What is a Christian missionary?
(We are continually learning this ourselves.)
A Christian missionary is commissioned by the Lord to share the gospel and to make disciples to grow and expand His Kingdom. (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47-48). A missionary is an ambassador of Christ who proclaims Jesus as Savior and Lord. The root of the words “mission” and “missionary” is the Latin verb mitto or mittere (I send). In the Greek, the verb apostolos means “sent one,” and from it comes the word for “apostle.”
At least thirty-nine times in the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself as “sent” on a mission. What was that mission? “To seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). This is was not only Jesus’ mission but He made it our mission as well. He not only refers to Himself as “sent,” He refers to every Christian as “sent.” Jesus commands all Christians to the share the gospel – the message of sin and judgment and the message of His death and resurrection that conquered the penalty and power of sin.
“As you sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18
“And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” Romans 10:14-15
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19
In the original Greek, “go” is poreuomai, and it only means “go”; “all” is hapas, and it actually means “all”; and “every” is pas, and it literally means “every.” So when Jesus commanded us to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” He was actually telling us to be obedient to the original text.
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15
“My mother and My brothers are these who hear the Word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21
“Sharing the gospel is about experiencing God. If you choose to be obedient, He will take you on a journey so exciting that your life will never be the same.” – Bill Fay, Share Jesus Without Fear
Who is a Christian missionary?
Simply, every Christian is a missionary, and is called to share the gospel and make disciples. Technically, a missionary is one who is specifically called by God to a foreign land by crossing geographical and/or cultural boundaries (Acts 22:21), sent out through the support of the local church, surrendering everything except the gospel for the sake of the gospel, and sometimes in areas where Jesus Christ is entirely unknown (Romans 15:20).
However, all Christians are sent/called to be missionaries of the gospel regardless of where we live, stateside or overseas. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ (II Corinthians 5:20), witnesses for Christ (Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8; Acts 26:16-18), faithful sowers of His Word (I Corinthians 3:7,9), servants that speak with boldness (Acts 4:29), watchman for Christ (Ezekiel 33) and soldiers for Christ (II Timothy 2:3).
The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed. In other words it is not a suggestion, but a commandment given by our Lord. They were the last words He gave to His disciples before He ascended.
“And why call you Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not the things which I say?” Luke 6:46
“But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The early church multiplied and made disciples at lightning speed. It wasn’t because they had fancy programs or great productions. It was because every believer operated as a missionary. There was no such thing as a “foreign missionary.” Not only the apostles but every Christian did the work of the Great Commission – and they did so tirelessly. Numerous passages indicate that every Christian was expected to evangelize, follow up, nurture, and teach the Word. This happened by one person bringing the gospel to another.
“And grant unto they servants, that with all boldness they may speak the Word of God.” Acts 4:29
“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17
Throughout Scripture Christ’s followers are called sojourners, pilgrims and strangers in a strange land. We do not belong and have been sent out only to spread God’s glory throughout the earth through missions. We are His representatives on this earth. Everyone who follows Jesus as Lord is commanded to go and preach the gospel to every creature and make disciples of Jesus. Even with our imperfections God delights in using us to obtain glory via missions. Missions does not only occur on foreign soil. You do not need a passport to be considered a missionary. What we need is obedience. Obedience honors God!
As followers of Christ, we are missionaries in our own home, in our town, in our schools, at our jobs, across the street and around the world. Teachers, employees, taxi drivers, waiters, and waitresses, managers, CEO’s, police officers, fireman, doctors, nurses, stay-at-home mom’s, senators, congressman, etc., are all called to be missionaries and labor for the Kingdom. You are placed where you are with the gifts that you have to reach out to the lost around you!
David Sills says in his book, The Missionary Call, “If someone does not have a missions heart at home, nothing magical happens when they buckle the seat belt on the airplane.” Some of us are specifically called to go far away to a foreign land but many are called to stay local. We are all called to participate in the Great Commission!
“I have set you a watchman…, you shalt hear the Word of My mouth, and warn them from Me.” Ezekiel 33:7
Let’s follow Jesus faithfully and obediently. Let’s follow Him in our homes, across our streets and to the poorest and most overlooked in our cities, to the most unreached and most difficult places in the uttermost parts of the earth. Think about it: if the redemption accomplished by Jesus is so radically great that its effects are to blow down the barriers to every nation of the world, then we should certainly also cross the street to share the gospel with the family in our neighborhood. All believers must see themselves as missionaries sent by Jesus Christ, sent into the world, and sent on a mission.
“If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost…” II Corinthians 4:3
“Knowing therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” II Corinthians 5:11
“Every Christian is a missionary; every non-Christian a mission field.” –Winkie Pratney, New Zealand evangelist/author
Every Christian is called to be obedient to the Great Commission wherever God has placed us. The call to missions has more to do with the condition of our heart than it does with the location of our feet. To ask whether all Christians are called to be missionaries is a bit like asking whether all dogs should have four legs. Remember God is on a mission and we are called to be followers of Him. And it is our privilege to join Him! He has deemed man to be the human instrument of sharing the good news of redemption.
“The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few, therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2
“I can tell you that there is no greater joy than leading someone to faith in Jesus Christ. Even if they reject your message, it still feels great to obey Christ. Yet regardless of how we feel, we need to remember this is what He has commanded.” –Dr. James Kennedy
“…God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” I Timothy 2:3,4
“In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” 11 Thessalonians 1:8-9
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31). This should stir a passion within us to reach the lost. “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29). God is holy, holy, holy. His holiness is the reason for His being a consuming fire, and it burns up anything unholy. Man has a sinful nature. When sinful men come too close to God, because of His holiness and His just nature He must consume them. Therefore, every human being needs a new nature. Each one must be transformed into a new creature in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).
“For God made Jesus Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” II Corinthians 5:21
All the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus, who took our place so we could receive His righteousness. God commands all men everywhere to repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ. We need not fear the consuming fire of God’s wrath if we are covered by the pure blood of Christ. Who shall escape such a great salvation?
“Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:20
“Multitudes, multitudes are in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14). We need to be like a watchman warning all men of sin and judgment, “pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23). The act simply requires caring enough to warn of the very real danger of going into eternity without Christ. We need only to tell the truth: there is a hell to shun and a heaven to gain. As Apostle Paul declared in II Corinthians 5:11, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” II Timothy 4:2
We should be ready to preach the gospel to everyone we meet, at all times. Let us have surrendered hearts like Isaiah to be doers of His mission – to seek and save the lost…
“Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8