Discerning Your Calling
How Do You Know If God Is Leading You to Serve Cross-culturally?
By T.J. MacLeslie, a Pioneer serving in Europe
“Have you received the call?”
I remember sitting before a committee of mission leaders and struggling to answer this question. It seems to me there are a lot of questions behind that question. I responded, as I often do, with a story. I told them about God’s work in my life and my experiences in life and ministry that had led me to this point sitting before them. And I remember their concerned expressions. In the end, they must have concluded that I was called, as they launched me on to the mission field more than 25 years ago.
I still struggle with the language of calling, but not the reality.
God Calls Us First to Himself
My understanding of calling is rooted in my understanding of God. God has intentionally designed us with the capacity to apprehend and respond to His voice. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice…and they follow me.” God is calling all men to Himself. God is the Caller, the Voice who cries out: “If anyone is thirsty let him come to Me and drink!” He came into the world, but the world didn’t recognize Him or receive Him. But everyone who responds to His call becomes part of His family. So, the first call is to receive God. In that sense, every person is called, and Christians are those who have responded.
Discerning His Voice
Once we are part of His family, the real fun begins. As we learn to live with Him and not just for Him, we grow in our ability to discern His voice in our lives. We experience conviction when we do things that lead us away from Him. We receive comfort and correction from the Holy Spirit. And we experience His guidance and direction.
God Has Work for Us to Do
Paul tells us that God has prepared good works for us to do. In fact, He has created us and saved us to do these good works. So, how do we know what these good works are? We must learn to discern. We must cultivate closeness. This pursuit of intimacy with God is not the exclusive pursuit of the missionary or minister, it is the calling of every Christian. God is not only calling missionaries but all His followers.
The pursuit of intimacy with God is not the exclusive pursuit of the missionary or minister. It is the calling of every Christian.
The Call to Missions
I think part of the problem in talking about calling in missions is treating a “call to mission” as a singular experience. As if a call to missions is a bolt from the blue that falls upon an unsuspecting believer with an unequivocal message from God to church plant among a particular people group. I believe this kind of startling clarity does happen, but over the years I have met very few for whom this was their on-ramp for missions. For most of us, it is a more gradual process of discernment.
Another trap we fall into is treating a call to mission as a totally unique experience. As if a call to missions is a particularly holy calling when compared to other vocations. (The very term “vocation” means calling.) I believe that God calls missionaries. I also believe He calls bankers, actors, plumbers, teachers, and accountants. God has plans and purposes for each of His children. He has unique places for us to live and serve. If He calls you to the mission field, you should follow. If He calls you to a more “normal” life, you should also follow.
I believe this kind of startling clarity does happen, but over the years I have met very few for whom this was their on-ramp for missions. For most of us, it is a more gradual process of discernment.
My Prayer for You
My prayer for you is that you will draw near to God and follow Him all the days of your life. May you never flag in your pursuit of Him! May you never stop listening! I would never have predicted the twists and turns of my life in pursuit of the One who pursues me; but I would never trade it. Following God is the most amazing adventure available, so keep pressing on and never stop no matter where He leads.
- Read Why Not You? Why Not Now?
- Some believe every Christian is already a missionary and should just bloom where they are planted. Yes and no… Watch the video Who Is a Missionary?
- Are you asking, “How can I know God is calling me to be a missionary?” Read a variety of answers to this and related questions at AskaMissionary.com.
- Check out T.J. MacLeslie’s spiritual autobiography, Pursuit of a Thirsty Fool. You can find it on Amazon.
Stories from the pursuit
Check the Trash!
Reaching the unreached. Raising kids overseas. And raising funds. All things God uses to lead us to lean on Him, and sometimes they’re connected. Here's one Pioneer's God story.
Travels with Paul: On Mission in an Uncertain World
Today’s missionaries should strive to be like the Apostle Paul: clear on the message, bold, willing to suffer, focused and tenacious.
Video – What Is Pioneering?
Pioneering isn’t about chasing immediate gratification or walking worn-in trails. It isn’t even about adventure, although adventure certainly awaits.
Should I Eat the Steak?
My uncle was struggling. "How can I eat steak in my air-conditioned house, knowing the physical poverty and spiritual darkness that abounds in this world?"