Today there is a bit of confusion going around in regards to missions, being missional and being a missionary. It seems there is a misunderstanding of terms. Many refer to all believers as missionaries on "mission" as the trend goes. Is this accurate? Is this a healthy understanding?
We suggest that all believers are to be part of God's mission in seeking and saving that which was lost and making disciples. To not be involved in some degree would be a sin against the Lord Himself. In a certain sense every Christian is a 'missionary' because he/she is sent into his/her context as salt and light among lost people in a fallen world; this is an aspect of the call of the Lord.
However, we would not call every believer a missionary. Not every believer is a missionary. Missionaries are sent out. They leave a life behind them, as well as family, culture, friends and more. They lose everything. They go into a new culture and begin a new life among a different people group. They infiltrate the new culture doing anything and everything to have constant open doors for the preaching of the gospel because it is the preaching of the gospel that contains the power of God unto salvation, not any strategies, good works or even cleverness of speech for that matter. They have one occupation and one purpose - to testify of the grace of God.
What then is to be understood of the "missional" person? Simply put, what nowadays people are calling "mission" and "missional" should simply be called Christianity. You surrendered your life to Christ. You now have new priorities - the Lord's priorities. Therefore, you see the world with new eyes. You have compassion on those who are lost and like your Lord you seek to proclaim Good News to them and lead them also to Jesus for salvation and life. The "missional" person is what throughout history was called a follower of Jesus or a Christian.
Why is it important to keep these terms clear?
1. Some churches no longer support missionaries, the real ones, because they believe they are all missionaries to their local community. Not good. They are called to reach their local community like every Christian and church is, but not at the expense of supporting missionaries to places with ZERO Christian witness.
2. Others who want to serve the Lord in their community can feel overwhelmed when they think they are becoming something more than they are. What do I mean? Rather than understand themselves to be Christians like any other who give their lives for others and serve to create ways to proclaim God's word they take on an extra weight as they are encouraged to call themselves a missionary. Relax! Praise the Lord! You are not a missionary. You have not left everything behind. You have not been sent. You are still at home and things are safe. You speak the same language. You are not at risk. You even have a job and a fixed income... All is well.
POINT: Knowing our roles is one of the most important things we can do as the body of Christ. We encourage you by the grace of God to seek the Lord to know the specific role He has given you in His Kingdom :-)
There is much more that can be said. Perhaps we will follow this up with something else in the future.
For now, love that you are a Christian and Christ follower. Live according to your call. Love the missionaries that you support! They need it more than you know. God bless!