Friday, July 27, 2007

Why I am NOT a Missionary

dome two
This article has been submitted anonymously by a believer who grew up as an MK from a traditional sending agency. In adulthood she has served as a teacher and field representative in a closed country. In an attempt to open the door for entry into areas of little access, she returned to the US to obtain a secular degree from a non-religious university. Although employed in a university in a large US City, she is returning to the field as a teacher in a secular educational institution in a closed country.

In the nineteenth century, some Chinese leaders were suspicious of missionaries, believing they were involved in the opium trade. Whether fact or fiction, this perception led to the doors of China slamming shut. Today, although the government has allowed churches to be reopened and 40 million Bibles to be published, it still denies entrance to those who call themselves missionaries.

The mission movement made great strides in 19th and 20th century, laying the groundwork for Scripture to be translated into many tongues and for a movement of the Spirit to transform peoples of many cultures. Health conditions improved. Living conditions improved. People from every continent embraced the Living Word. Unfortunately, in many places, Western culture was not clearly differentiated from Christianity. Because of this, along with the rise of patriotism, nationalism and a desire to assert their own cultural identity, many governments see missionaries as a threat to the survival of their cultures and deny entrance to those who call themselves missionaries.

In the latter part of the last century, governments began to oppose missionaries at the very core of who they are. Some of these governments made proselytizing illegal, especially for Christians, regardless of their citizenship. Other governments oppose missionaries precisely because their identity in Christ. Thus, a large proportion of governments across Asia deny entrance to those who call themselves missionaries.

Christ's directive to the Church is clear: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15, NASB). Some mission organizations have countered the edicts of non-sympathetic governments by changing the words they used. They refer to their personnel in much the same way that international business agencies refer to their employees: agents, representatives, or field personnel. Since the government was not opposed to educators, medical personnel, or relief workers helping the country, some organizations sent teachers, doctors, nurses, and engineers to the field.

To some extent, these measures were successful. Christian doctors, nurses, teachers, businessmen, engineers, and other field personnel were allowed entrance into countries that denied entrance to missionaries. However, in order to protect such field personnel, the sending organizations had to cover any paper trails that would financially connect them with those on the field. They purge their names from the media (devotionals, newspapers, and the internet) that reminded supporters of the organization to pray for them. If a disgruntled official in any of the host countries discovered the Christian worker was tied to a mission organization, the Christian would be expelled.

What if there were no paper trail? If Christian workers were hired and fully supported by institutions or businesses in the host country, there would be no financial connections to discover. If friends and ministers, sensitive to the laws of the host country, upheld their responsibility to encourage and pray for each other as Christian workers do, could a disgruntled official oppose anything more than their Christian integrity? Though Christ's directive is often the focal passage in commissioning services organized by missionary sending agencies, mission agencies and the missionaries they send do not have exclusive rights to the verse. The directive was first addressed to the eleven disciples. Carrying out the commission to "preach the gospel to all creation" is the right and responsibility of all those who believe Jesus' message.

In carrying out Christ's commission of all disciples, it does not really matter whether we are called field representative, teacher, doctor, engineer, or even tourist. It does not matter that we give up being called missionary; after all, it is not a biblical title. The important point is (and this is quite biblical as it is the root meaning of ekklesia, the Greek word for church) we are called.


At 3:57 PM, Blogger Tim said...

This is a good word. Very few countries are closed to people that will help them get clean water, agricultural advances, and better educational systems. You will find Christian business people all over the world! Just think of the mission(al) force that is there!!!

Tim Dahl


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