There was a time when missionaries were respected and looked up to by wider society – that isn’t the case today. There are some Christians who find the idea of missionaries to be rather strange while many people outside of the church are actively hostile to any idea of mission work. If you want affirmation, encouragement and a well respected career path, then perhaps you are looking in the wrong place. If you want to follow God and don’t mind being seen as a counter-cultural anachronism, you may well fit right in!
Of course, there are lots of mission stories about great men and women of faith who did step out on their own, ignoring the advice of their church leadership and who did great things for God as a result. However, there are far more examples of people who stepped out on their own and crashed and burned completely – but these people don’t get books written about them. If you believe that God is calling you to do something that your church and your colleagues don’t agree with, you had better be very, very sure that you are right; cases like this are the exception, not the rule.
There is not place for isolated individuals in the world of mission. Missionaries are sent out by churches and generally work in teams, with churches in their host country. It’s all about Christian community.
Getting involved in Christian work overseas is a huge step. It takes a lot of prayerful discussion with friends, advisors and church-leaders and most of the time the focus is on you and what you will eventually be doing. In one sense, there is nothing wrong with this, but it is a bad place to start. Mission is not all about missionaries and what they do, it is about God and how he has been at work through history to bring us to the point where we are today.