What Do Missionaries Do?

As I’ve been looking into short term mission opportunities, one thought I’ve had is, “How best could I be used to serve and support the full time workers I’ll be visiting?”  This in turn led to the question, “What is it missionaries even do in the first place?”

Looking at the big picture, it seems the Church has 3 main tasks:


  • Upward –> Worshipping God
  • Inward –> Building up fellow believers
  • Outward –> Ministry toward everyone

All Christians should be involved in each of these areas, but full-time missionaries spend the majority of their time focusing on the “outward” aspect.  So what does this “outward” look like, practically? I think the following list (adapted from CMML) provides a good high-level overview.  As you look through the list, think of how many of these you have already been involved with.

  • Camp Work (Children & Adult Bible Ministry, Halfway Houses)
  • Children’s Homes (Orphanages)
  • Church Planting (Establishing Ongoing Assembly Work, Conferences, Developing Relationships)
  • Correspondence Courses (Developing & Translating Courses, Distribution & Grading)
  • Education (Bible & Vocational Teaching, Language & ESL, Discipleship)
  • Evangelism (Personal, Small Groups, Prison Ministry, Bible Studies, Door to Door)
  • Flight Service (Remote Transport)
  • Medical (Doctor, Nurse, Dentist, Related Support Ministry)
  • Printing / Literature (Preparation, Distribution, Writing)
  • Radio (Broadcasting, Transmission, Programming)
  • Support (Missionary Care, Hospitality, Administration, Logistics)

Here’s my summary:

    1. They Meet Physical Needs [tippy title=”James 2:16-17″]If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.[/tippy]
    2. They Teach the Gospel ([tippy title=”Acts 18:5″]When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.[/tippy], [tippy title=”1 Timothy 4:13″]Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.[/tippy], [tippy title=”2 Timothy 2:24-25″]And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct…[/tippy], [tippy title=”Matthew 28:19-20″]Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [/tippy]
    3. They Love People ([tippy title=”1 Corinthians 13:3″]If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.[/tippy], [tippy title=”Ephesians 4:32″]Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.[/tippy])
        • Wherever they are
        • Regardless of their condition
        • With no expectation for return

At its core, I think missions hinges on relationships. 

So today’s post was simply designed to get the creative juices flowing.  For different types of short-term missions trips, I found this article helpful.

What thoughts do you have regarding what missionaries do?

7 Stages Out of Traditional Church

Roger is the author of the blog, Simple Church Journal. Last Fall, he wrote a post listing the stages he sees people go through in their journey towards a more simple house church meeting.

These stages resonated with me – some of which hit close to home! With his permission I’m reprinting his post below.

Roger points out 1) these stages are not necessarily in chronological order, and 2) they are referring more to those transitioning from traditional church to simple/house churches than new believers.

  1. Letting go of old paradigms of church life.
      This stage is described in a variety of ways from “taking the red pill,” to frustration with old wineskins to discovering what the Bible teaches about church life… It is sometimes accompanied with periods of disorientation, wandering through valleys of confusion, or (alternatively) great relief and a new sense of freedom. People discover that they no longer want to “go” to church, rather they want to learn what it really means to “be” the church.
  2. Exploring New Testament gatherings.
      Since our old paradigm of church life has often revolved around the Sunday morning gathering, we often find ourselves on a quest to discover what “New Testament” simple/house church gatherings might look like and feel like. In this stage, “the gathering” often remains the focus of our church-life as we seek to explore and experience small, Spirit-led, participatory, Christ-filled gatherings.

      Our freedom continues to grow and we become more and more enamored with the reality that we really are 24/7, kingdom-living, Spirit-directed believers. The dividing walls between secular and sacred continue to come down and we become excited about integrating our spiritual life with our “everyday” life.

  3. Re-boot to Jesus.
      Using Frost & Hirsch’s term (from ReJesus), part of the overall transformation we walk through is the re-centering of Jesus in our life. This takes place as we find ourselves removing pieces of our religious life that have sometimes taken center stage alongside of Jesus or as mediators between us and Jesus: our church, our pastor, certain leaders, certain teachers, doctrine, our church’s culture (fitting in to the culture), religious rules for church life or behavior, etc, etc.

      The result is often a personal renewal of our own relationship with Jesus, a greater longing to understand what it is to be an uncompromising follower, to hear his voice, to respond to him, and to live out of a deep intimacy and love relationship with him that is truly center stage in our life.

