4 Critical Heart Realities for Missionaries

July 17, 2013

Burning-Heart-burn-fire-heart-love-hurt-redThe Lord is stirring so many right now to go to the nations of the earth and preach the gospel. Many, especially young people, are hearing the call to go to those who have never heard. I’m personally touched in this way, believing God’s plan is to mobilize the greatest mission thrust the earth has ever seen in this generation. This is the hour we will see a massive army of missionaries mobilized to the hardest and darkest parts of the earth for the glory of the Name of Jesus.

I was thinking if I were 20-ish and felt compelled to go to the nations I would like to know the most important things to sustain my heart on the field. It’s no secret that a large percentage of missionaries find themselves off the field within a very short period of time. I’d want to know the heart realities that sustain someone while they’re serving the Lord in a culturally unfamiliar and spiritually challenging location. Without getting into necessary natural issues like language training and dealing with culture shock(yes, it’s real), I want to offer you essential components that will sustain your heart in a missions context.

1) A Clear Calling From the Lord – I fully believe the Scripture is our most important voice of calling. I also agree that seeing the need is evidence of the calling. At the same time I’m painfully aware of many who have gone who were never sent and ended up in shipwreck as a result. For this reason it’s necessary that you are convinced of the Lord’s leading in your life as you go to the mission field. Because of the difficulties you are guaranteed to face, there will be a time when you will wonder if you should’ve even gone. When that happens you need to reflect on what the Lord did in your heart to confirm the calling. There’s not one specific way the Lord leads. Generally He does whatever is necessary for an individual to be able to follow Him in faith. The Great Commission should challenge every believer to consider if they are to go. Whatever the promises and activity of the Spirit is in your life, pay attention to it. Make a journal. Be patient to the point that you know you’d be disobedient if you stayed. When things get difficult you’ll have a history of God’s direction to review and anchor you to your assignment.

2) Intimacy with God – The reward of missions is not the impact you will make. The reward is that you obeyed the Lord from a heart of love. Most missionaries and those who send them only look for specific results and impact. When the results are not as they’d hoped they become discouraged. A vibrant prayer life is essential to move things in the Spirit to see an impact, but even more importantly, it’s ESSENTIAL in order to sustain your heart in challenging circumstances. The reward of any ministry is that you get to partner with God in it. He is the reward, not the souls you save, the size of your ministry sphere, or any impact you make. Those things are wonderful, but they are SECONDARY to the real reward…intimacy with Jesus. When you have intimacy with Jesus, you carry the reward on the inside. So whether or not your reach masses is not the issue. The issues is having a heart alive and moving in love with God.

3) Rich Biblical Conviction – Vibrant revelation in the Word is also absolutely essential. You must be continually nourished by the Scripture for your heart to be sustained. Furthermore, it’s necessary to be Biblically convicted of your calling. You must see it in the Word for you to have faith to accomplish it. Too often passionate people are shallow in the Scriptures and as a result they end up without an anchor in times of difficulty. The word of God is life to all who find them, a clear guide and governor for us. Don’t make the mistake of believing time spent preparing is time wasted. Time sharpening your sickle makes your time in the field much more effective. A rich life in the Word is critical.

4) A Commitment to Authenticity – Too often I have seen ministers and missionaries wilt under the pressure of their assignment because they are too proud to share with others their challenges. You cannot go alone and you are not made to be an island. Authenticity is required for any minister and especially for those called to the foreign field. Sharing your struggles with others is a sign of maturity. It is essential to have others who know the good, the bad and the ugly of your life. The temptation for a missionary is to only share the positive reports because of the pressure to produce results. Don’t give in to it. Be honest, open and share with your confidants the realities of your life. This will ultimately give you great strength.

These things all together will produce in you the necessary root system to cause you to persevere when times get tough. Every kingdom assignment is just that an assignment from the King. We don’t continue in it because the results meet our expectations. We continue in our assignment because the King has requested it. I pray that these truths strengthen you as you endeavor to follow the Lord’s leading in your assignment.

If you are stirred to go to the nations, I can help you get there. Ask me how. If you know a young person whose considering going, forward this post to them as an aide to help them make their decision.

What are some other critical heart realities for missionaries?

8 responses to 4 Critical Heart Realities for Missionaries

    Marie Knudsen July 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    After 44 years of following The Lord and most of them in ministry we have learned these truths the hard way. I say a strong AMEN to this writing. Take these truths to heart if you are being called by The Lord to minister at home or away!


    Billy, thank you for these four great points. I read them with great interest and shared them with enthusiasm. I could probably think of things I could add, but I think you nailed the “essentials”. However, I If I were to prioritize them, I would place point number 2 at the top of the list, and knowing just a little about you, I think you’d probably agree the three other essentials flow from the place of intimate love with God.

    Thanks for this blog post, with your permission, I’m going to use it with the missionaries and missionary candidates I work with. Also, I’m interested in finding out what other resources you may have to offer for people preparing for missionary service. Please email me about that.


    All I can say is “YES, a thousand times, yes.”

    I am THAT 20-something here on the foreign field learning these 4 things now. I cannot say enough how vital each are. Every single one. Just another encouragement that I am not in this alone and my journey is not oddly different from any other person heading into or on the field.

    Happy I read this. Thank you.


    I am a missionary, in Guatemala. I wanted to comment on the importance of the clear calling. It is absolutely imperative to have that history in God so we don’t quit when we don’t see the results, only the difficulties. There are many ways that God confirms the call, but, I want to recommend that one of the best biblical confirmations that God gives is through senior leadership of the local church. It is imperative that one first be rightly connected to the body of Christ and submitted to leadership in the church. Though one might very well be more gifted and even more mature than the leadership of the local church, in spite of their weakness God has place them in a position to speak truth into your life. This is not to say that God only speaks through the leadership of the local church, however, that confirmation remains strong for us.
    Knowing that the pastors and elders of our local church systematically counseled us, confirmed and approved our calling makes it easier to press through the difficulties of the culture and into the intimacy with Jesus.


    Thank you for sharing these truths. I am one of those young ones called and am now stepping into what looks like my first long-term assignment. All us young burning ones need to wisdom of those who have gone before us!


    You have clearly identified the necessary tent pegs that hold the tent of ministry, particularly overseas, in the times of storm. The storms will come. Being prepared is our best defense against the lies of the enemy who is trying to hard to get us to go back home. Good word.


    Reblogged this on Prescious's Blog and commented:
    Some encouraging & provoking advice from Pastor Billy Humphrey.