What International Missions Is Not

by Peter Swann

In general, we have a good idea of what international missions is. It’s about following God’s call, it’s about a heart for the nations, it’s about a surrender and commitment. It’s an exciting, life-changing journey, hopefully for you and for the people you’ll be among.

But often we fail to reflect on what international missions is not. It’s vital to recognize these to avoid misplaced motivations in going. Here are three things that international missions is not.


  1. International missions is not an outlet for your newest adventure. Any time you move internationally, it’s exhilarating. You may have a love for new cultures and new experiences. You may enjoy meeting new people and experiencing new things. All of that is terrific, and all of that is frequently evident in new missionaries. But when that becomes too much of a driver, it can get you off course. International missions cannot become more about the adventure than about the call.

  2. International missions is not a requirement to be a Christian all-star. There is inside each of us a longing to live a life that matters. We are hungry for meaning and worth. Where this presses us into the Lord, that’s a great thing. But where it gives us false idols, that’s a dangerous thing. International missions is not the highest rank for a Christian to achieve. The superstars in history have not been defined by location or vocation, simply faithfulness. Wherever God calls you, be all there.

  3. International missions is not the solution to your issues. With the idea of international missions may come the faulty notion that if we go, God will radically cure us of our issues. It’s unfortunately not the case. In fact, our issues generally get stretched and strained in new ways by being international. The change in culture and context pushes us like never before. You’ll be transformed by being international and God will probably grow you in powerful ways. But the keys to putting issues to death are the same internationally as they are at home.


International missions is a natural outgrowth of the gospel, and therefore a constant passion of ours. We will engage it, celebrate it, and love it. God has profoundly blessed us in allowing us to be a part of His work.

But we are all missionaries, no matter our location, and international missions comes down to one thing: your call. It’s not more glorious to be called internationally versus being called to go across the street. It’s just about loving our Lord, loving those around us, and wherever we are, being faithful.

So if we’re called, let’s enjoy the journey – it’s an amazing one! But at the root of it, let’s let it be about the call.