What does it mean to be a missionary?


The word ‘missionary’ comes from the Latin word missionem ‘act of sending’ or mittere, which means ‘to send’. So being a missionary automatically has to mean that it is about a person being sent somewhere to do something.

In the Christian faith, missionaries are sent by Christ through the church, into the world, so that they can help ‘seek and save the lost’ as Jesus did (Luke 19v11). It is not just about sharing the gospel, but also about seeing that those who accept the Gospel start to follow Christ, becoming disciples. In essence this is Evangelism. Missionaries can be sent far away, or they can play an important role in community nearby.

Not all of us are called to be missionaries, but that does not mean we cannot spend some time sharing the Gospel, or even reaching out to those who need it most. Missionaries are also not just about the ‘talk’. A big part of a missionary’s work involves taking care of those in need through sharing skills and helping communities expand their skills.

Some individuals are called to be missionaries as their full time careers. For some, this calling only comes later in life, others are called to contribute to society through other skills and talents, like teaching, engineering, designing etc. So the important thing is to open your heart to hearing what God wants for your life in the future. You also have to distinguish between being a full time missionary and going on a short-term missionary outreach.

The long and the short of it is, that being a missionary is for some a full time calling, for others a season in their life. It is about Evangelising, but it is also about helping out fellow human beings in practical ways (using your God-given skills). With missionary work, you have to be open-minded, realising that it is not just about teaching others, but also learning about yourself, your relationship with God and how to relate this to others. And to some extent we all have a part to play in missionary work, by seeing ourselves as being ‘sent’ into the world – even if it is to our own community.

So what does it mean to be a missionary? A missionary is someone who follows Christ, who shares His life and who is willing to make sacrifices – go out into the world (no matter how far) – to ‘seek and save the lost.’ To some extent we all have a missionary role to play.


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