  4. A new missional heart and longing.
      It is inevitable that the process of re-booting to Jesus stirs in us a fresh desire to see his kingdom, his love, his power known and experienced by others. However, this stage is sometimes fraught with severe challenges because our background around “missional” has sometimes been so pre-packaged and programmed that we are challenged to grasp the unique and fresh ways that Jesus wants to make himself known through us. This is especially true for those whose spiritual gifts do not seem to fit into the “missional” spectrum.

      However, for those who are more apostolic and evangelistic in gifting, this stage often leads to an entirely new excitement and fervor for taking the “real Jesus” into the streets, neighborhoods, and unreached segments of the world. For those who have NOT seen themselves as “missional,” (in our previous church experiences) this stage can lead to some exciting discoveries of how God wants to embody himself uniquely through each of us (see stage #5).

      Note: It has been my [Roger’s] experience that each of these stages may lead to changes in one’s own worship community and gathering. For example, stage 4 may literally lead to someone moving geographically in order to better fulfill his/her calling. Or, we may find that our own transformation draws us to connect with different people than when we started—or even NO people for a season as we become re-oriented.

  5. Fresh discovery of our own passions, spiritual gifts, and calling.
      As we are freed up from church/religious boxes, we are able to more thoroughly discover our uniqueness in the way that God shaped us (passions, gifts, and calling) leading to a new understanding of how he wants to work in and through our lives. I believe that, in some ways, this stage may lead to the most significant impact on the world as Christ’s church is renewed to walk in all of her splendor according to the unique way that each person is shaped.

      This may be considered a “convergent stage,” a coming together of several stages at once: our experience of re-booting to Jesus, our missional excitement about seeing the “real Jesus” shared among our neighbors, friends, and world, and our discovery of how we are uniquely created and gifted to serve and embody Jesus.

  6. Integration of an organic, fruitful lifestyle with organic gatherings that support it.
      This is simply to re-iterate that gatherings may change as our life and lifestyle shift and that they ultimately support, synergistically, what God is doing through us as we experience stage #7.
  7. Our kingdom influence spreads and even becomes reproductive in its impact.
      Since organic life grows and reproduces, we will discover the life that God has shaped in us not only influences others but becomes a living, reproducing influence. For apostolic workers in unreached segments, this can lead to church planting movements. Although our callings and influence may differ from this (and from one another) I do believe that similar types of reproductive fruitfulness can and will occur as we walk out this process of re-discovery of life in Jesus.

      Ultimately, it is a transformational process that we are on. As we are fully renewed in Jesus and he draws out of us who we really are, the Spirit’s influence through us becomes more and more dynamic, natural, compelling, and living (i.e. reproductive in influence).

The Church: Traveling Light

Traveling light. The very phrase conjures images of camel-laden nomads crossing the Sahara, an Alpinist scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro, or (slightly less romantic), a homeless man walking down Main Street.

Jesus traveled light. For at least part of his life, Jesus was homeless. ”Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matt 8:20) When Jesus sent out the 70 disciples, he instructed them to carry nothing: no money, no bag, no spare clothes, no extra shoes, not even a walking stick. Now that’s traveling light! (Matt 10:9-10)

I love camping and have spent many nights outdoors: in a tent, under a tarp, in boats, and simply lying under the stars. One lesson I’ve oft relearned whilst backpacking, canoeing, sailing, exploring, and even car camping is the value of traveling light.

For example… one time my Dad, Brothers, and I traveled to Minnesota and canoed on the Boundary Waters. I decided since the canoes were carrying my luggage (rather than my back), I could afford some extra luxuries, right? Wrong, because I didn’t take into account lengthy portages! Baggage became a literal burden on that trip.

Going back to my earlier post, the book When the Church Was Young got me thinking of this analogy of “lightening the church.”

The question I’ve been wondering is: what would traveling light for the church look like? What is the minimum in regards to practices of gathering together? I imagine the answer may surprise us and the minimum be far less than commonly supposed.

Starting broad: how necessary are the rotating multi-colored lights during praise and worship? I’ve seen those in more than one church gathering.

How about massive Easter programs? There’s one assembly I’m familiar with where a major focus of the church is their Easter program. I believe they work on it all year round. I’m not saying lights and programs are bad, only trying to identify the minimum required for a “church meeting.”

Could we do without musical niceties such as offertories, special numbers, and five member bands?

How about resource hungry programs like Youth Groups, AWANA, and Sunday School? Would it still be church?

How about denominationalism? No more identification as Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Lutheran… even Catholic?

On this last point I can hear, “Isn’t ecumenicalism the sanctioning of doctrinal impurity?” Maybe, but we’re talking minimum here. Traveling light. Replacing dogma, obstinacy, and creed with grace, love, and humility.

