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How Do You Know If You’re Being Called to Missions?

Are you wondering what you should do with your life? A lot of us are. Even as we get older, we feel like we haven’t arrived. We have so many options – how do you even begin to make a decision like that? You want to follow a call, but how and where? Let me suggest that if you have asked Jesus to …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Are you wondering what you should do with your life? A lot of us are. Even as we get older, we feel like we haven’t arrived. We have so many options – how do you even begin to make a decision like that? You want to follow a call, but how and where?

Let me suggest that if you have asked Jesus to be Lord of your life, you’ve already received a call. He’s already told us all what to do. We just need to recognize that to not respond is disobedience. 

The last thing Jesus said to his disciples before he left the planet was, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  Matthew 28:19

It’s not complicated. He wants us to


And make disciples

Of all nations. 

Too often we look for a neon sign to pull us out of our comfort zone. The neon sign is already there in Scripture. The default is that we should get going, figure out how to make disciples, and look at those nations where you can have the greatest impact.

I received an email about a woman named Linda that illustrates this. Linda had been given a remarkable dream. She saw a river that went a number of directions. Linda and her family were in a wide part of the river. 

They were just about the only ones there. The fish in that part of the river were huge. Wherever they reached their arms into the water, they would catch fish.

They spread their arms wide to catch as many as possible. The river was thick with all these fish, so Linda couldn’t understand why there was hardly anybody else trying to catch them.

Then she looked over at another part of the river. There were swarms of fishermen there; so many that there was no space between them, and it was dark. They kept getting their lines tangled up with one another when they went to cast.

As Linda looked at this situation, it became even more outrageous when one of the fishermen in the dark part of the river yelled out to her, “Come over here, we need more fishermen to help.” Linda knew that this was of course not the case.

What does this dream mean? It’s pointing out the disparity between the resources the global church spends on itself in some countries versus in others.

When I read about this dream, I wondered, “OK, I know that there are a lot more Christian workers focused on areas that have already been fished out so to speak, but I wonder what the actual statistics are?”

I researched and discovered a few stats:

5% of the world’s pastors work among 73% of the population.

4 billion people have just 392,000 pastors (almost the same number as churches in America).

It’s normal to want to minister to your friends and family. We feel drawn to the familiar and to those whom we love. Still, we must ask the question, “Are we fishing in the right part of the river?”

Linda’s dream of the fish describes a terrible reality. The world needs followers of Jesus who are committed to share the gospel with those who have never heard.

Consider the possibility that we have failed to understand Christ’s heart for the lost. K.P. Yohannan says, “Christ meant his church to be primarily a missionary organization. The body of Christ is the living presence of a God whose heart is pounding with a passion for lost and dying souls. Jesus was always pressing on to preach the Gospel in the next village.”

Jesus commissioned us all to make disciples. But we know disciple-making takes time. Somehow, too many of us have interpreted what Jesus said to mean “make converts.” Jesus didn’t charge his disciples with the job of getting people to say the “sinners’ prayer” or to pass out tracts or to transfer their letter of membership.

His disciples understood that they were to do the same thing for others that Jesus had done with them. That is, invest a long period of time – three years or more – waking up people from living in dark places to life in a kingdom made of light where the King is “the Father of lights.”

I define disciple-making as waking up people to their identity and role in the kingdom of God. It’s a paradigm shift. People wake up slowly. They have to change mindsets and change habits.

For those who can’t imagine working in a cross-cultural context, here’s something you may consider a relief: You probably shouldn’t follow a call to foreign missions until you’ve learned to be a disciple maker in your own home-town.

Many people feel called to the romantic, adventurous aspects of missions; but at the end of the day, if you don’t have the patience to make disciples at home, you’re better off staying there and practicing on those whose language and culture you understand. If you’re successful at home, then perhaps you’re a candidate to go overseas.

And if you’re relieved, here’s the bad news: Jesus called all of us to missions. That’s the default setting for a Christian. Yes, some are called to fish in the over-fished and often cynical part of the river. 

But, those are probably the exception for a God who is eager to bring hope to his children living without it around the world. Let’s pay attention to the call of God that is on us all.

Comments (8)

  • Great read! The rivers are teeming here in our towns and our workplaces with lost fish. Like those fish that live in caves that cannot see because they live in darkness all the time. I was one of those fish four years ago and got hauled in by Jesus’s big reel. Go fish! It’s daunting, but if you let your lamp shine among others some will bite the hook and ask questions to get things going. Sorry for all of the fish metaphors Just trying to keep the theme 🙂

  • Thanks Seth we have a common heart at Cumberland Community Church to fish where others are not fishing. Also love you definition of discipleship.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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