A young high-school or college-aged student has recently become a Christian and is "on fire" for Christ. While this fire is still burning brightly he goes on a mission trip (to Mexico or Haiti, of course) and then it hits him: He wants to be a missionary! This is indeed what God is calling him to do.
Seriously, now what? What does someone do to become a missionary? Where does someone go to find out what it takes to become a missionary?
Perhaps it is his youth pastor? Or maybe his church's senior minister? Maybe he should just google "missionary" online and see what he gets. (Yeah, maybe not!) Or would someone down at the Bible college know about how someone becomes a missionary?
It is frightening the kinds of advice this young man is going to get from all of these different quarters. Many will smile real big and say, "Great!" while inside they are saying, "You'll never make it!" Others will overtly try to talk him out of the idea or question God's calling of him. Some with try to psychoanalyze him and say he is being eccentric because of pent-up angst stemming from being bullied or neglected as a child. There will always be the multitude of people saying that you don't have to be a missionary to be a Christian and that good works do not earn us salvation. (When did that become the issue?) A few will be impressed. Most will assume it is just a phase.
Then some will point this young man to the traditional means by which many people have become missionaries for centuries: Theological training institutions. The young man visits such an institution and meets people who indeed advise him on how he can become a missionary if he's really committed. This includes theological training and graduating with a theological degree, ordination to missionary service and then commissioning to the field through a missionary or denominational agency.
So... what's the problem with all of this, you might ask?
Our world has changed. Traditional ways of doing missions only works in places that allow traditional missions. And you know what? The vast majority of people who are unreached and have never been given the opportunity to follow Christ live in places where traditional missionaries are not welcome.
What's a young missionary wannabe to do?
I'll share some of my thoughts in my next post.