When is a Missionary a Missionary?

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westminken

Puritan Board Freshman
The last few months and probably the last year or so, I have been trying to comprehend when is a missionary a missionary. I don't want this to turn into a heated debate. I come asking for guidance and correction if needed.

When is a missionary a missionary? I am conflicted on this issue. When I think of a missionary, I think of someone that is "in the field." Someone that is in a foreign land or at home interacting with the indigenous people groups such as:

Bible translators
Bible teachers
pastors training the natives to be pastors such as in Bible institutes or seminaries
medical missionaries
teachers working in Christian schools

The list can go on and on. But hopefully you're catching my drift.

The question becomes are the people that work for missionary organizations in the States as administrators , performing clerical duties, or functions not working with the native peoples. Can these people really be called missionaries? I understand that these people have to raise support like a missionary in foreign countries. Is it fair to call them missionaries when they have office jobs?
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Etymologically speaking, the root of "mission" is latin for "sent". I suppose if they are still here and not overseas, they haven't been "sent" very far. ;) So I guess in the linguistic sense, they are not "missionaries," though their role directly relates to missions work.

-----Added 9/21/2009 at 05:47:39 EST-----

But assuming you weren't just concerned about the root of the word, I will state my opinion. Administrators of missions organizations who still live in their home country are not missionaries in the ordinary sense. They may work hard supporting missionaries or be involved in missions work in many ways, but they are not, strictly speaking, missionaries.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
That raises the question of new church plants within the same nation--are those pastors "missionaries", if they are sent by an existing congregation?
 

BertMulder

Puritan Board Junior
Correct me if I am wrong...

But I believe the Biblical definition for a missionary (evangelist) has to be:

1. One that is ordained to preach the Gospel (Rom 10):

14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!


2. One that is called and sent by the church to a particular field of labour, whether far or near, as the church in Antioch called and sent Paul and Barnabas.
 

dr_parsley

Puritan Board Freshman
The question becomes are the people that work for missionary organizations in the States as administrators , performing clerical duties, or functions not working with the native peoples. Can these people really be called missionaries? I understand that these people have to raise support like a missionary in foreign countries. Is it fair to call them missionaries when they have office jobs?

I don't think so. They might be "vocational Christians".

Correct me if I am wrong...

But I believe the Biblical definition for a missionary (evangelist) has to be:

But I don't see why 'missionary' is synonymous with 'evangelist'.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
I would tend to think of a deacon I know, working as a deacon, in Africa to do what the missionary pastor would otherwise have to do, as a missionary. Where do you draw the line? Probably at the point where a person is no longer "sent" but at the place of the sending body.
 

Scottish Lass

Puritan Board Doctor
I would have to agree with Burt about the "near or far' part. Some denominations reach out to ethnic groups in the US using missionaries from that ethnic group. Some examples would include African groups with a missionary from the same country, yet he is in our denomination and serves in the South or those working with Hispanics or Muslims, using native or second-language speakers to reach them where they live in the States.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
In my opinion, a true missionary is one who is involved in evangelizing a people group FOR THE FIRST TIME. ie. the people has not yet been reached and does not have a viable indigenous church.

What I don't think is very helpful is the trend here in the west to conflate evangelism with missions. When every one is deemed a missionary, there inevitably becomes a diminishing in the urgency of the task to reach the remaining unreached peoples of the world - which i think is still the greatest need of the church today, by far!

historically and biblically, it seems that 'one who is sent' was usually sent to those who had never heard the good news before. But now, that term is being used for anyone involved in ministry outside their immediate context, be it cross cultural or not, proclamational or not. everything from the tribal church planter to the World Vision water well digger. they're all considered missionaries, and in so doing, proper honour is not going where it's due, and the term loses meaning.

just my opinion.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I would not disparage the work of any who desire to serve where churches either do not exist or are too young to be self-supporting, self-governing, self-reproducing.

I would be happy to see all sorts of people to serve these needy areas, and more of them, from those who are ordained elder-qualified males, to single-females to teach the women and children, to un-ordained support workers.......all of which can loosely be called missionaries and all of whom deserve prayers and encouragement.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
I have recently been moving in the direction of a rather simplistic view of this. That is, that the Bible teaches that there are only two special offices that can be held today. These are the elders/pastors/teachers and deacons. Each individual Christian who is part of the worldwide visible church is either an elder or a deacon or a layman. A missionary must therefore fall into one of these categories.

