Francis Chan is moving his family to Hong Kong to be a missionary. His quote in a Christian Post article about an experience in Myanmar, summarizes the feelings that I have about ministry in developing nations: “A few months ago, we were in Myanmar and my wife and I and kids, we were just with a translator going from hut to hut in these slums, trying to explain to people who Jesus is. These people had never even heard of Him. And the eagerness, the way they listened, seeing people get baptized — it was just like, wow, what do we do on a normal day (in the USA) that even compares to this?”
Who Should Go?
If Francis Chan, who is at the top of his game, is going, what should the rest of us do? How do we know if we're ready to go? What are some indicators of spiritual maturity that we should be looking for? It helps if one has some of these in place before he goes to the front lines, especially in cross-cultural missions. Obviously, we are all in process and great strengths and hidden weaknesses, so this isn't a list asking for perfection. It's my thoughts on what helps a missionary be successful. I think you'll find that some of them resonate with you. If you have others, leave them in the comments section.
#1 An intimate relationship with God through the Holy Spirit is a must when moving to the front lines. A missionary is working to bring spiritual change to people who've lived for generations in darkness. The powers of darkness do not release control of their prey without a fight. That fight must be fought from a position of intimacy with God. Spiritual warfare will be often and intense. For many, it will be felt physically, fought mentally, and worn emotionally. Vigilance will be an absolute necessity, with strength for the battle sourcing from quiet intimacy with the Holy Spirit.
#2 Tenacious and teachable: The ability to stay the course even if the world falls apart around him. This isn't a bravado. It is a quiet strength that comes from either upbringing or walking through trials. Ready to listen and understand the backstory of cultural practices, and seemingly-strange situations. There are times when a situation must be held up like a diamond and examined for hidden angles. This person must take the time to listen to others before making a judgement or taking action... and must be able to consider waiting as a plausible answer. Working cross-culturally requires quiet reserve and the ability to listen. Sober strength that is accountable to others and knows when to submit and when to stand will be invaluable for a missionary.
#3 Willing and able to pray, teach, clean, serve, cry with, laugh with, and disciple. A servant leader who isn't afraid to lead and is comfortable teaching others to lead. Always, the missionary must remember that he is building Christ's kingdom, not his own kingdom. Territorial spirits and spirits of control must be rejected and sent packing. The missionary must keep in mind that discipleship is a process of multiplication, not addition. The Holy Spirit is to be trusted with the process and the results.
#4 An effective missionary must seamlessly move from mentor to coach to peer, as he/she ministers and disciples a variety of people with varying levels of spiritual maturity.
#5 Internally healthy and relatively free from past issues and oppressive spiritual strongholds. This process takes humility and the ability to be honest and real with the Holy Spirit and the people closest to him. When one goes on mission, Satan will attack the cracks in the armor, which usually are festering wounds from years ago, areas of unresolved rejection, and emotional. I recommend that all missionaries work through a couple of books on spiritual freedom before heading out.
#6 If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! The last one is simply this: You must be able to do the three types of activities outlined in the great commission. Make disciples and preach the gospel. Bring spiritual freedom to people who are oppressed by Satan. Help people find healing from Jesus Christ.
Francis Chan is going to Hong Kong. The Swansons are on Mindoro. African and Asian missionaries are going to the United States and Europe. Why does the Holy Spirit mix up the harvesters in the different fields? Wouldn't we do a better job reaching our own people?
I'll leave you with this to chew on: All of us have ethnocentric blind spots in our cultural upbringings which eclipse aspects of Biblical truth. When we make disciples together, we get a chance to see where those blind spots are. As a multi-ethnic church, we can grow into a more accurate Biblical Kingdom culture. After all, the goal is to make disciples for Jesus who keep His commandments and glorify Him in their communities.... and are equipped to go where they are sent.
We're a family on mission to bring the good news of Jesus to the Philippines.