Is it important for the church today to encourage, value and support various kinds of professionals in its missionary enterprise? Should all Adventist missionaries be ISEs? Or is there a place for volunteers, tentmakers, short-term missionaries, and self-supporting, contract and other types of workers? Should missionaries be employed by the church only, or is there room for missionaries to be employed by secular institutions?
When the Apostle Peter talks about the chosen people, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people who belong to God (1 Pet 2:9), I believe he is referring to all members of the body of Christ — those who have joined his church and follow him as his disciples. Interestingly, the body is made up of different members, each one with skills and abilities that add to the proper functioning and life of the whole.
Not only are they all different from each other, but they also function and operate using various types of resources and rules that often differ from one another. Nevertheless, all work for one purpose, with one accord, and in unity.
The great commission (Matt 28:18-20 NIV) reads, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” This passage tells us several things about the sending of missionaries.
- Who sends? The risen Christ through his church
- On what basis are we sent? The authority and command of Christ
- Who is sent? All disciples
- Who are we sent to? All nations (peoples/ethnic groups)
- What is to be done? Go — action is required , Make disciples, Baptize, Teach them to obey Jesus’ commands
- What is the source of power for this mission? Jesus is with us always
- How long does this mission last? Until the very end of the age
Indeed, Jesus “calls for volunteers who will cooperate with Him in the great work of sowing the world with truth…. In every place to which they can gain access…His kingdom is to be enlarged” (1SM 112).
“Christ is calling for volunteers…. The church is languishing for the help of young men [and women] who will bear a courageous testimony, who will with their ardent zeal stir up the sluggish energies of God’s people, and so increase the power of the church in the world” (MYP 24, 25).
If that is so, then more than ever the church needs to encourage and support various types of mission platforms and activities.
Here are some reasons why a multifaceted mission effort is so important today:
- Offers entry into creative access countries. More than 75% of the world’s population, including most unreached people, live in countries that do not allow the entry of Christian missionaries.
- Provides natural contact with nonbelievers in both creative access and open countries. Volunteers and tentmakers can relate easily to their professional counterparts.
- Conserves scarce SDA church mission funds for missionaries who must have full support, at a time of rising costs worldwide and an often uncertain economy.
- Multiplies personnel. There will never be enough paid religious workers. Professional lay people who witness in the workplace contribute significantly to world evangelism, which was initially a lay movement.
- Supplements Christian media (radio, TV, etc.) by incarnating the gospel for millions now able to hear it. The gospel must be seen as well as heard. Missionaries of various professions are able to fish out listeners, disciple them, and then establish fellowships/churches.
- Acts as a proving ground for full-time missionaries. Professionals who have supported themselves through the language and culture learning period are tried and proven. They are likely to last because they have gained real-life experience where they have lived and worked.
- The church gains favor with governments and communities when professionals through institutions and agencies use their skills to help develop partnerships with secular institutions.
- Volunteering and tentmaking offer ideal opportunities for missionaries from countries that cannot follow the Western model of donor support.
- Volunteer and tentmaking opportunities make use of today’s vast global job market, which God has, perhaps, engineered to help us finish the work of preaching the Gospel to all nations, tribes, people, and languages.
All who want to commit to the task of witnessing cross-culturally will find that the opportunities are limitless.
In addition to serving as full-time missionaries, we can be volunteers, tentmakers, short-termers, or support those who are doing this important work. What is essential is that we all — as members of the body of Christ — be an integral part of the mission of the church. Your efforts and commitment to witnessing to as many people in as many countries as possible will be rewarded.
May God help each one of us fulfill his mission!
By Wagner Kuhn