Many have probably heard the saying that, “Every Christian is a missionary”. Sounds good enough, but is it really true? To begin with, it’s kind of a loaded question, and the answer really depends on how you use the term missionary. The actual term missionary is an extra-biblical term that has been coined to help get at a biblical concept. While the word may be extra-biblical, the concept is not.

First of all, some people use the term missionary to mean those who answer the call of God and go to foreign lands, or to another people group, to advance the gospel. In this view, everyone is not a missionary, but only those who leave home, or cross-cultural carriers. Not everyone has the call of God on them to leave the familiar and cross ethnic, cultural and geographic borders to share the gospel. In this sense, calling everyone a “missionary” does damage to the term, and to New Testament categories.

More recently, some use the term missionary to mean anyone who enters into God’s mission to save His people in the world. In this view, every Christian is a missionary and missionary activity is what all Christians following Jesus do as they go about their lives. But what these folks are really talking about is evangelism. Namely, sharing the gospel with those around us in our daily settings. This is, historically speaking, not the same thing as missions.

Regardless of the labels we use, we are all called to follow our Lord and Savior to do our part in God’s mission. As we obey him, we will all cross barriers of some kind with the gospel. God will uproot some of us from where we are so that we can obey him by carrying the gospel across massive barriers to where it is currently unknown. In conventional usage, while both those who stay and those who go are both obedient in advancing the gospel, only the latter have been called missionaries. This is a helpful distinction, and biblical in nature.

by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor