Last week, I shared a bit about how a missionary’s journey may begin, with their seeking and direction coming from the Lord! I don’t feel like it should be a last resort because you couldn’t get the other job that you wanted, so figured that this would be a good thing to fill in time. Yes, it can fit into an in-between stage of our lives and doesn’t have to be a full life commitment. However, I think our mindset going into it, should never be something that was a ‘last resort’, but something that we are intentional and passionate about. Something that we are called to-for whatever amount of time that might be for! God should always be at the forefront of it, directing it, not simply going along and holding second place in your heart and on the mission field.
So, this week, I would like to write a bit about what a missionary may ‘look like’ in our modern day communities. Perhaps, you are one, or know and support one. If so, it might be likely that you receive a regular newsletter or update from that particular missionary. Maybe they have had a photo like this in the corner of their newsletter…
I bet they don’t have a photo like this in their header…
….and that’s probably a good thing. Because I certainly wouldn’t give money to anyone who dances like that…
My whole point of mentioning this, is to highlight that a missionary is so much more than that photo or newsletter. It may be a person who is striving to share Christ with others, but it is never the person to follow. The missionary points to the one who is trustworthy and worthy to follow. We can read about, support, pray for and care for the missionaries who come into our lives. As we journey with them and their stories, we hopefully become excited for what God is doing. As for the missionary themselves… who are they? And where do they really belong in sharing the gospel?
I have asked these questions on multiple occasions and at various stages. What do you think of when you think of a missionary? Do you envision someone surrounded by people of all ages in a third world setting? Are they clothed in simple attire and live by the basics, denying themselves all forms of social pleasures? Do they begin their days at the crack of dawn, praying for those they have come to share the good news with? Is the only thing they ever do are read their Bibles and hold prayer meetings? Are they always, joyful, serious, compassionate? Are they ever fun, make mistakes, say the wrong things? Do they have all the answers? Do they ever fumble or stumble? I throw out these questions and in no way to mock or belittle anyone or their way of life. I’m simply wondering these very things myself, as I did when growing up in Sunday School. Those were some of my definitions and I’m pondering now if you’ve ever thought the same thing? It makes me laugh now to think of those boxes that I had created and it leads me to ask: What happens when we meet someone who is a missionary but doesn’t necessarily fit into our box of what we think that is or how it looks? What does the Bible say about it and what form can that take in our day and age? So here goes some of my thoughts in trying to make new boxes…
A missionary is:
A Messenger. As we mentioned in the last post and can read in Matthew 28, missionaries (as well as all who follow God), are asked to go into all of the world and make disciples. That person is intentional in telling others about God, what He has done and what He can do in our hearts, if we accept Jesus, whose perfect life, death and resurrection atones for our sins. I love the simple term to describe it as ‘one beggar showing another beggar where they got bread!’. It doesn’t elevate the messenger and it is who the message is about that we should elevate- Jesus! This modern day messenger in a first world country, may look like you and I by the clothes that they wear. They may have an accent but they don’t necessarily have to speak another langurage to qualify. They may be seen in some of our social groups and may even be ‘the life of the party’. They might be able to dance to some of the songs you know and drive a car that you wouldn’t mind having parked in your driveway. They may live in a beautiful home and have a beautiful family. They could be a wonderful cook or hit the gym every day. Whatever they may look like or do, as God constantly refers to throughout scripture, the heart is where the mission field really takes place. And that heart should not be concerned or driven by the things that they wear, the stuff that they own, or even being the life of the party. That heart should be concerned and driven to send the greatest message to ever encounter and impact our lives. The good news that takes a hungry beggar to everlasting fulfilment. In my opinion,that is the difference and one of the greatest definitions for the missionary.
A Carer. That brings us on to examine more of what the missionary’s heart may look like, as opposed to focusing only on the external. I believe they should be caring people, servants who seeks others needs before their own. Jesus came to be our greatest example of a servant, laying his very own life for us. I think a missionary should care so much for others that they absolutely cannot stay in the comfortable and do nothing. Their caring heart challenges them to move countries, learn languages, face persecution, live away from family and deny luxuries. All in order to tell someone else about the One who has provided a way, who changes us, who loves us.
Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, BE MOVED to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. Philippians 2.3-4
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20.28
A Doer. It’s all good to say you deeply care about people and their eternity, and another thing to do something about it. James especially talks about it in chapter 2, where he writes : You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. If you are going to have someone say they care for you and have a good message to tell you, then I’m pretty sure you don’t simply want them to talk the talk but you want them to walk the walk. There cannot be a contradiction in what the messenger is thinking and what they are doing. (Yes, no one is perfect and slips up but give me a minute before I go on to that.) So as you are out and about in your community, you should see the messenger being active in sharing that message. That could involve activities that involve the Bible and praying, but it could also incorporate delivering food to comfort a family, giving medicine to someone who is sick, having a coffee with a heartbroken individual, displaying a love for those who are difficult to love. I guess my point is that it won’t be something that is just internal, it will seep out to the external and it will be accompanied by a servant’s heart – not self-seeking or for attention. It will be because they care enough to DO something. It will be because they know the One who cares for us. They may not be feeding the hungry and thirsty with physical food or with water, but they are active in helping to lead others to the ‘bread’ and ‘water’ that gives life, Jesus!
A Person. And at the end of the day, the messenger is simply the messenger. A person who is like you and I. They will probably make mistakes and at one stage say something that probably wasn’t the best thing to say. They too, fumble, stumble, dance, sing and cry. Thank God that we can follow the One whose life was spotless and whose life was given for us. Thank God that He is patient with us and that He cares enough to do something about it. Thank God that He sends messengers and that His message is powerful and one to be told!
Therefore, whether you are a missionary or you know one, remember that the messenger may come in all shapes and sizes of boxes but it should always be about Who they are pointing to! Also, be mindful of your part in showing ‘another beggar where you found bread!’
….and put up a crazy photo in your newsletter….just to see what happens!
In case you missed last weeks! https://underthedogwoodtrees.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/the-very-worst-missionary-part-1/