How to Become a Missionary
Missionary Work Abroad
God calls His people to be on mission, whether that is in their own homes or across the world.
Indeed, Jesus did not isolate certain disciples to follow the command in Matthew 28:19-20 while
telling the others, “but you don’t have to worry about it.” So here’s the question: Are we all
missionaries simply by being Christians, or is there a process to becoming a missionary? What
does it even mean to be a missionary? In the well-known verse already mentioned, as well as in
Acts 1:7-8 Jesus does not use the that title, but instead says we are to witness, teach, and help
others follow him. And of course there is the command to GO, or, as some Greek scholars have
pointed out, can also mean “as you are going.” This is how Jesus said news of him would go from
Jerusalem, throughout Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. It is clear that all Christians are
to be part of this work, none of us are excluded. We are all sent on this mission. Yet we do see in
scripture a unique kind of obedience to which not everyone is called. That is the work of a cross-
cultural bearer of the Good News. Today this is what we typically associate with the word,
No doubt you landed on this webpage from an interest in international missions, and the verses
above excite you. Perhaps you or someone you know is asking, “How do I become a missionary?”,
or you are in a point in life where you are saying, “I can be a missionary now.” Where do you begin?
Are you called to foreign missions?
Perhaps, like some, you’ve had a desire to serve God in another country since childhood. Others are just now saying, “I want to be a missionary,” later in life. Regardless, God uses all ages on the mission field. We’ve witnessed God do incredible things from couples spending their retirement years in developing countries, all the way to missionary kids modeling Christ’s love within neighborhoods of their adopted cultures. Depending on your religious background, you may be confused about what it takes to “be called” to missions abroad. The account of Nik Ripkin and his wife Ruth in their book, “The Insanity of God,” shows the drastic difference in these realities as they seek approval from a missions board. Ruth, having grown up in church, knew the “right things to say” regarding a call to missions; whereas Nik, coming to faith later in life, answered that he simply read Jesus’s words in Matthew 28:19-20 to go into all the world. -
Indeed, if you are seeking God’s guidance in your life and are willing to follow Him to a different country, you are likely called to foreign missions! Missionaries often get a bad reputation as “Super Christians.” For their sake, please remove your missionary friends from this pedestal. It is simple obedience, no more complicated than loving our neighbors. Yet this calling will look different to almost everyone. Will you serve on short-term mission teams, or will you sell everything and move across the seas to be a full time missionary? Will you leave as soon as possible, or is the timing for your call still some way off? Only God, through His Holy Spirit and discernment within a faith community can shed light on these kinds of questions.
We are ready to help you start navigating these complexities in discovering how to become a missionary.
Preparing To Be A Missionary
Prayer & the Spiritual Disciplines
If you are not already making space in your life to receive God’s leading, today is the time to start. Established habits of dedicated time connecting with the Lord are essential before landing in a strange new culture. If you do not know where to start on this, check out Richard Foster’s classic book, “Celebration of Discipline” - https://renovare.org/books/celebration-of-discipline
We Americans typically balk at the word “discipline.” However, don’t let this put you off.
Instead of the disciplines mentioned in this book being hard acts striving for religious righteousness, quite the contrary they are practices proven to help Christians get in a posture to more fully understand God’s righteousness in us. Start here and God can faithfully lead you into the good works He planned for you (Ephesians 2:10).
Community of Faith
Who is walking out your faith with you? It’s true some are called to “GO” take the Good News to
those who haven’t yet heard it. But it also takes people who are willing to “SEND.” Just as Paul
writes in Romans 10: 13-15:
“ 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [a] 14 How, then, can they call
on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have
not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone
preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good
So the feet of those who bring the Good News are more than just those who physically travel. It
takes an entire community of faith, providing much more than financial resources, in order to
effectively take the Good News to others. Re-read the different missionary journeys of Paul and his
partners and take note of how essential to Paul’s work, is the work of Christians who never leave
their hometown. In fact, read these examples of senders in the book of Acts:
“2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and
Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their
hands on them and sent them off.” – Acts 13:2-3
“22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and
send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who
were leaders among the believers.” – Acts 15:22
One of the next big steps in serving in foreign missions is having a solid faith community to send you. If you are not a part of one yet, begin praying now for God to plant you in one that will help you
in growth and discernment. Check out this book with the community of faith who is willing to send
you – “Sending as Servers” by Neal Pirolo -
We want to partner with your sending community of faith to make sure you have all the right support
as you go.
Don’t wait to walk in obedience
What are you doing now? If you are not a missionary in your own culture, you won’t be one by
moving to another. Going back to what we said above, living on mission is not optional to a follower
of Jesus. Even before you have a clear path to a foreign mission field, begin looking for ways to live
out the Great Commission where you are right now.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in I Samuel 14:1-23 when Jonathan acted on a core belief
about God: Nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only
a few! Acting on this belief, he went with his armor bearer up against an army, in a plan that allowed
God to lead their actions. God decided to work through their boldness and he led those two men
into a seemingly impossible situation and on to victory for all of Israel. As you think about the
possibility of foreign missions, ask yourself and God these three questions:
1. What do I know, without a doubt, about God?
2. What am I doing to act on those beliefs?
3. Do my plans allow for God to choose the path?
Choosing a Mission Sending Organization
You may be wanting to know how to become a Baptist missionary, a missionary from an
independent church, or some other denomination. Many denominations have their own mission
sending organizations and it may be beneficial for you to pursue missions through them. However,
there are also many missionary sending organizations, both large and small, who work with
Christians from a multitude of backgrounds and church affiliations. Each will have its own strengths
and weaknesses, so it is important to seek God in connecting you with the organization that will be
the best fit for your work. Sheltering Wings is non-denominational and works within many different
Sheltering Wings is a small missionary sending organization that started over twenty years ago
through the bold obedience of one sister in Christ, Ruth Cox. One of our great strengths is that as
the number of missionaries as grown, the sense of family among the missionaries has grown too.
