the world and discover how you can be a part of his global mission.
“God’s purpose from Genesis 1 was to fill the earth with his glory,” Brian said. “It's not going to happen by osmosis. God is sovereign, but we’re responsible.”
4. “What are some ways I can serve right now?”
Ask your pastor for ideas of how you can serve in your church. Whether that means serving coffee, passing out bulletins, serving in a children’s ministry or something else entirely, Brian encourages people to serve in their local church first if they feel called to missions work.
Look for opportunities to embrace humility and generosity by taking on tasks that are needed or that others might not step into as willingly. Focus on developing a strong work ethic as serving becomes a regular practice in your life.
5. “Are there any vision trips I can join?”
One way to expand your understanding of the global church and expose yourself to cross-cultural experiences is through a vision trip. Although a vision trip is only a brief snapshot of missions, it's an opportunity to grow in your faith and serve local churches and missionaries while celebrating how God is working.
Work with your church to see if you can attend a vision trip to another country which will help you discern next steps in your missions journey.
“[A high percentage] of full-time missionaries got a sense of their call on a short-term trip,” Brian mentioned. “[At my church] … that’s why we encourage our people to go.”
6. “Which missions organization or agency should I contact?”
Whether or not your pastor or church leader has missions experience, find out how you can get connected with an agency or missions organization. Does your church support a missions organization financially that you could reach out to? Missions coaches and recruiters can help you think about further training and connect you with teams and projects.
You could also ask where others in your church congregation serve. Brian said, “I think that the best people to ask, if you’re looking into missions, are those involved with a particular agency or missionaries themselves.”
7. “Would you be willing to pray for me?”
Ask your pastor or others in your church if they would be willing to pray for you as you discern God’s path for your future. Building a group of people to partner with you in prayer might feel challenging but it can also bring invaluable wisdom and encouragement to your life.
Brian suggested sending monthly emails with updates and prayer requests to those who have committed to praying for you. Make the effort to also reach out personally and develop relationships. Brian pointed out, “You have to be intentional.”
The Next Steps
If you don’t feel ready to make the transition to missionary life just yet, there’s no need to rush the process. Instead Brian recommended that you continue to study God’s Word, meet with your church leaders, go on vision trips when possible and immerse yourself in your church community. As you grow into the person God wants you to be, follow him as he opens doors.
As part of the body of Christ, you’re not alone in your journey in missions. By building relationships with your pastor or church leader and inviting people in your church to come alongside you, you’ll advance God’s global mission together.