Into All the World: Volume 1, Issue 11

What Exactly Is A Missionary?

By John Yingling, BIO General Director

Photo of Dr. John YinglingThe word “missionary” is a very misused word, in my opinion. Missions is found throughout the Scriptures; yet, the word missionary is not a Bible word; therefore, the definition of the word can be somewhat ambiguous. The purpose of this article is to look at the word missionary technically, Biblically, historically, and practically. In so doing, we will have a correct understanding of what our Savior expects of us.

Missionary Highlight
Jay and Lyne Abisch

Photo of Jay and Lyne Abisch

Jay and Lyne Abisch

Please pray for Jay and Lyne Abisch. They have been faithfully serving the Lord for seventeen years in Quebec. Recent statistics illustrate the difficulty of their field; 50% of Canadians do not believe in God at all. In Quebec less than 2% of the population consider themselves evangelical.

On the other hand Canada is experiencing an influx of immigrants from all over the world, including Quebec. I met some dear Haitian believers while visiting Jay and Lyne last year. Recently Jay reported witnessing to a Chinese lady. Even in the midst of the bold secularism that abounds in Quebec, opportunities to reach unreached peoples from around the world are abundant.

Please also pray for the continued growth and strength of Eglise Baptiste Centrale.

Missionary Humor

It was a missionary family’s first weekend trip on deputation. They loaded the kids, the luggage, and the presentation items into the mini-van. Not too far down the road, the youngest of four children took ill and… yes, you guessed it… everywhere. The child, her coat and her car seat all had to be cleaned.

The family kept going. They had two appointments that weekend.

When they got to Virginia, they stopped at the motel that the Pastor had arranged for them. As they were settling into their room more children became ill. The room was a horrible mess.

Check out was 11 am. That meant that they had to check out before going to church. By then stomachs had settled, so the kids sat in the back row with mom. She gave them each a cup, just in case they had to… uh… you know, as they ran to the bathroom.

No one got sick; but, after church the kids were still holding their little cups. For some reason some people started dropping money into the kids’ cups. One child even got a bracelet in her cup.

Missionary Quote

“The worst crime of the desert is knowing where the water is and not telling.” – Anonymous

Technically the word missionary has a Latin root. The Latin root word can be seen in these forms: mitto, mittere, misi, missus. The Latin root is a verb, and it means to send. This is a direct translation of the Greek verb apostello which means to send out on a specific assignment. Therefore we understand that a missionary is one who is sent for a specific mission or task.

Biblically there are two words that we read in the Scriptures that have a direct connection to the word missionary. The first one is apparent. The word apostle is a transliteration of the word apostello. I need to be careful here. Obviously, we know that there is the Office of an Apostle; Nevertheless, there are a couple of times in Scripture where the designation of an apostle is given to someone else besides Paul and the 12 Apostles (Acts 14:14, Galatians 1:19). I believe, however, the implication that we are to draw from this, is that they were men who were appointed to a specific task. They were sent away under the authority of the Spirit of God that was confirmed by the local church.

The other Biblical word that is directly connected to missions is the word evangelist. Paul exhorts Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist,” in 2 Timothy 4:5. That work is implied in the name. An evangelist is to evangelize, and as a result of the work of an evangelist God calls out a people for himself and a local church is established. This is the work of a missionary.

Historically the word missionary was first used by Roman Catholic Church missionaries to England in the late 16th, early 17th centuries. A delegation of Jesuit priests were sent to “evangelize” this foreign land. I do not believe that they brought the Gospel to England; rather, it is probable that St. Patrick brought the Gospel to this area in the 5th century. My point is, however, that the word missionary as used by the Catholic Church is how we use it today.

Practically I believe that a missionary is a one that is sent across cultural, linguistical, and/or geographical boundaries to proclaim the Gospel. Missions was prophesied by our Savior as illustrated in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Paul was motivated by this very concept of missions as seen in Romans 15:20-21, “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.”

With this in mind. Let’s not forget the words of Oswald J. Smith, “The mission of the church is missions.” Every church should be sending out missionaries, praying for missionaries and supporting missionaries.


Don’t forget about the Fall Meeting in Pigeon Forge!

Country Cascades

Country Cascades
204 Sharon Drive
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

(865) 428-1194

We hope to see you there!

November 12-14

This entry was posted in Into All The World and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.