Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)
I was a missionary living outside my homeland for many years. I was there because I knew God called me to use the skills He provided to bring His word of salvation to the world. It was that simple. What wasn’t simple was filtering through the mental pictures and ideas people have about missionary life.
While missionary work began with the Apostles, who left their homes to share the Gospel in foreign lands, the modern Protestant missionary movement is relatively young. In the last hundred years, the publications of the lives of modern missionaries have fascinated, encourage, called and otherwise thrilled the church. From this many have built up the idea that “true” missionaries are pounding through sweaty jungles, Bibles in hand, pith helmet donning their furrowed brow, wagging their fingers at the heathen while pleading for them to accept the grace of God. I love these books and have read many. However, these only described the lives of a handful of faithful servants. What about the rest?
I’m one of the rest. I’ve had some interesting adventures for sure, but for the most part, my life was and is routine. I should clarify that by saying my ministry life is, for the most part, very routine. What makes it routine you ask? Let me describe most of what I’ve done and currently do.
For years, I’ve work in the technical side of things. I was a radio engineer when I joined this ministry and have worked with transmitters, antennas, studios, and a host of other electronic stuff throughout the years. At one point I was given a computer. I figured out how it worked. I learned how to program it. Now I administer computers systems, networks and all that modern high-tech stuff. Most of my days are spent tweaking, upgrading, installing and keeping our network secure, up and running.
Don’t get me wrong, this is very important for the ministry. Without a stable and efficient computer network our ministry would grind to a halt. All our ministry programs go through the computer network to reach someone’s home with the Gospel message. What was once a nice tool for tracking spare parts inventory has become the corner stone of our ministry. If it is laid out and working correct God’s message reaches people. If it is askew, things go wrong. I try to keep things from going askew.
This is the routine. No pith helmet, although I once saw one with a solar fan on the front which looked great while living in the tropics. No slogging through mosquito infested jungles to find half-naked heathens in need of redemption. Most days I do my work from a desk using a keyboard, mouse and lots of thinking. Even work for offices in other countries is routinely done from my little office.
Am I reaching the world with the Gospel message? For sure! But the tools and methods have changed over the years. The underlying work to keep things going constantly changes. Even the missionary trudging through the jungle needed time spent on the basic needs of life. In the same way, I’m providing the tools and roadway (technological of course) for the same message to reach places closed to the missionary in a pith helmet.
Am I a missionary? Without doubt I’ve departed my homeland, been separated from family, friends, grandchildren and my mother tongue. I’ve lived solely on the grace and provision of God through His people. I have been “sent” by God to live elsewhere to accomplish His purposes. But, the day to day work I do is . . . to put it bluntly . . . routine.
The father of our mission’s founder wrote a great pamphlet entitled, “The Glory of the Grey.” I love that thought. That’s right where I work and live. Unfortunately, many people, including churches, don’t understand this concept. Unless a “missionary” is establishing churches, or running evangelistic crusades, or hacking back the palm trees with their machete, they are not real missionaries. Sorry folks, perhaps a little change of perspective is necessary.
Is the church secretary not doing ministry because she isn’t preaching, just typing sermon notes and keeping the church updated? Is the janitor not doing ministry because he isn’t leading the youth group, just keeping the building fit for meetings and worship? Is the business man who attends your church faithfully not doing ministry because he doesn’t head the elder board, just supporting the church and demonstrating Christ in his business? Is the missionary not a missionary because he isn’t standing in a pulpit or preaching on a street corner, just keeping the message flowing and the ministry connected? These are all rhetorical questions in case you didn’t catch that. The answer to these should be no.
The reality of life is that most of life is routine, including the work done by missionaries. Once we accept this, and stop thinking everyone needs some new adventure, like the latest and greatest TV show or movie, then life becomes easier. Once Christians discover God wants us to minister by reflecting his Grace in our day to day activities, walking faithfully becomes easier. We can breathe a sigh of relief. If Christians would live their lives rejoicing in this truth it would be a great witness to the world. Once we discover this for ourselves we can recognize it in others, the secretary, the businessman, the janitor or the missionary.