Do Missionaries Need to be Perfect?

Several years ago when I preached on the qualifications for eldership from the Book of Ephesians, I used an illustration from the Tom Wolfe novel, “The Right Stuff,” which Hollywood later portrayed in a film by the same title. The book was about the early NASA astronauts and their qualifications to serve in high profile and very demanding jobs. At the time, the USA was spending a fortune on the space program and therefore NASA sought to recruit the best candidates, or those who had the “right stuff.” It was understandably expected that those selected from the best and brightest in our country would represent and serve America’s interests well in the space race. The point I was trying to make in my sermon was that just as the original seven astronauts had to have the “right stuff” for their unique jobs, God is looking for men and women with the “right stuff” for leadership roles within the church.

4 Minute Read

By Mike McGinty

Calling, commitment, character, comptetency
This important concept has been on my mind frequently as we seek to mobilize candidates with the “right stuff” to serve in foreign fields as missionaries. As I engage in a coaching relationship with individuals or couples who are interested in serving as missionaries, I gently probe into areas related to their Calling, Commitment, Character and Competency.

This process looks quite different for each individual as I get to know them over the course of several online meetings. Flexibility, teachability, godly character, compatibility with OMF values, willingness to serve, a good work ethic, respect for authority, ability to work in teams are among the many character traits or the “right stuff” we hope to find evident in those who want to serve long term in Asia with OMF. These are things that generally cannot be taught, unlike language or particular ministry skills.

Becoming a missionary
Such qualified candidates usually tend to stand out in the course of getting to know them in the coaching process, but they may still have various obstacles to overcome before they make it to the field or reach their optimal effectiveness. These obstacles can include significant debts, dysfunctional backgrounds, educational gaps, paucity of ministry experience, minimal home church base, raising/educating children, little experience in working/living/serving overseas, health issues, lack of Bible training, inadequate understanding of missions and unresolved relationships.

My role is to work with potential candidates to help them discern these matters and deal with particular factors that may be holding them back, assuming they exhibit the essential traits we are looking for in viable candidates. This all takes place over the course of months or even years before they are moved on to the candidate department which puts each potential member through a very rigorous screening process.

Together, we serve as a team to facilitate growth and self-discovery in each candidate while asking God to identify and equip those He is calling to serve as laborers for His harvest. We covet your prayers for these potential new missionaries. Even though they may have the “right stuff,” they have many challenges before them.

No perfect missionaries
There are no perfect astronauts or church leaders and there are certainly no perfect missionaries out there. But by God’s grace, he equips those he calls and we are looking for those who are receptive to that process. Perhaps it is helpful to note that the first astronaut NASA launched into space was actually a monkey, which is a good reminder that God can use anything or anyone for His eternal purposes. May we have much wisdom in discerning such matters and extending grace where appropriate.

Mike McGinty
Mike McGinty lived in Japan with his wife, Rowena, for 34 years serving with OMF International in various ministry endeavors. He is originally from Texas, but they currently reside in the Denver, CO area where they continue to work with OMF to equip gospel workers for Japan. If you want to know more about Japan, check out Mike’s blog at:

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