Growing up I fantasized about living the “missionary life.” I longed to be like the people who gave up everything to follow Jesus. They are the real deal! The people that sell all their belongings and live in a hut in Africa for the sake of the Kingdom, yes they are the heroes of the faith! The saints going door-to-door in the 10/40 window I admired and also envied. Why did I not have the faith of those believers? More importantly, did my faith even make a difference in for the Kingdom?
People tell me so…
Trusted friends and mentors unanimously tell me, “Rachel you’re a missionary.”
Sometimes I wish could I believe that myself . My insecurities usually plague me late at night. The enemy tells me that I will be nothing more than “average.” But what does God and His word say?
Is “Missionary” even Biblical?
Some have said that the word “missionary” is not in the Bible, but that isn’t quite true. We derive words like missionary and missions from the Latin missio, which simply means sending. The Greek equivalent is apostelló, from which the word apostle comes. While there were only twelve Apostles—“sent ones”—commissioned by Jesus to lay the foundation of the church, in a broader sense, anyone who is “sent” carrying the gospel message is a similar type of missionary ambassador.
We would think, then, that a missionary is simply sent to win as many converts as possible. But that wasn’t the Apostle Paul’s job description. It isn’t the missionary’s aim, necessarily, to see every single individual won to faith. Rather, a missionary is one who serves in a culture long enough to see a healthy church form, full of converts capable of evangelizing the rest of their people. Paul established churches as beachheads to ensure that the gospel would spread.
As much as I idolized the work of a missionary, the definition of a missionary used in scripture is much different than my imagination. Although the specific term is not used in scripture, the work of a missionary is still needed and valid. Jesus’ final command in Matthew 28:19 was: “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” The term missionary is an extra-biblical term. But the work of a missionary is clear: Go and make disciples.
Can Everyone be a Missionary?
According to the Biblical definition, A missionary isn’t just an adventurous, free spirit stirred by a noble social cause. A missionary preaches the gospel with the aim of starting churches that can reach people groups among whom Jesus isn’t yet known and worshiped.
From this definition, it’s clear that not everyone can be a missionary. But everyone can have a part in the bigger task—by going, sending, supporting, or mobilizing others. What is your role?
I personally have been unaware of the true definition of a missionary. And with that I’ve felt pressure to put myself into a certain missionary box. Box has been what the American culture believes a missionary should be.
Should Every Missionary be the Same?
Throughout my travels I’ve encountered a number of different missionaries. I’ve seen single people that are full-time missionaries. In other words, their lively hood is completely supported by donors. I’ve seen families that have started ministries in other countries and serve seasonly in those countries. In some of those instances the couple is supported by funding. While other times, one partner works while the other devotes their attention to the ministry. I’ve come across the “typical cross-cultural missionary.” In other words, the family or single person living abroad and serving the local people and is supported by funding.
This is just a small amount of the myriad of people i have encountered serving the Lord around the world. If we can’t put God in a box, then why have I been trying to put the work of a missionary into a box? I agree that missionaries should have the aim at reaching the unreached and planting churches. But because people are different, each ministry will look different.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the ageMatthew 28:19
As believers, we are called to spread God’s word throughout the world – whether that is just outside our door or across the globe.
So am I a missionary?
I don’t know if I consider myself a missionary or not. But one thing I do know is that I love God and I will do whatever it takes to make His name known among the nations.