Do I need a seminary degree before becoming a missionary? The answer is that most sending agencies do not require a seminary degree; but instead of asking about the minimum standard, we should ask, “What academic preparation would really be helpful for me for to be an effective missionary?”
With the huge task of reaching the lost in many parts of the world, it is tempting to take what you have and Go! However, if you are planning a long-term investment of your life internationally contributing to the expansion of God’s kingdom and church development, you should prepare with excellence. This includes academic training.
Some topics that you should “master” (not necessarily master’s level credits!), summarize, and be able to communicate are:
- Doctrine of the church; ecclesiology. This one may be surprising. In situations where a missionary has an opportunity to offer guidance to a newly forming church, he must be able to communicate the biblical material about the church without resorting to teaching his own cultural tradition. Often missionaries rely more on sociology than theology when discussing the church, especially those who just “Go!” without carefully preparing academically!
- The science of Biblical interpretation; hermeneutics. Of all the lessons for a missionary to be able to teach, this one may be the most important. If local believers understand how to handle the scriptures, they will have the tools needed to find their own answers. Be able to understand and communicate the principles of biblical interpretation.
- Understanding cultures; anthropology. A missionary should be able to recognize the differences among world views and how a culture answers the basic questions of “What is real? What is true? and What is good?” and how that is expressed in the beliefs and behavior of a people.
- Old Testament and New Testament Survey. No missionary should be on the field who hasn’t read the whole Bible and know its basic themes.
- Defending the faith; apologetics. Any missionary should have a basic understanding of the local faith and the biblical response to the main differences between that faith and Christianity.
Other posts in this series: