Marriage or Missions ~ finding the perfect match

We have had some great questions posed to our mentoring panel – who in turn have prayerfully given great answers. For the first issue of LegacyMagazine, we’d like to tackle the most frequently asked question. 

So here it is…What happens if a person feels they have a ‘missions’ calling and are considering getting married or dating a christian person committed to a secular job/local church ministry or without a missions calling?

harding_enLinda Harding writes… (Linda felt a calling to be a missionary as a child. She chose to respond to what she believed was a very specific call to remain single to fully pursue this. As a single woman, her ministry included speaking at conferences and training events for women and for singles. She has written two books – one on churches response to singleness, the other on church as inclusive family especially focusing on neglected or marginalised groups. Linda has travelled extensively and served in various management and mission leadership roles. Her real passion is for mobilisation of spiritual children to Least Reached People groups.)

One of the tensions is around “what if” I’m missing God’s best for my life?  God’s will is not a fixed thing – we are called to love God, and any calling to the nations flows from that. In dating someone its essential to discover and enjoy the freedom of knowing that God’s will is PLEASING and ACCEPTABLE to those who are called….

However to anyone struggling with these tensions I would say, do you want to settle for a relationship that might compromise your calling to the nations? If you feel you have a specific calling to the nations, to lay that down for marriage might feel like compromise.  But it is not a sin! God gives us the freedom to choose….and marriage is a high calling in itself which requires a willingness from both to lay down personal visions and calling  to find an even greater vision together.

But is your missions calling more important to you than your relationship with the person you’re dating – if so are you willing to give up this relationship? Or is marriage more important to you?

Some important honest questions to ask as your relationship develops: Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus through the other person and is he/she growing through you? Are you both helping each other to follow Jesus and to discover and live in all that God has for you? Maybe its less about whether the person has a missions calling and more on whether together you can serve God in an enhanced way?

Ultimately each person is free to choose if they wish to pursue a missions calling more than they desire the relationship. It is not a right or wrong, or even a best and good. I don’t think God’s will is that restrictive.  Marriage ALWAYS involved sacrifice – that is different from compromise, though it can feel the same. A willingness to sacrifice your own desires to discover what God has for you together – is the other person willing to lay down their calling to the workplace or church ministry? I believe that’s what it means for the Two to become One. It is essential that it is sacrifice for both. Not in terms of a general calling to nations for that is for all believers but in relation to a specific plan.

So can you lay down your plans for the future but not your heart for the nations and trust God with the calling that He has placed in your heart?

One other guideline – it is not your job to convince the other person about missions! God is more than able to do that if that is His best.

GnL-MalaysiaJo and Jenny Graham write…(Jo and Jenny Graham have been church planting for 25 years. Now they are based in Japan and are focused on mobilizing churches and young people to make disciples of unreached nations, particularly in Central Asia. Together they have three adult children).  

It is too easy for me to answer tritely because I found the right one…sorry, guys, she is taken now! But our opinion is that if a person has a clear missions calling, then they should go with that. We have seen heaps of people knocked out by compromising on this. Maybe they are happy with their nice family life at home but we think they have missed the adventure. Taking up the cross, storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth…that seems to be the way to go, don’t you think? But who can say for another person? I would like to hear from singles who have made the hard choices and are still out there doing the stuff. Any regrets?

DierkLorraine Dierck writes… (With a vision for the future generations of Thailand, Lorraine Dierck, has served the people of Thailand as a passionate single missionary since 1978, raising up many spiritual children).

I think that if you are sincerely asking this question, you may have a heart for missions and even a call to be involved in short-term missions or missions on the home front – but you may not have a genuine call to long-term cross-cultural missions. A true missions calling is something that burns in your heart, where your greatest longing is to take the good news to the unreached. That word from God is such a precious insight and revelation of God’s heart that you can hardly think of anything else except how to get involved in fulfilling that call. Any obstacle that stands in the way is like a piece of rubbish – it means nothing. To obey the call of God to fulltime cross-cultural missions is a huge honour that will cause you the most happiness in life, so the thought of being married to someone with no interest in your greatest passion is actually horrifying! So – I think that if you really do have a missions calling burning in your heart, you would not consider getting married to a person who is 100% sure that he or she does not have a call to missions.

