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Three Fears Everyone Has About Becoming a Missionary

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Becoming a missionary, or participating in any form of missions, comes with its share of fears, or apparent obstacles.  I sometimes hear the lines from the movie Home Alone: “Are you scared, Marv? Are you afraid?” in Joe Pesci’s voice in my head when I get nervous (Surely, it couldn’t be a result of my watching “Home Alone” too many times every holiday season). And sometimes, his voice crops up when I think about becoming a missionary. But why? What’s so scary about that? Oh, just one or two – or maybe 10 – things! Fears about joining the mission field are universal. Each person’s spirit pauses at some point.

While everyone’s missions journey looks different, many of their concerns or misconceptions are the same. Take heart knowing that others have felt similarly!

Here are just a few concerns you may have experienced about becoming a missionary:

1. Fundraising!

The thought of fundraising can scare off even the most confident prospective missionary. Very few people enjoy being on either end of The Money Question, but I think asking for it is often tougher. Fear of the person saying “no” – or even saying “yes” – can be intimidating.

When I fundraise for short-term mission trips, my church encourages us not to pay out of pocket, even if we have the funds to do so. For one thing, it’s not a vacation, and for another, it deprives God of blessing us through the people that care about us. If God wants us to go, short-term or long-term, he will provide the funding.

Similarly, we may worry that the amount we fundraise (or don’t) will require us to downsize…significantly. This certainly may be the case, but it also may not be. A given monthly income produces one standard of living in the U.S., and an entirely different one elsewhere.

Your budget will also vary based on whether you go to the nations through a sending agency or on your own. Many sending agencies wait to send their missionaries on the field until a certain minimum percentage of monthly income is met. You don’t have to determine or meet it solo – take advantage of the wisdom of those who have gone before you!

2. Putting our relationship with God on hold

We may even minimize the importance of deepening our relationship with God before we head out on the mission field. Here’s a question to ponder: if you don’t prioritize it now, will you prioritize it then?

Your departure to your destination of choice will kick-start a bajillion changes. Closeness with God now will set a foundation for you post departure. Jet lag will be the least of your worries as you settle in to a possibly wildly different culture; the changes you experience need to propel you toward God, not away from Him. The more time you spend in the Word now, the better. Besides – the reason any of us should go is because of Him. If we aren’t spending time with the One whose love compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14) our ministry’s effectiveness is directly impacted.

3. Fear of location or persecution

Growing up, I remember a missionary couple returning on furlough from Papua New Guinea. They visited our church and gave updates on their work. I was petrified that God would call me to long-term missions in a similar location, praying instead that if missions work was my calling, could He maybe choose our other supported missionaries’ location – Windsor, England? That’d be great, God.

Many locations may not be our version of ideal, and may even involve persecution to some degree. But wherever God calls you, He will equip you.

Your story may look like Jim Elliot’s or Nate Saint’s; then again, it may look more like that of my missionary friends in Windsor. Wherever God calls you, it will be YOUR calling. Rather than read someone else’s calling into yours, assuming the two will be the same, call to mind Aslan’s words in C.S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy: “‘Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.’”

God is writing your story – live it out, not someone else’s. Lean into Him at every step of this journey, trusting Him to make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

If you’d like to talk through some of these fears, or any others, about becoming a missionary, fill out a profile with MissionNext and get connected with a Journey Guide!

Meagan Davenport

Meagan Davenport

A business analyst and social media manager who loves to travel with the gospel in mind. Find her at meagandavenport.com or on social media @naanandmarzipan.

Nelson Malwitz, Founder, Chief Innovation Officer

Nelson Malwitz, Founder, Chief Innovation Officer

Nelson is the generic Evangelical baby-boomer. Born in 1946, raised in the C&MA, he attended Urbana ’67 in college. He holds an MS degree in Chemical Engineering and worked in R&D positions in American industry for 33 years. Nelson is an inventor with formal training in methods of creative problem-solving. He was a founding elder at Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel, CT (1982) and served in many leadership capacities of what is now one of the largest Evangelical churches in New England. In 1998 Nelson founded the Finishers Project, now MissionNext. Locally he attends a Torah study and is chairman of the sewer commission to serve among unchurched leaders.

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8 thoughts on “Three Fears Everyone Has About Becoming a Missionary”

    • There are, of course, more than three. One going against the voices of friends and family ask to stay home cautioning that you will regret leaving home. But a bigger regret may be not following the promptings of the Lord. Matthew 19:29 records this promise by Jesus, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

      Reply
  1. I fear being connected to people to in the mission fields, who are there because they are trying to prove to themselves, that they are not prejudice towards Africans born (through slavery) in the U.S. The ministry of reconciliation is currently being hampered globally by such persons, who reek with hypocrisy.

    Reply
    • Unfortunately this attitude did sometimes occur decades ago, but it is very rare now. A lot has been written about it. But we have to let it go taking the wheat and the tares for now. Discipling the nations is about Jesus and His kingdom not about us. After a dozen trips to Sub-Sahara nations, I know first hand that African church and missionary leaders are deeply appreciative of the Western missionary movement for myriads upon myriads of souls have been rescued because if it.

      Reply
  2. Great article. I think there are more grave fears. Fear of life after active service, old age, mk education, for singles in the field, who to marry etc. my encouragement, there is no temptation not common to man. There is a way of escape else God won’t allow but training is key.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment. The fears mentioned will be common to most any career. We agree for missions, like any pursuit, training is important. In a research study of what makes for a successful missionary, there were two major factors. (1) Training — You must be prepared for the task, whether it be in computer support or church planting. And (2) Expectations — This mostly has to do with what is like to work with and serve people of a different culture. Missionaries report the best training vehicles is the course Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. See Perspectives.org

      However the most important factor is willingness to serve. That is, to be willing to sit at the last seat and wash feet for the best outcomes.

      Reply

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