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Before sharing the gospel with the lost and dying as a missionary for the Lord a person should prepare for the task before them. While much preparation should be undertaken (see below) the most important task before the missionary and those sending him is prayer. When the Holy Spirit identified Barnabas and Paul for this work the brethren fasted and prayed before sending them off (Acts 13:2-5). This is a clear signal to all of those who seek to be involved in missions (whether short-term or long) to first seek the Lord.

What other actions should a missionary do before going to the field? Missionaries should also commit themselves to the task of seeking to do only what the Lord desires. Understanding what the Lord’s will is, can be found in the Sacred Word. That precious gospel that is able to save all people. When the Lord adds souls to His church Christians should stand ready to teach them the pure simple truth. Christians can prepare for that by ensuring they know how to answer people about the hope found within them (I Peter 3:15). The saints must dedicate themselves to the study of God’s word and remember to teach the truth with gentleness and respect as the Lord’s servants (II Tim 3:24). One of the most important actions missionaries can take is to ensure they are ready for the task. Dr. Demar Elam, professor of missions at Amridge University, wrote, “The actualization of world evangelism will not be realized without proper training, motivating, and activating the needed workers (foot soldiers) to go to the targeted mission fields of the world.”[1] Dr. Elam makes the case that pre-field training is paramount for short-term missions to be successful. What type of pre-field training is needed before a mission trip? There are different views of the training needed and the duration of preparation (Table 1).

Table 1. Advocates for Short-Term Missionaries Needing Pre-training


Type of   Training/Duration

Area of   Focus


15 sermons,   8-10 weeks of workshops

What, why,   and how of missions


More time in preparatory phase then trip

History,   politics and religion


1 week of   training

Purpose,   logistics, individual preparation, and attitude


3-4 months   of 1 hour devotion time

Personal   devotion to God


Lifelong:   activities, seminars, colleges

Knowing and   doing competencies. character and commitment


Just in   time training

Cross-cultural,   personal & activities preparation, logistics and finances

There are advocates for developing deep spiritual maturity, knowledge and commitment to Biblical teachings before leaving for a mission. Dr. Elam wrote, “It is essential that one has understanding and be correct in obeying the fundamentals of salvation: God’s plan of salvation, Christian worship, and Christian living. It is essential to be correct in obeying the commandments God has set forth to get into Christ.”[2] J. J. Turner, wrote that God himself does not desire those immature in the faith to teach.[3] Charles White, long time missionary wrote, “It goes without saying that those who accept the mission of announcing the message of Christ should themselves have a good grasp of it, not only in its principles, but also, and especially, in its direct application to their own lives.”[4] Dr. Elam, Dr. Turner, and Mr. White believe one should be a grounded Christian first before teaching others as one would do in a mission field.

On the other hand, some remind us a Christian should be able to participate in missions regardless of their spiritual maturity and Biblical knowledge. Dr. Schnabel wrote that conversion and a call to missionary service are simultaneous events.[5] With this frame of mind a person should then share the gospel as soon as he becomes a Christian. He should go throughout the world to find those who are not Christians in order to convert them. Mr. Peterson echoed this sentiment when he wrote:

For every additional hour required of preparation, for every additional characteristic demanded of our recruits, there will be thousands—perhaps millions?-who remain sidelined as too average, too real, too foolish to that particular expression of Missio Dei. In our feeble attempts to birth a missionary without spot of blemish, the world continues going to hell without Jesus Christ.[6]

While there is an urgency to preach the gospel there is also an urgency to study the word. As long as the Lord delays His coming and we still draw breath let Christians commit themselves to growing in spiritual maturity and strive to proclaim the good news. This will aid missionaries immensely in the work the Lord has for them to do.

A danger of charging to teach others in the mission field, or anywhere else, without proper grounding in the faith is that false teaching can occur. False teaching can occur when Christians lack spiritual maturity. 1 Timothy 1:7b says false teachers “do not understand what they say or the things they affirm.” These teachers are often proud but know nothing “obsessed with disputes and arguments which lead to envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, and useless conflict with corrupt men” (1 Tim. 6:4-5a). Furthermore, they believe godliness is a way to gain riches (1 Tim. 6:5; Titus 1:11). False teachers “fall into temptation, foolish and harmful lusts and drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim. 6:9). Paul exhorts Timothy to withdraw from such false teachers (1 Tim. 6:5, 11). False teachers’ also turn others from the truth to fables (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Peter also warns of these false teachers. They secretly bring in destructive heresies, deny the Lord, lead others to follow their destructive ways, blaspheme the truth and, due to their greed, exploit others through deception (2 Pet. 2:1-3). Additionally these teachers hearts are filled with lust, despise authority, are presumptuous, self-willed, slander others, have eyes full of adultery, cannot cease from sin, trained in greed, gone astray, speak big words of emptiness, promise liberty but they are slaves of corruption and will perish in their own corruption (2 Pet. 2:10-19). Table 2 below shows the attitude and actions of false teachers. Missionaries must seek to avoid these things by being diligent students of God’s word.

Table 2. False Teachers’ Attitudes and Actions




Fall into   temptation


Turn others   from the truth

Obsessed   with disputes

Deny the   Lord

Full of   greed & deception


Full of   lust

Slander   others

Lack   Understanding

Cannot   cease from sin


Promise   liberty but enslave

Eyes full   of adultery

Use empty   big words

Despise   authority

Speak   heresy

      As a person prepares for the missionary service they should pray, devote themselves to the study of God’s word (every day so they can avoid false teaching and grow in faith) and finally consider some of the practical matters listed in Table 1. Those practical matters include (but not limited to) a study of missions, the people they are serving, their history and religion, logistics, finances, personal preparation, and more. Paul and other early disciples spent time learning about the people they desired to convert and their background (ex. Paul at Athens, Acts 17). Let the missionary today have the same commitment to this noble task.  


[1] Demar Elam, The Mission Cry of the New Millennium (Winona, MS: J. C. Choate Publications, 2005), 18.

[2] Elam, The Mission Cry of the New Millennium, 112.

[3] J. J. Turner, Healthy Churches are Learning Churches (McDonough, GA: Self Published, 2009), 101.

[4] Charles White, The Missionary Myth: A Realistic Look at Mission Work (Winona, MS: J. C. Choate Publications, 1990), 21.

[5] Schnabel, Paul the Missionary, 382.

[6] Peterson, Aeschliman, and Sneed, Maximum Impact Short-Term Mission, 29.

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