Missionaries are commissioned to travel across cultures and countries to proclaim the message and Good News of Jesus. This can be accomplished through long-term fielding and short-term mission trips, which can vary from providing humanitarian aid, bringing education and business opportunities, to starting churches and doing outreach in communities that have little to no access to the Gospel.
What inspired these international journeys and why is it so significant?
The ultimate goal of Christian missionaries is to proclaim the Gospel in all nations and to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. This originates from Matthew 28:19-20 in the Bible, known as the Great Commission. In this verse, Jesus commands His disciples to spread the name of God to every continent on Earth.
Matthew 28:19-20 states,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(1)
Table of Contents
- Who are Missionaries?
- The Purpose of a Missionary
- The Duties of a Missionary
- The Ultimate Goal of Every Missionary & Missions Work
- Attributes of a Successful Missionary
- 3 Aspects For An Efficient Mission Trip
- Types of Missionary Work
- Steps to Becoming a Missionary
- Are You Called to Missions?
Live a Life of Impact
Interested in pursuing a career in intercultural ministry and missions? At Bethany Global University (BGU) we have undergraduate, graduate, and associate degrees that will train you to work cross-culturally, whether you are called to serve overseas or in the U.S.
Our interculturally-focused programs will equip you to live on mission for Christ and be a light for Jesus in your field of study.
Request more info today to learn how you can live a life of impact.
Who are Missionaries?
Christian missionaries are followers of Jesus who enter a new cultural context and share the Gospel with those who have never heard it. Missionaries build relationships with the community they serve and share the love of Jesus through word and action.
Missionaries give with a servant’s heart. They focus on bringing holistic transformation to places that need it most through business development, education, health clinics, humanitarian relief, and more. They do so in appreciation and gratitude for the blessings God gives them, without expecting something in return.
Galatians 5:13 explains,
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”(2)
The Purpose of A Missionary
A missionary’s purpose is to follow God wherever He calls them. The Bible gives instructions on how to do this.
1 Peter 2:21 states,
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”(3)
Since Jesus redeemed humanity by giving His life for us, Christians are called to share this redemption and salvation with the world. A follower of Jesus is thankful and honored for God’s work in their life. They desire others to experience this same joy and peace.
The Duties of A Missionary
A missionary may work in education, a religious setting, business, or through informal communication as they build community where they live. Every missionary has different skill sets they bring to the table to ultimately share Jesus’ love with those they serve. For example:
- A missionary with a background in education may serve as a teacher in another country.
- A midwife may showcase God’s love through life-saving prenatal and postnatal care.
- Missionaries with business experience may use their skills and knowledge to help develop a community economically.
The most important duty of a missionary is to teach people about Jesus and His commandment to love God and others. Missionaries focus on the needs of the communities they are serving and integrate those needs with evangelism and intercultural ministry.
They ensure their actions not only fulfill a temporary need but are sustained after they have left the community.
Matthew 22:38-39 says,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”(4)
The Ultimate Goal of Every Missionary & Missions Work
Proclaiming the Gospel is the ultimate goal of the church, but what does a missionary practically do on the field?
Listed below are a variety of goals a missionary strives to accomplish while serving where they are called.
Teach The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Missionaries seek to share the Gospel and love of God. Missionaries do not forcefully impose their beliefs on others. Instead, they let God work in and through their lives.
Missionaries live as an inspiration to others. They display what a life following Jesus looks like. They invite others to join them. They pray, worship with, and mentor people with an interest in committing their lives to Jesus.
When a person is ready, missionaries baptize new Christians and teach them the Bible and how to live out their faith. They come together to form a local church and live life in a community.
Matthew 5:16 says,
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”(5)
Show God’s Truth
The importance of sharing God’s truth is so other people may know Jesus. Jesus offers hope through trials and salvation that leads to eternal and abundant life. God’s ultimate desire is for humanity to find new life in Him.
When a missionary shares the truth of God, they portray a new way of living. God transforms and changes lives for the better, by providing light, love, forgiveness, and hope. The missionary is merely a messenger of this.
Have A Giving Heart
A missionary’s priority is to let their neighbors know they love and care for them no matter the circumstances. Having a servant’s heart means they are giving through God’s wisdom and not for their righteousness.
They will do what is needed to help others, regardless of the sacrifice in pay, job description, or location. They do so because they are seeking God’s heart.
The Bible explains that a person with a selfish or egotistical demeanor does nothing for the Lord. Living a life of humility and graciousness is more important to God than a person’s accomplishments.
Philippians 2:3 says,
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”(6)
Bring Love and Unity
Christians across the world are meant to love and forgive their enemies. Missionaries bring a sense of hope into communities through their friendship, communication, counsel, and love.
By teaching the principles of the Bible, missionaries reiterate the value of community, family, justice, mercy, doing what is right, and treating others fairly.
