What does the call to mission look like?
So often we expect the call to mission to be a booming voice from heaven: ‘Sophia! You must become a missionary!’ We become so preoccupied waiting for angel choirs, loud trumpets and audible commands that we fail to listen to anything else, even God’s Word.
I have always found it easy to brush off any interest in mission work with a pious sounding: ‘I haven’t been called’. I rattle off this statement in defense of my own disinterest and inaction, but, lurking at the back of my mind is another thought: ‘without an audible call from God, I am not personally responsible’.
Newsflash: Christian, you ARE called to mission
Jesus’ last words to His disciples before ascending into heaven give us a summary of God’s big picture plan; His mission to save the world. Matthew 28 verses 16-20 shows us that God’s mission is a Christ-ordained task to ‘make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’. While the disciples to whom He spoke those great words are long gone, Jesus’ mission still exists: go and make disciples of all nations.
We know this command is important because we see a wonderful picture of its fulfillment in Revelation 7 verses 9-10. The great multitude, too many to count, stand before the throne in worship to their God. Though they are from every tribe, tongue and nation they are one in their worship of the Lamb. Salvation does indeed belong to our God. To the God who choose to extend his mercy beyond Israel to the whole world. To the God who sent His Son to die and rise again; redeeming those who trust in Him. To the God who invites us to be part of His big picture plan to go and make disciples.
We are right to claim a call is necessary, but too often we impose our own expectations on what that call will look like. While anticipating bright lights, voices from heaven and piercing revelations we can allow ourselves to ignore the quieter prompts. And most importantly, we can ignore the call of the Great Commission.
For a long time, my own refusal of responsibility prevented me from seriously considering overseas mission as a viable form of ministry. Whenever I considered the sacrifice of mission work, I would trade in responsibility for a more comforting thought: ‘I haven’t been called’. My obsession with trying to distill the call down to a mystical experience overshadowed the process of discovery. Most of the missionaries I speak to talk about a gradual call, a leaning and persistent conviction from God’s Word.
I don’t believe everyone is cut out for overseas mission work, but I challenge you to consider your true motives before dismissing the idea. Our questions about call should be focused on where we have been called rather than on whether we have been called.
What should we be doing in our own communities in New Zealand and Australia? Who should we be reaching out to? Am I a good fit for cross-cultural mission overseas? These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves. But have I been called? That question should have been settled long ago.
Sophia Sinclair after studying, working and training in Theatre, English Literature and Journalism, joined the non-profit sector to work for the Anglican mission organisation NZCMS where she writes about, ponders, talks about and promotes mission around New Zealand. Sophia is married to Andrew and they live in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Sophia Sinclair's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sophia-sinclair.html