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What Is A Missionary? Or, Will the Real Missionary Please Stand Up?

INTRODUCTION: Fruit of Prayer on the Mission Field in India – In 1852, the Baptist missionary Lyman Jewett and his wife visited Ongole, India. “Before leaving the place, they climbed a slope which overlooked the village and prayed that God would send a missionary to Ongole and the region. Several years later, in September of 1866, the Baptist missionary John E. Clough in answer to the Jewett’s prayer, “relocated in Ongole, and a modern miracle of missions began! On January 1, 1867, he organized a church with eight members, and by the end of 1879, that church had grown to 13,016 members with forty-six national preachers and thirty assistants…

“Clough’s methods were biblical and saturated in prayer. Tent meetings of evangelism were held, the nationals were trained, and a circuit was established which contained more than eighty villages forty miles around Ongole. As the work grew, other missionaries were sent… These men and their wives were of great assistance to Clough.

“The next three years were a time of trial, for the area was hit with a year of famine, a year of Cholera, and still another year of famine. During these years, the government came to the aid of the perishing people by employing them in digging canals for the development of the country. Clough took contracts for this work and organized the people. He paid good wages to the starving nationals, and while they labored for their bread, his national preachers gave forth the gospel. ‘Many asked for baptism, but he refused to baptize any while the famine lasted lest they should profess Christianity from wrong motives. When the three years of pestilence and famine were over, he offered baptism to all true believers. July 3, 1878, two thousand, two hundred and twenty-two were immersed upon their profession of faith.’ From June 16 to July 31, 1878, eight thousand six hundred and ninety-one had been immersed upon their profession of faith! What caused such results? Surely God answered the prayers of the Jewetts, and a mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God brought souls to Christ. Our missionaries around the world still need prayer partners in our day!” –from This Day in Baptist History (pages 272-273).

Gospel Travels – “Not far from the central area of the German city of Hanover is a Baptist church that houses a Spanish-speaking congregation under the pastoral care of Jose Antonio Gonzalez. Like many young people from Spain in the 1960’s, Jose Antonio left his beautiful town in Galacia and emigrated to Germany in search of a job. There he was befriended by Mrs. Pinto, a Bolivian lady whose family had also gone to Germany in search of economic security. She not only provided Jose Antonio with good spiced soups but also insisted on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and praying for him.

“As a nominal Catholic, Jose Antonio had never thought that this story, part of the folksong heritage of his native Spain, could have any relevance for an aspiring student of industrial design. Eventually the story of Jesus started to make sense to Jose Antonio, and he became a Christian believer. What he could not have dreamed was that he could eventually discern a call to the ministry and, after seminary training, became a pastor and preacher. I do not know how the gospel crossed seas to reach Mrs. Pinto in distant Bolivia, the heart of South America, but I am thrilled by the fact that when this simple Bolivian migrant housewife crossed the sea to go to Germany she became a missionary.” –from The New Global Mission by Samuel Escobar (page 11).

  1. Relationship to Apostles
    1. The word missionary comes from a Latin word meaning sent one while the word apostle comes from a Greek word meaning sent one.
    2. In the time of Acts, there were men called apostles who were not of the twelve (Acts 14:14; Romans 16:7).
    3. Paul was not of the twelve but was the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11).
    4. Yet, to most people, using apostle to refer to missionaries would be confusing and misleading because of the Bible teaching concerning the twelve apostles.
      1. Their special calling (Luke 6:12-16)
      2. Their single replacement (Acts 1:15-26; Acts 2:14; Acts 6:2)
      3. Their special qualifications
        1. Companions of Jesus (Acts 1:21; John 6:66)
        2. Johns baptism (Acts 1:22; John 1:35-37)
        3. Witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:22; Acts 4:33)
      4. Their special office (Acts 1:20; Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 4:11)
  2. Relationship to Evangelists
    1. Evangelists held a very high position in the early churches (Ephesians 4:11)
    2. By simple definition, an evangelist is one who evangelizes or leads others to Christ (2 Timothy 4:5)
    3. The work of an evangelist can be seen in the pattern of Philip, the only man in the Bible actually called an evangelist (Acts 21:8)
      1. Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost (Acts 8:5, 40)
      2. Actively leading lost souls to a saving knowledge of Christ (Acts 8:26-39)
      3. Opening up new areas to the message of the gospel (Acts 8:5, 40)
    4. A missionary must evangelize.  However, his work is broader than that of an evangelist.
    5. CONCLUSION: A missionary may have the most-encompassing position in the church today.  He does the work of an apostle, an evangelist, a pastor and a teacher.
  3. General Definition
    1. The missionary is one who receives and accepts Gods call to take the gospel to unreached portions of the world.
    2. The missionary is one who is sent forth to his work by the Holy Ghost and his home church (Acts 13:1-4).
    3. The missionary is one who does the work of a missionary:
      1. To preach the word (Acts 13:5, 42-44)
      2. To win the lost (Acts 13:12, 48)
      3. To baptize believers (Acts 16:14-15, 30-34)
      4. To teach the saved (Acts 18:11; Acts 20:20-27)
      5. To ordain elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5)
      6. To establish churches (Acts 14:23)
      7. To confirm the churches (Acts 15:40-41; Acts 16:5)

CONCLUSION: Power of the Written Word – “Julius Hickerson was a promising young doctor who could have enjoyed a comfortable life in the United States, but he felt God’s call to serve as a missionary in Colombia, ministering to souls as well as bodies. His friends and associates thought he was crazy, and he himself must have wondered when, after two years, he could point to few visible results of his labor. It ended in tragedy as he was killed in a plane crash attempting to take supplies to a remote village.

“But in the wreckage some natives found a well-marked Bible in their language, and they began to read it. They told others what they had read, and before long churches were started. The Southern Baptists, unaware of what had taken place, sent a missionary back into the area, and he discovered the place fully evangelized. When the missionary asked how it had happened, the Colombians showed him a Bible. On the inside of the cover was a name—Julius Hickerson. The written Word of God will not return empty.” –from The Trivialization of God by Donald W. McCullough (pages 124-125). Read Isaiah 55:11; Hebrews 4:12.