What is a missionary?
He is not only an evangelist because there is a such person as an evangelist that God has gifted and given to the churches. But he must at least be sincerely, consistently and powerfully evangelistic, because it is out of new converts that he will begin churches.
He isn’t only a teacher, because there is such a person as a teacher that God has given to the churches. But he is no less than a very exceptional teacher, explaining Bible truths and articulating doctrines in a way that he could in fact train pastors and build foundations of the churches he starts or helps.
He isn’t only a communicator who speaks inspirationally and spontaneously under the burden and power of the Holy Spirit. No, God has given men with this gift to the churches, but he must at least be such a person walking in communion with God and ready to speak to the situation he finds himself in under the Spirit’s power.
He is not a pastor, for God has given pastors to the churches who in many cases he will actually set apart for that work and train. He must understand well the ministry of pastors and recognize when God has chosen them for this ministry and be able to prepare them for their service to a local church. He will be, in a sense, a pastor to pastors, who understands how to shepherd people.
A missionary isn’t a person who goes overseas and/or ministers in another culture in order to build a building or to lead in a children’s ministry or evangelize a community, or to administrate a training school or help in an orphanage. These are very important, and may help missionaries to accomplish goals, but do not distinguish that person as a missionary.
A missionary is a man who has great authority and must know how to use it under Christ’s supreme authority. He may have many workers to help him in his work that he must lead, such as evangelists and teachers and ministry coordinators and temporary children’s workers or administers, all depending on the shape of his work. He may also lead other workers gifted more like him, who will go out into various places to start churches under his care, extending his work.
A missionary evangelizes, congregationalizes, sets churches in order in terms of obedience and doctrine, appoints and trains elders to lead those churches, moves to other places to do the same again, but stays in touch. And he is a person who is always recruiting and training other workers, both those more like him who will develop into missionaries on their own, and those who can help in portions of the work God has given him to carry out with their various gifts.
Please don’t call everyone a missionary. And when you go into a doctor’s office, please don’t call all those trained valuable helpers in his office “doctors.” There is a difference between workers who help missionaries and the missionary himself.
And if you are a young man considering a call from God to go into another culture to minister as a person of little experience with a lot of God-given zeal, seek to attach yourself to a missionary you respect, guided by the counsel of your church. You may wish to do this short term at first. Be a helper on the team of a missionary and see what God will make you when you are prepared. Consider the value of getting pastoral experience before leaving as well. A missionary loves local churches and will plant churches, so he needs to understand as much as he can about how churches work. And study the Bible, so that you may speak and lead with a humble authority in a way that pleases God and accomplishes his will.
Finally, missionaries, you must sequester young men like Timothy for your work. The missionary Paul had three dozen such workers on various levels, temporary and permanent, some local and some traveling, some working with more specific tasks and some like him in the variety of responsibilities he was charged to do. He was always building a team to get the job done. Build your team and therefore increase your effectiveness. This done in the right way will solve many conflict issues on the field, as you already know. And, of course, don’t build your team merely from those back home, but from the nationals whom God is raising up.