2006-05-22

Long-term, Short-term, Frontline, Home Staff.......


I have been thinking lately about the 'labels' that are given to missionaries in our current age. Actually, these days even the word 'missionary' itself is a bit of a label within Christian circles. It annoys me that these labels are used, after all, aren't all Christians meant to be missionaries? It all comes down to your definition of the word Missionary itself. I do take this view, I believe that if you are a born again believer you have been given the task of passing on the good news that there is an answer for that lost feeling (which is more than a feeling). To me, this action of passing this on is the word missionary as a verb.

Frontline, Home Staff, Overseas, Support, Local, Long-term, Short-term etc etc... these are all terms used to describe what KIND of missionary someone is. As much as some of these terms may be necessary I feel that they have been used in the wrong way by some people within the church. It's almost as if you're not a REAL missionary unless you are overseas, in a isolated situation that includes a lot of hardship and obvious sacrifice (and a long time). It's true that it takes a great deal of courage and stepping out in faith to be in that position BUT usually those who are don't see themselves as something to be put on a pedestal.

As Christians we ALL have been given the missionary task and whether you label it as a local task, overseas task or a support or prayer role it really doesn't matter. It's not location or even the type of job you're doing, it's whether you're doing exactly what the Lord asks you to do. To me evangelism (locally) and being a missionary go hand in hand. I've come across a few churches that have the view that 'no, we aren't interested in missions, we're concentrating on our local area' as if they are two different things.

Anyway, after many posts about artwork and projects I do I thought it was high time that I put some of my serious thoughts (and opinions) down. Feel free to debate or disagree with me.

Pic: Us in front of the Sahel Academy sign in Niger.

18 Comments:

Blogger audrey` said...

Hi Amanda :)

Just drop by to say HELLO!
Take care, Amanda.
God bless you.

2:25 pm  
Blogger Carina said...

Hey, Amanda - I agree with you completely on this definition of what a missionary is. I've served on the field myself, and the lesson of living openly with the Gospel is one that continues to be reborn into practice every day.

God bless -

Carina

1:06 pm  
Blogger Carol Wilson said...

Hi Amanda. I was just browsing through Jeremy's past blogs, and found your comment. I'm the grandma, so I think that means we're already acquainted, although you probably know more about me than I did about you until these past few minutes of browsing your site. You look like lots of fun, and I'm sure you're having a huge impact there in your SIM work.
Love, Carol

10:40 pm  
Blogger Kitty said...

Hey Amanda! I agree with you. I too find it at times frustrating that most Christians only think those who are 'on the field' overseas are missionary. Lately I've been told perhaps it's better to use the term 'missional'. What do you think?

12:42 pm  
Anonymous Jim said...

I certainly agree that we are all responsible to see that we obey the Great Commission. We're all responsible to share our faith. We're all responsible to see that teh Gospel is shared with those who haven't heard.

"Missionaries" are not "better" people, or more spiritual people. They're not the only ones doing what God has called them to do.

However, I do think there is value in differentiating between certain kinds of service. I prefer the "European" definition of missionary - someone working in another culture.

Every job has its unique challenges, including working in another culture. It's also important to note that we are to be taking the Gospel to every nation - taking God's Word to another people is something different, in some way, than sharing with someone in your own culture. If we don't call these people missionaries, we'll have to invent another word.

Rather than inventing more words, I think we should clarify what we mean - emphasize that we're not talking about superChristians, or "those Christians who obey the Great Commission", or "those Christians who do the dirty work so the rest of us don't have to".

Missionaries are a part of the picture, those called to a specific task. So are those doing outreach in their own culture, or those "support" missionaries, church planters, carpet layers for the Lord, and so on and so on. Each of these vocations requires a different kind of support. Keeping the labels without misusing them will help us know how to help each person fulfill God's calling.

Hey, someone had to give an opposite point of view. :-)

7:04 am  
Blogger Amanda said...

Thanks for all your comments:

Audrey - hi! Thanks for dropping by here!

Carina - Thanks for your comment : )

Carol - Hi there! I follow your blog with great interest, thanks for your lovely comments.

Kitty - Thanks for your comment, missing your comments lately!!

