Sunday, January 23, 2011

Job Description of a Missionary

Men seem to be happiest when they get to follow their passion in life and devote their entire career toward that end. This doesn't always happen, and sometimes we have to learn to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves in, but I rejoice in knowing that my husband is able to dedicate his life's work to doing what he is best suited for, and he is truly happy with the job that God has given him to do.

Many people don't really understand what a missionary does. Often when the Spanish people ask what we are doing here, if you answer "we are missionaries" it brings a blank stare and perhaps a bit of misunderstanding. Most of the time I just answer that my husband is a pastor of an evangelical Baptist church here in Tenerife--if you say that then they have a little more sense of where you are coming from. Most of them have never heard of "Baptists" either--that is why we throw in the term evangelical, because they probably have heard that term before--in their minds most religions fall into two categories--catholic or evangelicals, which can include all types, unfortunately even cults.

So what exactly does a missionary do? I have come up with a few "job descriptions" that I can apply to my husband's work.

First of all, he is a fisherman. Jesus said "come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." When you come to a foreign field, after you learn the language and a bit of the culture, you start "fishing." A good fisherman knows where the fish are biting, what time of day to go out, what type of bait is effective with the type of fish he is trying to catch, etc. Sometimes you can toil all day and not catch any fish. You can't let this discourage you, as if you keep at it diligiently, eventually you will bring in a harvest, as God's word will not return void.

Many times, a missionary is a linguist/translator. He must learn languages, dialects, etc. and learn to effectively communicate with the people where he is called. Often missionaries go into regions that don't have the Bible or gospel literature translated into their native tongue. This requires a lot of patience. If you have studied a foreign language you can appreciate the hard work and hours of study that this involves. It can be very frustrating too, as often we struggle to put into words what we are feeling but don't have the vocabulary to express ourselves.

A missionary is a teacher. He trains others for the work of the ministry to be carried out among their own people. My husband loves to study the Bible and share what he is learning with others. He really gets excited about what God is teaching him and it gives him great joy to share that knowledge with others.

A missionary is a shepherd. He watches over the flock that God has given him, protecting them from wolves that would destroy them, directing and gently leading them into the best pastures where they can grow and prosper.

A good shepherd is a counsellor, servant, and friend. My husband spends many hours of his week talking with people who need help. Some are trying to overcome addictions, dealing with marriages that are failing, have financial burdens or are discouraged because they have no work, or perhaps they are physically sick and want prayer. People call and want someone who will listen to them. They need to know that their pastor cares and is someone they can confide in. The old adage is true, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Nationals will be suspicious of you as a foreigner, and it takes time to build their trust and respect.

A missionary is a builder. One purpose of a missionary is to start churches, and this may include building a physical building to meet in and have worship services. There is a great deal to know about building, especially on foreign soil and dealing with foreign laws and permits. He also is an administrator, and has to oversee the financial apects of the church. Spiritually speaking, he is building lives and administering the true riches of Christ.

Sometimes a missionary/pastor is a judge. He must mediate between brothers or sisters in a church who are at conflict with one another, and try to encourage them to settle their differences in a scriptural and peaceful manner. He must be impartial, and not listen to gossip, but direct them into reconciliation with God and each other. So often people want to tell us negative things about other people in the church, and my husband has to tell them to go directly to that person and try to settle the issue first, following a Matthew 18 principle.

Lastly, (I like this one best), a missionary is an ambassador for Christ. Maybe it makes me feel important ; ) but we represent the King of Kings here on earth. Every believer has this calling, and it is our duty to represent our Lord in a way that brings honor and glory to His kingdom. Everything we do and say is being watched by a world that doesn't know our God. We must endeavor to let them see God in us.

1 comment:

Ted Snyder said...

Very well said! I don't have much time for reading outside my Bible and my children's school books, so it's a blessing to know I'm not wasting my time when I read your blog! Thanks for encouraging me. -Dawn