Most Commonly Heard Excuses Not to be a Missionary
by Todd Ahrend
"But I don't feel called?"
This is one of the most prevailing excuses around today. The infamous… "God hasn't called me overseas!" So how are we to respond to this excuse? First, if you do a word study on the word "called" you will find that the majority of uses in scripture are the calling to come to Christ for salvation. As a matter of fact, Paul the apostle equated his coming to Christ with his responsibility to reach all nations. Listen to what he says to the Galatians, "But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles (Nations)" (Galatians 1:15- 16). Paul understood he had a general obligation to take the gospel to all nations simply because God had extended salvation to him. Second, when Paul received a "call" into a specific place for ministry, it was while he was actively ministering and fasting (Acts 13:1- 4). Most people, while lamenting, "I am not called" are just using that as an escape and are far from ministering and fasting before God to find direction. Oh, and by the way the last verse in Acts 12 talks about how Paul had just returned from his first mission trip! Apparently, Paul thought it best to be obedient to the purpose of God in the world instead of being hung up on the specifics. So next time you think you don't feel called ask yourself how many mission trips you have been on, what are you doing for the Lord right now and how often are you fasting about the decision?
"It will not do to say that you have no special call to go to China. With these facts before you and with the command of the Lord Jesus to go and preach the gospel to every creature, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay at home."
- J. Hudson Taylor
"But my parents would never let me go."
Let's just admit it; historically we have made some bad decisions. Everyone has! It's a part of growing up! As true as this is, it is also true that parents have seen every single one of our lousy choices. Dating and breaking up with all the wrong people, discontent with cars and jobs, changing majors 2- 3 times and this list goes on. And now a mission trip for the summer in North Sudan! Sounds like another bad idea to mom and dad. Can we blame them? There are really two types of parents who say no to their child going on a mission trip - those who mean it and those who don't. There are some parents who say, "if you go on this mission trip don't bother coming home ever again and plan on paying for your car and college when you get back." In this case I would highly advise waiting until they are a little more softened to the idea. Heed your parents' advice while you are under their authority. In the meantime, spend your summer reaching out to internationals in the community. The other parent says no as more of a smoke screen to see if their child is serious or if it's just a passing phase. The difference with this type of parent is that as they are consistently informed, see their child taking responsible steps toward the trip and growing increasingly interested, they grow in confidence of their child's decision and will eventually concede. Most parents fall into the latter category. Most of the time it is really not the parent who is the main issue but the student hiding behind a situation that doesn't really exist.
"Obedience to the call of Christ nearly always costs everything to two people- the one who is called, and the one who loves that one."
"But I am not ready spiritually to go."
When I was in college this is the one I fell back on. I was challenged to give my summer to reaching out to the Muslims in North Africa for 8 weeks by an individual who was a missions zealot. My response to him was "But I am not ready to go!" He didn't hesitate with his response, "Ok, I'll give you 20 minutes... get ready." "What, no wait! I don't think you understood what I meant!" I thought. In reality, he understood me perfectly. Often, what we are waiting for is to become sinless, to have totally pure motives or to love the people as Christ does! If that's the case, we will never be "ready." Missionaries are real people that have real problems. No one reaches a certain spiritual state and then becomes qualified. Actually, the process works in the reverse order. Once a person goes and catches a real vision for the nations, realizes the incredible task at hand, they will see an increased intimacy with Christ. If the goal before us is small, our dependence on the Lord will be small. On the other hand, if our aspirations are great, our reliance on the sufficiency of God will be great. K.P. Yohannan, Director of Gospel for Asia, says if someone has been a Christian for longer than 8 weeks, they are qualified.
"All the resources of the Godhead are at our disposal!"
- Jonathan Goforth
"But what about my debt?"
For every $1 an American makes they spend $1.10. This is not good. With credit card booths in the student center and the price of tuition on the rise, debt is an ever- lurking evil for the average college student. It is a real issue! Many students upon graduation are already staring at $10,000 debt. Many students wish their debt was as small as $10,000! How the Christian college student deals with the subject of missions will be seriously affected by their debt situation. Some will use their debt as an automatic excuse to never go overseas, some will procrastinate their involvement until they get it taken care of. So should you expend even more money to go on a short- term mission trip this summer or focus on getting out of debt? The initial reaction to this question is usually an emphatic "no!" to going overseas, but there are a few options. First, many students are not motivated to get out of debt and therefore find themselves incurring more. Maybe what would motivate you is to go overseas on a short term trip. Many times a small glimpse of the reality of world poverty will cure any lethargy about getting out of debt and any carelessness about standard of living. Another option is to raise not only the necessary money for the trip, but to also raise an extra sum of money to cover expenses while on the trip. For example, if a trip is $2,500 and lasts a month, why not raise an extra $800- $1,000 to offset the amount you could have earned if you had stayed home and worked? If car or housing payments are the issue the same would apply. A short- term trip is a great motivator to becoming debt free!
"Two distinguishing marks of the early church were: 1) Poverty 2) Power."
- T.J. Bach
"But I don't have that kind of money?"
