Defining Missions – What is a Missionary?

When I visit churches in America I am always interested to hear how the pastor will introduce me from the pulpit. I usually hear something like “Today we have with us Brother, uh… Missionary, uh… Pastor Chris.” I can’t count the number of times that I have been approached by good hearted and humble disciples in the stateside churches with the question, “What should I call you?” I might be mistaken, but I can’t imagine that any of our American pastors are used to hearing this question. I’m not keen on titles, so it really makes no difference to me what people call me. In fact when faced with this question I usually grin and say, “My mom named me Chris.” But this confusion on what to call a missionary sheds light on the vague understanding we have about what a missionary actually does. For many, what a missionary does is as mysterious and strange as the lands in which he ministers. I am convinced that the vagueness of the term “missionary” is partially to blame for this mystery. And I believe that this mystery causes some real and practical harm to both the missionaries that are sent and the churches and pastors that send them.
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