On the surface, leading an international missions team may seem like filling the role of glorified travel agent, but a successful missions leader wears many hats with a servant’s heart. How do you explore God’s calling into missions? How will you get prepared to lead?
The Calling to Lead: Learning from the Greats
The Bible is filled with incredible stories of greatness achieved for God’s kingdom. Moses stretched out a rod and mighty rushing waters parted. Joshua prayed and the sun stood still. Abigail met David and his army with swords in their hands and calmed their anger, saving her household. Elijah prayed and fire fell from heaven. Paul was stoned and left for dead, then got up, brushed himself off, and ventured back into town. Such boldness! Such courage! These men and women left an incredible legacy of greatness among God’s chosen leaders.
As you venture into the realm of leadership in missions, perhaps you feel rather ordinary. If so, you’re in good company among the matriarchs and patriarchs of Scripture. They were ordinary men and women used by God to do extraordinary things. What can we learn from some of the great leaders of the Bible?
God is not limited by our human limitations.
Moses was a man full of reasons why he couldn’t fulfill God’s calling to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt’s bondage. He was concerned about his lack of notoriety, which would ultimately boil down to a lack of influence among the people, but God had a plan to use a small stick to show Pharaoh and the people Moses’ God-given authority. Moses brought up his communication weaknesses, but God had already made provisions for Moses when He made Aaron his older brother. (Note that as Aaron served as a spokesman for Moses, God was also allowing Aaron to be groomed for his eventual role as a chief priest; God’s plan is always perfect and blesses all who are serving Him!)
Jeremiah received his calling at a young age. He told God he couldn’t speak because of his youth, but God wasn’t concerned about this fact as if it were news to Him. God took the focus away from Jeremiah and his limitations and placed it upon Himself, telling Jeremiah that He had placed His words in Jeremiah’s mouth, and that He had commissioned him with His divine plan (Jeremiah 1:6,9,10).
There is no weakness, no flaw, no limitation that you could bring before God that would give Him pause about His plans for your life. God knows your flaws better than you do! While Moses and Jeremiah each had their own set of excuses, neither of them even mentioned their personal limitations because of sin in their lives; Moses was even a murderer! No, God is fully aware that we as humans come with many personal flaws, but He loves us and chooses to work in and through us for His glory.
1. Which other personalities from Scripture can you think of who were weak in some respects but who were still used by God?
2. Read 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. Do you believe these words are true? How will you personalize and embrace these truths?
God has a plan.
When Saul awoke and readied himself for a journey to Damascus that morning, he could have never guessed that the Son of God would intersect his path and save his soul that day. Jesus had a plan for Saul to become the new man who would be known as Paul. God called him “a chosen vessel of Mine” (Acts 9:15). Saul never saw it coming, but God changed his life, set him on the right path, and steadily gave him the vision to reach the Gentile world for Christ.
Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Your desire to serve the Lord through missions is a gift to you from God. Perhaps you never dreamed you would one day take the gospel to another part of the world, but God has held this plan for your life before you were ever born. As you follow the leadership of God, He will continue to reveal to you the vision of what God would do through you.
Second Corinthians 5:7 challenges us to walk by faith, not by sight. As a leader in missions, how can you lead by faith and not sight, knowing that God has a plan?
Opposition is no reason to turn back.
Jesus never painted a rosy picture of what it meant to be a follower of His. Jesus said, “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Serving the Lord in leadership will always result in challenges and sometimes hardships, but we must persevere.
Nehemiah faced a steady stream of discouragements as he attempted to lead the effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Enemies threatened him more than once and tried at every turn to thwart his progress. Economic woes created tensions between his people when some were charging high interests on loans to their fellow Jews. On top of all of the trials created by other people, rebuilding the wall itself was enough of a challenge! Nehemiah proved to be a man of prayer and courage as he never lost his resolve to complete the task God had given him to do, though he had many opportunities to become discouraged and quit. Nehemiah remained stalwart and focused, living out the words that he said one day to some messengers who had come to discourage him: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)
As a missions leader, resolve to lead with perseverance. The work is far too important to “cease and leave it” when problems arise. When opposition comes, remain focused and trust God, knowing that “our God will fight for us” (Nehemiah 4:20).
1. Fill in the blanks for these verses.
And let us _______________________________ while doing good, for in due season we shall reap ____ we do not ________________________. (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
I would have ________________________, unless I had _________________ that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.(Psalm 27:13 NKJV)
2. How can you prepare spiritually to stand firm in the face of discouragement?
Will you follow in the footsteps of Noah, obeying the instructions of God even when the plan doesn’t make sense to you? Will you be like Esther, fully trusting God as you courageously plead for the oppressed? Will you take a cue from Abraham, entering into a foreign land and trusting God to guide you step by step? Or will you be like Jonah, resisting the call of God to deliver His message to those who need to hear?