Called and qualified
By Rick Johnson
The Assemblies of God does not recruit missionaries. In the
secular business world, matching diverse job descriptions with qualified
candidates would be impossible without a concerted search.
So, how does an effective blending of people and talents
come about? We rely on the Holy Spirit’s ability to speak to the hearts of
qualified people and call them into His service in the location where they can
be of greatest use to the kingdom of God. During the five years
I have served on the World Missions Committee, this principle has always proved
When new Assemblies of God missionaries are accepted, they
become part of a long-established, prayerful cooperation between the Lord of
the harvest who does the calling and the sending agency that provides the
means. He brought about our missionary mobilization process over the course of
this Fellowship’s history.
At the first General Council of the Assemblies of God in
1914, a resolution was passed, declaring that all those who claim to be called
to serve as missionaries must be properly tested in these three areas:
1. Their personal experience of “full New Testament salvation.”
2. Their divine call to missions.
3. Their physical, mental and
When the AG World Missions Executive Committee begins
examining the qualifications of missionary candidates, their entire life
histories and how they’ve prepared themselves for missions comes under
scrutiny. These potential missionaries will be living in a cross-cultural environment
and addressing life issues and daily challenges they may never have
experienced. Their academic, financial and relational preparation; their
reliability throughout their job history; and the development and level of
maturity in their Christian testimony are all factors in identifying the newest
members of our missionary team.
Many people have an idealized, even romanticized, mental
picture of missionary work. Certainly there is excitement in traveling to
another country and integrating with another culture. But missionary ministry
is also hard work. A level of spiritual warfare inevitably comes to bear when
followers of Christ take the good news into the enemy’s territory. Candidates
must be able to meet challenges they are not even aware of as they begin the
Within this spectrum of personal qualifications, where does
God’s call to missionary ministry fit? The answer is at the very foundation of
our selection process. As every individual or couple comes to be interviewed,
we seek for a certain conviction that God has laid His hand upon them. What
will enable them to remain in an environment if things they plan do not come
about? What will keep them committed to the task when they are tired and
discouraged, low on funds, far from family, or possibly even opposed by local
authorities? As a committee, we want to hear how God has led them to this
Every personal testimony is unique. Some describe how God
spoke to them as children, and they have spent their lives preparing for this
moment. Listening to such personal narratives, committee members are very aware
of our responsibility to stay spiritually tender before the Lord of the harvest
and discern what He is saying to us regarding His will for a person’s life.
On occasion, someone may have fulfilled many of the steps in
preparation for missionary service, yet we realize something still needs to be
completed. Perhaps the person needs to demonstrate more job stability or
financial accountability. Perhaps ministerial education or experience is
lacking. We may ask a candidate to continue in a ministerial role another year
or two. In almost every instance, people who have been delayed in the
missionary approval process came back later to report that the decision to
delay them was to their benefit.
One couple we interviewed had a child who was critically
ill, yet they were convinced God was calling them overseas. As a committee we
prayed for a miracle, and in God’s timing the child was supernaturally healed.
This experience became a wonderful confirmation of the Lord’s calling to that
family’s field of service.
Another couple came to us with impressive qualifications.
They clearly articulated their call to serve in a much-needed area of ministry.
Yet they faced a major obstacle: tremendous financial debt acquired through
their higher education. We agreed with them in prayer, even though we could not
accept their application at that point. In a matter of weeks an inheritance
came to them unexpectedly and completely covered their debt.
Whenever we commission a married couple, we recognize God’s
calling on both the husband and wife. The divine Author of marriage doesn’t
place a ministry burden on only one marriage partner. Particularly in world
missions, the responsibilities of family, ministry and cultural adjustments are
too great for a couple that is not united in purpose. Spouses are dependent
upon each other for fulfilling their respective roles in missions.
As a Pentecostal missions-sending agency, AGWM strongly
emphasizes and constantly expresses reliance upon the work of God’s grace and
the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is as essential
to the Great Commission in 2009 as it was in the first century. A Pentecostal
experience is foundational to our Movement. The Baptism is the gift of God’s
grace. God desires to baptize missionary candidates and fully prepare them for
A husband once wrote to us asking that we overlook the fact
that his wife had never been baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of
speaking in other tongues. He described her many other ministry qualifications,
the fruit of the Spirit in her life and their years of significant service in
the Fellowship. While we as a committee felt great appreciation for them, we
reiterated that all endorsed missionaries with the Assemblies of God are to be
baptized in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking with other
We sent the couple a letter of encouragement, along with a
book on seeking Spirit baptism. Soon afterward the man’s wife prayed for the
Baptism before going to bed and awoke the next morning worshipping God in a
language she had not learned. This experience was a tremendous joy to the
couple and confirmed that as a Pentecostal movement we have absolute and utter
dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit and obedience to the Word of God.
We pray the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers,
and we are thankful to God for sending people to us. We are not, and never will
be, a recruiting agency. Rather, we continue to partner with the Holy Spirit as
He sovereignly brings men and women to a realization of their highest purpose
in life. Sometimes life circumstances need to be addressed before someone can
be fully available for God’s service. But in more than 200 nations and
territories of the world today, the confirmation of this process is lived out
in the lives of 2,700 missionaries and the families and communities they serve.
It never fails — when God speaks to a missionary candidate’s heart, He
confirms His leading by granting divine guidance within our committee, divine
provision within the churches of our Fellowship, and a divine harvest around
RICK JOHNSON is director for personnel and family life for
Assemblies of God World Missions.
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