Who has been called to missions? Even as a missionary, I must confess my own discomfort in articulating the answer to that question because views range from ‘all people have been called’ to ‘nobody has been called.’ Personally, I have no problem asserting that all believers have been called to participate in God’s mission (and have preached such a position) because all are commanded to be part of God’s mission to make disciples. However, individual participation and fulfillment of that call may look different for every person, and thus, not all are called to the same degree. The question remains, “Who has been called to missions?”
Former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor M. David Sills addresses the topic in The Missionary Call. The book is a simple examination of the missionary call utilizing Scripture in addition to historical examples so that readers recognize its relationship in their own personal experience. Sills executes this goal in a three-part book that defines the missionary call (part one), identifies the personal aspect of a missionary call (part two), and finally addresses the fulfillment of the missionary call (part three).
Sills has one of the most thorough views of missions that I have read from an author that is demonstrated by the comprehensiveness of the book. As a result, the author not only addresses specific topics often overlooked, but he also pinpoints certain nuances that people are not aware of when it comes to missions. He picks up on the challenges that face missionaries, both getting to the field and once established on the field (specifically note chapters 9 & 10). It is a section in particular that church leaders would do well to understand so that they may be better engaged with the missionaries they support. Furthermore, Sills identifies aspects of missions that many don’t realize. The first is the propensity to utilize guilt manipulation in order to ‘convict’ individuals to commit their lives to cross-culture missions (pg. 59). Additionally, it’s the recognition that deputation is more than about support raising, but is a biblically-demonstrated ministry in itself (pg. 138).
The book though is one that is conflicting. While trying to address what is the missionary call, the author oscillates between the mystical and the biblical citing questionable sources such as Henry Blackaby and Experiencing God or A.W. Tozer, thus creating confusion. This is further complicated by statements that seem to contradict one another, for example, early on he demonstrates the great need for missionaries because there is much work to be done, and yet later on in the book he stipulates that missionaries are coming from the rest of the world. Readers can make assumptions about what the author intends, but without direct clarification from him there no firm answers leaving them conflicted.
This confusion appears to be born out of a misunderstanding of God’s will. He suggests that God’s will is more than just what is revealed in His Word. He is correct in that certainly, the specific will for individuals is different. Yet, he is solution spiritualizes God’s will and thus leaves believers uncertain about what it really is (which impacts how he describes the missionary call). Such a definition neglects principles that we learn from Scripture though, and that if we are simply faithful to obey God’s revealed will, then the unrevealed part will become clear (cf. Romans 12:1-2; Deuteronomy 29:29).
This confusion about God’s will is born out in a very practical aspect within the book. While addressing how a person can know God’s will he includes great suggestions such as knowing God, God’s Word, praying, seeking counsel, understanding one’s circumstances and the timing of those, and finally concludes with the desires of one’s heart. Notably lacking in this list is God’s gifting of believers and the skill sets he has given them to serve him. Had God’s will been defined correctly, the inclination would reveal this as a vital aspect to a missionary’s calling.
The Missionary Call is a book seeking to guide readers to understand what the missionary call is and whether or not God has called him or her to the mission field. While there is great value of such a book, there are concerns that make the book somewhat impractical. Therefore, such a resource is beneficial, but I would consider it at best, a tertiary source (after the Bible and the more solid resources). Before turning to The Missionary Call I would recommend that readers turn first to Gary Gilley’s book Is That You Lord? which is shorter, more defined and clear, and Bible-centric.
To purchase a copy of the books mentioned in this review, click the following links:
I received a copy of this book at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, this review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or any other person associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of it.