Here’s today’s question: “Pastor John, my name is David. I’m a high school senior and I recently felt the call of God to uproot my life for the spread of the gospel among the nations. I have access to several opportunities to go to college overseas through my denomination’s mission board. My pastor has affirmed my calling, and my church is willing and able to send me to study as a student-missionary. It is my plan to go into missions full time after I get my degree.
“My parents, on the other hand, say that this would be a waste of my life, and that I would be a fool to leave America, which is, they say, the greatest nation in the world. I graduate in June. What steps do I need to take in the coming months to convince my parents that going is a good thing? Would it be dishonoring to them if I went without their affirmation? I love America. I love my parents. But as you pointed out in one of your articles, God is calling people to leave America for the sake of the nations. I think that’s me. What are your thoughts?”
Well, I have six thoughts at least.
“God decides whether you will live another minute or another sixty years. Plan for the latter, not the former.”
1. Even though there comes a time when the will of Christ perceived in your own soul by the Holy Spirit through the word of God should take precedence over the will of your parents, if they conflict, nevertheless, God’s command for children to obey their parents is very serious (Ephesians 6:1). It puts a much greater burden on the parents than it does on the child. They will be accountable for what they command or forbid. A person who is just on the brink of adulthood should be very slow — there’s no magical age in the Bible for adulthood; we say 18 or 21. That’s why I’m saying if you’re just on the brink of adulthood, you should be very slow to go against your parents’ wishes in the name of Christ. That’s my first thought: be very slow.
2. Your aim is not only to follow your mission, but to win your parents. By “win” I mean, show them by your attitude and your joy and your humility and your behavior that Jesus is more precious and more satisfying and more important than America. And more precious, more satisfying, more important than any mission he might call you to. Now, I hope you heard that correctly. On the one hand, you want to correct their apparent worldliness in putting American greatness ahead of your need or the need of nations for the gospel. You want them to see that, in your own life, Christ is sufficient to satisfy your soul, even if your mission is postponed. Glorifying Christ in your situation is not a simple matter of going or not going. It is a profoundly spiritual matter of how your heart responds to going or not going. You want to win your parents. You want to change them, not just decide whether they’re right or wrong. That’s thought number two.
3. You are young and have much time in front of you, as far as you know. Don’t calculate whether your life is wasted simply on the basis of the next five or ten years. Think on a bigger scale than that. God decides whether you will live another minute or live another sixty years. You should plan for the latter, not the former.
“The missionary calling that you feel, if it is real, will not die if there’s a delay for some years.”
4. The calling that you feel, if it is real, will not die if there’s a delay for some years. The reality of that call and your willingness to follow it will be revealed, will be shown by your nurturing and deepening and refining of the call if you must wait — and not just by the immediate response of obedience now. The intent to obey your calling and the willingness to obey when your parents say wait, that may be a double obedience that God is expecting now, not a choice between obediences.
5. I don’t know what kind of university education you are expecting overseas as a student missionary. This particular thought may totally miss your point, and maybe somebody else will hear this for them and you’ll say, “That’s not my situation.” I’m going to say it anyway since I don’t know your situation. I want to sow the seed in your mind that a Sunday school and high school preparation for mission that you have now is not enough for serious, long-term missionary work — especially not enough in a highly educated university setting in a foreign country. I’m assuming here you’d go to a university and you may be going to some Bible college in southern Germany as far as I know, but let’s just go with my first thought.
Not knowing the situation, I would still say with strong encouragement that you give yourself to serious Christian higher education rather than a secular, foreign education while trying to do missions. I think that’s backwards. It treats education as though it were a job, a mere bi-vocational enterprise while you get about the real business of missions — and that’s not what education is. Education is a mind-transforming, heart-transforming enterprise. It is mind-building and heart-shaping. When you go to a place for an education, you go to get shaped and formed in your mind and in your soul profoundly. It’s very difficult for me to imagine that you could be shaped by the next four years of non-Christian education and be a stronger missionary long-term than if you took the next four to eight years to prepare yourself with profound biblical and theological insight for the next fifty years. That could be done here as well as overseas.
“Your aim is not only to follow your missionary calling, but to win your parents.”
6. Finally, my last thought is, here’s what I’m suggesting. I say this with absolutely no final authority because I do not know you. I don’t know your situation well enough to make any pronouncements, but I will suggest you please consider it. Postpone the execution of your missionary calling that you discern. Honor your parents for the next season by staying in the States. Search out a rigorous Christian college or university, be involved in missions all along the way, and get the deepest, widest, strongest preparation of mind and heart you can get. And in that process, God will make the future plain.