I have often been asked by young people considering becoming missionaries what they will "need" in order to get into full-time work. Of course, they are usually thinking in terms of education or money but after 25 years of ministry experience I can say that these are not the things that will guarantee success in these endeavors. To make it as a preacher or missionary, I believe there are four indispensable resources required:
Resource #1 – Faith
Faith is as necessary for the one preaching salvation as it is for the one seeking it. There are many periods in your career where the result of your work is poor or even non-existent. For many, the fruit of their labor will only be known by future generations.
It requires faith in God's Word and His promise to provide for you when your efforts bear little results and your livelihood is always in doubt from year to year as is the case for most missionaries.
Resource #2 – Flexibility
Missionaries need to be flexible because people are unpredictable. People doing this type of work rarely have a set routine and young churches are notoriously volatile. All of this spells trouble for the person who seeks order, preciseness, neatness, NO SURPRISES!
If you want a long career in missions you'd better be ready to bend with the changing situation that God puts you in each day and realize that this is the norm – not the exception.
Resource #3 – Focus
How easy it is to major in minors when you are a missionary. Creating work that you can control and count is the religious worker's most frequent snare. Reports, paperwork, meetings, are all things that can easily overtake the primary task of ministering to souls, or preaching to the lost.
The ability to stay focused on the spiritual needs of the church instead of the need to keep one's job is usually what separates missionaries from former missionaries.
Resource #4 – Family
I have three families as a missionary, and each plays an important role in my life. My wife and children are what God has blessed me with to fulfill my personal life. My church family is what God has given me to serve. My "supporting" church family is what God has given me to enable me to serve the first two.
Whenever I neglect or am neglected by any of these, I cannot be effective in carrying out the ministry God has called and appointed me to do.
In the end, for those who wonder if they should go into missions at all, I remind them that the world can always get along without another tradesman or businesswoman or health care professional but it desperately needs every preacher willing to "…go into all the world…" Mark 16.