“Not called!” did you say? “Not heard the call,” I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world.”
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army
You can scour the internet and missions books and find great articles and chapters on the call to become a missionary. The first area of clarification that needs to be made is the fact that we are all called to do missions. There is no place where the Great Commission is limited to a certain group of people within the Body of Christ. Therefore, there is a “general call” that rests upon everyone who claims the name of Christ. There is no escaping that. However, this article is around the specific nature of being called to become a cross-cultural missionary. There is an great importance for each missionary to understand this reality because there is a different level of commitment, training and perseverance necessary for a cross-cultural missionary. They are often stepping into radical situations that have the possibility of being dangerous and will find them in the midst of a people that they do not understand and are potentially hostile. Also, many of these countries are territories that the enemy has planted his flag deep into the culture and he is not going to give it up without a fight. For these reasons and much more this topic of the specific call is phenomenally important.
The first point that needs to be emphasized is that the Holy Spirit is the one who calls and speaks to the individual. Sometimes this happens in a very supernatural way. For example, Paul’s call to Macedonia when he got a dream. Maybe someone will walk up to you and say the Lord gave them a word or a verse that they believe they are suppose to share with you. Or maybe it will be a more practical and logical revelation. Where you just raise your hand and say, “I am willing send me.” Nonetheless, you need to know that the Holy Spirit is confirming your calling.
Secondly, you need to have the support (not speaking financially) of your church leadership. You need to be in contact with your pastors and engaging them in praying for your calling. Ultimately, they are the one’s responsible for your wellbeing and for your training and it would be extremely wise for you to have their support. Also, it is very important for you to be extremely humble in this task as you talk with your pastors. As a pastor I have had many people come to me and say that they are called to missions and in my mind that was the farthest thing from reality and I have had to walk that missionary through the realities of that calling and how they are not spiritually, practically, physically, etc… ready. In doing this I have had some that humbly receive the council and I have had other that have completely went rouge. Most of the individuals that heeded council and took the time to go through training and discipleship did or are doing fantastic on the mission field and most the individuals that decided to go rouge have either returned home or are struggling greatly.
Finally, there also need to be an acceptance of your call from the mission field. Meaning, if there are individuals already serving on the mission field they need to also confirm and welcome your calling. You are going to go an assist them in the ministry and it is wise to have their support too. Honestly, I have seen a lot of individuals with plans and ideals that they are going to do to go and reach the lost but they are not at all inline with the vision of the team already on the ground. This is a recipe for disaster. And again, here is another area of humility that the missionary needs to have. You need to go not with your own plan and ideals but you need to sincerely heed the council from those already serving. They know what is going on and are in the midst of the battle and they are the ones that will communicate the truth to you of what needs to happen. Of coarse there are the occasion where there is not a team on the ground and you are going as a pioneer missionary which would make this point mute.
There is a lot more that could be said about the call to missions. But this will give you a basic understanding. I would encourage you to read chapter 2 of Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students titled “The Call to Ministry.”