To the surprise of most, the words "missions" and "missionary" are found nowhere in Scripture. However, the definition and concept of missions is a central theme in God's Word.
A simple explanation of missions is that we have a glorious king who has rescued us into his kingdom, and now we get to love him, worship him, and tell the world about him so others will love, worship and share him.
So, what is a missionary?
Often, the image that comes to mind are those "superstar" Christians that have their pictures on the back walls of our churches, who get on planes and wear cargo-pants; coming back once a year to offer slide-show presentations.
In no way should we belittle that view of missionaries. Thank God for those who surrender their lives to share the love of Jesus on foreign soil. They definitely are missionaries, but they're also not the only ones.
Believe it or not, Wikipedia gives one of the best definitions I've found of missional living: "In Christianity, missional living takes place when the believer adopts the posture, thinking, behaviors and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message."
Unfortunately, the word "missional" has become such a misused and misunderstood buzzword in the last decade. But, at its core, the term emphasizes the truth that ALL Christians should be involved in the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, not only a select group of "professional" missionaries.
Scripture is clear that all Christians are missionaries. Here's why:
Salvation is a call to be a missionary.
The following statement can't biblically exist in the minds of Christians: "God has called me to salvation but not to missions."
The call to a relationship with the king is also a call to tell the world about this same king!
And, this should make us extremely joyful. After all, thank God that there is more to being a Christian than getting "saved," sitting on our blessed assurances on padded pews, going to a bunch of potluck dinners, waiting on the Rapture Bus to swoop down and pick us all up to the "good ol' by-and-by".
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
The beautiful truth that comes from these Scriptures is the teaching that "We're not just called FROM something; we're also called TO something!"
Yes, we're saved from sin, hell, God's wrath and the kingdom of darkness; but we're also called to the kingdom of God, community, the church and the mission of God!
Missions is one of the reasons we were adopted into the Family of God. As believers, we cannot be selfish with the gospel. We must share it with the world, which includes our schools, jobs, families, neighborhoods and the nations. How and where we are missionaries will be revealed by the Spirit of God, but the fact that we are missionaries has been declared once and for all in God's Word. It's now our purpose, passion and point of living to tell the world about Jesus.
Missionaries carry with them a message.
God told the prophet Isaiah, "Go and say (Isaiah 6:9)".
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, "…entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:19b – 20).
Therefore, any kind of missions that doesn't have a verbal gospel proclamation is most likely not the missio dei — mission of God — but rather temporary service projects. There is nothing wrong with painting fences, planting gardens or handing out sandwiches. However, if there is no message tied to it, let's not call it missions. Those efforts are no different than what many other clubs, organizations or philanthropists do.
True biblical missions uses avenues like social justice, mercy ministries and service-work to ultimately point people to the savior named Jesus. It's not very loving to let someone live with physical hunger when we have it within our means to feed them; however, it's also not loving to let someone live with spiritual hunger when we have within our mouths the message of life.
Hell is just as hungry for the souls of those with full stomachs as it is for those with empty stomachs. Here is what true care for someone looks like: we give a sandwich out of love while also telling them about the Bread of Life out of love.
"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Romans 10:14-15)
The church reformer Martin Luther said, "It wouldn't matter if Jesus died a thousand times if no one heard about it."
This is a haunting reality that should motivate us all to realize and remember that missions is not one of the many ministries of the local church, nor is it a passion and calling of "some." The mission of God is the very reason the church exists!
If you're a Christian, you're a missionary. So, go and tell the world about your king.