You Should Not Become a Missionary

Yes, your eyes are working fine and no, I have not been kidnapped by satanic monkeys trying to subvert God’s purpose in the world. However, before you start a petition to burn me at the heretical stake, hear me out.

In our Christian culture that elevates “spiritual work” above any other vocation, foreign missionaries are often seen as new-age monks. I’m afraid that many Christians, confused by what the church says about missions, are idolizing vocational ministry as the spiritual high point of all work.

I’ve never been to premarital counseling mostly because I’ve never been close to getting married (shocker right?). I do, however, know many pastors who do premarital counseling. One of them told me recently that he spends the first several sessions of counseling trying to convince the couple to break up. That’s right, he tries his hardest to talk them out of getting married. If they can be so easily swayed, they are probably getting married because of external pressure or purpose and not internal desire.

I beg you to allow me, for just a few minutes, to do some pre-missional counseling. I don’t think you should go into vocational ministry for the following reasons:

  • You believe being a missionary will make you a better Christian because you will be doing “spiritual work.” If this is your view, you will always covet the work of missionaries who have a greater influence.
  • You believe being a pastor will bring you closer to God. If you become a pastor for this reason, you will blame the small size of your church on your own lack of spiritual discipline.
  • You believe working in a non-profit is the Christian way to use your gifts & abilities. If this is you, how can you help but look down on those who call themselves ‘Christians’ but have sold out to for-profit companies.

If you’re still ready to throw me on the fire, maybe the words of history’s most famous heretic will help sway your mind:

I advice no one to enter any religious order or the priesthood, indeed, I advise everyone against it – unless he is forearmed with this knowledge and understands that the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone.

– Martin Luther

It’s worth repeating: “ALL works are measured before God by faith alone.” Perhaps the most heretical idea of all is that by choosing a “Christian career” you can earn favor in God’s eyes.

Yes, vocational ministry is an excellent opportunity to forcefully advance God’s kingdom on earth but it’s not the only way. In fact, if you have been given a great mind for science, I perhaps you would be unwise to waste that talent as a foreign missionary. After all, who gave you that great mind?

It is critical that we send missionaries into unreached countries but we must not neglect the unreached companies.

I’ve saved the most compelling reason that you should not be a full-time missionary for last:

You already are a full-time missionary.

Whether you work in China or in Coke-a-Cola (or even if you’re just a student at the University of Georgia), you are an ambassador for Jesus Christ. Everything you do with a heart that honors the Lord is spiritual and everything you do with base desires is secular.

My greatest fear is that you will spend your life looking toward the week you spend sharing the love of Christ overseas and waste that same opportunity the rest of the year.