Attributes of A Successful Missionary
A missionary must be joyful in their salvation and desire to share it through a pure and cheerful heart. They must have a firm grounding in the word of God and prayer. Additionally, they must be humble, have a strong work ethic, all-in commitment, and adaptability.
Humility is the most important attribute for Christians to embody. It is the willingness to submit to God and give Him honor for what is accomplished. It includes gratitude for God’s blessings and acknowledgment of His work in your life.
Humility is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of spiritual strength. Humble people work well with others and collectively reach goals that glorify God and better the world.
Strong Work Ethic
A strong work ethic is practical for accomplishing tasks and goals, and it also honors God. God expects you to work diligently and persistently, with great effort and care. Diligence in missionary work is an expression of your love for God and His work. When you are diligent, you find joy and satisfaction in your work.
Successful missionaries understand their cause and vision. They put in the work and faith it takes to see God’s transformation where they serve. All-in commitment develops perseverance. Perseverance develops a harvest.
Galatians 6:9 declares,
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”(7)
The life of a missionary is ever-changing. To be successful, missionaries must learn to embrace change and to problem solve. Adaptability is not always inherent but can be learned. Missionaries do themselves a favor when they are committed to growth, flexibility, and understanding. This helps them acclimate to the new culture, language, and living dynamics on the field.
Three Aspects of an Efficient Mission Trip
Leaving their home country to venture to a significantly different culture is not easy for a missionary. They are stepping into a new lifestyle and setting. Alongside that, they are often living and working with a team.
When going on a mission trip, teams should:
- Determine the purpose
- Prepare as a team
- Have a servant’s heart
1. Determine the Purpose
A successful missionary understands his or her identity in Christ. They travel to show God’s love for others, and the purpose He has for them.
Missionaries invite others to come to Christ by inspiring them to receive the gospel. They lead people through the process of repentance and seeking God.
Being a missionary isn’t easy. Missionaries may be met with opposition and face uncertain circumstances. However, a missionary that determines their purpose will persevere. They will persevere because they recognize the call God has given them: to proclaim the Gospel to the nations and to love the lost.
2. Prepare as a Team
A team of missionaries should get to know each other before traveling into a new culture. It is helpful if they share their testimonies and stories. They must establish a vision, set expectations, decide on roles, and openly communicate with one another.
Often before leaving on a short-term mission trip, or moving overseas long-term, missionaries prepare through team meetings, orientation, and training. They learn healthy boundaries and how to resolve issues.
Teams oriented around God’s standards will face less group conflict than teams motivated by personal desire.
At Bethany Global University (BGU), students pursuing their undergraduate degree go overseas for 13-months on a Global Internship, where they can experience this preparation and team dynamic first-hand.
3. Have A Servant’s Heart
Successful mission trips are built on service, patience, and understanding. Missionaries do not travel to convert people through ulterior motives. They share the message of Jesus and invite others to join. They do not act forcefully, nor do they manipulate through their words or actions.
A good, loving, and authentic missionary will serve and expect nothing in return. This applies if someone chooses to follow Jesus or not.
Jesus lived His ministry by inviting others into the Kingdom of God. He gave them the choice to follow Him or to remain where they were. Missionaries who are serving for the right reasons follow this example.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”(8)
Types of Missionary Work
- Business as Missions
- Church Planting and Discipleship
- Montessori Education and Teaching
- Medical Missions
- Social Justice
- Short-term Volunteer Trips
1. Business as Missions
Business-minded missionaries focus on the entrepreneurial and economic side of the mission field. These Christians open doors of opportunity for communities by creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.
When a Christian business owner opens a business in a different culture, they create unity in the community. They bring God’s Kingdom to earth by valuing what God values and providing job opportunities.
Christians can share the love of Jesus with their employees and live their lives as a testimony to the community.
At Bethany Global University (BGU), we wholeheartedly believe in the power of business as a mission. Our B.A. in Transformational Entrepreneurship in Missions equips students to live out this model in intercultural ministry across the globe.
BGU’s Transformational Entrepreneurship chair, Dr. Tony Foster, explains it like this.
“Business is the model and mechanism of bringing the Gospel [to places that have little to no access to it].”
While working in Thailand and Malaysia, Foster saw the number of local Christians grow from 300 to over 20,000 people. The work he was a part of not only impacted people in their present lives but also for eternity.
To hear more of Dr. Foster’s story, watch his full story here: Discover BGU Faculty – Transformational Entrepreneurship Chair.
2. Church Planting and Discipleship
Church-planting missionaries go to a country where churches are scarce. If there are already Christians in the area, the missionary may help organize a church where they can gather and worship.
Other times, missionaries go into an area with little to no Christians and live as an example for Jesus. If these people choose to dedicate their lives to Jesus, the missionary will disciple them and start a church.
Church planters focus on equipping the local people to run and have ownership over their churches. The ultimate goal is for local people to lead their churches and help other locals do the same.
Missionaries who do this type of work are often trained in Intercultural Ministry Studies, a degree program we offer here at BGU.
