The word missionary produces more divergent definitions and opinions than nearly any other missiological term. In a series of posts here in coming weeks/months, I will examine pertinent sections from the Old and New Testament regarding what and who we now term as a ‘missionary’ and the attendant tasks, as well as answering questions regarding who/what is a missionary, who may be a missionary, and what is a missionary’s work and responsibility according to biblical precedent. After some introductory questions, we’ll start by exploring biblical precedents and examples of mission in future posts.

What Is A Missionary? Who May Be A Missionary? What Is A Missionary’s Work?

Stephen Neill, twentieth-century Scottish mission scholar and missionary to India, stated stridently that if “everybody is a missionary, nobody is a missionary,”[1] expressing elsewhere that ‘if everything is mission, nothing is mission.”[2] In Denny Spitters’ and Matthew Ellison’s book When Everything Is Missions, the authors ask cogently: “Is it true that ultimately all of us are missionaries, whether we teach, preach, and plant churches in other countries, or serve as marketplace missionaries in our very own cities?”[3] Ellison goes on to state:

“When every Christian is a missionary and every ministry is missions, I contend that we gut the mandate to reach all nations. That brings horrible, eternal consequences for individuals within people groups without access to the gospel who perish in their sins. In addition, God’s children miss out on taking their part in the Great Commission. Let’s not slow our efforts to reach the lost at home, but let’s lift our eyes to the nations and increase our attention to those who have yet to hear about Christ.” [4]

We do believe that global gateway cities and metros such as the Greater Toronto Area, NYC, etc., represent a new mission paradigm that bridges to both the nations/peoples overseas AND ‘at home’. The paradigm does not need to be an ‘either/or’ choice, but rather, a ‘both/and’ synthesis. God is bringing individuals from all UPGs into such gateway cities where they are very accessible by the good news of Jesus. Watch for more in future posts.

     [1] William David Taylor, “Missionary,” in Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, ed. A. Scott Moreau, Harold Netland, and Charles Van Engen (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 644.

     [2] Stephen Neill, Creative Tension: The Duff Lectures, 1958 (London: Edinburgh House Press, 1959), 81.

     [3] Denny Spitters and Matthew Ellison, When Everything Is Missions (Orlando: Bottom Line Media, 2017), Kindle edition, chap. four.

     [4] Spitters and Ellison, When Everything Is Missions, chap. six.