My hope is that this blog helps catalyze the following vision: every believer a missionary resulting in a Holy Spirit directed spontaneous expansion of the Church. I’ve heard it said in response to this vision that if everybody is a missionary then nobody is a missionary. The words of the late missiologist J. Herbert Kane summarize this objection.
The Chinese have a proverb: If two men feed a horse, it will lose weight; if two men keep a boat, it will soon leak. What is everybody’s job is nobody’s job. If every Christian is a missionary, missionary work is bound to suffer. It is correct to say that every Christian is, or should be, a witness. It is not correct to say that every Christian is a missionary.
When missiologists make statements like this they are wanting to preserve the important task of carrying the gospel across cultural boundaries to those who owe no allegiance to Christ. If missions is defined as everything the Church does, what’s lost is the notion of going somewhere to minister cross-culturally. Without crossing cultural boundaries, everybody’s job becomes nobody’s job and true missionary work suffers. I get that. I understand the reasoning. And I agree-for the most part.
Not everyone is able to pack up their family, move overseas, and cross significant cultural and linguistic boundaries for the sake of the gospel. By the way, missiologists call this E3 evangelism. So, yes, in this sense not everybody is a missionary. However, every believer is called to participate in the Great Commission through neighbor to neighbor missions. Missiologists call this E1 evangelism, if no significant cultural or linguistic boundaries are crossed.
It’s at this point that I would like to push back on the missiologist and widen the definition of a missionary. Just because the cultural distance traversed through E1 evangelism isn’t great doesn’t mean the boundaries crossed are insignificant. Often times the most daunting boundary to meaningful engagement with the gospel is, for example, the backyard fence separating neighbors. The person who prayerfully overcomes that boundary has done the work of a missionary; this is more than being a witness.
So, not every believer is a missionary in the E3 sense but everybody is a missionary in the E1 sense. Some believers will cross great boundaries to bring about meaningful engagement with the gospel. Others will cross smaller, less daunting boundaries. Both are missionaries because boundaries have been crossed. It’s with this nuance that I suggest the vision of every believer a missionary resulting in a Holy Spirit directed spontaneous expansion of the church.
Do the work of a missionary. What is everybody’s job is in fact everybody’s job. Cross those boundaries. Live sent!