Today I want to share with you some VITAL missions advice. As of writing this posts, I’ve been in the missions world for just over ten years. For me, this wild and fulfilling ride started in early 2005 and has only accelerated. We’ve traveled around the world for fourteen months preaching the Gospel, spent six months leading a team in Southeast Asia (coming in season two of The Revolutionary Life), spent six months traversing amazing India with all it’s wonderful and challenging situations, seen villages open to the Gospel, helped plant churches, and start new ministries and social programs.
I’ve honestly lost count of all the months and trips. It’s been challenging, fun, and most of all enlightening and fulfilling. We’ve learned ALOT. Grown up a little. And figured out that underneath it all, people are the same.
When I look back, there are a few pieces of advice that I was given early on that has proven INVALUABLE. These have become lessons Darlene and I live by, and as we continue to build Great Commission Academy, you will hear more and more about these little nuggets. I believe that these pieces of missions advice can determine long-term success or failure, in missions and in life. Many I know have long abandoned the mission field because the pressure was overwhelming in one way or the other. Others have settled in with little or no fruit of ministry, content to survive. But there are many who have changed countless lives and still have the love of their families and friends.
All of those who are successful and fruitful seem to live by the five little lines below – not only in ministry but in LIFE. Regardless if you are called to the nations or to the streets of the neighborhood you grew up in, these lessons will apply to both your life and ministry.
So take a moment and skim through these. Print them out. Hang them on your wall and see how you can apply them.
5 Vital Pieces of Missions Advice that Apply to All of Life
During my very first mission training, I was given a rubber-band and told to put it around my wrist. “Every time you feel stretched, pop yourself,” the trainer said. “It is a reminder to always be flexible.”
On the missions field (and life), unexpected things are around every corner. It is not always the strongest or smartest that survive, but the one who can adapt to change the best. Learn this. Put your own rubber band around your wrist, and when you feel stretched, pop yourself and say out loud, “Be Flexible.”
2When the Devil draws a line in the sand and dares you to step over it, step.
This jewel of advice is not for the coward, for sure. I was told this from a veteran missionary that had put his life on the line time and time again. He saw the calling on my life and invited me over for lunch at the host home where he was staying. As we talked, I was star-struck. This guy was the real deal – and he was taking the time to talk to me!
Near the end of the conversation he leaned in, looked me in the eye and said, “Dustan, when you get over there, there will come a day when the devil draws a line in the sand and dares you to cross it.” Then he leaned in even closer, a foot from my face, and said, “Cross it.”
His words have flashed through my mind a million times since then, and time and time again Darlene and I have crossed that line. Sometimes it came with problems, but I can honestly say every great testimony we have was found on the other side of the line. Faith is spelled R-I-S-K because fear is the main tool Satan uses to make us shrink back.
3If you are gifted, people will try to pull you away from your dreams to help them fulfill theirs.
Oh, this one! If I could only tell you how many people wanted me to be the media guy for their church or business. Others wanted Darlene and I to hang up our hiking boots and put on penny loafers – they offered money, houses, cars, and paychecks for us to be pastors and worship leaders. Some even got offended when we refused and tried to destroy our ministry. Others were an image of honor and grace. They simply saw a gift and wanted to utilize it for the glory of God.
Don’t get me wrong, both a media guy and a pastor have extremely honorable jobs, that’s not my point. If you are called to that – keep at it. My point is that if you are a gifted individual, people (even good people) will try to get you to stop what you are doing and pull you into what they are doing, especially in missions because there are a host of people who think you are going through a phase or something.
They do not believe in the mission, not really.
Now, a warning, promotion in the Lord comes from serving others (as does true fulfillment). This is not a message against serving humbly what another man has built – it is a message concerning being pulled away from your calling forever to help another man fulfill his. It’s all about being led by the Holy Spirit. People WILL take advantage – so always ask the Lord if any major moves are His plan. Whatever the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart, DO.
4Honor and respect your fellow workers, but don’t try to be them.
One of the best lessons Darlene and I learned while traveling from nation to nation, from church to church, is that everyone has a strong opinion on how things should be done. The immature think that their way will work everywhere and that everyone else is doing it wrong. The mature realize that humans are made of a billion different variables and what works in one place will not work the same way somewhere else (or sometime else).
I’ve seen this on the mission field and in the church world. We all go to a conference of a successful ministry (or business) and write down everything that is said. We want to be fruitful for the Lord, but when we bring it back to our ministry work, it doesn’t work the same way. Why?! Because the person that taught the conference was led to do that, but you were not! People are not equations – we are not math. When it comes to the human soul, principles only work at the base layer most of the time.
If Darlene and I had continued trying to do missions like everyone else, I doubt you would be reading this. People who themselves were unsuccessful swore by their methods as the only successful way. Foolishness!
God knows what you need to do. The Word of God is your guide. The Holy Spirit will lead you. If he leads you to do your ministry like others – it will work. If not, then it won’t.
5Learn to be yourself everywhere you go.
I learned this one from a family in Thailand. They were (and are) inspiring. As I compared the way they interacted with the locals from the way others did, I noticed a huge difference. They were more natural and could communicate with both westerners and Southeast Asians on the same level. From this, I learned something that has given me life-long friendships all over the world from multiple difference cultures.
If we want to be accepted, we must make sure to focus on being authentically us everywhere we go. Yes, there are cultural differences, and we must learn to adapt, but that doesn’t mean we try to BE these people. Darlene and I are not Thai, or Nepali, or Indonesian and we never will be. We are American and that’s good. When we are ourselves we make easier and deeper friendships everywhere we go. We are trusted more because we don’t come across like we are acting.
People can feel that, ya know?
This advice, my friend, is pure gold. Learn to adapt without losing yourself, and you will have truer and deeper relationships even with people from other cultures. You will also be listened to much more as you share your heart with those you meet.
There you go. These are few of the lessons we live by. We’ve learned these not only from listening to others but by proving them all over the world. Take it and apply it, and your missions future will be much more fruitful, fulfilling and fun!
What do you think about this advice? What is your advice to others preparing for the mission field? Share in the comments below.