The difficulty is that the term mission(ary) has a wide range of application. Depending upon how we define it, certain people will be either included or excluded from the definition.

I like the definition that a missionary is simply a pastor sent to another land or culture. It's a practical definit
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
In the book of Acts and also III John we have a situation where much itineration happens and there is a great movement of Christianity, and these itinerants are to be greeted and taken care of by the churches as they go out for the sake of the name. These are ministering and yet are not local and static as a pastor is. These travelling Christians evangelised wherever they went and were welcomed into Christian homes.

In the book of Acts we have this missionary band that is highly mobile and whom Paul refers to as the sunergoi, his fellow-workers, and these co-labourers included those who were not all ordained males, and yet they were said to be sharing in the work as well.


In contrast tomy view, many understand that a pastor must be called, and that to an existing church, but a missionary goes out to plant a church where one does not yet exist. He is not to become a perm. pastor but he is to ordain elders and expand the faith and nurture the leaders in the pattern of II Tim 2:2 so that the faith takes root locally. Then, this missionary band seemed to have moved on.

I just do not see a very restrictive ecclesiology when it comes to the New Testament. I see a broad movement, and I see many highly mobile folks travelling and spreading the faith.

Returning to only pastors as misionaries would be a disaster. Local churches and local pastors have local concerns and while missionaries constantly think of the frontiers and those outside the church, a pastor must think of those within the church and his thinking must begin local and it often stays local. While a missionary seeks to encounter people who are outside the church, by necessity, a pastor is tasked with many burdens from those within the church.

I talked to one missionary who believed in this misionary-as-pastor model, and he was a white, westerner pastoring a church for a decade in a Third World Country, without raising up any indigenous leaders at all in a city where other local, indigenous chuches already existed (i.e. the church was already planted in that people-group). He called himself a missionary, but his seemed more of a pastoral ministry than true missions to me, which aims at the frontiers and always is trying to cross boundaries (ethnic, linguistic, geographic) with the Gospel.

I hold that there is a difference between a pastor and a missionary.

Today, the example of New Testament expansion of Christianity is embodied by the sodalities of missionary societies. A great rush of missions sending began with William Carey as the Father of Modern Missions, not because Carey was the first missionary or even the first to India, but because he advocated a structure for missions, a voluntary association of Christians going out in a missionary society. He restored the sodality, the missionary band, and thus returned to NT practice and mirrored what he saw in the book of Acts, and the Modern Missions Movement began.


Therefore, I am happy with what I see in missions today, where men and women both serve in a broad array of tasks, usually centered around missionary teams, sent out each from their own church, working together as they seek to plant the Gospel among a people/tribe or region that does not yet have an existing church.

I would not seek to restrict missions only to ordained males.

In fact, I am seeking and utilizing god-fearing women who desire to reach the very gender-segregated Religion of Peace, so that they can teach the women and children whereas men often cannot.

There are roles and jobs enough for many, many more Christians in missions and rather than restrict things, I would like to maximize the utility of all who desire and are able to serve.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
In the book of Acts and also III John we have a situation where much itineration happens and there is a great movement of Christianity, and these itinerants are to be greeted and taken care of by the churches as they go out for the sake of the name. These are ministering and yet are not local and static as a pastor is. These travelling Christians evangelised wherever they went and were welcomed into Christian homes.

In the book of Acts we have this missionary band that is highly mobile and whom Paul refers to as the sunergoi, his fellow-workers, and these co-labourers included those who were not all ordained males, and yet they were said to be sharing in the work as well.


In contrast tomy view, many understand that a pastor must be called, and that to an existing church, but a missionary goes out to plant a church where one does not yet exist. He is not to become a perm. pastor but he is to ordain elders and expand the faith and nurture the leaders in the pattern of II Tim 2:2 so that the faith takes root locally. Then, this missionary band seemed to have moved on.

I just do not see a very restrictive ecclesiology when it comes to the New Testament. I see a broad movement, and I see many highly mobile folks travelling and spreading the faith.

Returning to only pastors as misionaries would be a disaster. Local churches and local pastors have local concerns and while missionaries constantly think of the frontiers and those outside the church, a pastor must think of those within the church and his thinking must begin local and it often stays local. While a missionary seeks to encounter people who are outside the church, by necessity, a pastor is tasked with many burdens from those within the church.

