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.

“Beloved, We Are King Makers, Not Kings”

I recently returned from The Latin Bridge conference which focuses on church planting efforts in Latin America. This was hosted by Jason Holt, a missionary in Chile.

One of the speakers for the conference was Randy Stirewalt who has been a missionary in Kenya, Africa for over 30 years. Bro. Stirewalt challenged the young missionaries to go to the field and train men to plant churches. While the missionary can, and should, plant a church, more work can be done if the missionary will train others to plant churches while he is in the process of planting one himself. This multiplies the missionary’s efforts many times over.

Bro. Stirewalt challenged us from these verses in 1 Samuel:

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

—1 Samuel 18:1-4

Jonathan knew that the next king in Israel was to be David. Even though Jonathan’s dad was king, God had already told Saul in 1 Samuel 13 that his children would not be king after him because of his foolish acts. In chapter 15 God rejected the fact that Saul was even king. The next chapter Samuel anointed David king, even though he would not take the throne for many years.

In these verses Jonathan recognizes the kingship of David. He gave David his own royal robes. He even gave David his sword, bow and girdle. Not only did David get the royal robes, but he was equipped with everything he would need to be king.

Bro. Stirwalt’s challenge was this:

Beloved, we are king makers, not kings. Our job is to take off our robe and give it to another.

Give them the Word of God. Teach them principles of leadership. Help them to stand and represent Jesus with their life. But we must step aside and lower ourselves like Jonathan did to David, stand beside them and say, “You are the king.”

Obviously, as children of God we are all kings. God promised that to us in the first few chapters of the book of Revelation (1:5, 6; 5:10). The point Bro. Stirewalt was making is that we don’t go to the field as missionaries to be the king over our own domain. We go to equip others to be kings. Like Jonathan, we have the royal robes that we can pass on to other men with everything they need to do God’s work–the Word of God. We don’t go to be the king, we go to train others to be kings.

“Beloved, we are king makers. Not kings.”

 

Christian Missionary Training Programs

Do you feel God’s call in your life to be a missionary? Have you considered where you should go to get the specialized training you need? One thing that is sorely lacking in many new missionaries’ lives is the training that they should have before embarking on their journey.

Here are a few different training schools and program suggestions for missionary training. There are also some general guidelines that will help you in choosing the right places to look.

Pastor

School picture

I always recommend that people first talk with their pastor and let him know that they are considering missionary work. Your pastor will give you specific recommendations based on what he knows about your personality and character. Most pastors will be thrilled to know that God has called you into the ministry. However, some know that this means they will be losing a good worker in the church. Pastors know they should encourage you, but also be sympathetic that your announcement may be difficult for them at first.

Your pastor can tell you about Bible schools and training sessions you would need for missionary work. You pastor will probably recommend that you start by getting a Bible degree. This is important because it is the foundation for all Christian missionary endeavors.

Beyond Bible college, your pastor may not know about other missionary training schools that are available. I trust these suggestions will help you narrow your search as you prepare for the mission field.

Mission Boards

Your pastor should help point you to a mission board that is in line with the doctrine and ministry philosophy of your church. Many mission boards will have some type of training program that they offer to their own missionaries. Continue reading Christian Missionary Training Programs

3 Ways to Pray for Missionaries From the Apostle Paul

Paul is talking to the church in Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3. He asks for prayer in three areas for himself and his fellow missionary partners in verses 1 and 2.

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

God’s Word Would Have Free Course

Paul asked the people to pray that the Bible would have “free course” as the missionaries go out to preach. This phrase carries with it the idea that God’s Word would run freely and swiftly in the places it is preached. That the Bible would not be hindered in its mission.

Pray for missionaries (and anyone preaching the Gospel) that the Bible will accomplish its task. Pray that as it is preached it will freely penetrate the hearts of men.

God’s Word can be hindered because of worldly influences over the lives of the hearers. Culture, superstitions and human nature are factors in keeping the Bible from being accepted. Religion can play a role in hindering God’s Word too. When people have been taught half-truths concerning the Bible, it can cause confusion in the mind of the listeners. They may be convinced that they are just fine before the Lord because of the good deeds they have accomplished. The truth is that we are wicked sinners who are in need of a Savior.

The Bible Would be Glorified

The people in Thessalonica should pray that God’s Word would be glorified—honored or lifted up. The idea is that the Bible should have value placed on it. The Bible is often de-valued, not by the hearers, but by those who are preaching it. When a missionary does not place proper value on the importance of the Bible, then those who are listening to God’s Word being preached won’t value it either.

It is important for missionaries to maintain a proper testimony. No one expects the missionary to be perfect. He is a redeemed sinner like anyone else in the church. However, people do look to pastors and missionaries as examples of how to live. When a leader does not value God’s Word enough to obey it and preach it with authority, then it is hard for the followers to do the same.

God Would Protect Them From Wicked Men

Finally Paul asked that the church pray that they would be protected from wicked and unreasonable men. Our warfare on this earth is not with flesh and blood; however, spiritual warfare is often manifested through people.

Pray that missionaries would be spared from people trying to hinder the work. Missionaries face daily trails just like anyone else in the churches back home. However, every struggle seems to be magnified when working in another country. Roadblocks in ministry can be seen as personal attacks on the missionary. Of course this is often a matter of perception. But it is easy for a missionary to get discouraged and the work of God to halt its forward progress.

As a missionary in Mexico I was involved in an accident which resulted in me spending several hours in jail. I had no opportunity to personally argue my side of the story. In Mexico the law is that you are guilty until proven innocent. I spent 7 hours waiting for my innocence to be proven by the testimony of others and by the evidence available. Fortunately I was released with no further problems. But that could have gone another way. I could have been wrongfully charged for something that was truly a freak accident. I believe God spared me from that because of the prayers of supporters. God saved me from the hand of people who had no interest in my success as a missionary.

Do you pray for missionaries? Paul asked that the church in Thessalonica pray for him and the other missionaries with him in these three specific areas. Will you pray for the missionaries you know that God’s Word would accomplish its task, that it would be glorified and that the missionaries would be spared from wicked and unreasonable men?