“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15 ESV).

The Apostle Paul addresses the world’s greatest need and the church’s Great Commission in Romans 10:14. Each day around 150,000 people die around the world, tens of thousands of them never having repented of their sins and trusted in Christ. In fact, many haven’t even heard the gospel. It has been said that a missionary is one who can’t get used to the sound of pagan footsteps on the way to a Christless eternity. That certainly resonates for those of us who have been called to reach the unreached and teach them everything Christ commanded.

Related: Learn about our M.Div degrees from the Billy Graham School of Mission, Evangelism and Ministry

So why wait? After all, we have the Holy Spirit, God’s call, and a passport. Our duty is to obey Christ and rescue the perishing. Why shouldn’t we grab our passport and head to the airport immediately when God calls us to go and serve?

The answer to this question lies in what Christ has actually called us to do as well as a realistic look at how that is done. In Matthew 28:19-20, Christ commanded us to do one thing — make disciples. Specifically, he commanded us to make disciples and to do so by going, baptizing, and teaching all he had commanded. Yet in order to do that, the one who goes must be prepared. With the call to go and serve comes the call to prepare.

For instance, there are great needs to rebuild homes and for medical ministry to victims after wars and disasters, but it would be foolish to go without knowledge of construction skills, home design, or building materials, and going to do medical missions without medical training could cause more harm than good. The same is true for missions. When your ministry is in another language and/or to another cultural context, it is essential to learn how to critically contextualize God’s Word. For leaders of new churches to be “apt to teach,” they must know what to teach, and what not to teach, and how to refute heresy.

Attending seminary is not treading water or wasting time; it is digging a well that you and your hearers will drink from for the rest of your lives. Dig deep. I often advise eager students to focus on what to do as they prepare to go. Live out the missionary call in your life as you prepare. This includes being involved in intercultural ministry in your community: teach ESL, participate in international church ministries, share the gospel with those you encounter, learn another language, develop relationships with those who come from different contexts than you — to name a few examples. The world is at our doorstep. Serve even as you prepare.

Related: Learn about the numerous national and international short term missions opportunities through Southern Seminary

I pray that the Lord continues to call men and women to prepare for service through the Billy Graham School. And I pray that those who are called will be truly obedient to their call, recognizing that their investment in preparation is both essential and wise. I’ve often explained to students and prospective missionaries that nothing magical happens when you finally fasten the seatbelt on the plane heading off to the mission field. If you are not seeking to live the missionary life now, nothing will change then. Begin now and trust God with the timing of when your feet will hit that ultimate mission field to which He has called you.


M. David Sills is A.P. and Faye Stone Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology and director of global strategic initiatives and intercultural programs at Southern Seminary. A former missionary to Ecuador, Sills also serves as president of Reaching and Teaching International Ministries. Follow @DavidSills on twitter. This article originally appeared in the fall 2014 issue of Southern Seminary Magazine.