12 Lessons from Missionaries to Guide Us Today

I always learn from missionaries, and I think they can teach us a lot–including today, when our nation is in turmoil. Here are some things we might learn from them:

  1. Be a learner as much as a teacher. When we’re continually students, we learn more about the people we’re building relationships with as we seek to reach them—and we tend to be less susceptible to arrogance when we’re learning.  
  2. Love people who are different from us. That love means not worrying about their skin color, their history, their traditions, or their language. It means loving them with the love of God, who demanded that we make disciples of all peoples. 
  3. Prioritize proclaiming the gospel. We need more of the missionary heart that wants everyone to hear the Good News. Jesus is still the answer to all of our personal and societal woes.
  4. Stand for truth regardless of the cost. Missionary stories and biographies remind us of men and women who gave their lives rather than compromise gospel truth. Standing for truth inevitably means confronting sin. 
  5. Don’t worry about your own kingdom. It’s tough to build your own kingdom when your work focuses on reaching people. The gospel is about being others-focused.
  6. Study the worldview of people around you. Just because the people around us speak our language (or even look like us) doesn’t mean we understand the way they think. We’re wise to study their history, religion, relationship structures, etc., if we want to lead them to Jesus. 
  7. Genuinely live among other people to reach them. Missionaries do that by definition. Some church leaders, I fear, only cocoon themselves among believers. They don’t really know the hurt around them. 
  8. Learn the language of other people. Even if they speak our first language, they may still use a different vocabulary and different definitions. I assure you that I have to work hard to understand the English of generations much younger than I!
  9. Reproduce yourself. Missionaries know their responsibility is to raise up believers who then become leaders themselves. Evaluating a missionary’s work–and our work, too–requires a long-term look.
  10. Love the Word. I’ve been with missionaries so steeped in the Word of God that it simply drops off their lips. That Word tests our own hearts–and we must welcome that. 
  11. Pray a lot. Missionaries sometimes face such struggles and opposition that they know they must turn to God throughout the day. All of us often need that reminder.  
  12. Raise up children to love people created in God’s image. I love it when I get to hang out with multiple generations of missionary families who love all people and cross cultural boundaries to reach others. May we, too, raise up Great Commission kids! 

What else have you learned from missionaries?


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