How Do I Choose a Mission Field?

At the age of 14, just 6 months after I received Christ as my Savior, I gave my life to serve God on the mission field. At 14, I really had no clue what missions entailed. I had no idea about visa’s or set-up funds, deputation or mission boards. I was a kid with a huge dream to do something great for the cause of Christ. I knew that I had a gospel that people everywhere else in the world were without. People in Africa and Asia were starving while I had bountiful resources to feast upon daily. However, it did not take long after giving my life to missions that the huge question was asked, “Where are you going?”
This was not in the application process, and no-one told me that I had to choose a mission field at 14. So many questions began flooding my mind and would continue to bother me for over 10 years. How do I know where God wants me? What if I choose the wrong country? When will I know? How will I know? Even after finishing Bible college and finishing my internship as a youth pastor for a year I was still dealing with these questions. I always thought I would enjoy serving in Africa but the decision overwhelmed me. I went to my mission board, Vision Baptist Missions, and told them I was ready to start deputation. They immediately asked me which country I would start my church-planting ministry in and my response probably surprised them. “I have no idea!” Such a vital part of starting deputation yet doubts filled my mind and questioned plagued me.
Now, as a missionary finishing deputation and leaving for India on February 5, 2015; I would like to share how God has brought me where I am today. Maybe it will be a help, maybe it won’t. At the end of the day the only person that can make this huge decision is you. You must get alone with God and seek his guidance. You must spend time talking to Godly men that can help you. However, while you patiently wait and seek God maybe this will be a blessing to you and give you some practical reminders of how you will make that decision.
640px-Jesus_sky_writing_over_gore_hill_cemeteryStop looking for the writing in the sky
For many years after surrendering to missions I was waiting to see a plane fly by my house pulling a banner telling me to go to Mali, Africa. I was waiting for the slap across the face that made it obvious to me which mission field to go to. Pastor’s and friends telling me, “You will just know”, were not helping. I was wanting a dream or a verse that told me what to do but we are not given such revelations. There is no verse that talks about being a missionary to India. As we watch the apostle Paul make missionary journeys we do not see him waiting for miraculous revelations but instead moving forward where he saw opportunity. Even after being held back by the Spirit and receiving the Macedonian call in a dream the Bible tells us in Acts 16:10 that he “assuredly gathered” that is where they should go. He weighed the options and made a decision based on the information provided to him.
Start collecting information
This is so simple but God cannot call you to a mission field you have never heard about. I desired to be a missionary to Africa at 14 because that was the only place I knew about. I really thought that if you are a missionary you go to Africa! However, as I grew and learned I was presented with the need of India. After 10 years of praying about missions I literally never once considered India. I basically did not know that it existed as a mission field or that they even needed missionaries. It took a pastor friend with a burden for India to spark the burden I have today. Begin asking missionaries and pastors that you meet what are some countries that God has burdened them about that you should consider. Missionaries live in mission conferences and are constantly meeting other missionaries. In 2 years of deputation I have learned about several countries I had never heard about. God has given me a great burden to see Indonesia reached with the gospel. Vietnam with 94 million people that 99% have yet to be reached. It may surprise you but if you asked me where I thought you should go as a missionary I most likely will tell you somewhere besides India. Amazing that when the need of Judaea was presented to the Church of Antioch in Acts 11 they raised up and met the need.
Forget Personal Preferences
Many people use their heritage or hobbies as a “call” to a place. I am asking you to set these preferences aside for a moment. Mission work is not about your adventure or interests but finding those who have never heard and telling them. We need men who are willing to go where it is more difficult, where the culture is far from accepting of ours, where your interests will be rejected. This is so important because your “love” for their culture or people is never strong enough to keep you in the work. When “your people” begin mistreating you and rejecting you it will take something deeper to keep you there. It may be that you end up in that country of interest but I fear that you will not stay if you are not willing to go anywhere in this world. Jesus taught us an important lesson in Mark 6:4, “But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” No matter how much you have in common with a people, if they reject the gospel, they are rejecting you. Jesus own people tried to throw him off a cliff so he left and did not work there but instead found a place that they were receptive to the working of God.
Look for a place that God is working
666111In the book of Matthew we are called lights to the darkness of this world. we are commanded to shine so that we can make a difference. We are to impact the darkness with our lives. The only way to do this is to find a place that is dark. Obviously, most will tell you that everywhere is dark and that is true but there are places in this world untouched by the light of the gospel. There are places that are receptive to the light and places where they have become hardened to the light of the gospel as they have been surrounded by it for generations. Christ talking to his disciples told them as he sent them two by two to preach the gospel that when they entered a city or country that rejected the light they were to move to another location and shake the dust off there feet. Christ wanted his disciples to go where people were responding to the gospel. This is what excited me so much about India. People hearing the Word for the first time and responding to salvation.
 I chose India because I saw an opportunity to do something great for God. There was no dream or verse but rather a need. At the end of the day, God is looking for men that are willing to serve Him anywhere in this world. God is not concerned with the where but the who. The biggest thing is not a mission field but what will you do when you get there. A man training, multiple church-planting missionary will effect the world from where ever they are. You can pick the greatest mission field but if you go without the proper training you will miss out on what God could do there through you. You have come to the right place to hear training for missions wherever you decide God would use you in this world. We will talk to you about the where but only if we talk 1000 more times about the what.
About the author

