It seems like it is time to redefine the term missionary. The term has tended to be defined in terms of culture. If one ministers outside of one’s culture (E-2 or E-3) one is a missionary, and one is doing missions. This certainly seems to be the way the Perspectives course does it (this is of course just one example). I don’t think it is wrong to define it that way… but I would like to suggest another way.
Define missions in terms of the local church. This is more in line with the Missional Church movement and I believe it has some practical benefits. I am putting together an article that will go into this deeper. But one value is that it nicely breaks local church ministries into three categories:
A. Member Care. Think of a circle with arrows pointing inward. This is any ministry that supports or strengthens those who are already part of the church. Frankly, this is most ministries.
B. Church Growth. Think of a circle with arrows going out and looping back in. This is any ministry that is directed outside of the church with the intentional goal of bringing people into that same church.
C. Missions. Think of a circle with arrows pointing outward. This is any ministry that is directed outside of the church where the intentional goal is NOT to bring people back into the same church. Such ministry may be directed to people in a totally different community (or culture), directed toward creating a separate church, or simply directed toward to those outside without a clearly defined goal to draw them into the same church.
Anyway… this is some food for thought.