Everyone a Missionary

We tried “everyone a minister” then it was “everyone an evangelist” now it’s “everyone a missionary.”  Sheesh, soon they’ll be no one in the pews to receive the gifts. Soon there’ll be no mothers and fathers raising kids.  Soon will have a synod filled with Salvation Mays. That was the nickname given to the mother of baseball great Ted. She was said to be so dedicated to saving souls in the Salvation Army that she neglected her vocation of mother to the extreme (The Kid, 31ff).

Here’s how the tolling of everyone a missionary sounded in my ears. I got an urgent appeal, as urgent as any Salvation Army bell ringer, in the mail from LCMS, INC.  It was a poster folded in two.  Attached to it was a 5 x 8 yellow posted note festooned in big black, All Hands on Deck, handwritten letters “Dear Pastor! We need Missionaries!  Can you post this? In Jesus, Matt H.” (As an aside, the kind of which almost always gets people to side against me, I’ve noted that women tend to write in big, bold letters.  This has been true of most of the secretaries have I’ve had over the years. I find it feminine in a woman and effeminate in a man.)

The poster had the sentiment of those Big Brother commercials “Aw shucks just about anyone can do this if you’re up for pillow fights and greasy hotdogs.”  This poster’s postmodern appeal of being serious but not really, sounded off in short staccato lines suitable for sound bites: “hard work/ big bugs/ spotty internet (Oh my! PRH)/ assaults of the devil (Actually I think spotty internet might reduce such assaults.)/ speaking the faith/ It’s a different life. / Are YOU up for it? / Become a/ Missionary.”

On the back they list by means of Dr. Seuss like illustrations 10 missionary positions. (Not even I will make that aside.) Project Manger, Theological Educator, Teacher, Communication Specialist, Church Planter/Evangelist, Volunteer Coordinator, Business Manger, Strategic Mission Developer, Deaconess, Medical Missionary.” Only two of the positions, theological educator and church planter/evangelist, are wearing clerical collars.  Of the 10 positions 5 are depicted as females.  We are egalitarian in our call for missionaries.  We need everyone out there with the label missionary attached to what they’re doing.

What you don’t see until the very end is that recruiting you just as much to be a fundraiser as a missionary.  After you go through an eight step process, then “Donor-Network Building Begins” which means pastors like me get calls, emails, letters, and postcards from someone who has a “call” to be a “missionary” in Papua, New Guinea as a project manager or “missionary” in Venezuela as a volunteer coordinator.  And when we trumpet our work in “world missions” we will be counting every single person who raised enough money here to be sent to somewhere else.  The poster tells you that “A missionary is deployed to the field when roughly 75% of his/her donor network is built.”

But the fact that we’re recruiting money raisers by dangling the still highly regarded title of “missionary” before them is not what really bothers me.  The fact that in the world of “missionary service” 80% is carried on by someone other than a minister of the gospel.  Evidently it’s not really the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation but being a practical help to those in need.  I mean you can’t eat or drink the Gospel!  Wait a minute you can, but that is something that isn’t being emphasized and may be in the process of being lost.

What certainly is being lost in this Everyone a Missionary/ Money Raiser is the concept of serving the Lord in the vocation you are in.  When Jesus points out the crisis of the harvest being plentiful while the labors are few, He doesn’t sound the panic button for the disciples to do something.  No, He says, “Pray that the Lord of the harvest cast out workers into the harvest.”  Let us also pray that no mother, father, child, doctor, lawyer, teacher, secretary be misled into thinking that this claxon call for missionaries is a reason for them to abandon the vocation they are in. Ted Williams’ mother may have reached many with the Gospel, but it’s clear she struck out when it came to spiritually or physically raising the kids God gave her.



About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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