Who is a Christian missionary?
Many people picture a missionary as a middle-aged man who leaves his job in America to evangelize and plant churches in Africa. But that is a simplistic view. Today, African Christians reach out to Muslims in the Middle East. College students spend their summer teaching English in Asia. A family in America befriends and witnesses to international students. A truck driver responds to an international disaster, meeting both physical and spiritual needs. All these are missionaries.
Although missionaries cannot be stereotyped, they each have a call. God calls them to set aside personal ambitions in order to be witnesses of the Gospel. Like Isaiah, a missionary gladly responds, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8b KJV).
Often God sends a missionary to a particular people group as Paul was sent to the unreached Gentiles and Peter to the Jews read (Galatians 2:8). Although technically a Christian missionary is one specifically called by God and sent out by the local church, every Christian has a mission to make disciples.
What does a Christian missionary do?
A Christian missionary proclaims Jesus as Savior and Lord. Whom do they tell? Jesus made it clear that Christians are to reach out to "all the nations" (Matthew 28:19 KJV), especially those ethnic groups without a Gospel witness.
Unreached people groups are still waiting for the way, truth, and life found in Christ, read (Romans 15:20). But Christians at home should be missionaries in their own communities, doing personal evangelism, read (Acts 1:8).
Missionaries do more than evangelism. The commission was to make disciples, not immature believers. Thus, a Christian missionary's outreach involves evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. These main goals are accomplished in a variety of ways: street preaching, tract hand-outs, church building, Bible studies, teaching English as a second language, relief projects, children's clubs, mountain trekking, literacy teaching, radio broadcasting, etc.
Why does a Christian missionary go?
Christian missionaries go in obedience to God's call. God called the apostle Paul, "But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in which I will appear unto thee: delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:16-18 KJV).
Jesus assured us that missionaries will face surrender and suffering. Missionaries leave friends behind, experience culture shock and rejection, read (Matthew 10:16-31). But instead of falling into self-pity or pride, they learn to delight in serving God. Rather than being a burden, obeying His call brings joy and reward in heaven. Therefore, a missionary serves not out of duty but love, read (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
A Christian missionary delights in spreading the good news of Christ to the lost just as Paul did: "Furthermore, when I came to Troas to teach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me in the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them. I went from thence into Macedonia. Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savior of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but of as God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:12-17 KJV).
Rather than seeking personal gain while witnessing, Christian missionaries bring glory to God by honoring Christ's righteous life, sacrificial death, and absolute authority.
Can you be a Christian missionary?
A Christian missionary is an ambassador of Christ. Each one must be yielded to the Lord, loving Him with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength. Specifically, a missionary is one whom God sends through the support of the Church to the unreached. All Christians, however, are called to be missionaries of the Gospel. The Lord works through them to rescue the lost. What greater call can one answer?