Church-planting Missionary to India
10 Responses
  1. Andrew Wilder

    Thanks for writing this Paul! You are exactly right. As a student I can’t even imagine picking a place to go to right now because I have so much to learn about the Bible and about the ministry on the mission field. But Lord willing one day I will be all trained up and will be heading someplace in this world to the mission field.

  2. Ben Thomas

    Thanks for the article, Paul. You stated in your article that you need to forget personal preference, at what point would you begin considering personal preference?

    1. I do not believe we should ever start considering our personal preferences. Our motive for choosing a mission field must be based on the need of the gospel. Your interests will only fail you once you get there so you must have a greater purpose.

  3. Sergey

    This was very helpful! I always have wanted to see where I would be more comfortable or where I would fit the best. It seems like I need to look for where the greater need is.

  4. Nancy Kelly

    That is a great article. By reading this article it helped me to see that you need to go where there is a need for the Gospel.

  5. Kanon Bloom

    Thanks for sharing this Paul! Would you say that God has called you to India and that is where you will try to go no matter what. For example, hypothetical situation, what if you find out that the cost of living is $5000 more a month than expected and you would have to spend two more years on deputation would you switch fields or would you stick with India despite the difficulty. I guess my question is once you have picked your field and the door to going there doesn’t slam shut but just closes some of the way ( becomes more difficult) do you switch fields or not?

    1. That is a tough question Kanon. It is hard to know what you will do until the situation is put into your life. I truly believe that I would continue to the people of India but not because I believe that I have been called there and that God would not use me in another country. I would continue because as we serve God we can not allow small things such as finances or time to change our course. We can not be double minded or else we will become unstable and not accomplish anything for God (James 1:8). There will always be something that gets in your way. If you allow finances to change your mind, what will stop you from changing again when sickness or persecution comes in your new country? When you go to start a church and you hit setback after setback do you change cities or countries again? Even without a “call” from God you must make a decision and live your life for that decision. “No Retreats” is what William Borden wrote in his Bible after loosing all his financial security in life. That is the most important reason we can not choose based on feelings or interest but rather a deep desire to reach people with the gospel.

  6. Austin

    Very good article Paul. I find that some come so set on a place that they never reach. They have determined where to go by some passing interest, some emotional link as a child, or something else quite foolish. I met a missionary once that chose his field by asking God to show him where to go by having someone give him two prayer cards in a row that mentioned the same country. You might laugh but that is a true story.

    Wait till you know more about the world and missions before you choose your country!

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