Monday, November 12

Why everyone is NOT a missionary

Herbert Kane writes, "The Chinese have a proverb: If two men feed a horse, it will lose weight; if two men keep a boat, it will soon leak. What is everybodys job is nobodys job. If every Christian is a missionary, missionary work is bound to suffer. It is correct to say that every Christian is, or should be, a witness. It is not correct to say that every Christian is a missionary."
 
One of the common misconceptions about missions is that all believers are missionaries. It continues to be stated so often that few question the validity of this oft quoted misconception making the rounds from our pulpits and missions conferences.  I truly wish it were true, but frequent repetition does not make it so.  I personally believe we need to correct the language we are using and stop calling all believers missionaries. Gordon Olson says it well when he states:
"If every Christian is already considered a missionary, then all can stay put where they are, and nobody needs to get up and go anywhere to preach the gospel. But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel?"
 

The Great Commission is taking the Gospel to our Jerusalem. This is where we live. It is where most of our time, efforts and ministry are centered. But Holy Spirit empowered believers are likewise charged to be His witnesses to their Judea, Samaria, and, yes: the ends of the earth--the nations.
 
When we begin to move beyond our Jerusalem and seek to engage our Judea, Samaria, and the nations--then, we become misionaries--the sent ones that we are meant to be.
 
I believe Jesus intent was for us to be fully engaged in all four regional dimensions of the Great Commission. Too many have deceived themselves into believing they "aren't called to missions."  Really? It would seem the burden of proof would be more on the side of our being NOT CALLED to engage the nations. For too long, disciples of Christ have excused themselves from doing what Jesus commanded simply because they have chosen to live a life to their own pleasing. It has nothing to do with anything God might be asking of us and His call on our lives.
 
When we lose sight of just how serious our Lord was about Acts 1:8 we run the risk the disobedient Jerusalem church ran into in Acts 8:1
"And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria...those who had been scattered went about preaching the word..."
It took some serious persecution allowed by the Lord himself to get them to obey, and engage their Judea, Samaria, and ends of the earth. In our present imbalance of uneven distribution of Christians, do we not think the same could again happen today? Just how serious was our Lord when He commanded us to "make disciples of the nations?"
 
So everyone may indeed NOT be a missionary, but it is my belief that we should deliberately seek to do everything in our power to make sure we ARE missionaries.
 

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. It drives me nuts when I hear people in the States claiming "we are all missionaries."

No, we are not all missionaries. We are all evangelists, but we are not all missionaries.

Sadly in Christian circles the word "missionary" has become so muddy as to almost have no meaning anymore.

Anonymous said...

Pues así es la manera de animarme a mí a leer de nuevo tu blog.
Esteban

Anonymous said...

We are all priests, we are not all missionaries. (chris irwin)

Jonathan said...

Another way to look at the great commission: I don't live in Jerusalem, or even Judea. I suspect I may be one of the ones Jesus refereed to who was sent to the ends of the earth.

J. Guy Muse said...

Anon.

When everyone is a missionary, no one is a missionary.

Esteban

Contento que te gustó!

Chris

1 Peter 2...yes!

Jonathan

For me Guayaquil is my Jerusalem, Guayas is my Judea, different ethnic groups/marginalized peoples here in Ecuador are my Samaria, and everywhere else is the "ends of the earth"

Miguel Labrador said...

A great post Guy!

As a fellow "missionary," working in the same country, I have to be careful in responding to this. My feet on the ground are concentrated in the Cloud Forest Region of the Andes Mountains here in Ecuador. But, my digital footprint is world wide. I, with utmost respect will tentatively hold my agreement of disagreement until the following items are worked through:

1. Let's define "Missionary." Is it an apostolic worker, disciple maker in a foreign land, or one who brings the gospel to where it's not known? Perhaps there are more qualifications that set apart missionaries from non-missioanries. There is a bit of confusion with all of the "missional" talk of late, but perhaps... perhaps we can say that all are not missionaries (depending on our definition) but, all are to be missional.

