I know you've heard this a thousand times, or variations of it:
"God has called me to be a missionary right here at home." Or, "All Christians are missionaries."
There is something about this statement that I totally agree with and something about it that bothers me, too.
I agree that all Christians are priests of God and are called to ministry--service to Jesus--wherever they are in this unreached world of ours. The Bible is very clear about that. Christians are called to ministry, and ministry is not just for those we "ordain." In fact, all of us have been ordained to ministry when we put our faith in Christ and committed our lives to him. So, wherever we are, we should be serving Christ, shining his light and extending his grace to those around us who do not yet know him. Amen.
I also agree that not everyone should leave their homes and go to a different country or culture to be a missionary. I used to think that most people should, but many refuse. But after serving in a cross-cultural context, I have seen the example of many people who have traveled over land and sea to serve cross-culturally, but they've done all they can to live the same kind of lifestyle in that place. This usually makes them pretty ineffective. Sometimes it gets ugly and it would be better if these people went back home and served Christ there.
Just yesterday I made a post about the politics of missions. One thing politicians do is to reaffirm the majority of people (potential voters) that they are exactly what they should be. They're doing exactly what they should be doing. Translation: No change is necessary. (That is, no change on the part of the masses of people. Politicians love to say they will change things for the people if they are elected.) And the line of "we're all missionaries" smacks of this same justification of the status quo.
I used to argue that the word "missionary" implied cross-cultural service. Most missiologists will make this distinction between a cross-cultural Christian worker and a Christian worker (evangelist/pastor) who serves in his own culture. The former is a missionary and the latter is not. The word "missionary" is basically the same word as "apostle." The former word comes from Latin and the latter from Greek. And in Ephesians it says that he gave some to be apostles....
But I'm done arguing about words. If you want to define one word one way, that is fine with me as long as you clarify your meaning.
What really bothers me is that we use our fancy and cute explanations to get around one thing that we just cannot imagine giving up: Our lifestyles.
Now, that is fine--you don't have to give up your lifestyle. Unless it is a sinful one or doesn't glorify Christ. But I'm not talking about lifestyle in the sense committing sins, not tithing your money, being involved in gambling, moonshining or drug-running. I'm talking about lifestyle in the sense of how your life is ordered according to your own culture. I'm talking about the kind of people you hang out with (not the kind of people you minister to). I'm talking about the kinds of places you go for fun. I'm talking about the kind of food you eat; the entertainment you watch; the clothes you wear; the language you operate in; the music you listen to; the places you shop; the kind of house you live in. This is the lifestyle I'm talking about.
Most people would rather give up their lives than give up their lifestyles.
And you know what... that's perfectly fine with me. I know how hard it is for people to really give up those things.
But some people do give them up. Some people go to another country, another culture. Some people do this for the very purpose of reaching people who have so very, very, very little opportunity to even hear the gospel compared to those in our homes who have an abundance of opportunity.
Is it wrong to share Christ with someone at home, then, who does not follow Christ? Absolutely not! Please do it. Do it right now!
But after you have done it, please think about a man named Khamman who lives on the other side of the world. Khamman has heard there is a religion out there called "Christianity" but he doesn't know anyone who is a Christian. He also doesn't know where there are any churches, because there are no churches in his village, district or province. He doesn't know there is a Bible, and even if he did, he couldn't read it because it hasn't been translated into his language. And even if it had been translated into his language, he still couldn't read it because he doesn't know how to read.
And he will die without Christ because so many people were content to be "missionaries wherever they are."