Q&A: What is a Missionary

Originally Posted 7 October 2014 to my family's blog

The Question: What is a Missionary?

According to Oxford a missionary is:

A person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country. (Source: Oxford Online Dictionary)

There are two main words in this definition that explain to us who and what, exactly, are missionaries: MISSION and SENT.  Let’s take a quick look, shall we?


The mission is given in Matthew 28:18-20.

And Jesus said to [the disciples], “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Emphasis added).

The mission of a missionary is first off to GO.  The harvest of souls in this world is plentiful but to reap a harvest you need workers in the fields.  Jesus uses this type of language and imagery throughout His earthly ministry engaging his followers to walk with Him, to learn from Him, and to engage in this mission with Him.

The next objective in this mission is to MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS.  For a long while in our history the goal has been to convert the pagans and Christianize the “savages” and in large part this has been successful.  However the goal is not simply to convert people to Christianity it’s to make them disciples.  This takes time and patience.  It means loving them, living with them, spending time with them, encouraging and correcting them just as Jesus did with his own disciples.

BAPTISM is another important part of this mission.  Why?  Because Jesus said it.  Baptism is an outward expression of the repentance in the heart allowing us to take part in His death, burial, and resurrection.  But it’s also symbolic of an anointing.  The kings of old were anointed with oil by the High Priest and as we are covered by the water we show outwardly our devotion to the Father, by the covering of Son, through the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit.

The final part of the mission listed here is TEACHING.  Teaching is ingrained in the entirety of the mission of God for His people.  We teach the truth of the Bible so that non-believers can hear it.  We teach the commands of God so that new believers can know it.  We teach the wisdom of the Holy Spirit so that disciples can understand it.


Who is sent?  Is it the handful of people from your church who are in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe?  Is it the Christian Non-Profits that are doing good works around the world?  Is it the pastoral team at your church?  Is it the guy who volunteers to cut the grass or work the food pantry?


Peter, Jesus’ lead disciple, echos the book of Exodus when he wrote:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who sent called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

What this means is that every Christian, no matter who they are or what they do, is a missionary.  Jesus sent his disciples into missionaries-maptheir city, their region, the surrounding areas, and the world at large.  He does the same for us today.  For instance, when the Pastor is preaching his sermon on Saturday or Sunday he is preaching as a missionary to the community who has come (some of whom are not Christian).  When I go to work at Starbucks I am making Latte’s as a missionary.  When my kids play with their friends they are playing with them as missionaries.


So what is a missionary?  In a nutshell, a missionary is every person who has been saved by Jesus, called out by God to fulfil His commission to go and make disciples of every nation, to baptize them in the name of the Father,  Son, and Spirit, and to teach the rules and commands of God so that we can all live lives that please Him and bless others.


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