What Level of Missionary Are You? – part 6

You hear the words “missions,” and “missionary,” everywhere nowadays. It’s getting to the point that people refer to almost every type of evangelism or social work as mission. Jesus is clear when he commissions us to make disciples of all ethnos. In order to make disciples in all the ethnic groups, they must have someone go among them. Mission is incarnational ministry. That is a fancy term meaning that someone personally has to go in the flesh. Jesus came to us in the flesh, in person. We must go to the unreached people personally in the flesh. We must go personally, speaking their language. Your tongue is made of flesh, so make it move like those you are going to. It is unreasonable to think that we can teach and disciple in a language that the people do not speak or understand, and yet many missionaries attempt to do this.

Basically, there is no easy way to do missions. It does not matter what some missionary agencies or movements are saying. Being a missionary to remote unreached peoples is a life-term commitment that is going to be hard and, in most cases, will require you to learn another language if you go where there is no access to the Gospel. Anything less will be what I call a level nine missionary and below. Everyone is claiming to be a missionary these days. The fact is that everyone is a missionary; the problem is that most people claiming to be missionaries have an erroneous idea of what one is. Here is a scale of missionary levels from one to ten. Where do you fit in this list? If you aim for ten, you will be part of fulfilling the great commission and bringing Christ’s return and the end nearer. I call these the levels of Christian missionaries.

Level 1 Missionary – Go inside the walls of your own church (requires getting up out of your chair or pew) where there are Christians and a Bible in the national language and make disciples using their own language, your language. Normally, this is called a Sunday church service, but now many are calling it missions. I am not exaggerating.

Level 2 Missionary – Go across the street, to the park or to the neighbors on your street where there are Christians and a Bible in the national language and make disciples using their own language, your language. Normally this is called evangelism, but now, many are calling it missions.

Level 3 Missionary – Go inside your own city (possibly to another culture) where there are Christians and a Bible in the national language and make disciples using their own language, your language. Normally this is called evangelism, but now, many are calling it missions.

Level 4 Missionary – Go inside your own country (possibly to another culture) where there are Christians and a Bible in the national language and make disciples using their own language, your language. Normally this is called evangelism, but now, many are calling it missions.

Level 5 Missionary – Go to another country where there are many Christians and churches and a Bible in the national language and make disciples in the national language, which is also the language you have spoken from birth. This does not require you to learn another language. Because you are going to another country, it is more common that you are now considered a missionary. An example of level five would be Latin missionaries from Mexico going to Peru where Spanish is spoken. Another example would be African missionaries from Senegal speaking French going to Burkina Faso where they also speak French.

Level 6 Missionary – Go to another country where there are many Christians and churches and a Bible in the national language and make disciples in the national language, which is not your first language. Most traditional missionaries are a level 6 or 7. This requires learning another language, the national language.

Level 7 Missionary – Go to another country where there are not many Christians and few churches, but there is a Bible in the national language and make disciples in the national language, which is not your first language. Once more, most traditional missionaries are a level 6 or 7. This requires one to learn another language, the national language.

Level 8 Missionary – Go to a country where there are not many Christians (but some) and there is not a Bible in the national or regional language and learn their language and translate their Bible and make disciples in the national or regional language. There are not very many of these situations left. These are usually big unreached people groups over 200,000 in population that mainly live in closed countries. If you don’t go here, there soon will be someone on the way.

Level 9 Missionary – Go to a remote unreached people group with no access to the Gospel (having no missionaries or believers or scriptures) and disciple them in the national language, which is not their first language. This is dangerous and not recommended, but it will be better than nothing at all. This is actually very common of the few missionaries who go into remote unreached people groups.

Note: Level 9 is only possible where the people group is bilingual to some degree. In other words, they speak their own language and also the national language. This level will still require you to learn the national language. It doesn’t make much sense for you to go to all the trouble to learn the national language when you could learn their first language instead. But, nevertheless, missionaries do this. It allows them to be in remote unreached people group without having to translate the scriptures. Why not just be a level ten missionary?

Level 10 Missionary – Go to a remote unreached people group who has no access to the Gospel (having no missionaries or believers or scriptures) learn their first language, translate the Bible, and then disciple them in their first language. Missionaries who are fulfilling the great commission by going to the nations (ethnos) who have no access to the Gospel message are level 8, 9, or 10 missionaries. All other levels are not fulfilling the great commission. You may disagree with this but first, read level 7 again.

You can call a level 10 missionary an extreme or pioneer missionary if you like. I am not a fan of these terms but if they help you understand what we are talking about on this website I could help.

