We are all called to serve, but each of us in a different way. Missionaries serve the Lord by preaching the Gospel and making disciples, often in the darkest and most unchurched parts of the world. The men, women, and families who dedicate their lives to fulfilling the Great Commission draw people closer to God through church planting and acts of service. If you’re thinking about becoming a missionary, or you’re just curious about what missionaries do, you’ve come to the right place to start.
Who are Missionaries?
What type of person dedicates their life to making disciples? According to Dr. Marty Jacumin, Senior Pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, that decision is up to a higher authority. “Missionaries are called by God. Other people affirm that calling in their lives, but it’s ultimately up to them to be obedient to that calling and seek to make disciples for Jesus Christ.”
Of course, Dr. Jacumin also recognizes that there are certain traits and characteristics that make some people more likely to become missionaries—or in other words, more likely to answer the call. “A missionary is a person who first and foremost loves Christ, and who has a passion to follow Christ. They’re okay with leaving what looks and feels ‘normal’ to the rest of us. They’re willing to get out of their comfort zones and experience different cultures. They want to engage people who aren’t like them, who don’t necessarily think like them or believe what they believe.”
Where do Missionaries Go?
Missionaries are called all around the world. Wherever there is lostness, wherever there is a desperate need for Jesus, missionaries are there to share the Good News. Missionaries are often called overseas, but they also serve here at home and in neighboring countries to help build back up God’s Kingdom in places that have been affected by “Western secularism.”
People are often surprised to learn about the need for missionaries in North America—that is until they learn about the state of Christianity. According to Barna Group, a research organization focused on faith and culture, 38% of U.S. adults qualify as “unchurched,” which it defines as an adult who has not attended a church service (except for a holiday or special occasion) at any time within the past six months. Missionaries are called to these churchless cities—places like San Francisco, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and New York—to push back against lostness and help those who need saving.
It’s also worth pointing out that being a “missionary” isn’t exclusive to those who are called to serve in a new city or some remote part of a country overseas. As believers, we’re all called to be missionaries. We’re all called to our neighborhoods and our places of work to build relationships and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. “Can anyone become a missionary? If we’re talking about full-time vocational missionaries, probably not,” says Dr. Jacumin, “but we all have the ability to go somewhere in our community and share the Gospel.”
What’s it Like Being a Missionary?
We all have the ability to share the Word of God in our busy lives, but what is it like being a full-time missionary far away from home? Dr. Jacumin relates how being outside of his comfort zone while on a mission grew his faith and ultimately made him feel closer to God. “You’re stretched, and you know you can’t do it on your own, so you rely on God’s strength so much more. It’s life changing. Mission trips refresh me and get me seeing the work of God all around me.”
Dr. Jacumin also admits that mission trips can be exhausting, but he knows the sweat and tears and fear and frustration is all worth it in the end. “At the end of the day, when you lay down and you have no doubt that you’ve made an impact for God’s kingdom—that’s what it’s all about.”
How Missionaries are Supported
Missionaries who have chosen to dedicate their lives to discipleship often face the difficult task of fundraising. It’s obviously much better when a missionary doesn’t have to work outside of their calling to earn a living and can devote all their time to sharing the Gospel and making disciples of Jesus. It gives them the ability to focus on the task at hand and frees them up to do the most important job they were called on to do—expand God’s Kingdom.
Sadly, men and women who have the energy, the time, and the flexibility to go don’t always have the available funds. But others do. People who have the capital but don’t have the time or the health to serve make it possible for missionaries to answer the call. “Some are called to go,” says Dr. Jacumin, “some are called to give so others can go.”
If you want to help transform lives through the good works of missionaries and church planters, consider making a gift to the North American Mission Board. NAMB uses 100% contributions to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering to support and train missionaries in North America.