What it Takes to Be a Missionary

At heart, you’re an idealist.

You day dream about traveling to new countries and being a witness to those around you. In your mind you play the scenarios of seeing the darkest and most unlikely soul come to faith in Jesus Christ.

You may even day dream about being the next apostle Paul, traveling to different countries, equipping and training young believers!

You think of starting churches in the hardest and darkest places. You wonder what it will take to get to the mountain village that has never heard of Jesus. Or you picture in your mind holding children that have never felt a warm embrace.

These dreams are fueled because you’re tired of hearing that some people are going to hell and you want to do something about it. Not only that, but ultimately, you want to reach the world for Christ because you want to glorify His name.

You may think that in order to fulfill those dreams all you need is passion and to trust that God will open the doors for you to go somewhere.

You may even end up going with all your youthful zeal, but….

You may find yourself disillusioned by loneliness, despair and crushed dreams if you’re not sure what it takes to be a missionary.

This happens all the time. Missionaries go out with these hopeful dreams only to realize that none of them come to fruition So how do we prepare to stay on the field for a lifetime of impact and avoid coming back prematurely? Here are 5 traits it takes to be a successful missionary:

1. Vibrant Spirituality


Cultivating a heart for God and the power of the Gospel is foundational to every believer. This happens through digging deep into the word, prayer, and community.

The Prophet Jeremiah said, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” —Jeremiah 20:9

The ministry God gives you will flow out of your relationship with God. A lack of spiritual vibrancy will end up in fruitless ministry. Why? Because you can’t take people where you’ve never been, which leads to the next point.

2. Ability to Make Disciples


If you want to be a missionary, not only do you have to be a mature disciple, but you also have to be able to make disciples. You have to train believers, young and old, how to be true followers of Jesus.

Discipleship is not just reading His word, it’s living it out. This means that if you are to make disciples, you should know what it takes to train, empower, and motivate people to keep following Jesus when times are tough.

3. Intercultural Skills


48% of the world has not heard of Jesus.

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…48% of the world has not heard of Jesus and they are in the hardest and darkest places.

The new places you may go are places where you will be venturing into unknown territory. A successful missionary is one who knows how to dissect and socialize with a culture in such a way that they can clearly communicate the gospel.

Just imagine if you were speaking English to a person who only knew Arabic. No matter how hard you tried, they could never understand you. The same is true for culture.

Many times, young people go overseas and preach the gospel from a western perspective (USA) which 2/3 of the world will not understand. Understanding someone’s culture is just as important as being able to speak their language.

4. Willingness To Do Hard Things


In our culture we have been sucked into a life of comfort. Comfort is the idol of the day in America.

In order to be a missionary, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to step outside of your comfort zone and try to interact with people you don’t know.

You will have to sacrifice some pleasures (video games, hot showers, what you want to wear, etc.) in order to reach people.

Why? Because the apostle Paul says,

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” —1 Corithians 9:19-23

The more you are able to give up your rights and do the hard things, the more successful you will be as a missionary.

5. A Strong Community


One of the main reasons people come off the field is because of community. You have to look at community in 2 areas:

The first is your community back home. These are the people and church that are going to be sending you and praying for you. If you don’t have a strong community who doesn’t financially and spiritually support you, you will find yourself stressed out with trying to make a living, rather than giving life to those around you.

The second is a community on the mission field. This one is tricky if you are in a place with no believers around. That is why it’s important for you to go overseas with a team and find ways to stay in contact with those back home until you start making connections on the field.

You may read all of this and think to yourself, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to go on the field!”

Fear not. You may not have what it takes now, but this is why at Bethany Global University we strive to equip you for a lifetime of impact as a missionary.

No one is born with these traits, they grow into them. We are not the only ones who do this, but this is why BGU exists: to help you grow as a mature believer who takes the church to where it’s not.

If this is something you would be interested in, then check us out! Also, If you have some thoughts about what it takes to be a missionary, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.