“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” – II Timothy 2:15
After more than three decades of labor in international missions, and having counseled many missionaries on the field, I have come to believe that more literature regarding “missions” is not only appropriate, but also absolutely necessary. Therefore, I am writing these articles, under the authority of the elders and congregation of Christ Church, Radford, Virginia. The primary purpose is to instruct those elders, churches, and missionaries that work in partnership with us to advance the gospel throughout the world. I have also written with secondary goal that this work might have a wider influence, especially among those young men and women in whose heart the Lord has put an earnestness1 to give themselves to the cause of Christ beyond their own boarders.
Although I will be writing with specific regard to those aspiring to cross-cultural missions, I hope that what is written will also be of help to all who might put their hand to the plow in any field of the harvest. I do not pretend to have the mind or credentials of countless others who are more qualified to write such a manual, but my sense of ineptitude has been outweighed by the need. I write because I am burdened to do so. I long for the work of missions, not only to advance, but to advance biblically.
Mission leaders around the globe are encouraging young men and women to go to the field, and many are responding to call with an unbridled passion. This is certainly a cause for rejoicing; however, it may be wise to hit the pause button long enough to catch our breath and think about the requirements and costs of mission work. Just because someone desires to go, does not mean that he should. Mission work is not the “right” of every believer, but a calling and a privilege. We must be called, qualified, surrendered, and equipped. If anyone of these things is lacking, the missionary may not only prove ineffective, but may become a detriment.
At the risk of sounding critical or even harsh, it must be said that there is more missionary activity in the world today than ever before, however a plethora of activity is not a sure indication that the will of God is being done. There are those on the field who were swept away from their homelands by nothing more than a wave of romanticism or a misdirected passion to be used of God. There are others on the field that have never counted the cost or surrendered themselves to the hardships that are inseparable from the work of a missionary. They tenaciously hold on to the comforts of home or even advance beyond them. They have not learned that, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”2 Finally, there are those on the field who are not qualified or equipped for the work. In their zeal, they have neglected to follow the admonition of the Apostle Paul who wrote:
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”3
The opportunities and needs of the Great Commission are greater than ever. It is my prayer that the upcoming generations of Christians will literally pour themselves into the mission field. However, we must not give way to pragmatism. We must not overlook the demands of Scripture simply because the need is so great. Instead, we must trust in the providence of God and we must “go” only if we are truly called, committed, and prepared.
If you are reading these articles, you most likely possess a real interest in the Great Commission. You may be a seasoned veteran on the field or a young zealot who is chomping at the bit to go! Whoever you are, please understand that these articles are not written to discourage you in your desire to give your life for the call, but to direct you so that the giving of your life might actually amount to something!
Finally, this series is not only the result of what I have found to be true in the Scriptures and what I have learned from other godly men and women on the mission field. It is also the result of what I have learned from my many mistakes. If you are a missionary, you will make mistakes. However, each new generation of missionaries should not be required to reinvent the wheel. It is the responsibility of the preceding missionary generation to hand down biblical wisdom to the one that follows. Consequently, it is also the following generation’s responsibility to examine this “handed down” wisdom in the light of the Scriptures to see if it is wisdom indeed.
Paul David Washer
- II Corinthians 8:16
- While serving in India, Amy Carmichael received a letter from an aspiring young missionary. She asked Miss Carmichael, “What is missionary life like?” The answer was profound, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”
- II Timothy 2:15
Paul is the founder of HeartCry Missionary Society and currently serves as its missions director. He also ministered as a missionary in Peru for ten years. He has preached hundreds of sermons and has authored a dozen published works. Paul lives in Radford, Virginia, with his wife Charo and their four children: Ian, Evan, Rowan, and Bronwyn.More By Paul David Washer