The whole concept of missionaries got me thinking about how missionaries begin their journey and the qualifications to be a missionary. Do theses individuals have a divine experience like Paul in the dessert where a blinding light shines on them and a deep booming voice instructs them on their next move? Are they selfless people who never considered another career? Do people seeking to be a missionary look up the qualifications in the career section at their local library? Were they brought up to work for God like Samuel. The idea got me thinking. Where do missionaries come from and what qualifies them to enter the field of missions?
In part 1 of the series Everyday Missionary titled, “Missions and Missionaries,” we took a second look at what it means to be a missionary. We discovered that each and every follower of Jesus Christ is called to some form of missions. We acknowledged that today our mission field might be something basic like our place of work, our school, or our neighborhood. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, I encourage you to take a minute and read it first before reading the rest of this article. I also encourage you to seek God to find where He might be calling you to represent Christ today.
If we are going to try and better understand the qualifications to be a missionary, it might help to better understand our culture’s understanding of what a missionary is. To do this we will consider the common definition of a missionary according to Merriam-Webster’s Learning Dictionary.
The Definition of a Missionary
A missionary is a person who is sent to a foreign country to do religious work (such as to convince people to join a religion or to help people who are sick, poor, etc.)
Merriam-Webster’s Learning Dictionary
If we accept this definition we make a few assumptions.
- A missionary must travel to a foreign country.
- To be a missionary one must do religious work.
- A missionary must be there to help the sick or poor.
- To be a missionary one must be convincing people to join a religion.
For those who might have grown up reading the Biblical story of Paul, I would add one more qualification to this list.
- To be a missionary there must be a divine revelation.
Drawing from this modern day definition, I cannot help but see where many people today derive their assumptions about the qualifications to be a missionary. I believe there is great value in examining these assumptions and perhaps considering a different perspective. As we discuss ideas of Christian missionaries, one might assume a missionary is sent by an organization such as a church, God or self. I believe it is important to look to the Bible for another perspective.
In these passages of scripture, we see Jesus as He is picking those who will share in his ministry and ultimately build the Christian Church that we know today.
“As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He noticed two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “ Follow Me [as My disciples, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk], and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him [becoming His disciples, believing and trusting in Him and following His example].”
Looking at these scriptures we can see Jesus demonstrating his view on the qualifications for a disciple. For those who might not be familiar with the term, a disciple was essentially what we might think of as a missionary today. During Jesus’ ministry here on earth, the role of a disciple was slightly different because Jesus was establishing the Church. The period lead up to Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection or not long after. Essentially the disciples serve as our model for modern day missionaries.
“A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.”
Matthew 4:21-22 NLT
- READY to believe
- WILLING to follow Jesus
Ready And Willing
Practically, this short list qualifies all followers of Jesus to be a missionary. No where in the Bible does it say one must travel to foreign lands or convince someone to become a Christian. It only requires believers to be ready and willing. As we rethink what it means to be a missionary and what qualifies us, my challenge to all believers is to look at their lives and see where God has called you to be a missionary. What is your mission field? Maybe at your office, at your school, or in your neighborhood? No need to quit your job, just be ready to follow Jesus and willing to do God’s work? No idea what God’s work entails? In upcoming posts, we will take a look at what God’s work consists of and how it applies to your life.
Other Scripture References:
“One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.”
Matthew 4:18-20 NLT