What Should Be The Goals Of A First Term Missionary?

When a new missionary arrives on the field he should have in mind what he needs and wants to accomplish in his first term. I would like to share a few ideas about what that might be and then ask you to add more to it or disagree with me in the comment section.

  1. Learn the language and the culture well. You can not learn the language without the culture and you can not learn the culture without the language. This means that at least for the first year or two you need to spend 40 or 50 hours in the language. That can include 20 hours of class, a route of listeners as discussed in Language Acquisition Made Practical by the Brewsters, watching TV, having friends over, etc.
  2. Make several close friends with national believers.
  3. Learn to feel comfortable in the culture and with the believers.
  4. Learn to express your heart and Bible doctrine in the language.
  5. As soon as possible get involved in discipling, mentoring, training new believers. This will help your language abilities, build you spiritually and build others also.
  6. Win, baptize, and disciple as many as possible through the basic levels of discipleship. If you can get several families saved, baptized and serving you will have proven your ministry.
  7. Do not sit in your house waiting on God to give you the language or ministry. Do not hang around the other Americans. That is not why you went to the field.
  8. How many you have attending church is not important but having trained several, say 3, young men to serve God and be spiritual leaders would make your first term a great success.
  9. It is not important how many you have in services or even how many professions of faith you have but rather how many leaders are you training.
  10. Lay the foundation for all that you will do in the future on this field.

I realize that this is only a matter of opinion but I think it might help you and encourage you. There are two sorts of missionaries. There are the lazy that get their support and basically hang out on the field until their term is over. They are just happy that they made it four years.

There are the others that feel like they are a failure unless they have a lot of people attending a church or have started several churches. Get the goals in line with reality so that you do not have to live with frustration all the time.

I would love your opinions on these ideas. I will refine my ideas as you sharpen me with your criticism.

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About the author

Austin Gardner is pastor of Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA. Previously he was church planting missionary in Peru for 20 years.
9 Responses
  1. Love it! I am no expert for sure as God constantly is still both teaching and re-teaching me things from His Word and His Spirit.

    There is so much that could be said about every point but I’ll just share a few thoughts on #1. Not being saved until later in life, 27, I can really see the need for culture, language learning, spending time with the lost, etc both here in the states and on the foreign field. It’s amazing to me that the things we have learned about missions that are necessary to be effective in a foreign culture we refuse to put into practice when in America. In the states it seems a lot of people just do “church” in many ways instead of trying to be missional just like we would in another country.

    Many pastors, church people etc have grown up in church world and are miles from really understanding the culture here in the states of those outside the church. (Just because people fuss about it doesn’t mean they understand it and how can we reach them if we don’t understand them?) What our signs and websites say for example is mostly aimed at other believers. I know I’m not interested in getting folks from other churches. I want to reach the lost not John and Susy that are already saved and believe like I do down the street.

    I also agree with disciple making being the main thing. I think you have to major on one or the other – either shoot for all you can or shoot for disciple making. We have a saying, “We don’t count people. We make people who count.” That being said we had to put out chairs everywhere yesterday to have enough seats. But, it is not our goal to have a lot of people where only a handful really love and follow Jesus. It is our goal to build and deploy world visionary, world impacting, reproducing disciples. That must lead our decision making.

    Same with point number 4. I believe we must get our message in the “language” of the culture. While we will never change what Bible version we use, I work very hard to preach, teach, witness and sing in a way I know both the saved and the unsaved can understand, yet it must be honoring to God.

    Great article and good thoughts. Pray for you often! God bless!

  2. Thank you so much for your comments. They are always a blessing. I too believe that we have to engage culture here.

    I must admit that it was far harder for me to learn how to work with Americans than Peruvians. I had certain built in expectations of the Americans that caused me to judge them instead of try to help them.

    I have had to learn a lot since I came here

  3. Jeff

    Great article. Since we are on the second term, I think a good article on “goals for the 2nd term” would be great. 🙂
    It is very true and I know it will help many people if they listen.
    Thanks jefe,

  4. Jake Taube

    Great post. As a first-termer, it is a great challenge. Seems like we as missionaries chronically expect either far too much or far too little from their first term. These goals are realistic and ambitious at the same time.

  5. Will Hill

    This is really helpful to those of us about to head to the mission field! It gives me some goals for our first term. You mentioned the church, but when do you think you should start it? As soon as you arrive? After language school?

  6. Very good. We are still on our first term and thought the thought about 3 leaders is a great challenge. We have had to leave for short periods of time during this first term and the great need for the work is for leaders to take the work forward during our absence. Thank you for providing this as a good goal for us to work towards.

  7. David

    Very Good. Thank you for the advice. I greatly enjoy the blog updates. Very realistic and exciting goals at the same time.

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