I DON'T BELIEVE IN LOCAL MISSIONARIES
I know even making that statement is controversial. But this is something that I've been pondering for a while now. The Church at large is a part of this movement where 'everyone is a missionary.' You've heard it; you no longer have to leave the country to be a missionary, but locally you can make an impact and be a missionary in your own backyard. I've met with several churches and even seen some congregations that have completely changed their missions strategy within their church to that of a 'local missionary' focus. I have friends who I love, who call themselves 'local missionaries' and truly believe it. Now, as much as I agree with the idea of locally living on mission, I cannot agree with calling yourself a local missionary. Now bear with me here. I don't think the act of loving your city and being on mission for the local community is wrong, but altering missiology and claiming to be a missionary is. I believe that all Christ followers should be making disciples; some do that by living missional while others become missionaries.
Let me explain.
As the body of Christ we are all called to make disciples, despite physical localtion and cultural context. That means we should live our lives in such a way where we are not only being poured into, mentored, and held accountable to the Gospel, but in turn, we are pouring out, mentoring, and speaking the truth in love to others around us. This is our mission. To teach others all that He has commanded us, knowing that He is with us and has left us the Holy Spirit as a guide.
So the question is, does doing that that make me a missionary? No. It makes me a Disciple.
I have friends in DFW who regularly give their time with their small group to go and serve in a refugee community. This community is full of people from other countries, speaking other languages, and many have never heard the name of Jesus. They take hours out of their days to play soccer with the kids, feed them, and teach them about the one true God. It brings such joy to my heart to hear the many stories about what God is doing and celebrate the conversations that are had with not just the children, but the parents as well. But at the end of the day, they go back to their homes and rest in the comfort of a familiar environment.
Does this make them missionaries? No. It makes them missional.
This week I had the opportunity to attend a missionary conference. A group of retired missionaries, current missionaries, and future missionaries all gathered for a week of fellowship and training. The last night of the conference we had a time where everyone gathered to give thanks to The Lord, commemorate our time with communion, and commission new missionaries to the field. As this group of American Missionaries gathered, tears filled my eyes as stories were shared, songs were sang, and prayers were spoken over new missionaries. For this group of men and women, making disciples has meant that some of them boarded a plane today for a foreign land, making a new home as missionary teachers. For one couple who just finished medical school, it means now fundraising to serve in a medical hospital in one of the most hostile countries in the world. For another couple it meant turning down a dream job as head pastors of a growing church in Canada to plant churches in Ireland. And for a handful of singles no older than myself, it meant preparing to say goodbye to family and friends to serve long-term in another country.
Does this make them missionaries? Yes.
The work locally and globally is no different. Here in the states, I am a disciple, making disciples. My friends overseas, they are making disciples. Yet the call to be a missionary is not the same as the call to be missional.
Last night I found myself weeping because I know how it feels to say yes to God as a missionary. I know how hard it is to leave your culture and enter into a new one. To hug your family and cry together, unsure when you will see them again. To give up the normal life of a college student and feel forgotten by everyone stateside. To miss out on holidays, birthdays, births, and so much more. And most of all the struggle of re-entering into an American culture where you aren't understood.
But I also know the joy in being a missionary. The value in laying down your life for the Glory of God. We all sacrifice things to follow our Perfect Savior. For me that sacrifice and Glory of The Lord was coming back to America after my time as a missionary when I didn't want to 6 years ago. It's faithfully making disciples and serving him fervently here. I see His Glory so fully because He told me to come home and I have seen how obedience is better than sacrifice. I am praying that one day, He will open the door and call me back overseas long-term. When the day comes to be a missionary again, I will carry that title with pride. Until then, I am not a local missionary, but a disciple who lives missional.