In the world of missions people rightly ask, “What really does a missionary do?” In turn, many rightly ask, “What, then, does a short-term mission team do?” Back in February, I began a series discussing the missionary task which is explained helpfully by the International Mission Board (IMB) through their IMB Foundations Magazine.
IMB mobilizer D. Ray Davis states, “I’ve noticed a tendency among Christians to think the work of professional missionaries is somehow different from that of churches and their short-term teams. But it’s important to understand that the missionary task is the same for everyone” (“Churches: Essential Partners in the Missionary Task”). The task of missions is the same for the individual answering the call to the mission field or the local church sending the called to the field.
In February, I explained the first component in the missionary task—entry. To make disciples where disciples do not exist, missionaries must enter among peoples and places. “Entry is important, but simply being there is not enough,” Davis explains (“Churches”). This reality leads us to the second component in the missionary task—evangelism.
Every believer is tasked with sharing his or her faith in Jesus. Some are more particularly gifted than others, but all are to share. Missionaries, regardless of their specific jobs, are expected to share Jesus with unbelievers. There is no Great Commission if evangelism is not part of the task. While the end goal of disciple-making is not evangelism, it does begin there.
Davis reminds us that “following the missionary’s evangelism strategy, well-prepared church partners can help spread the gospel in ways that are both winsome and appropriate to the context” (“Churches”). Sharing the full content of the gospel message appropriate to the language and culture of the unbeliever is essential. Churches partnering with missionaries to evangelize should follow the strategy of the missionary, as they have immersed themselves in the language and culture of their host country and people.
In all, missionaries and churches must trust that only the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart (Foundations). The Spirit of God empowers the people of God to bring witness to those who need God. Regardless of the strategy of evangelism, only God can open blind eyes and unstop deaf ears to embrace the gospel message. Thus, missionaries and partnering churches can share Jesus with confidence, knowing that He alone has the ability to bring the dead to life.