Jim - I don't think we have opposing views at all. I agree that we are going to another culture with the gospel as missionaries but I also think it depends on what you view as 'another culture'. To me anything apart from Christian is another culture, including our own society. The verse said we are to be witnesses in Jerusalem (local), Judea and Samaria (not local) (Acts 1) so I see missionaries as people who spread the gospel in any location. Also I see that there is a need to say where we're going when we're doing this but I think sometimes this label can cause a bit of pride or putting on a pedestal.

Anyway, I really appreciate your comments, it's nice to have some deep feedback from you all. I knew that would happen as soon as I started writing my opinion!! : )

9:51 am  
Blogger Carina said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:52 am  
Blogger Carina said...

Jim - I usually tend to think of a "missionary" as someone who goes overseas to spread the gospel, too...but that is because that's the connotation I'm used to (even though I'm American, not European), or possibly also because that's part of what I've done before. But I agree with Amanda that anyone who shares the Gospel is a missionary. And she also makes a very good point in saying that technically, your view and hers are not very different--depending on what you view as "another culture".

I do agree with you that missionaries are not better or more spiritual than others. All Christians, when following God's will for their lives, are playing an equal (though different) role. After all, we are ALL part of the Body of Christ.

4:55 am  
Blogger Amanda said...

Thanks for your comment again Carina, important Schapelle day today isn't it!

4:11 pm  
Blogger Amanda said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:13 pm  
Anonymous Jim said...

Yes, it seems we agree on the major points and disagree on the minor ones. :)

One important question is, what do we mean by "culture"? Of course, in a sense, every individual has a culture of their own.

But what did Jesus mean by "all nations" (Mat 28:18-20)? Is it just another word for "everyone", or something more specific? If you look at the the use of the word in Scripture, it's almost always something more than a bunch of individuals - it's a specific ethnic group. Something beyond the cultural difference between Christian and non-Christian - usually a different language, and probably a culture different enough that the Gospel wouldn't just "naturally" spread.

God wants us to reach out to other nations. Perhaps because of the rich diversity of worship different cultures will provide in eternity. There are probably strategic reasons - in many cultures, no one knows anyone who is a Christian - it will take an extra effort from someone "outside" to go in - no one will just hear from a neighbour.

So although sharing with people in our own or a similar culture is important, the Bible makes a distinction between that and going to "another nation". We can call everybody missionaries if we like, but it would be nice to have a term for those who go those "other nations", because it's an important part of fulfilling the Great Commission (especially the unreached peoples).

My concern would be that if a local church just calls everyone a "missionary", they're in danger of missing out on a critical, biblical part of our task - a task which, as you said, everyone should be involved in. Why spend the money to support someone giong to Uzbekistan, when you can reach 10x the people with the same amount of money in your own culture?

Why? Because all cultures, all peoples must be there to worship God in eternity. All cultures must have a chance to spread the Gospel among their own. If no one in a people group knows the Truth, the entire "nation" is without hope.

10:19 pm  
Blogger Amanda said...

Hi Jim. Firstly I want to say thank so much for contributing to this discussion. I really enjoy your comments and the way you write them. Secondly I want to say that I do agree with you and just don't think I'm being clear with my responses.

I suppose I was being a bit 'devil's advocate-ish' when I was talking about culture being all around us. I do think this but am in two minds about it.

My job is as a missionary mobilizer for SIM so I definately want to see missionaries go overseas and I definately agree that people need to be going in obedience to other cultures (overseas).

I suppose where I get annoyed is (and this is where I'm trying to be a bit clearer and better in my writing) when churches tell me that they are not interested in 'missions' because they are working locally and don't see that they can do both. The great commission calls for Christians to work both locally and overseas (or in other cultures). On the other hand, I know of quite a few churches that are fantastic as sending people overseas and focussing/fundraising etc... for overseas missions but NEVER do anything locally. These are the dying churches in my area.

I suppose I need to clarify what I mean when I said that I see all Christians as missionaries. I see all Christians as having the missionary call placed on their lives, to spread the good news and make sure people everywhere do know that there is an answer for the emptiness.

