How to Know if God Is Calling You to Be a Missionary

To discern God’s call to the mission field, we must go to Scripture.

God calls every Christian to be missional, even though he does not call every Christian to be a missionary.

A missionary is someone who crosses a language, culture, or geographical barrier to go and take the gospel to a group of people—typically people who do not yet know Jesus.

Being missional is a call given to every Christian throughout the Bible. For example, Matthew 28:19 says to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Also see Romans 10:14–17 and Isaiah 52:7–10, which both indicate that God desires to use believers to share the gospel. This call to be missional means that according to God’s Word, every Christian must be intentionally engaged in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people all around the world, especially those who have not heard yet.

In other words, every Christian should be engaged in global missions.

How Do You Know If You’re Supposed to Go?

Although there are multiple schools of thought among Christian leaders on how the Holy Spirit will lead someone to be a missionary, there are still a few topics to consider when making your decision.

1. The Biblical Commands to “Go.”

Throughout the Bible and throughout history, God has been saving people from their sins and delivering them “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). God will save some from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation—including those who have not yet heard. And God will delight in using his people to do it. All that’s to say, some must go and share the good news. Are you one of them?

2. Your Ability to Go

Could you feasibly go to the mission field right now? What factors (truly) stand in your way of getting there? Is it student loan debt? A physical condition? A legal situation? It may be appropriate to resolve these first, if possible, before going. And if you face an unresolvable situation that hinders you from going to the mission field, God may be seeking to use you as a “stayer.”

3. Your Desire to Go

There are some cases in Scripture when God asks an unwilling person to “go” and share the good news with a group of people (i.e. Jonah). But it’s more common to see God use people (like Paul) who want to be missionaries. God gives us gifts and desires for a reason. When your heart is lined up with his and you are abiding in him, you can trust that God will give you desires that are in line with his will, or in time he will change your desires to make them so (Psalm 37:4).

4. Have You Ever Tried to Go?

One way Christians often choose to seek God’s will for their lives is to take steps in the direction they feel most called until God closes the door. Paul did this many times in the New Testament. He would make attempts to go to one region, but God would prevent it until the appointed time (which sometimes never came). If you’re unsure where God is calling you, and you’ve never tried to go, perhaps you could explore options for short-term or long-term trips and see how far God allows you to go.

The Holy Spirit’s Role in Your Calling

All throughout the New Testament, we read examples of how the Holy Spirit guided believers in giving them truth, words to say, what to do, and places to go and not go. Here are just some of them:

  • “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness” (Luke 4:1)
  • “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (Acts 13:2)
  • “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11–12)
  • “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:3)

The Holy Spirit is the same today, so we can trust he can guide us in similar ways as he did his first disciples and his own son, Jesus.

To learn more about how to pray in the Spirit and how to seek his will for your life, we recommend you listen to session three from the CROSS for the Nations 2016 conference. Hear from John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, and others as this topic is discussed in detail.

Watch Piper, DeYong, and others discuss the Holy Spirit’s leading.

And What If You Don’t Go?

While you’re waiting to be able to go to the mission field, or if you’ve determined that’s not where God is calling you at this point, there are things you can do to be intentionally missional on the home front.

Read about ways to be missional when you’re not a missionary.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Live Global January 25, 2017. Used with permission.