Most missionaries work overseas. They preach, they teach, they practice medicine. They do the practical work of church development. They believe that God has spoken to them personally and specifically to do the work they are doing.
The missionary is one called out from his home and sent across a frontier to identify himself with a people for the furtherance of the Gospel.
Originally the word missionary was used in the context of radical obedience to the call of God in the proclamation of the Gospel across the world, who knew themselves to be set apart by calling and training to witness where Jesus Christ is not known. They have the personal sense of call to live and work in a place isolated from the worshiping, witnessing fellowship we know in the church. They willingly live where they experience its agony. They accept its hurt as theirs, recognizing the difficulties involved in the acceptance and knowing that sometimes the rest of us are still hoping to escape the realities behind morning headlines. They answer "The Call" for the purpose of proclamation what God has done through Christ and persuade men and women toward Christian faith.
They find themselves confronted with inescapable personal awareness of purpose which demands matching action. Sometimes the call is to bear witness to the Gospel in a particular place. Sometimes to undertake a specific type of work, sometimes both. Whatever the exact circumstances, the missionaries share the apostle Paul's feeling: 1 Cor. 9:16 which says " For though I preach the Gospel I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me: Yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel"
There are many types and varieties of missionaries, five of which we will talk about:
The first is the "Preacher Missionary". Preacher missionaries work at the job most missionaries agree is the heart of mission work. They preach. Upon occasion, thy preach to large crowds gathered in stadiums & auditoriums. They serve as pastors of churches. Much of their preaching is in small congregations, or conversations with individuals.
For the missionary Preacher and the newborn Christian the confession of personal faith in Christ Jesus is solemn and beautiful, somehow quietly, the Holy Spirit speaks and a human heart responds. The missionary, having proclaimed the gospel which someone once opened to him, stands by humbly. Watching a fellowman willingly take upon himself the obligations of discipleship in the fellowship of worship and service which is the church. But no matter how often the missionary sees the miracle of conversion, the witness can never stop. Always there are others to be told the same story of God's love. Some respond, others, for many reasons, must be witnessed to many many times over.
The second is the "Teacher Missionary". Missionaries who go overseas to teach have themselves spent more than the average number of years in school. Knowing the teacher-student relationship from both sides as they usually do, they are able to evaluate the learning process they see around them. Their concern is twofold: First, for young people who deserve the opportunity for as much education as they will peruse and, second for those who come into the churches and need training for Christian leadership and service. Being a missionary teacher puts Christian men and women in contact with young people who are serious about getting an education and searching out values for living.. The minds and hearts that you shape are the leaders of tomorrow.
The third is the "Medical Missionary". Among all the people in the world who feel that they must help others, certainly the Medical missionary does. They have unparallel opportunity. Whether they are a doctor, nurse, technician, or administrator, the nature of their work brings them into daily contact with men & women in specific personal crises. Here in the United States we take medical care for granted. For most of us, medical services and hospital facilities are easily available. But this is not true everywhere in the world. You know that the practice of medicine is a professional skill demanding years of study and training. This is why third world countries that have isolated themselves for centuries are lacking the resources that are needed.
The fourth is the "Specialist Missionary". We've talked about missionaries preaching, teaching, and practicing medical skills. There is one more called the Specialist Missionary, one who I call as in the trade world, multi-crafted. One who is called upon to use every skill and all the information he or she has ever acquired during their lifetime. In a sense, this missionary is like a "Jack of all trades". Few missionaries misses the experience of supervising a building project or using some tools, a hammer, screwdriver, or saw, Missionary nurses or often called upon to play the piano, teach classes at the church, or plan a social. One must be willing to do anything it takes to further the Gospel. Willing even to "stay by the stuff", washing dishes, sweeping the floor or doing the laundry. Through the years missionaries have found strength & wisdom beyond themselves to accomplish the work laid upon them by the circumstances in which they serve. Their deep commitment is to God through Jesus Christ. In many cases, the experiences which come to them seem to build, one upon the other, the attitudes &insight needed for their task.
The Fifth is the "Home Missionary". One who is called out by God, to stay in his or her own native country. They have a desire to change their part of the world, their community, one heart at a time by going out of their way to make a difference. Going that extra mile to help someone, in need. They show others what Christ's love, is all about. Whether it is volunteering at a nursing home, homeless shelter, feeding the poor, or what may it be, they go above and beyond their call of duty. Their witness is not easy as Jesus said in Mark 6:4 " A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." They must continually resist the pull of the norm, that attitude of "me first" attitude which is getting worse each generation. They have the responsibility of passing on to their own what Jesus was all about.