Having said that, there are many ways to do missions. Large numbers of people from least-reached people groups now live in all the major cities of the world. There are probably some in your town – maybe in your street! So, if you feel you have a call to mission but God is leading you to marry someone without the same missions calling, put some time aside to look for unreached people who live near you. Share the challenge with your partner – and maybe you will recruit them to join you!

TalbotsLynley Talbot writes… (Lynley and her husband Rod have served as missionaries in Africa for 25 years and have three adult daughters)…

From a personal perspective, I believe they do inter-relate.  Both Rod and I individually felt a call to missions because we were both saved and involved in a church that had a strong missions DNA so it was ‘normal’ to want to be involved in missions in some way.  We both wanted to ‘go’, whatever that looked like.  Before we met and married, Rod was seconded to Foreign Affairs from the NZ Army to work in the NZ Embassy in Beijing, China, as the maintenance officer.  His two years in China were a great learning experience for cross-cultural living and after we started dating and later married, we thought we would end up in Asia somewhere.  However, during his two years at Bible School, our pastor and missions director asked us if we would go to Botswana, Southern Africa, to oversee the Bible School established there as the current missionary family were leaving.  We prayed and agreed to go, thinking it would be good experience for us as it was initially for a four-year term.   While there, God put vision in our hearts and the four years became 25 years!  We have been in this together and never regretted it!  Because we both wanted to ‘go’, we have been able to persevere together through the struggles, challenges, tensions and successes.

Continuing on from my personal experience mentioned above, I feel it is important that both parties feel called to missions.  However, I would not make it a pre-requisite for marriage as through prayer God can do amazing things!  It is more important to be sure that this is God’s partner for you.  The future is in God’s hands and one can be involved in missions in all sorts of ways – not just as a ‘goer’.   These days the mission field is right on our doorstep so there is no excuse for us to not get involved one way or another.  If a spouse is not ready to leave home and family, there are many other ways that a couple can serve God in missions.  Maybe it comes down to how you interpret the word ‘missions’?

Elliott-J&MMary Elliott writes… (Mary and her husband John (current International Director of WOI) left New Zealand in1977 with two small babies to serve in the Philippines. After various postings in south-east asia and NZ and having another baby along the way, they have clocked up 35 years of ministry.)

It is essential that husband and wife are fully united in their call to missions, especially if it means moving to another country/location.  This does not mean that both husband and wife will be fully involved in the same task/mission work but both must recognize God’s calling on each other’s lives and be in agreement that this is indeed God’s leading before embarking on this journey together. If there is hesitancy with one of the partners, they need to be given time to wait on God for confirmation in their own heart before a final decision is made.

In our experience, God would often speak to one of us first about the new step He was leading us into but often it was not until the second partner received the same witness in their heart/spirit that the direction and timing would fall into place.  Recognize that you will each hear from God in different ways so it is important to keep your hearts open to God and not to get impatient if one is not ‘hearing’  when you think they should. Be careful not to throw out the idea your spouse thinks he/she is hearing from God until you have a clear ‘word from God’ yourself on the matter.  As a married couple, God has called you together to fulfill his purposes.

For a good healthy marriage relationship to succeed there must be a strong commitment to the wellbeing of each other and a commitment to obey God in fulfilling his calling on your lives.  When you are living in right alignment with God and with your spouse you will ‘hear from God’ and with that will come the grace to fulfill that call.   Remember…..” Love is patient…..kind….does not seek its own.”  (1 Cor 13: 4 & 5)

If the person is thinking of dating or marrying someone who does not share the same sense of ‘call’ then you need to seriously seek God about whether the relationship should continue.  These things need to be talked out before you commit yourself to a long term relationship and especially when it comes to marriage.  It could be that the person you are considering dating or marrying just hasn’t heard from God yet. Discuss the subject fully with your partner and make sure you really know where the other person really stands and what God is saying to them.

So what do you think? Leave your comments below:

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