Wednesday, June 17

Is God calling you?

Fellow missionary, Kevin: Somewhere in South America serving just to the south of us, asks whether God might be calling more of us to plant our lives overseas than have responded.

Let's be generous for a moment. Let's say that there are one billion evangelical believers in the world. I think that is a little high, personally; but let's call it an even billion, as some claim.

Of those one billion, how many do think are missionaries? Go ahead, take a guess.

Would you believe about 98 thousand? I jest not. Ninety-eight thousand, give or take a few, have responded to the call of God.

Now the world is at an estimated 6.7 billion. One billion of those are evangelical believers. Ninety-eight thousand are missionaries, those men and women who carry the gospel around the world to others who have not yet believed...

...let's just suppose that those 98 thousand are represented by the thickness of one sheet of paper. One sheet of standard paper is .0038 inches thick...

...If that represents all the evangelical missionaries of the world, then it would take a stack of paper some 31,000 feet high to represent all the evangelicals of the world. Shades of Mount Everest, folks! I can't even get my mind around the ratio for the other 5.7 billion left in the world.

Do you think that perhaps God may be calling more than those 98 thousand who have responded?
Is He calling you? Have you ever really prayed about it? Can you say with complete truthfulness, "I definitely know He is NOT calling me to serve Him overseas?"

Might I be so bold to suggest, unless the Lord of the Harvest has made it quite clear He does NOT want you to go, maybe He intends you to GO!

Do any of Bryan Riley's suggestions for Sure-fire ways to avoid becoming a missionary hit too close to home?

What are you waiting for? If you were the Lord of the Harvest, would you be content with a response rate representing a single sheet of paper lying at the bottom of a stack piled as high as Mt. Everest? Just asking.


Les Puryear said...


I have honestly asked myself that question and the Lord has responded "No." However, I still believe, as a follower of Christ, I am to be involved in helping to fulfill the Acts 1:8 command of Christ and so I lead our church's mission trips locally, nationally, and abroad.

One unspoken question that hovers over your post is this: Since IMB has suspended adding new missionaries due to a decrease in missions giving, what is someone who is called to foreign missions to do now?

Good post.


GuyMuse said...


Thanks for sharing this. I wish we all had that same sense of understanding of being Acts 1:8 churches and believers. I sensed this in the church you pastor on my visit last year!

So what is someone called to Int'l missions to do now? Same as always. Obey and trust God for the rest. I know these are easy words to type, but incredibly challenging to actually implement.

Maybe an example from one of our Ecuadorian missionaries can help answer.

J. does not have the IMB backing him. All he has is our small network of Guayaquil house churches. Recently, J. felt led of the Lord to extend his initial commitment for at least another three years in the Amazon jungles of Peru. He has no place to live. Most of his monthly love offering from the house churches goes for transportation. Is he calling it quits? No way. He believes God has called him, and seems quite unconcerned about where the $$$$ will come from for all that God is laying on his heart to do. All he fears is that somehow we will abandon our prayer support for him. He is totally dependent upon the Lord for literally his "daily bread."

Maybe we as IMB M's and the SBC in general, need to sit down with M's like J. and learn a few of the "ABC's" of walking by faith when God calls.

Like I said earlier. This is a level of faith beyond what I and many of my fellow IMBers have.

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

Lance Johnson said...

Interesting question, Guy. As you know, 21 years ago that was the plan. Unfortunately, that door was clearly shut and stayed shut for almost 18 years. Now, I just don't know. I must admit, lately I have thought about the possibility of trying to go to the Latin-American mission field in some type of bi-vocational or tentmaker ministry. I have no idea how that would work out since I have almost no marketable skills and my Spanish is 'muy mocho,' but if God wants me there he will provide. At this point, I just don't know . . . ?

GuyMuse said...


Bi-vocational/tentmaker ministry might well be the way to go for future missions service. Money seems to be drying up with global economic turn down. How much longer we can continue to fund missions endeavors in the traditional way is yet to be seen. What is needed are a few pioneers who are willing to "test the waters" in the way you describe and set the pattern for others to follow. As for "marketable skills" you have 10 times more than most people I know! Don't sell yourself short. If you'd like I can embarrass you by making a public list of the highly marketable skills you possess!

Why not, test the waters? Take a summer and try it out. Begin to explore the possibilities. Who knows, maybe you can set the standard for the next wave of missionaries going out from the USA.

Lance Johnson said...

Well Guy, marketable skills aside, it is something I have been looking at a bit. I have to say, however, that for now God has me at Iglesia Betania, and I will be here for at least a while longer. We will see what the future brings, but for now I am just thinking and looking a bit.

As for bi-vocational ministry, its greatest advantage is not financial. Certainly, that is the most obvious advantage and the reason most of us become bi-vocational. It was certainly my reason. The biggest advantage, however, is practical. We are neither hired laborers nor ivory towered theorists. We live and work where our congregations do, so to speak. We deal with traffic, angry customers, obstinate co-workers, and the endless corporate tedium. We also mow our own lawns, do our own laundry, clean our own houses, and maintain our automobiles. We do not expect anything from our congregations that we do not expect from ourselves. We are leaders among equals who all put on our pants one leg at a time so we can be salt and light in the world.

GuyMuse said...


There is much to say about the positives of bi-vocational ministry. All our house churches are "lay-led" with "bi-vocational" leadership. The only full-time "professionals" in our midst are the two IMB units on our team!

Probably the biggest PLUS of bi-vocational ministry is that those leaders are living in the "real world" and not isolated like so much of the rest of us professionals. They make daily contact with the lost. They have lost friends and co-laborers, and are not living in an ivory tower. The day we start "professionalizing" house/simple church leaders, is the day the movement goes institutional!

GuyMuse said...

The following was received by me from an anonymous writer who actually took the time to double-check the figures quoted in Kevin's post. Still overwhelming! Here is what anon. came up with...

If each missionary were a sheet of paper, the stack would be 31 feet and 8 inches tall...impressive.

A Billion Christians is a stack of paper 316,000 feet and 8 inches high compared to Mt Everest at 29,029 feet. Another way to think of it is that a billion Christians would be a pile just short of 60 miles high. The world population is close to 7 billion or 420 miles high.

WOW! Is God calling you?