How about church buildings? Are they necessary, or ancillary? I’ve already hashed this subject on earlier posts, but will share another quote I recently ran across – this from John Havlik:

    “The church is never a place, but always a people; never a fold but always a flock; never a sacred building but always a believing assembly. The church is you who pray, not where you pray. A structure of brick or marble can no more be a church than your clothes of serge or satin can be you.” (From People-centered evangelism)

Have we reached minimum yet? Afraid not. Hierarchy and structure are next.

It’s an unfortunate fact very few churches (at least in my experience) model their leadership structure off the Elder model found in the New Testament.

For starters, a more Biblical model would include:

  1. a plurality of joint leadership (vs a one-man show)
  2. who are raised up and appointed from within the local assembly (vs hired from out-of-state)
  3. and who have been evaluated in light of qualifications of character (vs theological degrees)

At the very least, full time positions such as Youth Pastor, Worship Leader, and Sunday School superintendent are clearly supplementary and therefore dispensable, if seeking minimum.

How about the New Testament? Now hear me out! I’m not saying God’s Word is dispensable, it isn’t. But I would like to point out that if we’re going down to the minimum, early churches did not have a complete copy of the New Testament. Remember, the Gospel was initially shared verbally. Jesus himself did not write anything down, nor did he instruct others to do so.

It was only later – when it became apparent the Second Coming could be a long ways off – that people began writing biographies of Jesus. And the epistles were necessitated by the Apostles being stretched thin over large geographical areas. It wasn’t until several hundred years later the canon we accept today as the New Testament was finalized.

In his book, When the Church Was Young, Loosley writes,

    “When the church was very young it had no New Testament. The church is older than the New Testament.

I do not believe Loosley is trying to minimize the importance of the New Testament at all. He goes on to say:

    “In such a supremely important matter as the record for future generations of the revelation given in Christ, the hand of God was unquestionably at work. But it was also God’s hand that caused a church to come alive and grow, multiply and shake two continents… without a New Testament!”

As I wrap up this lengthy post, I realize it begs the questions, “If all these things you’ve listed are extra, what then is essential? What elements define a church meeting?”

I’ll try covering these questions in a future post.

Photo Credit: Carrying a Canoe and Duffel on the Portage / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Photo Credit: The Band / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When the Church was Young

Last week I read When the Church was Young, it Did Not Look Anything Like it Does Today by Ernest Loosley. At only 77 pages, it was a quick read. Not a new work, (written in 1935) I still found it applicable.

Very clear in layout, it compares some features of the early church with the church of today. Loosley’s main points are evident in his chapter titles:

    Part 1: When the Church was Young, It Had:

  1. No Buildings
  2. No Denominations
  3. No Fixed Organization
  4. No New Testament
  5. No Vocabulary of Its Own
  6. No Dogmatic System
  7. No Sabbath Rest

    Part 2: But It Did Possess:

  8. An Experience
  9. A Store of Teaching from Christ
  10. A Gospel
  11. Herself to Give (This point extra from the publisher)

Some points from this book which struck me were:

  1. The essentials are the things present at the beginning
  2. The church worked the more effectively [when it was young] because it traveled light
  3. What traditions have been introduced for expediency may now be left behind for expediency
  4. The line of advance for the church today is not to imitate the forms but to recapture the spirit of the Primitive Church

This book got me thinking about what it means for the church to travel light.

For more information, check out the forward to the book PDF Format

38,000 Denominations… plus House Churches

When delving into the study of how Christians should structure their meetings – particularly in respect to modeling closely after New Testament principles – it doesn’t take long before one stumbles across the “House Church Movement.”

I do know I’m supposed to Love God and Love my Neighbor (and admit to frequently failing there at square one), but contending to know which of the 38,000 Christian denominations has the real corner on truth leaves even my analytical mind spinning!

Did Jesus intend for “principles of gathering” to be this complicated? Or is the infinitesimally fractured denominationalism we see all merely a result of man’s attempt to formulize what Jesus intended to be a heart attitude lifestyle?

In my quest to Simply Follow Christ, I’m committed to finding answers. Or at least seeking answers. Currently my pilgrimage has led me to examine the merits of House Churches.

Looking online I came across this House Church Basics website which contains a number of thought provoking articles. Reading all the articles takes forever… but fortunately (for you) I’ve compiled what I found to be the most interesting sections into this document:
An Intro to House Churches – A Quote Compilation by NickPDF FormatMS Word Format