The Honor of a Missionary Calling

Calling Of Paul

“The Christian ministry is the worst of all trades, but the best of all professions.”- Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

“A person should only enter the Christian ministry if they cannot stay out of it.” – D. Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)


There were several distinct turning points over the years when it became very clear that God’s calling was to life as a missionary. Unlike some other forms of ministry, inherent in this calling (and sometimes unarticulated) are some unique features: raising funds and living on support, social and geographical mobility, a lifestyle of simplicity, living flexibly in environments of ambiguity (sometimes cross-culturally), stress and risk, and the likelihood of considerable sacrifice both emotionally and physically.

Patty and I made that jump in 1976. While I’ve never had a doubt or a serious regret, I have had my moments wondering, “What did I get myself and my family into??”

It’s been costly by some of the world’s criteria. But the returns continue to amaze and astound me. Some of God’s payback in the here and now, which make ministry “the best of all professions” has been:

• Freedom and flexibility with my time to respond to those in need
• The privilege of seeing parts of the world others only dream of (or run from)
• My children being exposed to cultures, ethnic diversity, and the worldwide Christian movement in contexts unavailable to their peers
• Being able to trust God for money and physical things in a different dimension than if I had a 40 hr/wk job.
• Watching God invade people’s lives and move in ways that will affect the history of our times.
• The freedom to learn, to study, and to grow.
• Relationships of depth and like commitment that are rare to unavailable across the breadth of the Christian movement,

And the list could go on and on…..

In the pressures and crucible of everyday life and ministry, I regret how little I pause to consider the great privilege God has given us in being set aside for such a glorious pursuit. It is a marvelous privilege to give one’s life to issues of ultimate significance. It’s so easy for those in missions to moan and complain about what we lack and how tough it can be and what we are “giving up.” But when the scales are honestly examined, what a wonderful trade-off. What an incredible honor.
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Painting is Carvaggio’s famous work depicting the calling of the Apostle Paul, circa 1600.

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