I know a couple of high schoolers who have a serious desire to be a missionary. One of them said she just wanted to drop out of high school and move to Haiti until it was all taken care of down there. Another has frequently told me she doesn’t know what to do, but she knows she wants to do something. But it will probably be after college.
Both students love Jesus, and I believe the Spirit has probably placed a calling on their life for mission work (just as He placed a calling my life in the 9th grade for teaching). But I think these students indicate two very common perspectives that can all too easily fall into ineffective behaviors.
We have to be careful about our eagerness to dismiss schooling, or our desire to laud it. A pastor I respect wrote recently about the need to really ask ourselves, “is this a time to go or stay?” While he was talking about jobs, it’s a good principle that should be applied to school as well.
Over at What Christians Want to Know, they point out that much of a missionary desire is about emotions: “People can be emotionally moved by a dynamic speaker. But an emotional feeling will only sustain someone on the field for a short time. A true calling by God on their life is what is necessary to keep a missionary on the field.”
This is why school is important for most people. Strong emotions are needed to get things done in countries where no one is a “slave” to their watches, or people are already discouraged by decades of bondage. But in order to rightly use that power, you have to know how to channel it. School, whether its high school or college, can help you to more readily recognize where your energies can be put to use. A good example of how training is important can be found through the work of an organization here in Florida called ECHO. They are doing some brilliant things in third world countries, all in the name of Jesus. But they don’t send anyone anywhere without some formal training.
Too much emotion might save souls, but it won’t help rebuild agriculture. But on the flip side of that coin, too much school can kill the flame that God had once ignited in your heart. I’ve noticed a trend in some of my previous classmates: the more education they receive, the more cynical they become. They stayed too long in the academic world of ivory towers and dusty book shelves, all the while forgetting that those things don’t matter one whip if we’re not doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.
In the long run, school should be a benefit, but that benefit must be tempered with God’s leading. It’s the only way to know when to stay, or when to go, which is a big question when you’re trying to save the world.