What is an ordinary missionary? Or an ordinary mission trip? How far do we have to travel to be an exceptional missionary?
Short-Term Mission Trips
Every summer, the churches in our area arrange short-term mission trips for the students and adults in the congregation. People sign up, raise money and travel to some cross-cultural location to serve people in the name of Jesus. By going out of their way to serve people when they could be vacationing, they hope by doing this to cause people to question their actions, wonder about Jesus, and ask to know more about him.
I confess to never having gone on a short-term mission trip to a foreign country. And I haven’t even been on a short-term domestic over-night trip with other church people in over 20 years.
Ordinary Mission Trips
Years ago, I worked in an office 30 miles from my home. My church was near my home, but farther from my office. I worked in a company of 100 employees, 15 of whom reported to me or were in my department. I met my pastor for lunch one day and had a dialogue that went something like this:
Me: “Pastor, how can I help you?”
Pastor: “Well, we need more Sunday School teachers and we really need more people to get involved. Really, we need more people to go on our upcoming Mexico mission trip. You know, people don’t really get excited about sharing Jesus with others until they go on a short-term mission trip.”
Me: “Every day, I go to work. Does that count? I try to minister to my coworkers? I drive a distance. I am one of a few Christians in my workplace. Isn’t that missions?”
The dialog didn’t recover. We never agreed. He meant that entering a different culture changed us and he is correct. He wanted me and everyone in the church to go to another country and experience a different culture. I wanted my church to acknowledge my work as missions work.
Missionaries who sell everything and move to another country are special. God calls some of us to that type of work. They leave their country or culture of origin and give their life to make Jesus known in a new environment. I do not want to discount the importance or the eternal value of their work. They’re exceptional.
Most of us are not exceptional. We’re ordinary, closer to average. Even so, we live in a country that is not our own. As Christ-followers, we serve people. Some trust Jesus but many do not. Jesus commands us universally to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). As a disciple-maker, we help everyone move one notch closer to Jesus. People resist coercion, but we all want to improve our lives. We all look out for new ways to improve our own situations. Jesus instructs his followers to give their lives away. (See Matthew 10:39, 16:25, 19:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24 and 2 Corinthians 4:11.) We’re asked to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). An ordinary missionary makes Jesus known by living in such a way that others see Jesus.
We created the Ministry Mindset Challenge to equip workplace believers to change their mindset and begin to serve coworkers as if they are from a foreign culture. Would you like to think of yourself as a missionary? Check it out.