2022 BGU grad, Tyler Rogers, shared his story of how God moved in and through him during his Global Internship. For 13-months starting his junior year, Tyler worked in a local church that supported a group of people who were rejected by others in their country.
“[They] know that Jesus is the right way, but are scared to leave Islam. It’s heartbreaking to see how they are treated in the country, but it’s also a good example to show them Christ’s love…They’re ready to come to the church,” Tyler said.
The church became a place of refuge for the Fulani people. It was a source of healing, acceptance, and love. Tyler expresses his gratitude to be a part of this work.
Hear Tyler’s full story at Tyler’s Experience at BGU.
3. Montessori Education
Education is a necessary part of a healthy society. There are numerous places across the globe in need of education and quality educators. Schools are a mission field in and of themselves, no matter where you live. There are always students, coworkers, and families in need of knowing God’s love for them.
Missionaries gifted and qualified in education bring a unique dynamic to the mission field. They provide long-term solutions and opportunities to communities while working interpersonally with students and families.
They speak God’s truth into their students’ lives and remind them that they are unconditionally loved and cared for by God.
Educators, especially those trained in Montessori Education in Missions, have a special opportunity on the mission field. Most places in the world gladly welcome them.
BGU’s Education in Missions chair, Michelle Thompson, at explains it like this:
“Montessori is in over 170 places in the world. A door that might otherwise be closed to missions can be unlocked and opened through Montessori [education]. Everywhere people want what’s best for their children, and education is one of those primary things they want.”
Education transforms lives and can be the determining factor of a person’s opportunity later in life. It can function as a tool to alleviate poverty, human trafficking, and other injustices. Education on the mission field provides the opportunity to share the love of God, which endures for all of eternity.
To learn more about education in missions, watch Thompson’s story here: Discover BGU Faculty – Education in Missions Chair.
4. Medical Missions
Medical missionaries, such as midwives, have a unique and beautiful role in cross-cultural mission work.
At Bethany Global University (BGU), we explain it like this: “There are no cultural, religious, or political barriers to expressing the compassion and mercy demonstrated through this relational role.” (8)
Midwives and qualified healthcare providers offer life-saving care to people who may otherwise never receive it. These missionaries increase the health of the nation they are serving by valuing mothers, children, and community members.
They tangibly portray God’s healing and love through their care of physical ailments and needs. Additionally, they work personally with their patients and can verbally share the love of God.
Medical missions can be short-term trips focused on training local physicians and bringing medical supplies. Healthcare workers can also move overseas long-term to join a clinic or start their own.
BGU’s Midwifery department chair, Krystina McNeil, has personally witnessed many people impacted by the love of Jesus through medical missions.
“One of our students developed a good relationship with her client and took care of her through pregnancy and delivery,” McNeil explains.
As a result of that care, the new mother and her family began a Bible study within their home.
“When the student left there was a small church the lady and her family had started, by gathering their neighbors and sharing the Gospel with the people around them,” McNeil said.
You can watch the full story here: Krystina McNeil’s chair interview.
5. Social Justice
Christians passionate about social justice travel across the globe to advocate for human rights and the fair treatment of all people. Common causes they advocate for are rescuing individuals from human trafficking, forced labor, discrimination, and poverty.
Social justice mission work is commonly paired with business, education, medical missions, and government involvement. It is inspired by Biblical scripture and the life of Jesus, who commonly advocated for the oppressed.
Jeremiah 22:3 states,
“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”(9)
6. Short-Term Volunteer Trips
Short-term mission trips are typically hosted by gap year programs, churches, or mission organizations. The duration of a short-term trip is typically between 1 week and 3 months.
These trips focus on providing manual labor to aid an organization, church, clinic, or school. The majority of volunteers spend their time serving by providing disaster relief, work projects, and repairing different homes and buildings.
Individuals on these trips may also teach in Sunday school or host programs at local churches.
Steps to Becoming a Missionary
The process of becoming a missionary varies on a person’s previous work and educational experience. In most cases, an aspiring missionary requires cultural and language training and an applicable trade or skill they can utilize.
If you are considering a career in intercultural ministry and missions you can start by:
- Attending a training school like Bethany Global University (BGU). Choose from four degree programs to become equipped in cross-cultural Christian ministry in the specialization of your choice.
- Further developing your calling through a Certificate in Bible and Missions.
Are You Called to Missions?
If you are a Christian who is passionate about God and other people, missions and intercultural ministry may be the career for you.
Whether you have been overseas or not, it is never too late to pursue your passion for bringing the Gospel to people who have little access to it.
At Bethany Global University (BGU), we train and equip students who are interested in living on mission for Christ, wherever they are called to serve and work after graduation.
During our four-year degree program, students are prepared to successfully live and work in another culture. All undergraduate students go on a 13-month Global Internship where they practically train alongside experienced ministries.
Request more info here to learn more about BGU’s programs and how you can answer God’s calling on your life.