The Power of a Passport

written by Neal Thornton, Senior Pastor (July 24, 2023)

To be a Christian is to be a born-again follower of Jesus Christ. To be a Christian is to obey all of Jesus’ commands, which includes his instruction to “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” (Matt. 28:19) To be a Christian, therefore, is to live a life on mission here and near, yet posture as a gospel emissary (also known as a missionary) of King Jesus to the nations. To be a Christian means the nations are always on your mind.

Granted, “panta ta ethne” in the Greek (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη), “all nations,” does not mean political boundaries, but “people groups.” Thousands of such people groups are right here in the United States. Many of them are unreached (UPG). Those living in the New England states, in New Bedford, MA for example, are such people. To be sure, we can reach the nations and never leave our own.

But at the same time, our world is as big as it is bad, with the majority of its unreached population outside of our nation’s borders. Therein lies the question the Protestant church has wrestled with for the last 250 years. What are we to do about those who have never heard? The modern missions movement in the 18th century was born by the conviction that we as Christians must take the gospel where it is not and will never be unless someone goes to them (Rom. 10:14-15). Examples of men like William Carey, Adoniram Judson and Hudson Taylor, and women like Lottie Moon, were at the fountainhead of what we think of as modern missions. Check out a few more articles here and here.

Yet, many Christians do not possess the practical means of getting to the very people our Lord has called us to reach. I’m not talking about money or time. I’m talking about a passport, which is, in no uncertain terms, their ticket to the nations. One thing is for sure, Christians without a passport will never be used to their fullest potential to reach the nations for Christ. As a point of missional encouragement, I’d like to share six advantages of having a passport. I hope to convince you as to why every Christian should have one in their ready possession.


To signify your heart for the nations.

Jesus made it very clear that the nations were on his mind and in his heart. He commissioned his disciples on an international mission (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8) that would culminate in a great multitude from every corner of the globe (Revelation 7:9). To be a Christian is to hold your local community in one hand and the global task in the other. It’s hard to be a faithful follower of Jesus and not share his heart for the nations.

For many, going or moving overseas may be the furthest thing from your heart’s desire. But not going doesn’t stop you from loving the nations, praying for the nations, and encouraging others to go to the nations. If for nothing else, get a passport to check your heart. You want the Lord to know you take the Great Commission seriously. You may have the nations on your heart but if you don’t have a passport, there’s no chance you’ll ever see them.


To place your “Yes” on God’s table.

The Christian life is to be a lean life. One that is always ready to serve and ready to go (Luke 10:4). We may have homes and families, jobs and mortgages, but we are to always live with “the stakes pulled up,” if you will. If the Lord calls, may he not be waiting on us. Further, we live lives that he can call into deeper water of service to him. In short, our ability is our availability. There’s only so much the Lord can do with you if you don’t have a passport. Let’s not limit ourselves to what the Lord might do. As you’ve heard it said many times before, the question is not, “Why should I go?” But instead, “Why should I stay?” Perhaps it’s time that you look around the website of the International Mission Board.

To give prayerful consideration to international mission opportunities.

If you’re in a healthy church, there’s likely opportunities to serve overseas. Churches that make much of the Great Commission are well connected with international work of the missionary task. In our church, Coats Baptist, we are connected to the work in Puebla, Mexico and London, England. Whether short or long term, churches like ours are always looking to raise up and send out. Further, there may be mission opportunities outside the efforts of your local church. Mission agencies are looking for healthy, qualified candidates to send. Wherever you might serve, a passport changes your prayer life. A Christian without a passport simply doesn’t pray like the person with one in their hand. International travel just isn’t an option for the former. But for the latter, there’s a wide world of prayers open to that person.

To set a missional example for others.

You may not know it, but you have influence. You are the key to someone’s life. They watch you; they imitate you, they take their life cues from you. And therefore, when you get a passport, they may very well too. If you take a missional step, it’s likely they will too. What God does with them is his prerogative. It’s out of your hands. But you have an opportunity to not only influence others to a missional heart, but lead them in practical steps of Great Commission work. Just think, you get a passport and tell your friends about it. That may be the push that God uses to raise up and send out the next international missionary, who is your best friend.

To touch the ends of the earth.

For the people groups that have yet to be reached, missiologists generally classify them into three categories. Though the designation and terminology may change, it’s typically something like: unreached, unengaged, uncontacted. You can learn more about people groups from Joshua Project.

Some unreached people groups are just that — UPG’s (unreached people groups). These are people with a population of less than 2% Christian. But others are considered UUPG’s (unreached and unengaged). These are people groups with no access to the gospel. There is no church, no missionary, no gospel work present. Yet, there is still another level of lostness that we may call UUUPG’s (unreached, unengaged and uncontacted). These people are not just unreached and unengaged, they have never been contacted but the outside world. Their location and perhaps their identity are known to researchers, but that is all. No person has made contact with them, certainly not a Christian. These people are found only in the deepest jungles and highest mountains. Such places are the hardest to reach physically, and at the same time they remain some of the darkest spiritual places on the planet. Surely these people represent what Jesus called “the ends of the earth.” Someone must go to them. Perhaps that someone is you. Go get your passport.


Our lives are at the disposal of King Jesus. We left our hopes and dreams at the cross when we decided to follow him (Luke 9:23). What God wants to do with your life is up to him. Perhaps your very first step in making disciples is to apply for a passport. That will certainly change the game in your potential abroad, but I trust it will even change what you do here. When the task of the Great Commission is placed upon a church, it has a way of polarizing gospel ministry, and putting carnal, petty, first-world problems in their rightful light. I have long believed that church conflict is a symptom of misplaced priorities, the first of which is a loss of sight for the Great Commission.

We want to be a Great Commission local church. We want our hearts to be for the nations and live the type of lives that are ready to reach them. Churches who eat and breathe the Great Commission have a certain type of culture about them. I believe one of those cultural marks is that an overwhelming number of its congregants have passports. If those little booklets represent a big heart for the nations, that’s the kind of church that will get the Lord’s attention. I’m convinced of it.

It’s All About Him. Which means “it’s all about what he’s all about!”

P.S. If you’ve read to the end of this post, you get a bonus reason to get a passport: Travel with your pastor to Israel in April 2024!

Here’s a link to the trip registration: Israel 2024

I’d love to have you join the trip. Please reach out to me if you have any questions: I’d be happy to discuss. It’s a trip of a lifetime.