What is a Missionary?

Going to live and work in a foreign country never made anyone a missionary. The 19th Century definition won´t do, even though it is still a cherished church tradition.

What did apostles do in the beginning? They did not go to work in foreign countries where they wouldn´t know the language. The original 11 reached many nations without ever leaving Jerusalem. All of the 3000 converts on the Day of Pentecost were foreign visitors. They were the ones who took the gospel back to their respective nations. When Paul and Barnabas came to Christ in Palestine, God did not send them to India or Ethiopia. Rather, he sent them back to reach their own people in Greek speaking areas.

There is no record anywhere in the N.T. of missionaries being sent to places where they could not speak the language. Thus there is no biblical basis to define a missionary as one who works in a “cross-cultural” manner by leaving his homeland to live among people of a totally different culture and language.

Christian Aid has made contact with over 4000 indigenous ministries that deploy about 400,000 native missionaries. Most have no promise of financial support.

Our part should be to provide financial support for indigenous missions that send out native missionaries in poorer countries, and where they are persecuted for preaching the gospel of Christ.