I talked to one missionary who believed in this misionary-as-pastor model, and he was a white, westerner pastoring a church for a decade in a Third World Country, without raising up any indigenous leaders at all in a city where other local, indigenous chuches already existed (i.e. the church was already planted in that people-group). He called himself a missionary, but his seemed more of a pastoral ministry than true missions to me, which aims at the frontiers and always is trying to cross boundaries (ethnic, linguistic, geographic) with the Gospel.

I hold that there is a difference between a pastor and a missionary.

Today, the example of New Testament expansion of Christianity is embodied by the sodalities of missionary societies. A great rush of missions sending began with William Carey as the Father of Modern Missions, not because Carey was the first missionary or even the first to India, but because he advocated a structure for missions, a voluntary association of Christians going out in a missionary society. He restored the sodality, the missionary band, and thus returned to NT practice and mirrored what he saw in the book of Acts, and the Modern Missions Movement began.


Therefore, I am happy with what I see in missions today, where men and women both serve in a broad array of tasks, usually centered around missionary teams, sent out each from their own church, working together as they seek to plant the Gospel among a people/tribe or region that does not yet have an existing church.

I would not seek to restrict missions only to ordained males.

In fact, I am seeking and utilizing god-fearing women who desire to reach the very gender-segregated Religion of Peace, so that they can teach the women and children whereas men often cannot.

There are roles and jobs enough for many, many more Christians in missions and rather than restrict things, I would like to maximize the utility of all who desire and are able to serve.

Very much agreed.

What do you think of educators, like seminary profs who teach in school abroad? Their job would involve training up indigenous pastors and leaders in the local chuch. Is this missions?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Missions is trying to cross some some sort of boundary (linguistic, etc) with the Gospel and trying to ignite a fire in this new culture in a way that it will take hold and multiply in a healthy way.

For practical purposes, evangelism might be a better term for the expansion of the Church within one's own cultural boundaries. Missions is the expansion of the Church into new cultures.

Thus, the gifting for a missionary is different than the calling and skill-set needed for a pastor. Ability to adapt into new cultures is needed and the ability to even apply the universal Gospel to differing cultural situations is needed.This different perspective leads to highly differing perspectives in many cases and pastors and missionaries often think from differing perspectives (which hopefully explains to you some of the odd views that some think that I have - I come to some topics from a totally different angle).



I would be glad to call teachers who train nationals as "missionaries" - and we need more of these - because they are following the biblical pattern of the expansion of the church given in II Tim 2:2 (and also the example of Paul) in passing the baton, being multiplicational and making the Gospel highly replicable among a certain people-group. Reaching the Lost to reach the lost and making disciples who can then make disciples is a major goal of missions as missionaries pray that the Holy Spirit will use them as gasoline to ignite the first sparks of the Gospel and nurture the flame in a previously dark land in order to plant a local manifestation of the Universal church among all the peoples, all the clans.


Our goal is to call out the Elect from every tongue, tribe and nation. While we can do this directly, once a fire is ignited in a culture, if it can burn in a native lamp (an indigenous vessel, a local evangelist), it will burn much brighter and spread much quicker. So, I am a firm believer in equipping indigenous evangelists in order to multiply our efforts.

This also highlights another difference between a pastor and a missionary because once a man pastors a church, he must minister to all of his flock, while a missionary is often freeer and more mobile to concentrate on leadership showing high potential. A pastor cannot do this without ignoring the needs of all of his flock.


So, again, let us please not cut the legs out from underneath us due to over-restrictive ecclesiologies.

I see much freedom in the NT. I am all for maximizing as much as possible what every Christian can do for the expansion of the Kingdom.

And I would strongly assert that the definition of missionary is fitting for any person (male, female, ordained, unordained) who labors for the sake of the Name in trying to plant a church in a culture where there is presently no church, or trying to make a weak church healthy in a culture and among an ethno-linguistic group that still does not yet have a healthy local manifestation of the universal church among its own people.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
And I would strongly assert that the definition of missionary is fitting for any person (male, female, ordained, unordained) who labors for the sake of the Name in trying to plant a church in a culture where there is presently no church, or trying to make a weak church healthy in a culture and among an ethno-linguistic group that still does not yet have a healthy local manifestation of the universal church among its own people.

Let me challenge this for the sake of the discussion. Pergy, you are one of our beloved missionaries 'on the front line' and I greatly respect your contribution to this thread. Just trying to go deep on this topic.

