What Does it Take to be a Missionary?

I have been recruiting cross-cultural kingdom workers (aka missionaries) for nearly 20 years, was a missionary in Guatemala for nine years before that, and was a missionary kid for eleven years early in life. If anyone can spot a missionary type, it may be me.

Should I be a Missionary?

However, there really isn’t a “missionary type.” God uses all kinds of people in global kingdom work. The needs are so high and so broad in application that nearly anyone could find themselves serving the kingdom overseas at some point.

Having said that, I do believe some characteristics are common to productive, cross-cultural workers. You might quiz yourself with this list as if answering a survey online with the question, “Should I be a Missionary?” As with those tests, results pale in comparison to God’s leading in your life. In fact, that is the first common thread.


Effective global workers have an undeniable leading from God to get involved, and they are just trying to be obedient. All strengths and weaknesses aside, this is question number one. Is God calling you? If he is, obey and leave the rest of this post to him!

“All In” Attitude

Effective global workers have an “all in” attitude when it comes to obedience. God’s leading may not always be the same for all of us, but Jesus said that we, as his sheep, know his voice and when his voice asks us to go and be his witness in some other country or culture, we say “Here am I, send me!”


Effective global workers tend to exhibit tenacity, persistence, and perseverance in the face of adversity. “When the going gets tough, the missionary keeps going” to borrow from an old American football adage. Though missionary work can often define “adventure,” it might also define “challenging.”


Effective global workers are flexible and can adapt to unfamiliar situations. Many would say that the most crucial trait in cross-cultural living is flexibility. Whether or not that is true, it is important. One thing that can confidently be said about living outside your own country is that life will be different. Being able to adapt to those differences may make the difference between success and failure.


Effective global workers demonstrate creativity and can innovate when the usual way of getting to the end of a project isn’t working. Some people keep trying the same ineffective strategy, but we all know what that is the definition for! Let me also say here that successful ideas may not, and many times don’t come from you. It is essential to be able to recognize a good idea coming from someone else and then work to help them develop and launch it.


Effective global workers can push themselves. They are self-starters and live innovative lives. If you are meant to be a missionary, this post should not scare you into inaction, it should motivate you to take the next step. If God is telling us to go, then we are about going where he leads. Courage helps in this, at least enough courage to take the next step.


Effective global workers have a sense of humor, especially when it comes to laughing at oneself. When we transition to another world, we will make many mistakes. It can be discouraging, but the key to making it through those times is to see the humor in it all and laugh.

Pray Without Ceasing

Lastly, but certainly not least, is effective global workers are people of prayer. We can walk through anything our path leads us into if we know we are not alone. Communion with the one who sends us is critical. That communion is never better than when we are alone with God in prayer. We grow to be more like Jesus when we spend time in his presence.

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