What do you think of when you hear the word ‘missionary’? 

Retired couple

Single female teachers

Church planters in Asia

Doctors in Cost Rica for two weeks

I mentioned earlier in a post on Mission Prep training in Canada that we’d had discussions regarding this perhaps shift away from the term missionary.  I said that I would touch on it later so here you go.

Why to not use the term ‘missionary’ –

Missionary to some brings up a negative connotation.  It implies Christians coming into a region and forcing Christianity and Western ideals onto the people living there.  Simply and extremely stated ‘our way or you’re going to hell.’  Again, let me state that this is extreme but should portray the idea.  Not all Christians see things the same way.  Not all ex-patriots behave the same way or understand the new culture into which they have moved, nor do they care to learn that new culture.  Because of experiences like these some places look unfavorably on anyone who is called a missionary.

Some countries are closed to Christianity.  This means that the government will not let you in if your sole purpose is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Therefore people cannot enter those countries as ‘missionaries’ but must instead find other ways to work and befriend people so that they may share the love of Jesus in the way that they live their lives.

There are also many people who themselves do not want to be called a missionary for some of those same reasons.  As well, people don’t see themselves as doing ‘missionary’ things such as evangelism in the typical ways.  These people see their main work and reason for being in another culture as something different than spreading the Gospel.  People are working in just about every vocation that you can imagine.  They live as followers of Christ but their reason to be in another place, another culture, is to work for social justice, to learn and share knowledge within that cultural, political and social context.

The term Cross Cultural Christian Worker –

The alternate term used in our training in Canada was Cross Cultural Christian Worker.  Does this cover it?  Leave out people?  What connotations and implications does this terminology carry?

Personally, I am more comfortable with the new terminology, I think.  I don’t feel worthy of the title ‘missionary’ really.  My work is important and needed but I tend to see a ‘missionary’ as someone more directly spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am sure this could spur much discussion and I would love to hear what you think.  Am I a missionary just because I raise money to do my work?  Why?  What about a Cross Cultural Christian Worker?  Are there other terms out there that perhaps fit better?

What do you think?

Missionary or Cross Cultural Christian Worker?

Computer whiz in Texas

Dr. living in Haiti

School Administrator on an Indian reservation in New Mexico

Church planter in Japan

Homeless shelter director in downtown Denver

Nurse working with community health issues in Sierra Leone

College administration in Tanzania

Teachers in Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky

House hosts for visitors of all kinds in Senegal, Papua New Guinea, and Colorado

Veterinarian in Africa

Agriculture specialists in Bangladesh and Kenya

Cross Cultural Bridgers in Nigeria and Kenya

Nurse working in a floating hospital that travels around Central and South America

These are all jobs that people I know have around the world and would fit into either one of those categories of Missionary or Cross Cultural Christian Worker.  It’s much broader than it first appears, isn’t it.