According to this, an unordained female may plant a church but must 'leave' once it gets established. Surely a task as important as planting a local congregation of worshipers must be done by an ordained minister of the Word, who is called and sent according to Biblical criteria and prudence.

-----Added 10/9/2009 at 08:32:03 EST-----

And I acknowledge the tension you have identified with regard to 'over-restrictive ecclesiologies'.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
And I would strongly assert that the definition of missionary is fitting for any person (male, female, ordained, unordained) who labors for the sake of the Name in trying to plant a church in a culture where there is presently no church, or trying to make a weak church healthy in a culture and among an ethno-linguistic group that still does not yet have a healthy local manifestation of the universal church among its own people.

Let me challenge this for the sake of the discussion. Pergy, you are one of our beloved missionaries 'on the front line' and I greatly respect your contribution to this thread. Just trying to go deep on this topic.

According to this, an unordained female may plant a church but must 'leave' once it gets established. Surely a task as important as planting a local congregation of worshipers must be done by an ordained minister of the Word, who is called and sent according to Biblical criteria and prudence.

-----Added 10/9/2009 at 08:32:03 EST-----

And I acknowledge the tension you have identified with regard to 'over-restrictive ecclesiologies'.

Pergy will have a better answer, but let me share this from my experience.

The over-restrictive ecclesiology is a big issue on the mission field. For example, by 'ordained', I assume you have Presbyterianism as your framework. While many mission agencies are still denominational in character, most are trying to undo the ill-effects of cultural imperialism that we have seen in mission history. Not that ordination is necessarily wrong, but transplanting denominations cross culturally is one example of this colonial trend. I have experience working with Korean Presbyterians in Thailand, and the result is that you have Thai believers worshipping like Koreans in Korea. At ordination Thai pastors were made to confess the WCF, when I don't think they even read it in the Thai language (but I may be wrong). Missionaries should do their best to understand, preserve and redeem culture where possible rather than impose their own foreign frameworks.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
And I would strongly assert that the definition of missionary is fitting for any person (male, female, ordained, unordained) who labors for the sake of the Name in trying to plant a church in a culture where there is presently no church, or trying to make a weak church healthy in a culture and among an ethno-linguistic group that still does not yet have a healthy local manifestation of the universal church among its own people.

Let me challenge this for the sake of the discussion. Pergy, you are one of our beloved missionaries 'on the front line' and I greatly respect your contribution to this thread. Just trying to go deep on this topic.

According to this, an unordained female may plant a church but must 'leave' once it gets established. Surely a task as important as planting a local congregation of worshipers must be done by an ordained minister of the Word, who is called and sent according to Biblical criteria and prudence.

-----Added 10/9/2009 at 08:32:03 EST-----

And I acknowledge the tension you have identified with regard to 'over-restrictive ecclesiologies'.

No probs, brother, I like these sorts of discussions.


For unordained females, I have never seen one planting a church or administering the sacraments while on the mission field. I agree with your concerns above.

We place women on missionary teams in support of the church-planting movement that is going on and make sure that there is an elder-qualified man who can head up the team and administer the baptisms. Actually, we try to make sure there are indigenous leaders with us as well so that the Westerner, if at all possible, does not administer the sacraments at all, but the indigenous believers do this as we try to empower the locals and enable indigenous Christians.

We try to make sure that one person alone is not planting the church, so we try to work in teams. And among that team women play a vital role. Though, yes, the ecclesiastical authority in charge of the effort must be an elder-qualified male.

In this way we mirror the pattern of the book of Acts: (1) Paul never worked alone but worked with others at all times it seems even if he was the leader, (2) women were counted as sunergoi, fellow workers, too, and Paul employs women in a number of tasks it would seem in support of the church-planting effort, and yet, at the same time, Paul tells the churches that women are not to exercise authoritative leadership over men, (3) the women and the children are not to be neglected in the ministry, but Paul gives commands that older women ought to be teaching...the younger women.



For unordained women, I have seen many that translate and teach literacy, do medical care or teach women and children. Some may have problems with a woman translating, but I do not, they are often stronger at language than men (more practice maybe, ha ha). But whether you agree with the linguistics part for women or not, there are 100 tasks that must be done that are not direct church-planting that are vital on the field.

Again,
There were certainly females among the cadre of Paul's "fellow-workers" in the book of Acts, but these were not to exercise ecclesiastical authority, though I am sure they were tasked with many tasks.

We strive to maximize the roles and the potential of all people who desire to serve.
 
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