How do you know if you have what it takes to be an effective disciple-maker among the least-reached? Maybe you have a Bible degree. Maybe you have a calling. Maybe you even have a short-term mission trip under your belt. Is that enough?
I read a lot of missionary biographies and I watch a lot of people go to the nations. There seems to be a set of characteristics shared by those who do well. Let’s call it a disciple-maker’s DNA. This DNA has stood the test of time, separating those who have long-lasting impact from those who burn out or come home early.
Though a lot of things about missions have changed, what hasn’t changed is the character needed to be effective. Here are six qualities you need to thrive in cross-cultural ministry.
- Faith in the sovereignty of God | Philippians 4:11-12
I remember the first time I read about Adoniram Judson and the losses he endured as he obediently followed Christ. Speaking of burying several wives and many of his children, he said, “If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.” To be an effective disciple-maker, you must trust that everything in your life comes from a loving Father’s hand, and that He will sustain you through it.
- Confidence in your salvation | Job 19:35-36
As John and Betty Stam were forced by soldiers to the place where they would be beheaded, they marched with their heads held high. Even as swords were drawn, there appeared a slight smile on John’s face and a look of peace on Betty’s. How? They had counted the cost ahead of time, and they believed their Redeemer lives. Confidence in their eternal salvation prepared them for the life-sacrificing cost of being disciple-makers among the least-reached.
- Love for God’s Word | Isaiah 66:5
What is it that sustains those who live and work cross-culturally? Each one spends much time in the Scriptures. I can attest that the effective disciple-makers I’ve known personally are men and women of the Word. They haven’t stopped trembling (being awed) at the Word of God, and they faithfully obey His commands.
- A life of self-denial | Luke 18:29-30
At the simplest level, it might be losing American comforts like air conditioning or your favorite food. But more than that, it will probably look like dying to your ambition, your dreams, even the approval of those you love. True disciple-makers choose to follow Christ above all others and all things, believing He is worth the sacrifice.
- Willingness to dwell | John 1:14
Many workers reside with their host people, but the most effective belong. They don’t isolate themselves from unbelievers who need to come to the cross, nor do they neglect those who have already come to the cross and need to grow in Christ. Disciple-making always happens in the context of relationships. To make disciples, you must dwell with people, just as Jesus modeled.
- Motivated by the cross | 1 Corinthians 2:2
Amy Carmichael once said, “God hold us to that which drew us first, when the cross was the attraction, and we wanted nothing else.” If you have any other reason for going to the nations besides the work of the cross in your life and the desire to see Christ do the same in others, please do not go. It’s not enough to have the right degree or to be a gifted evangelist. The what only matters when you have the right why.
Mark Silvers served in the Philippines for 10 years and is now Crossworld’s Director of Mobilization. Mark’s driving passion is to reach the 2.9 billion people in the world today with no access to the gospel. Talk to Mark at crossworld.org/start.