The definition of a pioneer missionary is as follows:

A pioneer missionary is any Christian man or woman who makes disciples of Jesus Christ among any group of people where the message of the Gospel cannot flow without encountering a high barrier of resistance, such as language, or extreme geography.

The definition of an extreme missionary is as follows:

An extreme missionary is any Christian man or woman who will do whatever it takes to make disciples of Jesus Christ among remote unreached people groups, such as going into dangerous situations, with or without money, with no intention of returning, and even if it means paying the price with their life.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

(NIV Matthew 28:19-20)

If there are Christians, a local congregation, or a Bible where you are being a missionary, you have not gone far enough. We are all part of the Body of Christ; therefore, we are all missionaries. But not all of us act on this conviction to fulfill the great commission as our life’s purpose. Not all go to the extreme to pioneer discipleship where it has never been taken before. Not all of us act on a level that is truly bringing about the return of Christ and the end. Many simply have not gone. They are not missional at all. Some say that they haven’t found their place in the Body of Christ yet, but as I mentioned, you cannot find it sitting down in chairs or pews. You have to get the vehicle rolling. At least get out into the streets of Chicago and look for the drug addict that has never heard the Gospel in a relevant way. You won’t be fulfilling God’s global plan to bring the end nearer, but you will be offering salvation to someone who needs it. Some have not acted on their convictions at all, simply because they don’t have any. They are religious people, and they have mental assent to Christianity. They are mission-minded, but their mind has not told their feet to go. Their personal desires are greater or deeper than their convictions. Their conviction is not deep enough to act.

Many are drowning out the voice of God with all kinds of excuses and activities. Some have long buried the voice of God and it no longer exists in their lives. A Christian singer once wrote a song using these lyrics:

“Jesus commands us to go, but we go the other way, so he carries the burden alone, while his children are busy at play, feeling so called to stay. Oh, how God grieves and believes that the world can’t be saved, unless the ones he’s appointed obeys, his command and his stand for the world, that he loved more than life. Oh, he died, and he cries out tonight. Jesus commands us to go; it should be the exception if we stay. It’s no wonder we’re moving so slow, when his church refuses to obey, feeling so called to stay… (Would you sing it with me, if you believe it is true?) Jesus commands us to go; it should be the exception if we stay…”

© Keith Green, 1982. Underline added, www.lastdaysministries.org

Regardless of what level of missionary you are, move a few levels up to 8, 9, and 10 if you can, and you will be doing something about his plans and purpose to bring Christ back. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. All Christians have this mission, but not all have chosen to do it. Not everyone has availed themselves to hear his voice, but you are on the road to becoming a missionary if you desire to find your place in the body of Christ. Nominal Christians are those who are indifferent about finding their role in his body. They could be considered lukewarm Christians. One of my goals in writing this book is to challenge you, encourage you, and give you a guide to help you rise above the status quo.

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

(NIV John 14:21)

God’s highest priority is to redeem mankind to himself through his son Jesus Christ. His second-highest priority, once you are redeemed, is to place you into his plan to redeem others. The third-highest priority is for you to make disciples who understand these priorities and too can make others. “..teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Is social work or medical work missionary work?

I call these men and women missionary helpers. Missionaries are about the mission which is to disciple people. From my experience, medical personnel and social workers or disaster relief workers are showing the physical mercy of Christ but they do not have time to make disciples. Also in most cases, medical and social workers, etc is short-term work. Short term is any missionary work that does not leave a local congregation of disciples believers that are now discipling others. It is important that the third generation of disciples are also making disciples or the movement will die. I will cover this in the section on Missionary Discipleship.

I have been around many medical and social workers on the mission field and I also sense an attitude that they are there for themselves. Not all of them, but a lot of them. They lived their life like they wanted to, becoming a medical doctor, getting their degree, making their money and after years of being bored doing the day-to-day in their office, they decide to use their skills in an unreached area. Once they get there, it is normally short-term, two to four years. The super short-termers come for a week or two going into remote villages to do their thing and go home with souvenirs and a tee-shirt. Many call this missionary and I don’t believe either one are being missionaries.

The term missionary does not appear in the New Testament. But I think we all would consider the apostle Paul a missionary. If we are going to use the term missionary, we should raise the bar up to Paul’s level. If you want to be called a missionary, do what Paul did.

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written:

“Those who were not told about him will see,
and those who have not heard will understand.”

Romans 15:20-21 New International Version

I know that many people who are reading this will get offended but, Jesus told us to make disciples, not cure them or help them learn how to read and write. If all the medical and social and even linguistic workers had gone with an extreme pioneer mentality to make disciples, doing whatever it takes, Christ would have returned by now.