Hello Jack, I have a sense of call into some full time missionary work but will like to know how long is the ideal preparation period for ministry? I recently completed my university first degree.
Good question, Philip. As usual, it all depends…!
- On what you would like to do. An undergraduate degree is a good start, but increasingly only a good foundation, especially for a job as challenging as cross-cultural mission.
- Increasingly leaders of Third World countries are interested in giving visas to foreigners whom they think can make a significant contribution to their country. Such a contribution usually demands specialization of some kind.
- Being a Christian missionary assumes that whether you plan to be a full time evangelist, preacher, or professor or not, that you are able to cogently communicate the Gospel, answer basic theological questions, and lead people into a vital relationship with Jesus. This implies both theoretical (academic) and practical training. Moving into a new culture is greatly aided when one has studied anthropology.
- Where you plan to serve will also influence your preparation. All cross-cultural missionary experience is a stretch, but it’s one thing to deal with people in a culture with world view roots similar to our own (Latin American, European, etc.) and quite another to enter the Arabic, Oriental, or indigenous Indian cultures.
Therefore, once you have an idea of what you would like to do and where you would like to do it, I would recommend that you find a mission agency with broad experience in this place. Dialogue with them as to your interest. They will ask you questions about your aptitudes, training, experience, and sense of call. In the process they will undoubtedly help you explore options, recommend additional steps, and help you deal with details like fund raising.
Another aspect of preparation is developing a support base. In addition to financial support you will need people praying for you as your partners in ministry. As an illustration of this, I would recommend that you read Mountain Rain by Eileen Crossman, the biography of J.O. Fraser, pioneer missionary to the Lisu people in Western China. Although his mission was specifically focused, the principles he demonstrates of the necessity of prayer and more precisely the need for a prayer support base, would be true of any missionary seeking to see God work in a local setting. As a missionary seeking to “bring people out of darkness into light” you are challenging the Prince of Darkness head on. We call this Spiritual Warfare, and you need all the support and help you can get!
I trust these basic suggestions will be helpful to you. Don’t hesitate to reply with more questions!
Blessings on you, Philip.