Right before He returned to heaven, Jesus told His disciples that they were responsible for sharing His message around the world (Matthew 28:18-20). He called them to be missionaries, messengers who would spread the gospel locally, regionally, and internationally (Acts 1:8).
If you’ve wondered about how to become a missionary, you’re considering a noble and necessary call. More than 7,000 people groups still need to hear the story of Jesus. Missionaries of all kinds (including medical missionaries) are vital to giving them a chance to respond to God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Recognizing the need only answers part of the question about how to become a missionary. Working through His plans and purposes for your life is a process that you need to take seriously.
With that in mind, here are seven steps for becoming a missionary. Some should be done in sequence, while others will happen simultaneously. But each of them can help you identify and refine your God-given direction as a missionary.
No one should move toward becoming a missionary without a distinct call from God, but understanding your call requires more than responding to a feeling. You need to affirm it through prayer, Bible study, and interaction with mentors and other believers who know you well. That’s the only way to move your internal desire toward a practical reality.
You also should involve your local church in this step. In the Bible, Jesus’s command to spread the gospel was directed to churches. And in the book of Acts, churches sent out the first missionaries. Even today, many agencies, especially denominational agencies, require local church involvement.
Finally, working through your call means nurturing the spiritual disciplines and godly qualities that will help you connect with Jesus. Ultimately, becoming a missionary is more about God than about you. He is the One who calls and equips missionaries. So, you need to adopt spiritual practices that will shape you into His image. What’s more, you can never lead anyone where you have not gone, so getting to know Him better will make you more effective once your call is affirmed.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As you think about how to become a missionary, don’t miss the opportunities you have now. Becoming a missionary is about obedience and service. One day that might take shape on the mission field, but you also have opportunities to love and serve God and others right where you are.
Of course, one way to serve right now is through short-term mission opportunities. These trips can give you a sense of what life on the field is like and where God might be leading your heart. Plus, they offer the experience you can’t get anywhere else. Or, even online missionary training, you can do it from anywhere.
Another aspect of discovering how to become a missionary involves doing some research. Online tools allow you to dig into missionary needs and opportunities around the world. Likewise, missional job boards provide information on where your skills and passions can intersect with God’s open doors.
But you’ll also want to research specific questions related to life on the mission field. For instance, you’ll probably be curious about what kind of salary you could expect as a missionary. You also need to find out what sending agencies require and what skills would help you be effective as a missionary. Research plays a role in both practical learning and personal discipleship.
In general, training to become a missionary can take two forms: vocational and ministry. For example, the field of medical missions training ffers a wide variety of opportunities: doctors, nurses, therapists, educators, mental health, and so forth. But each of these areas requires special training.
At the same time, becoming a missionary is first and foremost, a spiritual calling. That means ministry training is vital. Even as a medical professional, you will need to know how to share the gospel and have a solid background in biblical studies. It could be helpful to develop some pastoral skills and have a foundation in the basics of counseling.
This training can take many forms. Most Christian colleges offer some missionary training track, even for those who want to use other skills (like medicine or business) to share the gospel. Other options include specific training programs offered by missions organizations or online training. You can even start your training now by talking to missionaries you might know and by reading books about missions and missionaries.
Knowing how to become a missionary includes knowing how to build a team. At first, that team will probably be your prayer network, especially as you seek to find God’s path and purpose for your life. Later, you will also need a financial network to provide resources for your work. Often, these two networks will overlap, so it is wise to start building support as quickly as possible.
Many potential missionaries have been derailed by financial debt. The truth is, it’s hard to gain traction on the mission field if you are hounded by things like mortgages or student loans back home. Some mission agencies may even reject you as a candidate if you have outstanding debt. So, as you work toward becoming a missionary, make getting out of debt and staying out of debt part of your program.
The final step in discovering how to become a missionary is to identify the right mission organization for you. Honestly, there are a lot of great options out there. Some represent denominations, and others work independently. But this will be the organization that basically has your back while you are on the mission field, so you have to choose wisely.
As you read through Scripture, you’ll see God hand-picking individuals for His plans and purposes. For example, Jeremiah was identified as a prophet to the nations before he was even born (Jeremiah 1:5). Likewise, God chose Saul (later known as Paul) to be a missionary before he ever became a Christ follower (Acts 9:15-16).
God had a plan for these men. In fact, God had a plan for every person we read about in His Word. What you need to remember as you seek to become a missionary is that God also has a plan for you. He will lead you. He will equip you. He will provide for you as you learn how to become a missionary.
If God has called you to become a missionary, He will help you make it happen.
We help connect your professional skills and biblical calling to the largest database of healthcare mission organizations, professionals, and thought leadership. Join us at the Global Missions Health Conference to find your Medical Missions calling. Or, browse our full list of partner organizations to find the right mission for you.