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The “Missionary” Label

I guess it could be said that I am currently a missionary by vocation. I don’t feel like a Jim Elliot, or a Dr. Livingstone, but the fact remains, I am a Christian who is living in another country and culture, trying to see if I can add to this beautiful body called the Church.

I’ve been on three short-term missions trips over the last few years (twice to Cambodia, and once to Kenya), and now I’m currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with my wife. We’re committed to at least one year of serving the local church here, but who knows how long we’ll be here? (We hope God does.) Regardless, we are loving every waking minute. Well, mostly.

As we prepared to make the big jump we’d talk to lots of different people about our passion for serving the Church, and how we felt God was leading us to the Cambodian Church. On our previous trips to Cambodia we had felt as if we were coming home each and every time we visited.

Some people would encourage us. They would light up when we mentioned our dream and desire, they would sometimes pray for us, at other times we’d have some people share there own desires to experience a missionary life, and we would even have some people respond with their finances, providing the resources for my wife and I to put substance to our dreams.

Other people would smile awkwardly while they asked us questions: “Why don’t you reach out to your own community?” “Don’t you think it is just as important for the Church to be strong here as over there?” “You’re giving up a lot, what will you do if God wants you to come home?” These questions were (almost) never asked with any form of malice, but these and many others were still asked, and by the end of our preparation time, my wife and I couldn’t wait to make a run for it.

We found that the responses we received were mostly split down two party lines: The “I Love It” Party, and the “But, What About Here?” Party.

The “I Love It” Party was the most encouraging. They talked about the need for the Church to be always reaching out. They were inspired when we shared on stories of past trips, and when we talked about the global Church. My wife and I sit comfortably in this Party, although there have been some uncomfortable moments.

I remember talking to someone at a missions conference and they mentioned that unless a follower of Christ is involved in missions, they aren’t a follower of Christ. What? What of the countless number of believers who have lived and died in their own communities? I love the local church. The local community of “called out ones.” I strongly believe that without the love and commitment expressed within local communities, whether it be in Australia or Cambodia, we would be left with a hollow Church, one that wouldn’t have the depth and maturity to do anything of worth. I don’t believe for one moment that it is a requirement of real faith that someone should be eating deep-fried cricket with me over here.

After having the time to let the constructive feedback float around my heart and mind, I can now see where some of the people were coming from when they said, “What about here?” Personally, I am still committed to following through on an outward-focused faith, but at the same time I know that missions is not the be all or end all of Christian expression. I know many wonderful people who would hate to be anywhere else but their home, and that’s because they are doing so much good. I know people who love Christ with all their hearts, who are doing great things within their own local communities, but unfortunately sometimes they can be made to feel less Christ-like if they aren’t wanting to rough it in a developing nation.

I’m very sorry for this. I’m sorry that some people within the Body of Christ look down upon each other regarding this very basic of faith expressions—reaching the lost.

If your passion is for your home and its people, then bless your home. If your passion is for another community or culture and its people, then bless them. Or why not encourage both? Why not see both as just as important as each other, and see that it is still all about sharing the Gospel, regardless of where?

See Also

I was changing my profile on Gmail before my wife and I made the move. I couldn’t decide what to put as my occupation. I was a manager, but now I was going to be …?

A missionary? Is that even a job?

I can understand why bands can hate labels so much. It can limit what people expect from them, and if they’re not careful, it can define who they are.

I am a Christian by vocation and lifestyle, and I happen to live my faith out in a foreign land. I just want to follow Jesus.

Bless you as you do too.

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