All ministry should flow out of relationship. (Pixabay)

Last week, I had the honor of speaking to a group of Every Nation North America Life Year missionaries who are being sent to Ukraine, Scotland, Spain and New Zealand. Here's what I told them to do in order to be successful and faithful missionaries.

1. Learn. Teaching is part of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), but we must learn before we teach. Don't be that guy with all the answers, especially if you're in a foreign country or an unfamiliar culture. Be a learner first. If we want to learn, we must first study. Successful cross-cultural missionaries study the culture, context and communications styles of their new world. Then they teach.

2. Lead. But, what is leadership and what is the best way to lead in my new context? Too many missionaries and pastors, church planters and volunteer ministry leaders think that serving is a stepping stone to leadership—that we are supposed to serve so that one day we can lead. That's exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught. When James and John asked to sit on the right and left of Jesus, they were asking for leadership position and authority. Jesus said they were thinking about leadership like Gentiles—people far from God. He then described His view of leadership with two words James and John would never use to describe leadership: servant and slave. Many are wrongly taught that service is the biblical pathway to leadership. Jesus taught the exact opposite. He taught that leadership is a platform for serving (Mark 10:35-45). The best missionaries think and act like servants.

3. Love. It is common for good people to gradually get to the point where they love the fruit, adventure and rewards of ministry more than they love God. It never starts that way, but it happens. Some find their way back to their first love; others spend their lives working for God or running from God. Peter denied Jesus three times, then went back to fishing for fish rather than fishing for men. Jesus restored him. But notice that Jesus restored Peter's relationship with Him before restoring His ministry. He asked Peter relational questions first. "Do you love me?... Do you love me?... Do you love me?" Three denials, and three chances to express his love. If Peter had denied four times, I think Jesus would have given him four chances to affirm his love. Only after the relationship was restored did Jesus recommission Peter to ministry. "Feed my lambs ... Tend my sheep ... Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-19). All ministry should flow out of relationship. Here's the order: Love Jesus; do ministry.

I can't wait to hear from these missionaries once they are on the field. I know God will do great things for them, in them and through them. Probably in that order.

Steve Murrell serves as the president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a ministry that does church planting and campus ministry in over 70 nations.

This article originally appeared at

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