Was Paul Called or Sent as a Missionary?

Isn’t it funny how you can read the same verses again and see something different in them the next time around? Recently the first few verses of Acts 13 struck me in a new way.

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

—Acts 13:1-3

In Acts 13:1 it says that there were many teachers and workers in the church at Antioch. Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were two of these men.

We often talk about being called to the mission field. I don’t know if that is a bad thing to say. However, here it appears that Barnabas and Saul were not called, but sent. They were already serving in the church. They were already teachers and preachers in the ministry. They were sensitive to the Lord’s leading. They were spiritually mature. In that environment, the Holy Spirit moved within the people of the church to send Barnabas and Saul out to start other churches. They did not come down to an alter and “surrender their lives” to the ministry. They were already surrendered. They were already involved.

Are You Called?

We’ve probably all heard stories of missionaries and pastors who said, “I wasn’t sure I was called, but I wanted to serve the Lord.” As a result they continue to say that as they got involved in serving in their local church then God clearly led them into the ministry. I think God often works in that way.

First Steps

Often I get the question, “I want to be a missionary, what should I do first?” This is usually by people whom I have never met and know nothing about. My first response to them is that they should speak with their pastor. Their pastor knows them better than I do. He knows their spiritual maturity and current involvement. He can give them much better information than I can based on their current spiritual condition. And, I submit, that he probably will know if someone is called to the ministry before that person even knows. Though Saul and Barnabas were already involved in ministry at this point, it appears that God first moved in the hearts of the other pastors, teachers and church members to send these two men out for missionary service.

Called or Sent?

Should you be called or sent? The result is the same. I believe that if you are serving the Lord where you are right now, then God will show you, and those around you, what you should be doing in His ministry.

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