I read a letter the other day that again referred to the “everyone is a missionary” statement and it brought to mind an article I posted nearly three years ago called Are We All Missionaries? I appreciated this recent letter since it was in defense of the real meaning of the word.
I’m reposting the thought-provoking (and a bit sarcastic) article here because I’m interested in your feedback, since you most likely weren’t reading my blog way back then.
Are We All Missionaries?
I’m a dental hygienist. I clean teeth everyday: mine. I was told it’s what I’m supposed to do; I am responsible for my teeth, so I brush and floss everyday. You are a dental hygienist also. It’s your responsibility, obligation and mandate from your dentist. I know there are those who do it everyday for a living. I know they studied hard, passed exams, and have paid the price to become a Dental Hygienist as their vocation. But we too clean teeth everyday, or at least are supposed to, so we in essence are all dental hygienists and should call ourselves such.
I’m also an accountant. Forget that I hate math and really am lousy with numbers. I may not be certified to publicly offer my services, but I do balance my checkbook and work out a simple budget. You really don’t have to do it for a living to bear the title. We’re all supposed to handle our money wisely! That’s why we are all accountants.
Most importantly, as true Christians, you and I are also most certainly pastors. I know we don’t all have our own church to lead. We may not stand in a pulpit delivering a sermon every week, but we are to share God’s Word with others and teach them what it says. We are to pray for them. All we believers have some little circle of sheep, whether our kids or another social setting, whose faith needs motivation and growth. It’s our responsibility! So what if there aren’t ministerial credentials to back that up; not only should those who carry credentials bear the title. Since we ought to be doing the same, therefore we ought to be identified the same.
Whatever the profession, it should be socially acceptable for such titles to become inclusive of us all. There’s power in positive speech! By so labeling (positively confessing) ourselves in these matters, we will all be encouraged and motivated to fulfill those roles to greater degrees. Just imagine the impact: Cleaner teeth! Better budgets! Stronger Christians!
I know what you’re thinking: “This is nonsense! Vocational terms like these must not be redefined simply for positive social impact.” And you are right. The rebuttal to such nonsense is forthcoming by those whose professions have just been mentioned…and abased. Those titles, they would argue, carry the weight of persistence, uniqueness, and dedication to their chosen fields, and that often through testing, hard work, and sacrifice.
So why, then, is the term missionary applicable to all? Haven’t you heard it said (or perhaps you yourself have stated), “we are all missionaries”? Are we really all missionaries or do we just like the terminology?
We are taught that the Great Commission applies to everybody. So it does. But does that translate into all believers being labeled as missionaries? All believers should be making disciples. All should be engaged in personal evangelism. We used to have a word for this: witness. The very title ‘Christian’ embodies the responsibility to engage us in the duties of evangelism and discipleship.
Is my son really a missionary to his high school or is he simply a Christian student who should be salt and light as a witness for Christ? If you are a Christian, are you really a missionary to your workplace or are you a child of God whose life and testimony ought to point to the Savior? Are we really set apart and sent forth to our neighborhoods and communities or are we simply to lift Jesus high with our lifestyle and love so He can draw all men to Him?
Somewhere somehow it became socially acceptable in the post modern culture to redefine the term missionary. Perhaps it was for greater motivation and impact. Perhaps it slipped into the positive confession movement amidst ignorance or disregard to biblical accuracy.
According to the Bible, the term missionary was first applied to Paul and Barnabas when the church sent them out or away, by the will of the Holy Spirit. They went, with the message of Christ to other cultures and other geographical areas. In Ephesians 4:11-17 we are told that Jesus gave some, not all, to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. An apostle means missionary. In other words, He gave some to be missionaries (and some to be prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers).
When words become culturally redefined, there tends to be confusion and loss of integrity of the word which leads to social implications. Is it possible that the financial and prayer support of today’s missionaries is at risk due to this very fact? Is it even possible that the health of the church has been compromised by deviations of such scriptural teachings?
Are we all missionaries? The rebuttal is forthcoming by those of us who carry the weight of persistence, uniqueness, and dedication to this calling; by those who through vigorous testing, hard work, and sacrifice have been given to the Church by Jesus Christ.
© Ilona Hadinger 2008
If interested in seeing former comments, here is a link to the original post: Are We All Missionaries?