Missionary Calling 1.01

Go Ye Therefore And Teach All NationsBack in March I posted a brief introduction to the idea of “calling” as it relates to missions. I asked whether our current understanding of calling is biblical. I still have a lot of thoughts I need to articulate on our conception of calling, but until that day comes, please allow me to share what I came across today.

NationsBeGlad posted this tweet linking to an article on the “desiringGod” blog.

In this article, David Sitton challenges his readers, saying Don’t Complicate the ‘Missionary Call’. Sitton argues the Macedonian call experiences are for missionaries already on the go. A believer can’t get ahead of God as it relates to missions.

Here is a salient quote from the blog post:

I chuckle when I hear missionaries and pastors talk about “surrendering to the call” of ministry. I always want to ask, “After you surrendered, were you water-boarded, or just hauled off in handcuffs and leg irons.” Was it really necessary for you to be abducted by a heavenly vision before you would go into the work of the gospel?

The missionary call is not like a prison dog that tracks us down, sniffs us out, and hog-ties us for the nations. That is silly-talk and really bad theology. Nowhere in Scripture is a mysterious (supernatural) call a prerequisite before we can respond to the Great Commission. The opposite is actually true.

Personally, I appreciate his sentiments. We don’t need to have extra revelation, in the form of calling, to be obedient to special revelation we already have.

The only thing that I want to add to the whole discussion on missionary calling is that I think we need to move beyond the sole focus on individuals, qua individuals, as the primary agents of mission/s. I believe scripture gives us an  ecclesial emphasis in mission. Jesus sends the church. As members of a unified and maturing body, individuals gifted and set apart for service are sent in plural teams, as agents of the church. You see this repeatedly throughout the NT.

What are your thoughts?

Are you guilty of allowing your view of calling keep you from obedience to the Great Commission?

Don’t just ask this question of yourself as an individual, has your church adopted a view of calling that inhibits gospel ministry at home and abroad?



Add yours →

  1. There is so much I could say.

    1) I believe that the idea of a call has the potential to allow some to be disobedient. Notice I said, has the potential. This does not mean everyone who holds to this view should be lumped in here. Both those who are waiting for such a call and those who have received it may be disobedient.

    Those who wait for it will not do anything until they receive the call…even though it is outlined in scripture. Of course, we may discuss what the “it” involves. Is “it” just missions in other nations? Or can “it” be the spreading of the gospel in general.

    Dare I say we should go where we see the spirit moving. Or will I be accused of being to much like Donald MacGavran again. 🙂

    Those who have obeyed the call may also use this to allow them to do whatever they want when on the mission field. If anyone seeks to hold them accountable to some actions this call may result in the rejection of any ideas of someone who has not “received the call to go overseas.” But this is a very slippery subject.

    As is usual some who are not like this will think I am writing about them. But I may not be. But these people do exist across the pond and on this side of the pond too (I refer to some pastors here).

    2) As far as the church’s mission. I have been thinking in terms of evangelism/missions in community. This would be different than personal evangelism. I haven’t quite teased this out myself, nor do I know if this is a fair distinction because I believe that both personal and corporate evangelism are what is expected in scripture. But I believe I may have opened a can of worms here. I think I may be speaking more of methodology than anything else here…though I appear to have outlined nothing. I am being opaque. So I’ll just leave it out there and see what comments derive from this to perhaps bring about more clarity to my meaning.

    I suppose this is the result of not having it teased out a little more.
    D dub.

    • Dougald,

      I like how George Peters, in A Biblical Theology of Missions, argues against the idea that God calls individuals to places. We have one primary example in scripture where Paul sees the vision of the Macedonian calling him. But that’s it. I don’t doubt those types of experiences happen. But they are not normative. And like the author of the blog post I quote, those come to folks who are already moving on mission.

      You also bring up an important issue about those who have “obeyed the call”, but I’ll save that for a later date in some posts on “Entitlement and Calling”. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while. letting it steep a little before adding sugar and cream.

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