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My wife Lynne and I went onto the mission field when were young. We left America in our early twenties and spent ten years in Africa planting churches and ministering to those in need. During our whole married life, we’ve been involved in missions and church planting in one way or another. We may have missed out on a lot of other stuff, but we had a blast doing what God had called us to do. The missions life is a good life.

Lynne and I met at Calvary Chapel Bible College, and like many other good bible college couples, we got married right after school.

Calvary Chapel Bridal College. Am I right?

We then moved to Georgia (the state not the country) for our first two years of marriage. We connected with a new church plant and learned practical ministry from my friend Ben Sloboda. He’d planted a Calvary Chapel in Athens, and we both got jobs in town and helped at the church.

It was a great couple of years. Judah, our son, was born there, and we learned a lot about ministry and life. We also started to see that God had a specific plan for us. We ended up turning a short-term trip into a long-term career.

Mission Work Was (and Still Is) Our Life

Our goal had always been to move onto the mission field—preferably somewhere in Africa. While at Bible College, Lynne heard a motivating message from Wes Bentley of Far Reaching Ministries. He shared about the work that God was doing through a small group of missionaries in Uganda. As he spoke, Lynne’s heart was stirred for the orphans of East Africa. She was feeling the call to missions, and she was responding with faith. I felt the call too. Once we were married, we committed to following God wherever He would lead us. We both had a desire to work in foreign missions, serving God overseas.

Long before ever stepping foot on the mission field, missions was our life. We supported mission organizations. We prayed for people in other countries. Missionary conferences and visiting missionaries were a few of our favorite things. We both loved hearing stories of people serving Christ in far off places. We loved all the amazing things that God’s people were doing around the world. That’s what we wanted to do too. We wanted to give our lives for the lost. We wanted to be like Jim and Elizabeth Elliot (without the dying part). We wanted to attempt great things for God and expect great things from God. We wanted to be missionaries.

After that first motivational message back at Bible college, Wes Bentley prayed for Lynne to be a missionary to Uganda. It was a prophetic prayer, and two years later we joined a mission team headed to Kampala. That was the beginning of an amazing journey that our family was privileged to be a part of. God prepared all this in advance, and we simply had to walk with Him by faith.

I feel like I could write a book about all the stuff we got to see and experience on the mission field, but this isn’t the time for that. I think even some of the “normal” stuff we did would make for an interesting read. It definitely wouldn’t be a book where we were the heroes of the story, though. Frankly, most of the time we were just holding on for dear life. It’s kind of embarrassing when I look back at some of the foolish things I said and did. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of good stuff, but I sure would’ve done a few things differently.

At any rate, our eventual success as missionaries in Africa wasn’t because of us. We went with insufficient training, insufficient funds, and insufficient support. It was almost as if God selected a couple that couldn’t possibly take the credit even if they wanted to. That was us. Thankfully, even in our insufficiency, we were sent out by a sufficient God. In our weakness, God is strong. By the grace of God, we were able to establish a successful Calvary Chapel ministry in East Africa that continues to this day.

All of Us Are Called to Mission Work in One Way or Another

I’m not here to write about our missions adventures. I’m not here to write a book of stories recounting God’s faithfulness to us in Africa. I’m simply here to write a short article about how I think that all of us are called to mission work in one way or another.

If someone were to ask you the question, “Why are you a missionary?” You may respond with, “Who says I’m a missionary?” They, believing it to be true, might reply, “You are a missionary.”

But are all Christians called to be missionaries? The answer is yes and no.

Yes, because all Christians have been given the great commission by Christ. He says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). This is our job. This is our purpose as a church in the world. He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). So, if we as Christians are supposed to go into the world and make disciples, then I think we’re all called to the task of missions and church planting in some fashion.

A simple definition of the word missionary means someone who’s sent on a mission with a message. It’s Jesus who has sent all of us on His mission with the gospel message. So according to Jesus, all of us are missionaries in that sense.

Don’t get scared though. It doesn’t mean you’re called to go to Africa or that you must leave your job and travel to a foreign country. We’re not all supposed to be missionaries in that way. God has a specific calling for all of us, including the type of people who travel to the remote parts of the world, or who plant churches among unreached tribes. That may or may not be you.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of Christians using the, “I’m not called to be a missionary” attitude as an excuse to not be involved in reaching the lost. They think because they aren’t called to “missions,” then they can focus on other things. Listen, just because God hasn’t called you to be a foreign missionary, it doesn’t mean you aren’t supposed to be involved in the mission of God in the world.

I remember years ago hearing a quote from John Piper: “Go, send, or disobey.” That’s heavy but it’s true. If we don’t take the Great Commission seriously then we’re not in line with the heart of God. He’s seeking people from every tribe tongue and nation to worship Him around the throne (Revelation 7:9). If we don’t all get involved in mission work, and get the message out to all these people, then they won’t be able to hear and be saved (Romans 10:14). That’s on us.

This means that we need to stop living for ourselves and start putting our time, resources, and effort into reaching the lost for Christ. The great thing about it is that we can do that wherever we are. We are all on mission, even if it’s right here at home. It’s like the sign outside of the church parking lot, “You are now entering the mission field.”

Ready to Serve, Send, and Go for the Sake of Christ

So, go and share the gospel with someone. Write a check to a missionary family. Join a missions small group. It’s not that complicated. Answer the call of God by saying, “Here I am Lord, send me” and watch the amazing things that He will do in your life.

You know, Lynne and I aren’t on the mission field in Africa anymore. We aren’t worried about not having enough support, the power going out, getting malaria, or dealing with the many complexities of living in another culture. We are just down here in Florida hanging out and planting a church. We are pretty much back to normal life again, and we are thankful to God for this season. But, deep down, the truth is that we still feel the same zeal and passion that we have always had for the great commission. Whether we’re here in America, or traveling to a foreign destination, we’re ready to serve, send, and go for the sake of Christ.

And that’s God’s heart for all of us. He wants us to join Him in His mission to seek and save the lost. So, are you a missionary? Well, you get the amazing privilege of answering that for yourself. I’m hoping the answer is “Yes!”

For the past twenty years Brian Kelly has been involved in church planting and mission work in East Africa, New Zealand, and the United States. Brian has a passion for planting churches and has hands-on experience seeing churches grow from the ground up. He recently planted a church in Bradenton, Florida—WestChurch—where he serves as lead pastor. Brian is also a member of the CGN Executive Team.