9 Practical Ways to Prepare for Missions

By Mike Pettengill, Sep 5, 2023

Not every disciple of Christ is called to be a missionary. But, maybe you know you are. Let’s assume you’re certain you’ve been called to serve as a missionary, but for whatever reason you have a few months or years before you depart for the mission field. School, training, debt, acceptance to a missions agency, or something else has delayed the start of your missions service.

While you are waiting you don’t need to be idle. Take the time now to make some changes in your life and you can increase the probability of success as a future missionary. Here are nine ways to better prepare yourself for missions:

1. Get cross-cultural
Try international foods, listen to global music, watch programs about other countries. Expose yourself cultures that are different from yours. Become adventurous and learn to enjoy new experiences. Learn about other people and the way they do things. Learning to embrace different cultures will give you a head start to a perspective that will benefit you in missions.

2. Study Scripture
Whether you want to deepen your dependence on Christ, learn from missionary examples, or become better equipped to share your faith, you can do no wrong diving into the Bible and memorizing God’s inerrant Word. While on the mission field you will be forced to become more focused and dependent on the Lord. Begin focusing more on the Bible and begin living a life sold out for His glory.

3. Read biographies
Spend quality time reading missionary biographies. You will soon learn that amazing missionaries are not necessarily amazing people. Instead, you will learn about how sinful missionaries who depend completely on the Lord bring Him great glory. Read how the great missionaries struggled and failed, but continued to embrace the grace and mercy of Christ.

4. Learn languages
Become a language learner. Even if you don’t what country you will be called to serve in, begin to expose yourself to new languages. By learning new languages you open yourself up to the concept of struggle and failure. Few things humble a missionary like communicating at the level of a child when they are speaking their new language. Getting used to that experience early will help you in the long run.

5. Evangelize
Learn to share your faith. Become accustomed to articulating the gospel and telling how Christ changed your life. Take formal evangelism training (Four Laws, EE, Bridge, etc.). Evangelism is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. Only when you become experienced at evangelism will you truly embrace the concept that winning souls is God’s job, not yours.

6. Be uncomfortable
Get out of your comfort zone. Serve the poor, feed the hungry, build things with your hands. Learn to do new things that don’t come natural to you. Most of your time on the mission field will be spent in unfamiliar situations. Get used to it. Learn to be comfortable as an adult learner. Learn to fail gracefully. Learn to depend on others and rely on Christ.

7. Live with less
Begin to cut back on your lifestyle. Spend less. Become less dependent on technology. Experience life with fewer options and choices. No matter where you serve in the world you will not experience the same foods, entertainment, and selection you have now. Don’t let material goods rule your life so completely that they impact your missions experience.

8. Serve others
Develop a spirit of service. Gain the experience of putting the wellbeing of others in front of your own joy. Volunteer at your church or in your community, or simply step forward and help others in your day-to-day life. Learn to serve others so Jesus receives the glory and not yourself. Service is at the heart of almost every missionary’s daily experience.

9. Pray more
Develop a life dedicated to prayer. Make prayer an important, unwavering part of your daily life. Condition yourself to make prayer your first and last response to every situation. Prayer brings glory to God and takes the focus off of you. On the mission field you will discover you need prayer more than you ever did before. Condition yourself to the concept that you can’t, but God can.

Missions is hard and many missionaries fail. According to Dr. K.P. Yohannan, “up to half of all new missionaries do not last beyond their first term.” However, pre-field training and conditioning can increase the probability that a missionary will have a healthy and productive experience on the mission field. With a heart focused on Christ and with the proper resources and perspective a missionary improves the prospect he or she will have a long and healthy career in missions. Use the time in advance of your missions service to train yourself to be a more qualified and better prepared servant for God’s glory.

Originally published in 2016. Updated in 2023. 

Mike Pettengill

Mike Pettengill served for 16 years with MTW in Honduras and Equatorial Guinea, and as director of MTW’s West Coast Hub. He is owner and firearms instructor at Personal Protection Academy in Murietta, California.

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