The Call to Missions

D. Joshua Grimsley

New Horizons: May 2024

Anna Strikwerda

Also in this issue

The OPC’s First Martyr: Anna Strikwerda

Most Christians, when asked the question, “Have you ever considered whether God might be calling you to the foreign mission field?” would immediately hesitate. “God wouldn’t call me! I don’t have what it takes! There are so many others who are more qualified! Aren’t those chosen for foreign missions usually super Christians?”

I think our foreign missionaries would be the first to say that there is nothing “super” about themselves. They don’t see themselves as more qualified or holier than their brothers and sisters in Christ. Piety or zeal didn’t qualify them for missionary work—it was the call of God on their lives to serve his kingdom in distant lands. God called, and they answered.

External Call

An external call occurs when believers recognize qualifications in others and encourage them to consider God’s calling to serve in his church. Perhaps the most common example of an external call is when a local church formally asks a minister to serve their congregation or when a congregation elects a man to be a ruling elder or a deacon. For missionaries, the external call often begins by fellow believers asking something like, “Have you ever considered whether God might be calling you to the foreign mission field?”

In the case of a church extending a call to a pastor, it’s important to ask, “By what authority does the church extend that call?” The answer, of course, is by the authority of Jesus Christ, the church’s King and Head. Our Lord Jesus entrusted the keys of the kingdom to the officers of the church, delegating authority to call, commission, and send qualified individuals where the kingdom requires them. Therefore, answering his call is equivalent to receiving marching orders from the King himself to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3). The external call, especially when echoed by many believers, should not be taken lightly. God often speaks through his church to draw believers into deeper service to their Savior (Acts 6:3).

Internal Call

While the external call is vital, there is another call that is deeper and more personal: the internal call. An internal call occurs when God shapes the desires of our hearts toward his purposes. We begin to see the church’s need, yearn to reach lost souls, and desire to serve God however he sees fit. Ultimately, our desires are confirmed by the external call, as we are both prompted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit and urged by fellow believers to heed our heavenly Father’s call. Paul encourages this internal call in 1 Timothy 3:1, where he says, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” Let us recognize the nobleness of desiring a calling: God has placed in some believers’ hearts a desire to serve as church officers. It is God who plants “servant desires” in our hearts.

Our Marching Orders

On a personal note, let me briefly explain how God gave “marching orders” to my family. Over the past decade, our small OP congregation in Concho, Arizona, has been visited by several foreign missionaries. These missionaries would often ask the thought-provoking question about considering foreign missionary service. For several years, my wife, Danielle, and I prayed that if God opened a door for us to serve in foreign missions, we would eagerly step through it. The seeds planted by visiting missionaries, nurtured by regular prayer, were gradually brought to fruition by Christ our King.

In June 2023, while serving as a ruling elder commissioner at the Eighty-Ninth General Assembly, I listened as the Committee on Foreign Missions gave their report, especially when Douglas Clawson called us to pray, “Here I am, Lord; send me.” During the break following the report, I was approached by two fellow commissioners who said, “Joshua, you need to speak with the men on the missions committee!” The rest of that break felt like a whirlwind as I met several men involved in foreign missions. That was a turning point. When I called Danielle that evening and asked if she was still willing to go to Africa, her answer was a resounding “Yes!”

Our experience may not be typical, but it followed a pattern seen before: a general call is issued, taking root in the hearer’s heart. The desire grows, fueled by fellow believers’ encouragement. Finally, the need becomes so pressing that the one called can do little more than say, “Here I am, Lord; send me.” When God calls us, it is imperative not to shut our ears to that calling. Instead, with fear and trembling, we should consider: “Is God using my fellow believers to call me to service in the mission field?”

Might God be Calling you?

Some are drawn immediately to service—like Simon, Andrew, James, and John—while others are drawn despite their reluctance—think of Moses, Gideon, or Jonah. Still others see their misplaced desires shaped or transformed by God himself. The Apostle Paul is a sharp illustration of desires being radically transformed. In Acts 9, as Saul pursues Christians in Damascus, God knocks him into the dirt and calls him to salvation in the name of Jesus. God basically opens a door and pushes Saul through, transforming him from being a hunter of Christians into a fisher of men. Paul’s zeal did not diminish after his conversion! Rather, he preached “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). He desired to do this, counting his own suffering as next to nothing compared to the glories of being with Christ. Paul preached and suffered for the name of Christ with abundant joy.

Please ponder and take to heart whether God is calling you. In Colossians 4:2–3, we read, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.” God commands his people to continue in prayer and especially to pray for open doors for those declaring the good news. This is so relevant to our current need: Fervently pray that God would call missionaries to the field. And this is also relevant to you: Pray that God would open a door for you to declare the mystery of Christ to the lost.

The author is a missionary associate serving with the OP Uganda Mission in Nakaale, Karamoja, Uganda. New Horizons, May 2024.

New Horizons: May 2024

Anna Strikwerda

Also in this issue

The OPC’s First Martyr: Anna Strikwerda

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