Four Things Every Missionary Needs to Know Before Going to the Field

Oct 10, 2023

After years of preparation—spiritual qualification, cross-cultural and linguistic education—you are now finally ready to go to the mission field. Are there any other less tangible things you need to know before boarding the plane?


Culled from missionaries past and present, here are four things that every missionary needs to know before going to the field.

1. It’s a Privilege

This point comes first because it does, and ought to, overshadow all the rest. Being a missionary is hard work and there is always a cost. But it is worth it! Having the opportunity to serve the Lord in this way, by going to the furthest ends of the earth to reach the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ, is absolutely a privilege.

Paul shared this perspective, often calling his ministry to the Gentiles—the unreached!—a ‘grace’ given him by God; a work he could boast in because of what Christ accomplished through him (Rom. 15:17-18). He says in Romans 15:18-21, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed…and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” Jesus said in Matthew 19:29 that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”

Anything lost here for the sake of the gospel is ultimately gain because of the ‘surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord’! Make no mistake: regardless of the difficulty and the cost, being a missionary is a privilege.

2. The Cost is High

Jesus said of following him in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”

There is a cost to being a follower of Jesus whether or not you become a missionary overseas. But certainly, choosing to be His disciple in a foreign land with a foreign language, facing foreign diseases and perils, will be harder. While there might be great adventures that come with missionary life, that can never be the motivation.

The life of a missionary is never easy, predictable, or fast. It is painstakingly slow work fraught with discouragements and setbacks. Friendships back home will be disrupted. Extended family will not be quite as well-known to your kids.

You must count the cost here, before you go, because the goal of the gospel going to the nations is not just to start the task well, but to be able to finish!

The task is hard. Count that cost now. And then, read the first point in this article again and be reminded that the Jesus is worth it.

3. You Need Less Stuff than You Think

So often, someone will begin preparations to go overseas, but there always seems to be one more thing they are waiting for before they go. If your church has said you are qualified and ready to go—go!

Yes, you need to be equipped with good training. But once that training is completed, don’t wait a day longer than you have to—go! You don’t need near as much time or experiences as you think you do. As one of our missionaries said, “Unless it’s homeschool materials or Apple products, you don’t need near as much stuff as you think. Once you’re ready to go—just go!”

There will always be one more wedding to attend, or funeral; one more baby shower or family birthday or national holiday or conference.

The urgency of the unreached is real. Once you are equipped to go, don’t delay! Lest you linger too long and end up being delayed indefinitely.

4. The Most Difficult Part of Going Might Just Be You

Regardless of where you choose to live in the world for Christ, you take your heart with you. The sin you struggle with in America will not suddenly disappear once you are overseas. If anything, it will become more exposed in the furnace of discomfort and difficulty. Take stock of areas of struggle in your heart—things like anger or anxiety, laziness or lust. These areas of struggle will not magically improve when you go but will likely grow if not addressed now.

Take stock of areas of struggle in your marriage, if you’re married, or in your parenting, if you have children. Take stock of areas where you struggle with other people. Being on a team with fellow sinners in a difficult living environment will likely not make it easier to love others and die to yourself, but harder. The aim is not perfection, but rather having an effective battle plan for these areas of weakness so that you know how to fight them, regardless of your location on a map. Take stock of these things and, having a plan in place where you are successfully fighting them, read point number 3 and go!

There is a very real, very biblical sense in which every believer is a missionary wherever they are in the world. But for the ones who choose to go the ends of the earth, knowing these four things in advance might help them not just to go, but to be able to finish!