I also agree that when Jesus said 'all nations' he meant it literally but I also see my own nation as one of those, therefore those who serve locally are 'entitled' to this label as well.

I can understand where you are coming from though because I share the same 'fear' as you, that if we call all Christians missionaries without giving a bit clearer definition (eg; other cultures) many (and let's face it, it really is many) in the local churches will use this as a personal excuse to live in a non-sacrificial environment and 'serve' locally. If that happens then NO ONE will go overseas and NO ONE in other cultures will hear of the good news.

I'm sure I've made myself as clear as mud!! Sorry about that.

11:48 pm  
Blogger Ken Sorrell said...

Amanda,

Jim pointed me to your blog and your comments about what is a missionary. For a fuller comment, I would invite you to see my latest post on the topic at: http://macrta.blogspot.com/

I do agree that we do not need to set up walls of class distinctions between Christian service, but at the same time, Scripture does not seem, at least to me, to support a position that all Christians are "missionaries".

We are all called to preach the gospel to all creation, Mark 16:15, but I don't hear anyone claiming that we are all preachers. We are commanded to care for one another and serve each other, but no everyone does not claim to be a deacon, and the list could go on.

My point is that every Christian can and should be involved in the missionary task from time to time, but this is different from being called, set apart, and sent out, Acts 13.

I think what people mean when they say everyone is a missionary is that everyone is a witness and gospel proclaimer. This is most definitely true!! But the Bible never commands us all to be missionaries.

On an upcoming post I hope to address the issue of what is the missionary task. This too should generate some discussion. Thanks for allowing me a place to comment. Excellent blog!!

11:51 pm  
Blogger Amanda said...

Hi Ken, thank you for adding to our discussion, I'm so glad that this entry has generated discussion like this. I think it's valuable for us to look at why we think the way we do in depth.

I think that I've pretty much cleared up what I meant with my last comment which looks like I was writing at the same time as you were writing yours! I suppose the only thing I would say in response it that I agree that we aren't all called to go overseas but I do think we are all called to spread the gospel. This is what I see as the missionary call. The call to go overseas is a different one and something that the Lord places on people's hearts very strongly.

As I said in my previous comment, I am trying to write what I think more clearly. I'm just so glad to have started a discussion on this and it's wonderful to have contact with people who love talking about this area which is strongly on my heart.

12:15 am  
Blogger Ken Sorrell said...

Amanda,

A more detailed response is on my blog.

Summary, missionaries, from a biblical definition are called, set-apart, and sent out. I have not figured out yet how to be sent out and stay at home at the same time. By the way, in our agency if you return to the home office to serve you must resign as a missionary. May not mean anything but iteresting point I think. Please read my fuller respons when you get a chance. This may also push me to post something about the missionary task sooner than I had planned. Great discussion. Thanks!

1:56 am  
Blogger Amanda said...

Hi Ken, in reading what you wrote on your blog I have come to the conclusion that being 'sent' doesn't mean 'sent away'. Our church has sent us into our part of our country, this is no less being sent than if they sent us overseas. I don't know of many missions that make you resign from being a missionary just because of location, in fact, from the main 6 or 7 I can think of, this doesn't occur. I think that being sent is a large part of the role but if we make the location the main part of the equation then this is problematic.

9:30 am  
Blogger Ken Sorrell said...

Amanda,

You have been very gracious and kind to allow me to push back a little on this issue. One last comment and request and I will move on to other issues. I would agree with you that geographic location is not a determining factor, however, I would say that spiritual location is critical. Missionaries are the ones that are pushing against the edges of lostness and proclaiming Christ where He has yet to be proclaimed. Paul states this in Romans 15:20-22. William Carey's drive and passion was to take the Gospel where Christians were not. Hudson Taylor stated we must go inland to preach where Christians are not, thus starting CIM. The entire people group movement of recent years is based upon the premise that missionaries go to those who have yet to hear. When you get a chance, do a word study on the term "apostle". 1 Cor 12:29 is a key verse in our discussion. Again, thank you for your willingness to discuss this issue. May our Lord continue to bless your missionary efforts.

10:53 pm  
Blogger Amanda said...

Thanks Ken, you're welcome here anytime, your input into these discussions is valuable.

11:05 pm  

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