Over the past week I have spoken with a number of people and the topic of training Christians to be missionaries has come up again and again. The question “How do you train someone to be a missionary?” has been asked frequently. So I am attempting to answer this complex questions.
Caveat up front; I am not a seasoned theologian, an experienced pastor, or a great missionary. But, I am extremely passionate about God’s mission and advancing God’s Gospel and Kingdom, so I write. I will include a few resources on this subject at the end of the post for further study.
A Missionary God
First and foremost to develop a Christian into a missionary who engages the lost in their city, requires a close examination of God. For us to understand our own identity as missionaries and have a passion for mission, we must examine the greatest missionary of all time. When we think of great missionaries, the names Hudson Taylor or Lottie Moon or St. Patrick and many others come to mind. But, this idea of being a missionary started long before them.
What we see from Scripture is being a missionary to an un-reached people group was God’s plan from the beginning. God in the wake of the Fall makes a promise that He will send one to come and fix everything that has been undone. And out of the fulfillment of that promise we are missionaries. Listen to the words of Jesus from John.
John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
Jesus is declaring to the disciples “The Father has sent me to you! I have brought the Gospel in the flesh to all of you, so you might take this same Gospel to others.” The first person to ever be culturally relevant and incarnate himself into a culture completely was Jesus. Jesus wrapped himself in human flesh and came to be one of us. He came and said “your problems, are my problems. Your dorm, is my dorm. Your campus is my campus.”
He modeled the life of a missionary for all of us and He did so by bringing the Gospel to people, not asking them to come and see. If we hope to ever become missionaries, we must meditate on the grace God has shown us in sending Jesus as a missionary to this broken world. Thus we are now missionaries taking that same message to the broken in our lives by remembering the redemption we have received through Christ.
A Heart for Mission
Having a heart for mission means we long for Jesus to return. To train someone to be a missionary requires the development of a heart that loves Jesus and desperately wants Him to return. If someone struggles being a missionary or does not care to know their neighbors or engage their co-workers it has more to do with their love for Jesus than knowing practically how to start a conversation or share the Gospel.
In fact, I dare say they lack a great deal of love for the Gospel. For if they did, there would be a insatiable desire for Jesus to come quickly. Jesus speaks of His return in Matthew.
Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Jesus tells us that if we want him to return, take the Gospel to all nations, both foreign and domestic, and then He will come back. The older I become, the more confident I become that many Christians that declare a love for Jesus, don’t desire His return to be quick. They would sooner Jesus tarry and continue this life full of brokenness.
Most of us would never say this out loud, but when the choice between Jesus coming and living this life comes up…most of us would say this life. This includes myself! We must teach everyone, including ourselves that though this life is sweet it is but a foretaste of glory divine. In the words of C.S. Lewis “We are far too easily pleased. We would rather make mud pies in the slums, when a holiday at sea is offered to us. We are far too easily pleased.”
The Practicals of a Missionary
Practically training someone to be a missionary as I stated before is more of a heart issue than a practical issue. But, at some point there must be some training. However, training someone to be a missionary is accomplished once we train someone to be a disciple of Jesus. When it comes to discipleship there is not a book out there better than The Masters Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman.
So, instead of attempting to explain his book…go read it for yourself. This book explains how to develop someone into a mature Christian, which includes mission and every other facet of a mature Christians life. This is not a complete summation of all it takes to train someone to be a missionary, but I believe it is a start.
Let the Nations be Glad! by John Piper
Total Church by Steve Timmis & Tim Chester
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman