Countless, dedicated Christians who consider themselves to be passionate world Christians, never end up in missionary service. They have every opportunity, gifting, skill set, resource, encouragement, even completed training for the field, yet they never enter service.
Instead, what they do enter is a relationship with another godly man or woman who does not have that same commitment to cross cultural service as they do. Sometimes the decision to not further pursue missionary service is direct and obvious and sometimes the decision is gradual and subtle, but either way a once fervent potential missionary never leaves home, but rather sets up home with a less-than-enthusiastic, non-missions spouse.
As single men and women, many of us long for discovery of a life partner to share in marriage and family life. The difficulty of the search can lead to compromise of some of our intended goals, dreams and callings. We begin to negotiate what are essential requirements and needs and what are “nice but not necessary” elements in our future mate’s “portfolio of potential.”
This can truly be an excruciating process and one in which eager prayer and pursuit of Christ is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, all too often, the desire and even actual calling for cross cultural, missionary service is demoted to the “nice but not necessary” pile. Rationalizations arise, “We will serve Christ in our local church,” “There are endless opportunities in our home culture,” “Over time, he/she, will share my passion for missions,” and “We just need more time.”
Similar to the Christian commitment to avoid serious involvement in romantic relationships with non-professing Christians, so must our commitment level rise to avoid serious relationships with non-missionary-minded partners. God is neither pleased nor honored when we compromise or surrender our callings for him and his service. Marriage is also a calling. But at times God wants us to wait or surrender as he fulfills his will in other life areas already made clear, such as missionary service.
As always, our dating standards and possible mate selection needs to be considered strategically, prayerfully and thoughtfully. It is always tricky to decide standards after entering a serious relationship. Conviction always precedes crisis. Our convictions of dating and marriage truth must come before the “mate crisis” of determining if this wonderful person is The One. We need to know now—even before we meet someone—the qualities we are seeking, and our non-negotiable criteria.
We can use several helpful, practical signs of observation and reflection, upon meeting a possible missionary mate. Below are some missionary-ready qualities and characteristics to look for in a dating partner:
- Dedication to, love and serious understanding of the word of God
- Listening and responding well to the Spirit in personal and ministry issues
- Love for the Church, involvement in community, and service in local church
- Mature understanding and practice of evangelism
- Enjoys and values people; serves and honors others above themselves
- Establishes goals and perseveres to reach them; words and actions match up
- Deep value in practice of prayer
- Communicates well, unafraid of tough discussion, confrontation, or conflict
- Spirit of boldness, potential risk-taker; appreciation for adventure and new things
- Dissatisfied by the Status Quo; desire to live “outside the lines”
The following are further practical and daily aspects to watch for and ask about in a potential missionary mate:
- Friends: are they missions minded? What do they discuss and do?
- Missionaries: does he/she pray for any? Have missionary friends?
- Finances: does he/she tithe, give to others generously?
- Lifestyle choices: materialism and comfort
- Travels: is there an interest in other cultures both locally and abroad?
- Missions trip: has he/she gone on one? Would he/she be willing to join you on one?
- Non-Christian friends: does he/she have any? Care for community, colleagues?
- Adventure: do you go on creative dates or are you resorting to same places and activities?
- Time: do you reach out to others together or only spend exclusive time as a couple?
- Development: what are his/her church involvements? Are spiritual gifts enhancing?
Both of these lists are merely some of the possible characteristics of a person or practical indicators for a missionary mate. Upon reading these lists, one must prayerfully and reflectively create their own “must have” list for a missionary mate and a list of “practical signposts.”
Finally, as we observe and search for these qualities and traits in a dating mate, are we developing these same areas in our own lives? Hopefully a fine future missionary is out searching for someone like us who is developing these very attitudes and behaviors as well.
May this generation of missionaries cling tightly to their missions call and choose well that right missionary mate to marry!