2. Is the expansion from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the nations descriptive or prescriptive? Must we follow this pattern in mission? How does "the call" figure in? If we haven't begun to work in our Jerusalem's first, does that prohibit us from going directly to another place? Do we have to "go through normal channels?

3. One commenter said "we are all evangelists." According to Ephesians 4:11,12,13 I don't hold that to be true. We are all to evangelize, but we are not all evangelists. Likewise, we are not all Apostles or those who have heightened apostolic characteristics. Neither are we all Pastors, Teachers, or Prophets.

I see the point of your post. You and I are both vested, in a sense, in this idea, that we are not all missionaries. Clearly what you and I do is different than what many others do.

I think, if we stuck to the idea of Jesus in that he went where the Father told Him to go, He said what the Father told Him to say, and He Did what the Father told him to do, then maybe missionaries will not be the issue. Maybe just God's mission will be the issue. Maybe then we can stop calling ourselves by our preferred titles and just say, "I'm a worker in the fields of the Lord."

gibby espinoza said...

It may be a matter of semantics, but I believe all Christ-followers are missionaries. They just don't realize it because they haven't been discipled in the way of Christ, but rather they are taught in the way of Christendom or institutional doctrine. We are a sent people called to make disciples who follow Jesus and are consumed by Him. It is a heavy assumption to think that people only want to stay at home. Yet, for those who do, it doesn't make them any less of a missionary. Especially if they are making disciples and helping them to discover the Spirit's yearning in them.

Some of us are sent to our local communities, others to cities in our state, region or country. Still others are sent overseas to make disciples of those people that they might make disciples of their own people.

If in fact we do carry the DNA of the Spirit in us then we too must realize, accept and embrace our being sent to the world as Christ was sent by the Father.

Consider this video by Alan Hirsch: http://youtu.be/bE65Zl6aAU8

J. Guy Muse said...

Miguel,

Thanks for your excellent questions. I will take a stab at answering as I understand them.

Let's define "Missionary." Is it an apostolic worker, disciple maker in a foreign land, or one who brings the gospel to where it's not known? To me, all of the above would be acceptable definitions. I agree with you that the missional terminology has muddied the waters. While all of us need to be missional, not all of us are missionaries.

2. Is the expansion from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the nations descriptive or prescriptive? For me, Jesus words are prescriptive in the sense that He fully intended us to engage our J,J,S, and nations. If we can't go in person (I do not believe everyone is called to be a cross-cultural missionary) we must be engaged in supporting those who can and do go. The point being that we are just supposed to be missionaries where we live, does not seem to have much Biblical backing. While my Jerusalem is Guayaquil, I must also work to see that Guayas, and peoples of Ecuador are engaged by the Gospel. I seek to do this via multiple levels of engagement.

#3--I agree with you as stated. Your final paragraph is also well stated. Thanks for your good observations. I think we are basically saying the same thing, but using different language.

J. Guy Muse said...

Gibby,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Like you mention, I think a lot of this is semantics. You write, I believe all Christ-followers are missionaries. They just don't realize it because they haven't been discipled in the way of Christ, but rather they are taught in the way of Christendom or institutional doctrine.

I basically agree with you. All Christ followers should be missionaries, but sadly most are not. I guess that is the point I am trying to make. We should be, but we are not. And to call someone a missionary when they aren't one is misleading.

Yes, some of us are sent to our local communities, others to cities in our state, region or country. Still others are sent overseas to make disciples of those people that they might make disciples of their own people.

I believe this too. But what seems to happen, more often than not, is for those seeking to be faithful in their communities, they somehow they have no obligation to those outside their community. That is what the quote was getting at,

But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel? While all believers are to be witnesses only where they live, what would become of the masses who have yet to ever hear the Good News? We cannot be content to just be missionaries where we live and work. We must be engaged on some level--whether through persistent prayer, giving, mission trips as we are able, etc. but we must be involved in seeking to make His Name known wherever He is not known or worshipped.

Again, thanks for your good insights. I appreciate your stopping by and sharing!

J. Guy Muse said...

Gibby,

P.S. I did watch the Alan Hirsch video. Good stuff! I am a big AH fan and have read several of his books.