No, We Are Not All Missionaries

I heard it again last week. In chapel from the platform during a missions convention of a great Christian University. “We are all missionaries.” Really? 

No. Not really. The concept that we are all missionaries is not just a myth. It is a lie.

Yes, all believers are called to share the gospel with their neighbors, friends, family—anyone within their relational sphere of influence. We are salt and light. We are called to do the work of evangelism. Even if almost 50% of Christian millennials today think sharing their faith with a non-believing person is wrong,[1]evangelism still is a vital part of following Jesus. At least Jesus said it is supposed to be.Jesus gave His life to demonstrate His love, we must at least be willing to open our mouths. 

We hear the phrase, “we are all missionaries,” but why don’t we commonly hear the phrase, “You are all evangelists?” or Why do people not say, “We are all pastors?” How about, “We are all prophets?” We can do the work of an evangelist as Paul exhorted Timothy to do. We can all pastor or shepherd our family. We can learn to speak for God and to share encouraging words with others. But, are all Christians evangelists, pastors, and prophets? No. And most Christians would easily agree to this. 

The office and the function of pastoring are two different things. There is a big difference between shepherding my family and pastoring a church, especially a large one. Similarly, sharing your faith does not mean you are an evangelist—it means you are doing the work of evangelism at a specific time and place. In the same way, speaking words for God does not make someone a prophet; it means he or she is speaking prophetically at a given time and place. So all Christians should evangelize, pastor, and prophesy, but not all Christians can or should be called evangelists, pastors, and prophets. The role of missionary is no different. Every Christian is called to share Christ, but not all are called to share Christ and make disciples cross-culturally.

Why does this matter? If we motivate some believers to be “better Christians” by calling them missionaries, what is the big deal? 

Do we call every Christian a doctor? Of course not. And why not? Every good parent has put a band-aid on their child or given them cold medicine. Who has not diagnosed a fever? As ridiculous as it sounds—calling everyone a doctor—what would happen if that actually happened? What if everyone believed they were a doctor and that they did not need special training or knowledge to function as such? Would there be treatments for most of the illnesses in the world today? Would there be people able to perform those treatments? Would there be billions of dollars invested in research for cures and medical facilities?  I do not believe so. . .  

If everyone is a missionary, then there is no need to get training for the same. Far worse, few (if any) missionaries would see the need to leave their current location to share the gospel. Why go to the trouble of traveling to a location different than your hometown, if everyone is already serving as a missionary where they are? Serving as missionaries among their family and friends is difficult enough as it is.  

If everyone is a missionary, why travel to far-off isolated locations? It’s expensive. 

If everyone is a missionary, why learn new languages? Just speak to those around you.

If everyone is a missionary, why wear unusual clothing or eat different foods? It’s much more comfortable to wear western clothes and eat comfort food.   

The concept of everyone being a missionary is great for everyone, except those who do not live in our neighborhoods or those who do not speak our language or who do not belong to the same social groups as we belong.

If everyone is a missionary, life is good for everyone who is like us! The abundant life of Christ is given only to everyone who is like us. 

If everyone is a missionary, those around us get to hear the Gospel over and over again (at least they should be hearing it over and over!). But if everyone is a missionary, those not around us, those is other countries and people groups isolated from the gospel NEVER get a chance to experience Jesus and the hope He gives. 

No, everyone is not a missionary. We need to find better ways to motivate and encourage believers than lying to them. Those who have no access to God’s life also desperately need missionaries to do the hard work of bringing His love across cultures to them. The gospel will never get preached to all nations[2]if believers swallow the lie that everyone is a missionary. 










[2]Matthew 24:14

Nick Robertson