Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I don't like the word "missionary"

Like Jaimie, I don't like the word "missionary".

She said (and she has been one), "In my experience, it seems the only people who feel excited to cross paths with a missionary are other missionaries, and people who feel a religious kinship with missionaries. Everybody else just feels judged, like they might be at risk of becoming the next missionary project.... Nobody wants to be featured as a prayer point in your newsletter. Nobody wants your unsolicited, but loving Christian counsel. Nobody wants your corny Bible tract.  Indeed, nobody wants to be your pet-project for Jesus. "


When Isaac and I were drafting a newsletter announcing that we're working to move overseas, I told him I really didn't feel comfortable saying "we're going to be missionaries" Are we? Well, if we said that, what would you perceive?

I'd much rather tell people what we're actually doing over there, teaching at a theological college, working at a community center. Then you and I both know what we're doing.

But the word missionary, it's filled with so much baggage. Do you think missionaries preach on street corners? Then no, we won't be. Homeschool a houseful of kids and wear mom jeans? Well, not yet but I suppose check back in ten years. :)

Do you think missionaries are a super holy group of folks doing the most difficult work of God?

Ah, your respect is appreciated and I hope what we do is worthy of honor, but your workplace may be a more difficult mission field and you persevere in daily. What we do is not so different, it's just in a different place.

Or perhaps, on the other hand, you see what I have have seen too much of, arrogance and cultural insensitivity, a legacy of colonialism, westerners imposing their values. There is that too. But let me point you to an atheist describing the work he's seen from missionaries in Africa.

Am I going to be a missionary? I'm uncomfortable with the phrase.

I do know that Isaac will teach church leaders overseas. I know that  I, here or overseas, make it my goal to disciple and love.

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