Every Christian is a Full-Time Missionary

by Jordan Raynor

The following post was first published on YouVersion by our friend Jordan Raynor, author of the national bestselling book for faith driven entrepreneurs, Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:16-20)

I grew up dreading sermons on the topic of missions. It’s not because I don’t love missions; in fact, I can think of nothing more exhilarating than sharing the name of Jesus with a lost world. I love as 1 Peter 2:9 says to “declare the excellencies” of our God, telling others about the miraculous work Jesus has done on my behalf. But for years, any time I heard that my pastor would be preaching on missions or that we were entering into another “missions week,” I cringed because I knew the sermon was going to fill me with nothing but guilt that I wasn’t “going” to “all nations” to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

I’ve never lived outside of the U.S. and I have never been in a vocational role that would traditionally be considered “full-time ministry.” I’ve spent my career as a tech entrepreneur and an author. I build companies and write books for a living. And through that work—work many in the Church might call “secular”—I have seen the Lord do incredible things to reach hurting people with the gospel.

It’s unfortunate that when most churches talk about missions today, they speak of it almost exclusively in terms of Christians leaving the jobs and geographies God has called them to to move overseas as “full-time, donor-supported missionaries.” I hate the way many in the Church talk about missions, because I love the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am tired of being told—subtly and not so subtly—that because you and I spend 40+ hours a week building businesses, going to school, crunching numbers, creating art, and carpooling kids, we are not “full-time missionaries” committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ wherever we go.

Calling a Christian a full-time missionary is redundant. It need not be said. Whether you’re a student, a businessperson, a barista, a doctor, a janitor, a lawyer, a mother, or a teacher, you are a full-time missionary called to make disciples as you go throughout life! God’s Word makes clear that you and I can be obedient to the Great Commission without changing our vocation or location. You can view your work as full-time missions starting today.

If this idea sounds new or fresh, it’s because the Church has bought into three unbiblical myths of missions that we will look to Scripture to refute.

Myth #1

The first myth that the Church has subscribed to for some time now is that work is largely meaningless unless you work as a “full-time missionary.”

Have you ever felt like your work is less important or eternally meaningful than that of a pastor or “full-time missionary”? This feeling is so prevalent today, but the good news is that it is totally unbiblical.

Genesis 1:26-31 reminds us that work was a part of God’s original, perfect design for the world. In this passage, we see God commanding humankind to co-create with Him—to “be fruitful”—to “fill the earth and subdue it.” This is a call to more than just procreation. This is a call to civilization. It’s a call to cultural creation, to follow God’s lead in working to bring about things that were not there before.

If you flip over to Genesis 2:15, you will see that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden and called him to “work it and take care of it.” In verse 2:19, He invites Adam to give names to every living creature. God is calling Adam to be a ruler, a gardener, a branding agent—jobs that today we might be tempted to call “secular” or at least view as less meaningful than the jobs of a pastor or missionary overseas.

But here’s the truth: God called human beings to work prior to the Fall. Thus, all work is inherently meaningful and is a primary means by which we reveal the character of our Creator God and serve others.

Myth #2

In order to embrace the idea that every Christian is a full-time missionary, there’s a second myth of missions that we need to look to Scripture to refute. Here it is: The calling of pastors and “full-time missionaries” is somehow “higher” than the call to other vocations.

As we saw previously, God called human beings to work, giving all work inherent meaning; thus, there should be no sense that one person’s vocational calling is higher, more meaningful, or more eternally significant than another.

But the fact is, there is an unspoken hierarchy of callings in the Church today that says that if you are really sold out for Jesus, you will abandon your current work and spiritually “level-up” to the role of a pastor or donor-supported missionary.

This idea isn’t new. It’s a myth the Church has been fighting for centuries. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other leaders of the Protestant Reformation fought vehemently against this man-made hierarchy of callings, arguing that all work is as much a calling from God as the work of a pastor or priest.

What’s particularly laughable about this myth is the fact that we worship a God who spent the majority of his time on earth working as a carpenter! The Bible gives us very little detail of Jesus’ life between the ages of twelve and thirty, when He began his public ministry. One of the only things Scripture notes about this significant period of time is that He was known in His community for His work as a carpenter (see Mark 6:3)!

Think about this for a moment: From the very beginning of time, God knew that He would have to send Jesus to earth to ransom humankind. Knowing this—and knowing the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ life on earth—the fact that God chose for Jesus to grow-up in the home of a carpenter named Joseph should stop us in our tracks.

God could have placed Jesus in a priestly household, like the prophet Samuel or John the Baptist. He could have grown-up in the household of a Pharisee like the Apostle Paul. But no, God placed Jesus in the household of a carpenter where He would spend more than half of his life ministering to others by making what we have to imagine would have been some really exceptional tables.

To act as if the calling of the clergy is higher than any other calling is nothing less than a slight at Jesus Christ. It is an unbiblical myth that there is some sort of hierarchy of callings. The truth is that we worship a God who works and that gives dignity and meaning to all vocations.

Myth #3

The third and final myth of missions that we will unpack is that in order to fulfill the Great Commission, you must “go” away from your current vocation and location.

A few years ago, I heard one of the most life-changing sermons preached on the Great Commission by Dr. Kennon Vaughan. Focusing on the word “Go” in Jesus’s command in Matthew 28:19, Dr. Vaughan said, “The word ‘go’ will “unlock the meaning for us as to when we are to carry out the Great Commission. The word ‘Go’ literally means 'having gone.' ‘Go’ is not a command, [Jesus] is not commanding them to go, as much as He’s saying, 'Having gone…turn men into disciples!’ The going is assumed. In other words, Jesus is saying, ‘Having gone from here, as we go, as you go, turn men into disciples.' Jesus didn’t go more than 200 miles away from His own hometown, and yet He is saying go make disciples of all nations, and I would venture to say Jesus is the greatest disciple maker in the history of the world. It wasn’t about how far He went. It was about what He did while He was going. The same is true for you and me."

I don’t know about you, but until a few years ago, I had never heard the Great Commission preached like this. “As you are going...make disciples.” That changes everything.

While God may indeed be calling you to change your vocation or your location, that is certainly not a requirement for fulfilling the Great Commission. The truth is that Jesus has called each and every one of us to be a full-time missionary, making disciples as we go throughout our work and our lives.

When we understand that work is inherently good and meaningful, that the calling of the clergy is no higher than the calling of the congregation, and that Jesus has commanded us to make disciples as we are going throughout life...that changes everything.

Now it doesn’t matter what your job title is—you are commanded to make disciples.

It doesn’t matter if you live in New York or New Delhi—you are commanded to make disciples.

It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor, a student, a businessperson, a stay-at-home-mom, an accountant, a barista, or an artist—you are commanded to make disciples.

Not at some point in the distant future. Not when you retire from your current vocation. Not just on the next short-term missions trip. Today. You are a full-time missionary. What an awesome privilege. What an incredible responsibility.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash