Should I Stay or Should I Go? Discerning a Call to Vocational Missions

by Christian Townson

This article is the second in a series. Here is a link to the first, Why Missions?

For those considering becoming a vocational missionary or minister, the question most will immediately ask themselves is, “Am I called?” How is it that some people know the answer from as early as six-years-old, while others contemplate this decision into their sixties?

However, the question shouldn’t be “Am I called?” Rather, the question one should ask is, “Should I go or stay?” Jesus gives us an answer to this question in Mark’s Gospel that you might not expect.

In Mark 5, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man. As soon as Jesus stepped off his boat, this man living among tombs with supernatural strength came to meet him. He was completely unclean, both in spirit and in tradition. He was completely hopeless. As Jesus walked up, the man bowed down to Jesus, and the spirit begged for Jesus not to torment him. Jesus asked who it was, and the demons replied, “We are Legion, for we are many.” Jesus cast them out of the man and into a herd of pigs. Verse 18 tells us that the man “begged Jesus” to allow him to go with Him.

Jesus did not give the expected answer of “follow me.” Instead, he did not allow him. He said, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” In this instance, Jesus did not say, “give up everything and come with me”. The man treasured Jesus and wanted to go with Him. However, Jesus had a different directive for this man. He told him to go home and tell others about what Jesus had done. Verse 20 says the man “went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.”

The man thought he should leave behind his home and travel with Jesus, but Jesus helped him consider and answer the question, “Should I go or should I stay?” For this man, staying provided a greater impact for the Kingdom.

For the apostle Paul, his calling was the opposite. After encountering Christ on the Damascus Road, he made multiple missionary journeys to proclaim the Gospel (Rom. 15:20) and to plant churches. Paul still worked as a tent-maker at times (Acts 18:1-4). Paul worked as a bi-vocational missionary. He gave up his life to “complete the race and finish the task the Lord Jesus had given him - the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

Both of these men were effective. One proclaimed the Gospel in his hometown, while one traveled around Asia, Europe, and Africa to share the Gospel. They both had to consider where they could be the most effective.

Here are some questions you should consider as you discern a call to vocational missions.

Do I have the desire?

Do you have the desire to go into vocational missions? Do you want to spend the next season of your life mobilizing yourself and others to share the Gospel cross-culturally? Why do you have this desire? Is it just to “go on an adventure,” or is it because you have a heart like Paul to shine a light in the darkness? Do you want every aspect of your life, including your job, to focus on this?

Does my church affirm this calling?

Does your church leadership affirm this calling? Would they support this, or would they say you are not ready? Are you invested in your current church? You cannot expect to minister abroad if you cannot do it here.

Is my spouse on board?

Marital problems are one of the main reasons missionaries leave the mission field. If you are married, does your spouse affirm this? Is he or she aligned with your mission and vision of why you are doing this, or is there resistance?

Why do I want to do this?

Get to the heart of why you want to do this. Why do you want to be a vocational missionary? Are you doing it for your glory or to the glory of God?

As you consider a call to vocational missions, remember to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth with God’s glory among the nations. It is a Habakkuk 2:14 world - “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the seas.”

Whether you move overseas or stay in your community, ensure it is the most effective for God’s glory and the advancement of His Kingdom.

Photo Credit: IMB

Christian serves as the Director of Mobilization/Missions as he leads the For the Nations ministry for The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He will be married to Danyel as of September 2022. 

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