By Ryan Shaw, General Editor
It is common in the mission world today to ask the question, “Is every believer a missionary?” This question correlates with another similar, overarching question, “Is all outreach the church does considered mission?” Both can be understood as subpoints of the sometimes-heard phrase “If everything the church does is mission, then nothing is mission.”
While not the purview of this writing to defend a position for or against these sayings, it will suffice to conclude that biblically “mission,” which is different from evangelism, must be something more than everyday outreach to one’s own community or periodic evangelism to a nearby village.
“Mission” must include at least two core factors: (1) Cross-Cultural – seeking those living in your same vicinity and beyond but from a different, either near or distant, cultural background. (2) Seek the Unreached – looking for those with little opportunity of a culturally relevant hearing and demonstration of the gospel.
These factors describing “mission” help answer the first question above. No, not every believer is a missionary because not every believer is giving purposeful focus to the above two core factors of “mission.”
How then does this foundational understanding relate to mission mobilization?
While NOT every believer is meant to be a message bearer, an alternative term for missionary, and NOT everything the church does in outreach or local evangelism is “mission,” every believer IS meant to be involved and engaged in some specific way in cross-cultural mission among the unreached.
“Wait. I thought you just said NOT every believer is a missionary.” Yes, I did.
Every born-again believer in Jesus Christ has been redeemed and empowered to contribute to and participate in the global purpose of God to see the Kingdom of God spread among all the peoples of the world.
Some of these will answer God’s call to be a frontline message bearer, and the global Church needs many more than are currently doing so. Relocating from their own culture to another, oftentimes within their own national borders, they labor for the sake of the gospel, starting Bible studies leading to the formation of simple churches.
Yet most believers will never themselves leave their hometowns for the sake of the gospel. Do they have no role to play? The following is a common sentiment across the body of Christ. “If I am not the one who goes, then there really isn’t much else for me to do to serve the Great Commission.”
Effective mission mobilization is helping ALL believers identify their roles in the Great Commission. Of course, we recruit and mobilize more frontline workers for the unreached. Yet, if we neglect enabling all other believers as well, we have understood our mobilization task in an unbalanced way.
The Bible confirms every believer is important to God’s overarching purpose being realized. Many passages illustrate this point. Let us look at one from Jesus’ own mouth. Luke 19:11-27 is Jesus’ parable of the pounds. Jesus gave this parable, “…because they supposed the Kingdom of God was immediately to appear.”
The parable highlights three ideas. First, something was postponed (vs. 12). Second, there is a period of waiting between the King’s going away and return (vs. 13). Third, the fact of the King’s return will occur in complete authority (vs. 15,26,27).
First, Jesus is King right now, that is indisputable. He was crowned when He ascended to the right hand of the Father. What is postponed is the visible appearing and manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth when Jesus returns in glory.
Second, what do believers do in the meantime? “And He called ten servants of His, and gave them ten pounds (vs. 13).” Notice that every servant, born-again believer, was given the same amount, representing common opportunity and responsibility, during Jesus’ absence.
A similar parable of Jesus, but with a different application, is that of the talents (Matt 25:14-30). There, Jesus gave a variety of gifts and abilities in different amounts, expecting them to be used for His glory and purpose. This also confirms that every believer has been given specific roles and ways to engage in Jesus’ Great Commission. Not all do so in the same way.
Still, further, the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to ALL believers (1 Cor. 12:4-11), not just those in ministry leadership as many falsely believe. Every believer has been entrusted with differing opportunities, abilities, spiritual gifts, situations, and circumstances crafted by God into a specific ministry emphasis for that individual.
To ALL believers’ “pounds” have been given, a deposit for which they are responsible. Every believer “buys up opportunities,” referring to, “…doing business till I come (vs. 13),” contributing to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the unfolding of God’s divine plan.
Third, when the King does return, the Kingdom will appear in fullness, an absolute and final fact. The initial demonstration of His authority will be His accounting for what believers have been doing for the Kingdom while He was away. Further, He is seen in this parable dealing with His enemies with finality.
Jesus is still physically absent from the world yet reigning in and through the lives of His people. He is physically coming back to bring the full measure of His glorious Kingdom on the earth. In the meantime, He has given every believer “pounds” to use toward the realization of the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
What are we doing with them? This may include such roles as the following:
(1) Devoted intercessors for mobilization of the global Church and for the unreached harvest
(2) Extravagant givers helping finance the work of the Great Commission with large portions of their wealth
(3) Inspired advocates who specialize in bringing attention to focused unreached areas or situations
(4) Motivated mobilizers who help local ministries and denominations/ church networks become educated, inspired, and activated in the Great Commission
(5) Proactive welcomers who reach out within their city to foreign unreached migrants and make them feel loved and cared for.
Jesus has called for needs all hands-on deck across the global Church, focused on the overarching purpose of the unfolding of history – the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Join the exciting move of the Spirit around the world involving every believer in some, specific way in contributing to God’s global purpose being realized in this generation.