Why we’re not all called to be missionaries

So what I’m about to write might seem very controversial in the current context, but please hear me out and I hope you all agree.  During my past 3 1/2 months in Australia the question has often been asked “But aren’t we all called to be missionaries?”  And while it is unpopular to say out loud, I’m going to suggest that no, we are not all called to be missionaries.

But please hear me out before you click away. (Unless you want to click on the “Give” link to your left, in which case feel free to quit reading at ANY time!  Haha, just kidding…?).

The idea that all of us should be missionaries comes from the need to engage everybody in their universal Christian responsability to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28) and to let our light shine before others (Matt 5:16).  This is a responsability that should never be left to the trained few, but to every believer.  Every believer should make the most of every opportunity, have conversations seasoned with salt and the list could go on and on.  This is the standard of living for every believer.

But…this does not make us all missionaries.  This simply makes us disciples.

Gift-oriented ministry 

1 Corinthians 12 tells us:

“27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? “

The rhetorical answer to those questions is an emphatic “no”.  Scripture teaches that we all have been given gifts of the Holy Spirit, and not all these gifts are the same.  Some are evangelists, teachers, prophets, apostles and the list goes on.

What is interesting is that each of these gifts seem to be an extension of a universal responsability.  For example, we’re all called to be evangelise, but not all are called to be evangelists.  We are all called to pastorally care for one another, but we are not all called to be pastors.  We are called to study and sare the Word with one another, but we are dfineitely not all called or gifted as teachers.

 

And so it is with missions.  Are we all called to be “missional” (sorry to use a buzz word of christianese)?  Yes, definitely.  But are all called to be missionaries?  No. 

So what then is a missionary?  The question is complex and I’m not going to delve into a biblical theology of mission right here right now.  But I think that missions has either one of both of the following elements:

  • A missionary goes
  • Missions is cross-cultural

Going  doesn’t necessarily mean going overseas, but the idea of leaving one’s home with the precise intention of sharing the Gospel elsewhere.  Cross-cultural, on the other hand, could involve staying locally, but embarking on the task of learning a new culture, speaking a new language in order to share the Gospel to people of a different culture.

So why is it so important to make these distinctions?  Because if everybody feels like a missionary, fewer people will become  missionaries.  If we all consider ourselves evangelists, then fewer people will train to be evangelists. 

 

Jack of all trades, master of none

Imagine for a moment that we were all called/gifted to be missionaries.  And teachers.  And pastors.  And evangelists.  If we are all called to be eveything, the Church becomes redundant: (1 Cor 12)

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 

God doesn’t want us to all do the same things.  We are uniquely created and uniquely gifted.  Therefore everyone’s role in the Church is unique.  The reality is, that not everyone is an evangelist, but if we all try to be evanglists, many of us will leave discouraged and frustrated.  Each spiritual gift also has its universal responsability “pair”. (Evangelist & and evanglise, pastor and pastorally caring, etc)

I’m not a gifted administrator.  You could say that is definitely not  my gift. However, I still need to do administrative task like respond  to emails, do my taxes and be responsable with my money.  And because I’m not an administrator, I really appreciate administrative people!  

When it comes to missions, it should be the same.  It’s ok not to be a missionary.  It’s ok not to go, and not to cross-cultures, so long as you are seeking to do your part in reaching the lost and supporting those who go.

So lets all be “missional” in our everyday lives.  But please, lets not expect everyone to be a missionary.

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