There is no office of the “missionary” found in scripture, which is why we understand “being missionaries” as the perpetual state of living in which the Christian voluntarily chooses to answer God’s call with their whole life; it is a life that sets them apart as a distinct, different, and holy people. The missionary life is lived entirely to the glory of God, with joy and worship, for the reconciliation of the world, in discipleship to Christ.
One of the strangest-feeling questions that my wife and I received when we returned home between 2013 – 2016 was “what was it like being a missionary?” This question feels so strange because, while we came back to the States having a more keen awareness of what it meant to be missionaries, we nevertheless came back as missionaries.
THE MISSIONARY CRY
ISAIAH 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: ‘who should I send? Who will go for Us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am. Lord, send me!’”
The missionary is someone who hears God’s call and rises up eagerly, shouting, “Here I am, Lord send me!” That is what it means to be a missionary; to make your life entirely available to God’s service.
I’ve noticed that missionaries are usually those individuals who have spent a considerable amount of time praying that God would raise up laborer’s for the harvest, and, in the process, were raised up themselves and sent out into the harvest. They open their lives willingly to God, and ask Him to send them. The heart-cry of “here I am” is just as significant as the heart-cry of “Lord send me!”
A WORD OF CAUTION TO THE MISSIONARY
One of the most dangerous things to happen to a missionary is that they become distracted and “settle in”; every missionary I met abroad who “got settled in” became cold and calculated, and lost their fire to serve God.
Here’s Jesus’ warning:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” ~Luke 21:34-36
Missionaries can’t become heavily burdened with the cares of this life; they must learn to trust God for all their needs and devote themselves entirely to seeking the Kingdom of God. I’ve never met a missionary who was worried about filling his/her 401k that didn’t become distracted from God’s call in their life.
UPDATED: 3/10/2017 to reflect date of return abroad.