Not many college students have $3,000 tucked in their savings waiting to be spent at a moment's notice on a mission trip. So you do think you can't go overseas because you don't have any money? First, you need to understand that a mission trip is totally and completely free. You're probably thinking "Wait a minute; I thought you just said it was a $3,000 trip!" Well it is, but you need to understand the Biblical concept of raising support. In Matthew 10:9-10 Jesus talks about how the worker is worthy of his wage and Paul the Apostle echoed this when he talked about the privilege he had to raise support in I Corinthians 9:1-18. So the trip is free for you because God has set up an economy where His body supports those who go out. It may be an overwhelming concept at first, but its really quite simple. All you need to do is make a list of people you know, send them a letter of explanation, followed up by a phone call and sometimes a personal appointment to further explain financial needs. There are only two types of students who refuse to do this: the ignorant and the arrogant. The ignorant are unaware of the fact that the Bible speaks of support raising and that God has placed people in their life who are prepared to give. The arrogant are too prideful to call anyone on the phone and "beg" for money. It is below them to show any sign of need. In fact, it is not begging at all, it is the Biblical model set up by God himself and modeled by Jesus: Luke 8:3 "Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means."
"God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supplies."
- J. Hudson Taylor
"But what about the needs here?"
This is another very common excuse. I usually answer it with the example of triage. It is a medical term that means that those who have the worst injuries get priority over other injuries. So if someone comes in the emergency room with a leg that has been cut off they will take priority over the person who is waiting with a sprained ankle. Why is that? Do the doctors love the person with the severed leg more than the sprained ankle? Of course not. His need is more urgent and therefore takes priority. What if we appropriated that to missions, missionary triage? Its application would be simple: those with the greatest need, the least reached, without a church get priority over those cultures with established churches. Keith Green, a zealous musician who recruited for missions, says "Since America has only about 5% of the world's population, then only about 5% of the believers would really be called to stay in this country as a witness (that's only about l out of 20) while the rest of us should go into the parts of the world where there are almost 0% believers." Unfortunately, that is not the case. On the contrary, 95% of believers will stay within the United States. Are there needs in the United States? Without a doubt. It is impossible to walk around a college campus in America without seeing the need for more Christian laborers. But there's one thing to remember, there will always be a need in America. Needs are everywhere. Maybe its time to stop focusing on the needs and instead focus on the greatest need - those with no gospel access.
"A tiny group of believers who have the gospel keep mumbling it over and over to themselves. Meanwhile, millions who have never heard it once fall into the flames of eternal hell without ever hearing the salvation story."
- K.P. Yohannan
"But isn't the mission field a dangerous place to be?"
The Israelites were faced with an interesting choice after leaving their slavery in Egypt. As they got to the edge of the land that God had told them to possess they began to count the cost of obedience. The land was inhabited by fierce, giant- size men! They found themselves questioning God's command, His promise and His deliverance from Egypt. All of a sudden disobeying God and returning to slavery seemed more appealing in light of the danger and certain death that awaited them. Here is their response: "Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?" (Numbers 14:3). Keith Green explains: "It is all a matter of our priorities - do we look at the temporary or the eternal in making our choices? It's true that you will probably be in more physical danger on the mission field than you would be in the suburbs of America, but that is part of the cost that we need to count when it comes to serving God. The question should not be, 'Will I be kept safe wherever I go?' but rather, 'What is on the Lord's heart for me to do?' If Jesus decided to go the way of least pain, He would have never gone to the cross. There is no place of greater blessing for you than in the center of God's will. You must stop to count the cost, but remember one thing - the privilege of serving God always outweighs the price." This is only going to grow as an issue because of the increase in wars, threats of wars, kidnappings and terrorism. The measure of a man is what it takes to stop him. What will it take to stop you? Go back to the Word, and look toward those who have gone before and made their life a living sacrifice. There is no promise of safety and the dangers are real, but His grace is sufficient for us.
"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell."
- C.T. Studd
"But I am not ready for that kind of sacrifice."
This is the root of all excuses - abstaining from sacrificial living. For some people when they come to Christ they just Christianize the things they did before. Their logic goes something like this: "I was going to be a teacher, so now I guess I am a Christian teacher. I was going to be a engineer, so now I guess I am a Christian engineer." It is easy to just add Christ to our pre- existing plans. If this is your excuse you may have fallen into this trap. Therefore, the mindset becomes "why would I want to go to the mission field, that is serious sacrifice!" In II Corinthians 5:17 we read,
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Notice the key phrase, "the old has gone." This means that all we desired and lived for under our lordship is done away with. Jesus becomes Lord to guide us in His agenda, not just offer us council about our agenda. This is the minimum, the entry level of commitment not an elite, super- spiritual commitment that few attain to. Jesus challenges us to consider the cost of following Him before salvation not after.
Luke 14:28-33 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."
Erwin McManus, in his book An Unstoppable Force, discusses his experience in growing as a new Christian. After his decision to follow Christ and be saved he was faced with another altar call, a calling to Lordship. A few weeks later, there was another altar call, a calling to the ministry. After that, two more calls - a calling for home ministry and a calling to foreign ministry. He explains:
"So now I had discovered five levels of callings from God - a calling to be saved, a calling for Jesus to be Lord, a calling to ministry, a calling to home missions, and a calling to foreign missions.... Why are there so many levels of Christian calling in our contemporary Christian community? Where are they found in the biblical text? I have a strange suspicion that the nuances of these "callings" have less to do with theology and more to do with the condition of the church. Paul seemed to think there was only one calling. He writes to Timothy, 'So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace' (2 Timothy 1:8-9). The scriptures seem to simplify the process of calling. The one call is to lay your life at the feet of Jesus and to do whatever he asks."
"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."