Should You Follow God's Calling to Be a Missionary Overseas Against the Will of Your Parents?

John piper
John Piper, founder of Desiring God and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary, speaks from the book of Revelation at the Passion 2016 conference Sunday morning, January 3, 2016, in Duluth, Georgia. |

If you ask John Piper if you should become a missionary right after graduating high school and your parents think it is foolish to leave America, you may have some additional things to consider.

In response to a question on Desiring God Wednesday, the former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, offered a high school senior who said he felt called to be a missionary some advice. This young man said he had the support of his pastor, was connected to a mission board, and had several opportunities to attend a college overseas and be a "student-missionary." But his parents thought it would be a waste of his life and foolish to leave the United States and all the benefits it entails.

"Even though there comes a time when the will of Christ perceived in your own soul by the Holy Spirit through the word of God should take precedence over the will of your parents, if they conflict, nevertheless, God's command for children to obey their parents is very serious," Piper explained, referencing Ephesians 6:1.

He further urged this young man to approach the mission field very slowly, in view of the scope of his life.

"You are young and have much time in front of you, as far as you know. Don't calculate whether your life is wasted simply on the basis of the next five or ten years. Think on a bigger scale than that. God decides whether you will live another minute or live another sixty years. You should plan for the latter, not the former."

Piper did note the "apparent worldliness" of his parents and encouraged him to try to "win" his parents by showing them through his behavior "that Jesus is more precious and more satisfying and more important than America," and more important than "any mission he might call you to."

"You want them to see that, in your own life, Christ is sufficient to satisfy your soul, even if your mission is postponed," the Reformed theologian said.

While not knowing the specifics of this young man's situation, Piper nevertheless urged him to postpone his call.

"Search out a rigorous Christian college or university, be involved in missions all along the way, and get the deepest, widest, strongest preparation of mind and heart you can get. And in that process, God will make the future plain," Piper counseled.

This is not the first time Desiring God has engaged the phenomenon of parents acting as somewhat of a barrier to their children going on the mission field.

In January 2015, guest contributor Kim Ransleben urged young people to utilize their missionary zeal at home first.

"Jesus commands us to go, to make disciples of all nations, but don't forget that he told the apostles to start in Jerusalem—where they were. If you want your parents to believe that you'll be faithful stewards out there, give them an idea what that looks like right here," she wrote.

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