Have you ever been on a mission trip to another country or another city? Have you ever spent a period of time praying, serving, and sharing the gospel alongside brothers and sisters somewhere else? I have had the opportunity to go on trips with four short-term teams where we were unified and served together. Together, we reoriented our week around a common purpose. Short-term trips are such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ serving Jesus together in unity.
Growing up, my understanding of a missionary was a person who commits their lives for the advancement of the Gospel in another country. In my home church, I met several missionaries like this that shared about all that God was doing in those places. As I grew older, I began to think that missionaries were the “more spiritual” ones. I thought they were the ones God has called to take the Gospel to people that have not heard of Him, and my job was only to share Jesus with those I encounter where I lived. I even began to question what I was doing with my life. Was I less committed to the advancement of the Gospel with an 8-5 job? How could God use me like He uses these missionaries?
These questions led me to seek the scriptures to understand what He has called all people to. Here, we will look at some common misconceptions of what we may have believed a missionary to be.
A Few Misconceptions
- Missionaries are more spiritual because of their commitment to live in another country and raise support. This is far from the truth. Every day, my wife and I are constantly being reminded of our need for Jesus and inadequacy in and of ourselves. The Bible tells us that no one is righteous, not even one.
- Missionaries are busy all of the time sharing the Gospel, investing in people, and serving others. Since my wife and I have moved here (Puerto Escondido, Mexico), we are finding it more difficult than ever to share the Gospel, invest in other people, and even to serve people at times. Yes, we desire to share the truth of Jesus, but the reality is that it is just as hard as before.
- Being a Missionary is only for the select few. God calls all of us to make disciples of all nations. It’s not “if you go” or “when you might go,” but the direct command to “go” and make disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8)
- A missionary is one who goes to another country to share the truth of Jesus with people who have not heard. God has definitely called all people to pray, give and go to all nations; however, a missionary is not primarily one who goes to another country or unreached people group.
- Missionaries that move to another place have the best plan and strategy to reach the lost. Most missionaries that move to another place to serve may have great resources; however, that doesn’t mean they have the best strategy to reach people. Often times, it is the natives that have the greatest impact. We also must remember that is the Holy Spirit who is empowering and giving direction to those seeking to make his name known, not strategies.
To understand what is a missionary is, we need a biblical perspective.
A Biblical Perspective
From the very beginning of the Bible, God dwelt among His people. He dwelt with Adam and Eve and even after they sinned, God set up a covenant with Moses to dwell among His people again. However, God did not only want to dwell with his people, He wanted to dwell in his people. Therefore, God sent his son Jesus to live a perfect life in the power of the Spirit. Jesus depended on His father and proclaimed the kingdom of God in the power of the Spirit. Many repented, were healed, and followed Jesus during His 3-year ministry.
Before Jesus left earth, he promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would empower them to be witnesses of the kingdom of God all over the earth (Acts 1:8). As the Holy Spirit filled them, Peter (one of the disciples) spoke about the mighty deeds of God and 3,000 souls received the word of God and were added to the kingdom.
In the same way, we have the Spirit that was with Jesus and with the disciples. We are called in the same way to proclaim the good news of Jesus to everyone. Therefore, we are all missionaries sent by God, in the power of the Spirit, to proclaim the Gospel to all. From the life of Jesus, we see what is a missionary is. A missionary is a person who is sent by the power of Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news of Jesus with authority and boldness.
On Mission: Holy Spirit Empowerment
“Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Everywhere you go, whatever you do, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to love like Jesus, overcome sin like Jesus, proclaim the Gospel like Jesus, and see people’s lives changed by the power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.” – Jeff Vanderstelt
Paul perfectly describes the heart of a missionary sent by Jesus to make disciples. Acts 20:24 says, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” If you are a follower of Jesus, your primary motivation in life is to live as a disciple of Jesus who makes disciples. You are sent, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to make disciples of Jesus where you live.
How can we live as missionaries in every part of life? Like Paul did, we have to consider our lives as living sacrifices and seek to pursue Jesus and make Him known in our daily situations. Paul is the perfect example of a life empowered by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s strategy was becoming all things to all people so that some would know Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22). Being a missionary means that we strategize how to reorient our lives around the Gospel in our own context and join in God’s ongoing work.
There are many Christians that have reoriented their lives around a mission in another country. For example, we are here serving at a school so that many (children and their families) come to know Jesus and grow to become mature, multiplying disciples. However, this is not what makes us missionaries. All Christians have been sent as missionaries in their own context to reorient their lives around the Gospel and its work in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and friends. Therefore, let us prayerfully seek how God is working amongst us and embrace the call to make disciples of all nations.
Daniel Mcdonald graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Communication (2011) and a Master’s of Divinity in Evangelism and Church Planting (2014). He is serving as the Director of Communication for GEM, while his wife, Kristen, serves as the 4th-grade teacher. Above all, they desire to make disciples by making Jesus known in Puerto and around the world.