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Article by Rachelle Wiggins
“Why is it that some Christians cross land and sea, continents and cultures, as missionaries? What on earth impels them? It is not in order to commend a civilization, institution or ideology, but rather a person, Jesus Christ.” ~John Stott, theologian
The word missionary literally means “sent one.” As one sent by God and His Church to spread a message—an invitation to come to faith in Jesus—a missionary helps carry out and complete the Great Commission to “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations,” (Matt. 28:18-19). Whether in Latvia or Lebanon, Paraguay or Peru, Botswana or Burkina Faso, missionaries carry God’s truth to every corner of the earth, especially places where there is little access to the Gospel, in hopes of helping unreached people cross over from unbelief to belief in God’s Son. The role of missionary is ever-expanding beyond teaching and preaching to include areas like social justice, relief work, educational and literacy efforts, healthcare and economic development. As a missions major, you will consider the effectiveness of outreach using these platforms and will learn about community development, cultural sensitivity, language barriers, communication, church planting and trends in overseas ministry.
Beyond a love for God and people, a missions major is often able to articulate a sense of “calling.” Additionally, there are other desirable skills and traits necessary for success in this major, and someday in the field of career missions. One is an interest in travel, other cultures, ethnic food, and foreign language. If you are not drawn to these things, chances are a career in missions will not be a long-term fit for you. Since a missionary’s number one goal is the salvation of people, it is imperative to be a relational, friendly and engaging individual who naturally seeks out and builds community with others. Along with this though comes a desire to try new things, take risks and ultimately to make sacrifices. Missions sounds exciting, but at the end of the day, it is not about seeing the world but about serving people. Missionaries chance constant embarrassment while learning new languages and cultures! Financial success, comforts of home and closeness to family are often sacrificed as well. Because of this, it’s important to be emotionally stable and mature when going into this challenging lifestyle.
Programs vary greatly when it comes to a major in missions. For example, some schools emphasize Bible and theology classes and some do not. Some emphasize discipleship and spiritual growth, and others may require you to study foreign language. It is likely you will try some cross-cultural work, and perhaps even an internship. Short-term missions trips may be required or encouraged. Types of classes you may take include:
A major in missions may allow you to one day direct or serve with a foreign ministry, mission or non-profit. In our world today, missionaries enter countries through many vocational avenues such as teaching ESL (English as a Second Language), medical work or coffee shop owner. There are thousands of ways to participate in overseas missions through administrative roles, missions aviation, construction and maintenance, broadcasting or communications or as a house parent or teacher for an international school. Other missions related careers include:
If you sense God tugging at your heart to join Him in what He is doing around the world to reach the nations, then a major in missions could be what’s next on the horizon for your life!
By Amber Gragert
One of the last teachings of Jesus during His time on earth was a commission to the disciples saying in Mark 16:15, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." It really is that simple. We are called to do the same, some of us are even called to this as a full time career in missions. A degree in missions or intercultural studies is the perfect choice of higher education before going out into the world and fulfilling that calling to serve through missions, relief, or development work both nationally and internationally.
To enter intercultural or missions studies is to delve deep into the word of God and learn how to best and effectively communicate the gospel as a skillful worker of the word. This will include not only Biblical studies and course work, but also many hours of practice in real world settings. Through this teaching, students learn how to analyze and understand different cultures and their unique settings from Christian and social perspectives. These are vital areas of study in order to learn and know how to create positive social change. This in turn also leads students to learn all about community development, social structures, cultural nuances, how to develop intercultural relationships by engaging with new people in different cultures personally, and how people organize themselves and economically, socially, and politically interact.
Coursework will include classes like missionary biographies - what better way to learn than from those who pioneered the world before us? Others include missiology, cross-cultural living and ministry, cultural anthropology, integrating faith and cultures, intercultural communications, Christian world movement, world views, current mission trends, etc. Students will also have opportunities to be part of short-term mission trips and to serve abroad through service projects and internships. All aid in developing strong character and ministry skills in students. Having the ability to navigate through cultural differences and connect with all sorts of people within those cultures is an invaluable skill to have in a world of global thinkers and connectedness.
The missions or intercultural studies major pairs well with any student interested in anthropology, sociology, and political sciences. Types of work related to this major include long-term missions, evangelism and church planting, foreign service official, diplomacy, house parent, political analysis, rehabilitation counseling, and social work. This would also be a beneficial major to become a teacher in a different country or education administrator at an international school. Education requirements for any of these careers of course vary by job and employer.
"Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples."
If you have a heart for the nations and to serve, a love for experiencing new and different cultures and people, a desire to travel, and a general feeling of wanting to be used by God to bring glory to Him - then by all means you have found the major for you in missions and intercultural studies.