One of the toughest things I have wrestled with in the last couple of years is the question, “What does it mean to be a missionary?” This is an interesting question to wrestle with, particularly if you are a missionary as I am.
I struggle with the idea that I am a missionary for lots of reasons but the one that resonates most deeply is that I strongly dislike the idea of setting aside some Christians in a special category.
The term missionary literally means “a person sent out on a mission”; mission being “an important assignment carried out for political, religious or commercial purposes”. What is my important assignment? Jesus makes it clear. My assignment, and the assignment of every other Christ Follower on the planet is the same, “Go and make disciples.”
Therefore, God equips and assigns every Christian as a missionary.
What I mean to say is that every Christian ought to consider their particular assignment to “Go and make disciples” as the central organizing activity of their life. The trouble is that the influences of society and our own frail disposition lull us into the more “sensible” idea that we don’t need to make our Christian duty the central organizing activity but merely one activity among many others. Somehow we believe the lie that mission is something you go on or give to but not something you actually live out in the regular world.
We have been duped into believing that it’s simply acceptable to make the major decisions of life (where to live, what house to live in, what employment option to take, what car to drive, how to spend our money, who to spend time with), with our personal preference as the domineering criterion. We are accustomed and even encouraged to make these defining lifestyle decisions without any regard for the impact they have on our ability to properly carry out our assignment to “Go and make disciples.”
When I read the Gospels I hear a clarion call of the Creator to jump into the deep end of the pool, dying to my ideas about how life should go, in order to obediently join Him in the greatest mission ever undertaken in the history of the world. This invitation to go “all in” with God means that we are all supposed to live as people on a mission. Put another way, we are all missionaries.
The thing that scares me is that it is easy to wear the label “missionary” as an ex-patriot living in South Africa while continuing to live for myself. The decision to be a missionary is a decision that all of us must make each day. Live for Jesus or live for self. It’s that simple.
Today I pray that Jesus will give me the courage and the fortitude to live for him, to orient my life according to how I can best serve His purposes. I pray that for my friends in the States too. May we all, regardless of our vocation or address, make the real decisions of life according to the great call to “Go and make disciples.”