Friday, April 4, 2014

Missionaries aren't Special

I noticed a distinction made between a "sending church" and a "sent church" (which are to be one).

I am puzzled by the distinction.

What makes someone "sent"? If they moved away from where they lived before? It doesn't help to add to this "with the intent of furthering God's kingdom," we are all supposed to have that intent in whatever we do. What is the difference between a Christian migrant and a Christian sent to be a missionary in other parts of the world? Is it that not all Christian migrants work for Christian organizations? Is it that we fund missionaries?

I am not against missions agencies. I am against a certain kind of valorization of missionaries. There are missionaries I am comfortable valorizing in a certain way. Not because they are missionaries, but, rather, because of their attitude towards God which is lived out in particularly visible ways. In the way that all Christian missionaries are special, so are all Christians.

The important thing about missionaries is that a greater portion of them, more frequently, have to do what we are all supposed to be willing to do: sacrifice everything for the sake of knowing God. Missionaries happen to be the source for most of our stories about people doing things we cannot imagine them doing if it was not because God was worth everything to them. That, I am comfortable valorizing in a certain way.

But this is along with the martyrs and for the same reason.

And the "sending church" might have its own kinds of martyrs. People who give up everything because God is more important to them than anything else. People who would love to travel the world, or just want to go be a missionary, but give that up because God's kingdom here is more important to them than doing what they want, hope, they would get to do for God. Reluctant missionaries are still missionaries (Jonah). So, too, reluctant martyrs are still martyrs. Neither of these groups are actually martyrs (or, I have not explicitly mentioned any--some in each category are), but they are somewhere on a spectrum which has martyr at the extreme end. They are those who live lives according to the belief that God is more important than anything else--lives filled with a passion for God. And it is good to recognize those who have lived lives which show what the Christian life should look like (that is the point of recognizing Saints in the Roman Catholic Church, I take it).

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