Who Should be a Missionary

I feel like I need to make a change from what I have said before. I have previously said that a Christian missionary needed TWO distinct qualities to go into missions:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Willingness

I purposefully left out Called. For one thing, I believe the church calls people to missions, while I believe God calls EVERYONE to His mission… and He is not too quick to follow faddish preferences to describe certain Christian ministry as missions and others as not.

Flexibility suggests an openness to new cultures and to contextualization of message. It also involves the flexibility to adjust lifestyle. Willingness, definitely a related term, suggests a willingness to go where God leads, and a willingness to acculturate, and change one’s identity, to some extent.

Some people suggest that Spiritual Fervor is a quality needed of a missionary. However, it seems to me that it is a quality that is called up based on presumption rather than practice. Few missionaries, if any, I know have a spiritual fervor greater than others in church. Of course, part of the issue is that people have different ideas as to what spiritual fervor is. For some, it is the ability to throw around Christian lingo and get emotionally/spiritually wrought up. For others it involves deep involvement in the “spiritual disciplines.” I have yet to see any missionaries that have any of this sort of thing beyond those around them.

However, the spiritual aspect can’t be tossed aside and I have definitely seen missionaries fall by the wayside based on a certain issue in the area of spirituality. With further reflection, I would add a third quality:

         3.  Spiritual Durability

Spirituality is so open to interpretation, and various definitions lend themselves to denominational bias. Additionally, the idea of spirituality in the Bible is often quite different from popular Christian definitions today. So I would like to use Paul Tillich’s idea of spirituality, but limited to Christianity. In this case “Spirit” is the overlay of power and meaning. In the Christian context:

Spirituality, as it applies to missionaries, is the overlay of human and divine power in a person’s life that is focused by a recognition of following God’s path and a personal sense of vocational meaning.

“God’s paths” is not the same as call as it is popularly given. God’s path is not a destination but a path (more like Psalm 23 or Jesus call to “Follow Me.” “Call” as it is used in churches is usually tied to destination or clergical vocation.

Spiritual durability then is the recognition that what one does is important, that it has eternal meaning to self, to the people, and to God’s Kingdom. As such, one is empowered to persevere through difficult times because of the recognition that God is ever-present, ever-suffering, and ever guiding.

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