As a kid growing up in a conservative Baptist church the term missionary had a very clear and distinct image to it. It was a man or woman who served God by establishing churches in a country that they were not native to. A missionary’s financial support came from churches in the U.S. and every couple of years our missionaries would come home from the “field” on furlough. They would travel to their partner churches giving a report on the activities and churches that were established since last they visited. We supported missionaries in the Philippines, Africa, Central America, South America, China, Russia and other countries. Missionaries where a distinct class of Christians who had a particular calling of God to go to a foreign land. But is that really what or who a missionary is?
The Biblical imagery of a missionary is displayed through the Apostles and others as recorded in Acts. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, Titus, Priscilla and Aquilla, Apollos are some of the names of the first century missionaries. They were people who saw themselves as citizens of God’s coming kingdom – not of the present Roman world. They were willing to sell everything, go wherever they needed, and speak to whomever they could about the way of the resurrected Jesus. Unfortunately that did not last – it morphed. When Christianity became the religion of the state under Constantine and it was en vogue to be a Christian, buildings were constructed to house worship communities. Christians transitioned from house gatherings to legitimized places of public worship – a building, a church. The missionary nature of “The Way” became the established local church. Along with that came the psychological impact – people settled in and became residents of the parish.
We have perpetuated socially and culturally the understanding of property ownership and citizenship both tied to a parcel of dirt located on a specific continent. On top of that we are aligned with others in a geo-political construct that we agree upon, are born into, or immigrate to and whose rules we agree to abide by. In other words we are residents of a particular country with the right to own property, pay taxes, and receive benefits from the organized civil society. But as Christians our allegiance lies elsewhere! Our citizenship has been purchased by God through our Savior, Jesus the Christ. And while we live in this world physically we are not permanent residents…we are missionaries!
We are called to:
– Deny ourselves and take up the mission of Jesus
– Willingly sell all that we have because our heart is fully attached to God
– Serve our neighbor especially those who are the least and the lost
– Look heavenward for our reward; not here
This is a rather radical notion and yet it is the biblical teaching of Jesus and his first century disciples charged with teaching, equipping and empowering the people who gathered in the power and presence of our Lord. The question is simple – what is your heart attached to?
The tangible delights, temptations, rewards, pain, and pleasures of this world?
Or the eternal reward of God’s presence that does and will transcend time and space?
Want to learn more? Let me suggest reading in sequence David Platt’s two books – Radical and Follow Me.
If you aren’t a missionary yet, ask God to transform you through the power of His Holy Spirit so that you can be aligned with His mission and work here and to come!
Blessings for the journey.