I have the honor of teaching university students who are not only bright, but also eager to serve God and change the world. These students are sometimes in my own College of Theology, but some are also part of the colleges of nursing, engineering or education, or they may be pursuing other careers. They care about global missions and human flourishing. These students often ask me how to become a missionary and what that means, especially for those majoring outside of theology. First and foremost, it is an issue of the heart — and in this brief article, we will discuss several crucial aspects that will help you to prepare for a life in global missions.
Be Obedient in Your Desire To Serve
First, serve others by being obedient and moving in the direction that God would have you move. The bottom line is that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we are also to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:29-32, cf. Matthew 22:37-40). You begin to move in a missional direction as you start taking steps of obedience and conform your life to God and His will out of a loving and joyful heart. It is not a coincidence that loving God is a preliminary to love one’s neighbor. Because our relationship with God will affect our relationship with others, it must have a positive impact. Moving toward mission means being right with God — not perfect — but in a healthy, vibrant, obedient and growing relationship.
Seek Out Opportunities in Your Local Church
Second, seek out opportunities to be part of a vibrant Christian community and to be active in the work of God. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) shows that, along with making disciples, Jesus’ followers are to baptize new believers in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Christians do not baptize in our own name or by our own authority (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 9:18; 18:25; 1 Colossians 1:13-17; 1 Colossians 12:13). Christians are part of the church, an institution ordained by God, and missionary service should be embedded in the church. The missionary experience involves the church. Many students take advantage of opportunities at university such as chapel services or Christian service clubs — these are tremendous experiences, but they are no substitute for God's church-growing missionaries, recognizing missionaries and sending them out for service (Act 13:1-3).
Get Specific Training To Share the Gospel
Third, get the necessary training for what you sense that God is calling you to do. Vocational training to become a doctor, nurse, educator or some other professional takes both time and money. Ministry training should also be a priority, and it can be carried out at the same time as vocational training. It is common knowledge that those in college or graduate school are pressed for both time and money, but there is truth in Jesus’ statement that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:21). It might mean something as simple as going on short-term mission trips rather than vacations — still getting away from the routine but also doing something more meaningful in terms of lifelong ministry.
Build a Strong Network of Praying and Faithful Friends To Reach People
Fourth, build a network of faithful friends who will help you minister to people. A very strong bond can be formed when we pray and serve with people. Friends who know God and serve God can be a great encouragement to you as you prepare for missions, but it is not a one-way street. People who are involved in missions tend to encourage those around them, and you might be that person in your friends’ lives who takes their faith walk in a direction that positively challenges them. Although you might be called to global mission work, your friends might find that they have a place in “glocal” mission work — that is, ministering to people who are from other parts of the globe, but who now live in our local settings.
The calling to missions is something special that cannot be manufactured, regardless of how we break it down. Obedience, church involvement, training and developing meaningful friendships are not steps to be taken in a strict sequence. They are crucial pieces, however, of being a person who is missional and on a path to love God as well as their neighbor. There is a real temptation to see a need and go fill that need. Scripture often demonstrates that the calling to go is first a calling to prepare. It is natural to want to be a Moses and lead people to freedom, but Moses first served in Pharaoh’s court and then spent years in the desert before he was prepared for what would be his finest ministry. The disciples spent three years with Jesus; Paul had his Damascus Road experience but still needed three years with Jesus before launching into ministry (Galatians 1:11-24). Whether God is calling you to be a long-term missionary, living day in and day out with the people you serve to develop deep and lasting relationships, or a short-term missionary, who joins in or develops a strategy to reach and teach people in condensed time frames, preparation is part of that calling.
Learn how to become a missionary by exploring theology and ministry programs at GCU’s College of Theology today. View our Christian Identity and Mission page to learn how you can be a part of GCU's local and global outreach ministries.
About Chip Lamca, DMin
Chip Lamca is a full-time faculty member at Grand Canyon University and is the co-lead of the minor in Short-term Missions, a program that helps students to engage in global mission and human flourishing for lifelong ministry, regardless of their major. Lamca has been a long-term missionary in Peru and Ecuador and has led short-term ministry in various countries since 2009.
Approved by the Dean for the College of Theology on Nov. 22, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.