Our missionaries continue in the bold pioneering spirit of our founder.
One strength of being a small organization is the ability to customize our support according to
missionary needs and the needs of their partnering churches. Because of our flexibility, we have
also been able to develop the ability to support our missionaries in large-scale humanitarian works,
including child, family, and widow sponsorships.
Sheltering Wings is honored to partner with churches in sending missionaries around the world.
With the complexities of moving and ministering cross-culturally, we are equipped to help you and
your sending church through this process. Please read through the steps in our process of
becoming a missionary through Sheltering Wings. The timeline for this process can take anywhere
from 6 months to 2 years:
New Missionary Application & Training Process
Submit Application Documents:
SW Background Check Authorization
SW Waiver and Release
SW Statement of Faith
SW Statement of Christian Conduct
SW Media Relations Consent Agreement
SW Personal Information and Emergency Contacts
Mission Statement (Examples attached)
Receive Sheltering Wings Organization Documents:
Country specific handbook
APPROVAL OR DENIAL BY SHELTERING WINGS HOME OFFICE.
Sheltering Wings administrative representative meets with your church leadership representative by phone or in person
Complete SW Church Partnership Form
Ensure that the Missionary Care Team is in place
Fund Raising Preparation:
Develop prayer team (part of Support Team mentioned above)
Develop promotional materials (brochures, prayer cards, emails, etc.)
Develop personal/family page for the Sheltering Wings website
Develop donor distribution list
Arrange for use of displays
Culture and language preparation - MTI COMPASS or equivalent
Relevant security training according to area of service
Other practical ministry specific training (Bible, medical, agricultural, orphan care etc.)
Required reading specific to area of service and type of ministry
Identify resources for ongoing learning
Team formation with existing missionaries on the field
General Missionary and Travel Requirements:
Obtain suitable international health and evacuation insurance
Receive necessary vaccines
Purchase necessary prophylaxis
Obtain necessary Visas
Complete preliminary risk assessment, contingency plans, and evacuation plans
Have you heard the famous quote, “God doesn’t call the equipped, but he equips the called”? It may have become cliché, but we find it is still true. Most of our missionaries did not leave high school or college on a professional path to be a missionary. Let us seek the Lord with you for the best training needed for where you are being sent. As you noticed in the list above, we partner with a mission training group called Missions Training International https://www.mti.org/compass/ who conducts a
month-long course on language acquisition and culture awareness, which is a solid foundation no matter where you are going. In addition to language and culture training, several mission fields benefit from various levels of security training. We partner with organizations like Concilium, Fort Sherman Academy, and Crisis Consulting International to equip and build resilience in our missionaries to serve wherever God is calling them. We will help you decide whether that should be an online video, or a training involving simulations that lasts up to several days. As an important part of counting the cost, we require our missionaries to conduct at least one vision trip to the country where they will be moving. Ask God to build the team who is to go with you, walk the land, and discern what you need to learn while there. A trip of at least 10 days would be considered minimal. Have you already traveled to the country to which you are moving? Tell us about it! In addition to all of this, we sometimes require reading some of the incredible books out there about missions. Depending on the context of where you will be serving, you may want to go ahead andstart digging into these great titles:
Book Resource Guide
Walking with the Poor – Bryant Meyers
The Great Omission – Steve Saint
The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
African Friends and Money Matters – David Maranz
When Helping Hurts – Fikkert, Corbett
Facing Danger: A Guide through Risk – Anna Hampton
The Insanity of God – Nik Ripken, Gregg Lewis
God’s Smuggler – Brother Andrew
God’s Hostage – Andrew Brunson
Sit, Walk, Stand – Watchman Nee
Celebration of Discipline – Richard Foster
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes – O’Brien & Richards
Cultural Tools for Interpreting the Good News – Pilch
Third Culture Kids – Pollock & Reken
Being a Missionary
Finally, let’s talk briefly about how to be a missionary, which is different than how to become a missionary. Matt Black is one of our longest serving missionaries, and he really captures it with the phrase he uses to describe his 20+ years of mission’s experience: “It is a journey of the heart.” This is important to understand because as much as God wants to bless those in other cultures through you, he is just as eager to grow your spiritual maturity through what you learn from believers
in those other cultures. This is why, as a missionary, it is critical to maintain the posture of a learner. Looking at some of the uglier parts of missions history we can see the negative impact of those who went abroad thinking they had all the answers. By focusing more on systems or religious traditions, many missionaries have helped build the unhealthy mentalities of white savior-ism and neo-colonialism. As a western missionary, push yourself to understand the dynamics of coming from a dominate culture. Maintain a curiosity and a learning spirit regarding the different values of individualists cultures vs. communal cultures. Continually seek to understand the dynamics of honor/shame as well as patron/client relationships of other cultures. Stay intimately connected to God throughout your time on the field, remaining sensitive to his leading. He will help guard against any tendencies to idolize ministry or even our role in it. Missionaries need to be serious about their spiritual disciplines. They need to stay closely
connected to their communities of faith in their home culture and their adopted culture. To support this endeavor, we strive to continually pour into our missionaries. Every two years we host a missionary conference/retreat as a time of connecting and refreshment. We encourage our missionaries in ongoing
practices of good self-care. We encourage our missionaries in continual
learning through books, conferences, and training.
Do you sense God’s leading to foreign missions? Are you seeking full time missions’ opportunities, short term missions’ opportunities, family missionary opportunities, or single missionary opportunities? Are you seeking churches looking to support missionaries? We are eager to seek God’s will with you. Call, email, or click the “Let’s Chat” text box us to get started. May God bless this journey of the heart.