Every believer a missionary

Henry Martyn was an Anglican priest and missionary to India and Persia. The quote below is his response to the question of how to get churches back home to exercise their missionary calling.

Live more with Christ, catch more of His spirit; for the spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to Him the more intensely missionary we become.

Stott on Sentness

If we have resisted the missionary dimension of the church’s life, or dismissed it as if it were dispensable, or patronized it reluctantly with a few perfunctory prayers and grudging coins, or become preoccupied with our own narrow-minded, parochial concerns, we need to repent, that is, change our mind and attitude. Do we profess to believe in God? He’s a missionary God. Do we say we are committed to Christ? He’s a missionary Christ. Do we claim to be filled with the Spirit? He’s a missionary Spirit. Do we delight in belonging to the church? It’s a missionary society. Do we hope to go heaven when we die? It’s a heaven filled with the fruits of the missionary enterprise. It is not possible to avoid these things.

John Stott in The Contemporary Christian: Applying God’s Word to Today’s World, p. 335.

Victor Hamilton on Genesis 10 and Luke 10

Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention a special sending out of seventy (-two) disciples by Jesus (Luke 10:1). The number of disciples is uncertain; the manuscript evidence is divided between reading ‘seventy’ and ‘seventy-two.’ The MT (Masoretic Text) numbers seventy nations, but the LXX (Septuagint) has seventy-two nations (Luke is following LXX?). The significance of the number has been traced to the number of the Sanhedrin or the number of elders in Israel (Exodus 24:1), but the most likely explanation is that Jesus is here reflecting on Genesis 10 with its listing of the seventy known nations of the then known world. Taken in this way, the number signifies that Jesus is sending his representatives into all the known nations of their day. The world he created he must also redeem.

Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, p.348.

Every Believer A Missionary

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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!

It would be impossible to complete whatever portion of the Great Commission God has ordained for our generation without giving increasing priority to cities.

This statement comes from Steve Moore of Missio Nexus. I think he’s right on. It’s estimated that by 2050 70% of the world’s population will live in urban centers. That’s 70% of 11 billion people. Yet Christians aren’t flowing to cities as quickly as the rest of the world. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the problem. Missions must increasingly become city focused in order to be faithful to the Great Commission.