Ten Common Missionary Roles


Gailyn Van Rheenen lists fen common roles or activites of long-term missionaries in one of his books on missions <Gailyn Van Rheenen, Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2014), Chapter 6>:

(1) Traditional church planting in unreached areas (Pioneering)

(2) Training local church leaders in order for a church planting movement to be successful (a bit too specific, let’s just say leadership development)

(3) Providing theological education to national leaders by training them where they are (onsite theological development)

(4) Teaching advanced theological studies in Bible schools and seminaries (offsite theological development)

(5) Serving as Bible translators (Self-explanatory)

6) Helping the poor and the suffering by focusing on social transformational development (Community development)

(7) Responding to natural disasters, providing medical services, and taking care of orphans (Relief and Helps ministries)

(8) Serving as business missionaries who live out in terms of economic realities (BAM)

(9) Serving as ministers of international justice to advocate for the oppressed (Social Justice)

(10) Serving as missionary support personnel who serve other missionaries (Several things, really)

We could group these into three general groups:

“Spiritualistic” Ministries: Numbers 1-5

“Social” Ministries: Numbers 6-9

Support Ministries: Number 10

Now if you think about it, the one that fits what people often think missionaries do is #1. In truth, it is the one that Ralph Winter wanted to be the only one called missionary. I understand the simplicity of the definition, but missions is a team sport and because of that I believe the broader understanding is useful. Arguably, #5, Bible translation is also part of what is often thought of as

Next, Numbers 2-4 are all about training— Theological and ministerial training.

Numbers 6-9 perhaps are better viewed as Transformational ministries

Number 10 is too broad. It includes missionary member care

This gives us:

Traditional Missions: Pioneer Missions and Bible Translation

Training Ministries: Ministerial Training, Theological Training

Transformational Ministries: Relief, Social Justice, Developmental Ministries

Support Ministries: Missionary Member Care, Logistical Support, Administrative Support and Mobilization

They all are needed and all should be honored.

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