As a student at a missions college, I asked myself why I should receive an education before going overseas. There are many opportunities to go on short term mission trips that do not require an educational background. In fact, many people are able to travel overseas for missions without an education or a degree, even for longer periods of time. In other instances, there are shorter programs that are not as time-consuming as a fulltime education.
Why should a missionary receive an education before going overseas? Missionary education equips missionaries to handle the culture, people, and tasks that they will come across in another country. Natural ease and ability will meet its end when faced with certain trials and difficulties. Specific education grants longevity in missions. Without proper education and equipping, many missionaries leave the field after months or years. Education also can open up doors for missionaries to go into certain countries that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to without a trade or degree.
Below I will expand upon many issues that arise without a missionary education and how a missionary education can be helpful.
A missionary education program or school will build upon the foundations of Christianity. It will cover topics such as theology and doctrine. Furthermore, it will lead students into greater depths and understanding of the Bible as a whole and each piece that fits within it. A solid foundation of belief is necessary for any missionary. Without a foundation, a missionary may be quick to stumble or fall away. When met with difficult questions, a missionary may not have a proper answer or even the Biblical basis for one.
1 Peter 3:15-16 declares, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Education in missions and the Bible can equip a believer to do this exact thing.
A lack of understanding will not only contradict scripture, but it will also create a hindrance that is completely unnecessary. One does not have to be fluent in all Biblical knowledge to be a missionary, but he or she should be able to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 1 Timothy 2:15.
Missionary education may not be necessary to succeed as a missionary, but it is incredibly beneficial in many ways. The depth and discipline that a missionary school provides gives much more experience typically than if one simply studied the Bible on his or her own.
Understanding of Culture and Belief
Furthermore, missionary education focuses on culture. There are many different cultures throughout the world, all of which have different values and beliefs. It is crucial to have some understanding of a culture before jumping into ministry. For example, many religions will accept Jesus as a person or prophet, but not as the Son of God. This causes discrepancies when a missionary is naive to this fact.
A missionary may be trying to share the truth of Jesus while not getting anywhere. The culture that is being addressed may not realize that the missionary is trying to make a distinction of who Jesus is, or they are simply not interested in hearing because they have their minds made up. Moreover, some monotheist religions are confused about Christianity. They view the trinity as three separate gods, rather than one true God. This is especially true in the Muslim system. The description of “three in one” is often offensive and confusing to devout Muslim believers who would never equate Jesus to Allah.
These are only a few examples of what a missionary can experience while overseas. There are also cultural norms and manners to consider. If a missionary is trying to reach a group of people, he or she doesn’t want to come across as rude and disrespectful. Instead, they should be aware of cultural barriers and should have an understanding and desire to grow in their knowledge. This is respectful to other peoples and can make them more receptive to friendship and the gospel.
The longevity of missions is often sporadic. Some younger people may do short term missions and have success and joy with them. However, many find once they are on the field that they weren’t ready or equipped enough. This either makes them come home early or not return to the field after their trip is finished. Many returning missionaries express that they did not feel equipped or effective within the culture. They are left wanting more knowledge and strategy to bring back to the field. Even people who were raised on the mission field find themselves seeking more tools and resources.
For some people, the thought of months or years of training before reaching the mission field is a waste of time. Many long to make a difference right away. This zeal is powerful and can be of much aid. However, zeal without wisdom can be counterproductive. In the long term, a mission education will indeed result in work on the mission field and even outside ministry during the course of the school. Longevity is often a result of preparedness, wisdom, passion, zeal, and strategy. Any of these standing on their own are not as efficient as all of them coming together.
The time put in before hitting the field will invest in the overall time a missionary chooses to be overseas. Additionally, it sows into the effectiveness and fruitfulness of the time on the field. During the time in a missionary school, students are often encouraged and given opportunities for short term mission trips or long-term internships. This style is beneficial because it grows the students in knowledge and hands-on experience and the use of that knowledge.
A missionary school can also provide connections to other countries or to sending agencies. It is important to do missions as the body of Christ, rather than as a lone wolf. A missionary needs to be sent. He or she needs to be supported in prayer and finances. Furthermore, a missionary should have a team of people, either directly on the field, or back home. Connections made during missionary school can fulfill all these needs. Students may be placed into teams or may form their own teams from the community of their school.
Additionally, many missionary schools equip their students in how to raise support and write newsletters to maintain this support. They may also be able to connect the students with an organization that will send and support them long term. In addition, the school itself may hire on a graduated student to continue the work of Christ. Connections are crucial in missions because they can also provide a way to enter into restricted countries or hostile countries.
Opportunity in Restricted Countries
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to consider an education in missions, particularly a degree, is that many countries will not allow foreigners to enter the countries except for business or tourist purposes. As a tourist, missionaries may not be able to stay as long as they desire within a country. Moreover, restrictions are becoming greater and many places will not accept workers within a school, orphanage or other business realms without a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. An accredited degree in missions with a double major or minor in a practical trade avenue can open many doors.
As you can see, missionary education isn’t necessary but it is extremely helpful. The feedback received from short term and long term missionaries support all these positions and reasons. I myself, have benefited greatly from my time in a missions university and I encourage others who are considering missions to research their options.
Where can I go to receive a missionary education?
There are numerous options available, some encompass a couple of months, like YWAM or a full four year accredited degree like Bethany Global University. YWAM has sites across the world for training programs, but they do not provide an accredited degree. Bethany Global University has a gap year program but it is best known for its Bachelor’s degree program. This program is tuition paid because it is a work college. Graduating students receive a double major in Bible and Theology, and either Intercultural Studies or Education. There are also numerous minor programs involving early childhood education, business, and social justice. This university also has Master’s degree programs.
If you are interested in other missions colleges, click here.