Rarely am I tempted to snatch up a banner, climb upon my hobby-horse and charge into battle. Though I claim Scottish ancestry, I’m no Wallace.
That said, I do occasionally happen upon a cause that so overpowers my aversion to conflict that off I go, tottering precariously upon my dubious steed.
What nefarious windmill has propelled me to such action today? ‘Tis nothing less than the misuse and abuse of the word “missionary.”
“Everyone should be a missionary” is a phrase commonly heard in Christian circles.
“So,” the person says to the others gathered around, “you don’t have to go to Africa or to the Amazon jungle to be a missionary. We should all be missionaries right here where we’re planted.”
At which point they turn to me and say, “Isn’t that right?”
In such gatherings I am impervious to the call to battle, so I smile weakly, nod my head and say, “Yes.” And with that one word I strengthen the cause of those who would equate “sharing your faith” with “being a missionary.”
Go to the dictionary and you will find various definitions of “missionary,” ranging from proselytizing, to being sent out of your home country on a mission.
Personally, I think it means being a boat.
Tribal people often make their own canoes. They chop down a perfectly good tree, hollow out a groove down the length of it, then stretch it and carve it into shape. They put it into the water and paddle away.
What once was a tree has now become a boat, an instrument to be used for a defined purpose. That’s what a missionary is. A missionary is someone who used to be a tree but now is a boat. It involves a change of identity and purpose.
When we share our faith, or in other ways reach out to those around us during the course of our normal day, that’s not being a missionary; it’s being a caring Christian. The majority of Christendom is a forest of trees standing strong and tall in their place, providing food, shelter, and oxygen to the world around them. A few of those trees will be chopped down, hollowed out, and become boats.
So let’s eschew (bless me) the temptation to say that everybody should be a missionary. Why dilute the meaning of being a Christian by implying that only missionaries share their faith? Let’s all be noble trees, and yet be prepared at any moment to feel the bite of the axe.
Have you ever heard someone say that all Christians should be missionaries? Have you said those words yourself? Do you think this post makes a mountain out of a mole hill?