Can Someone Answer My Question About Missions, Or Is That Impossible?

4 May

I usually stay away from religious matters because people tend to be touchy about such things. However, I broke that rule by asking a question in a tweet. Honestly, it is a question I have asked before, and it did not go over well at the time. That means that I should have known better than to bring it up again.

Anyway, I asked the following.

Why do churches send out mission groups to places where people are already Christians?

I ask this because local churches send people to Mexico, Honduras and other parts of Latin America where a high percentage of people are Christian.

I am probably wrong, but I always thought that a missionary is someone who spreads their faith to those who have never heard about it. This is the way a religion spread from one group to another. If someone talks about their faith to someone who already believes the same thing, then that is not being a missionary.Mission

People respond to my question by saying that they are helping people in poverty, and that is a noble cause that more people should be doing. However, helping people who find themselves in need is called helping people who find themselves in need. That can be done in the Peace Corps. It can also be done in other ways. Over spring break, some of our faculty and students went to Haiti and did some great work. However, it was not mission work.

Again, helping people in need is an awesome thing to do. However, if you are going to help people who have already heard the word of Christ, then there are a lot of people in the United States who need aid. Rural Appalachia. Native American reservations. Inner cities.

There is an old saying that charity begins at home. It is not exactly Biblical, but similar sentiments can be found in 1st Timothy. Yep, I have taken on the project of reading the Bible cover to cover and am slowly making my way through.

Anyway, I go back to my original question.

Why do churches send out mission groups to places where people are already Christians?

The first missionaries came to Latin America as soon as they knew the land existed. Beginning in the 1500s, Catholic priests roamed the new-to-them continents and took Christianity to the natives. I read that Latin America is the strongest base for the Roman Catholic Church. The people in that part of the world are Christian.

In fact, I get the feeling that the answer to my question lies in that paragraph. I hope it is not true, but I suspect otherwise. To some churches, the people of Latin America may be Christian, but they are the wrong kind of Christian. They are Catholic. Actually, I suspect that some people think Catholics are not Christians at all.

Of course, Martin Luther would be surprised to hear that, and he is the person who kicked off the Protestant Reformation. You know, that is the movement from which all Protestant denominations sprang.

I am getting off point. Instead of going further, I will ask a few more questions that I hope some of you can answer.

Is a missionary someone who spreads their faith to those who have never heard it, or can someone who goes out to help people of the same faith be considered a missionary?

I am not trying to make people mad. I am just trying to figure this out.

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15 Responses to “Can Someone Answer My Question About Missions, Or Is That Impossible?”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong May 4, 2015 at 02:57 #

    Mission is a catch all term. It doesn’t necessarily involve converting anyone. A lot of missions are service mission. They help build schools, churches. They go into areas that have been hit by natural or other disasters. Sometimes, they are teaching missions. Sometimes they go in support of sister churches to lend practical and moral support. Missions serve a lot of functions and it depends on the individual church and how they have designated a mission.

    These days, it usually involves some kind of service. Young people go on missions to learn the meaning of service. Often, it’s their first exposure to real work. They also get to meet people from different backgrounds. Middle-class kids who’ve never missed a meal learn about poverty, discover a whole new world out there. This isn’t 1500 anymore. A lot of things have changed, including missions.

    • Rick May 4, 2015 at 03:02 #

      Thanks. Then, that means that a church doesn’t have to be involved.

    • Marilyn Armstrong May 4, 2015 at 03:18 #

      Churches sponsor missions. They also sponsor food and clothing drives. Churches do a lot more than hold services, baptize babies, marry, or bury folks. In many communities, they are social centers, off social services, groups, counseling, education. They host AA meetings. They are meeting places for young and old. They serve their communities as their communities request and require. Missions are one of many things they do.

      Some churches are bigger on proselytizing than others. It depends on the sect, the minister, location, the congregation. There’s no tidy answer because there’s no “churches.” There are a million churches and each one is different from every other one.

  2. Jennifer May 4, 2015 at 03:16 #

    I’ve been thinking about this question and our earlier conversation some more. I agree with the previous comment about service missions. If you think about it, sometimes we Christians are the only Jesus people see. They may “know” about God but don’t have an understanding about certain things related to salvation and living a godly life.
    Starting improvements at home is HUGE. I’m not in anyway discounting the amazing experience and impact of international missions, but I agree we need to start a change at home first. I’ve often heard my pastor say things like “It’s hard to tell a starving man about Jesus when all he can hear is his stomach growling.” I think that statement well describes the idea behind service mission work. Being a servant to someone meets a need they have and then allows you to build a relationship with that person. If they are not a believer, that servant act or new friendship could be the beginnings of a much bigger plan God has for them. I’ve heard of people accepting Christ as their savior because someone showed them the love of Christ through action. I truly believe that is how service mission work becomes mission work that wins people to the Lord. I hope that better answers your question 🙂

    • Rick May 4, 2015 at 12:12 #

      I think that more people should go out and help others and churches do a great job of sending people to places where help is needed. However, I wish more people would help those down the street. It’s almost like it’s not a real mission of it’s happening close by.

      • Marilyn Armstrong May 4, 2015 at 16:08 #

        Many churches have local missions too, though they are often called something else. Outreach programs are the heart and soul of most churches. It depends on the sect and if they have funds to do it, but most of them try. Christianity is fighting to keep its membership/ They have been forced to change a HUGE amount in the past decade or two. I can see it around here.

        This is a very churchy area and the churches are fighting hard to keep alive with an aging congregation and not nearly enough younger member. Those that do attend don’t give the way they did in the past. So churches are trying to offer more to more people from more places. Money is always an issue. With attendance down and donations very down, they have less but need to do more. Like all service organizations in a modern economy.

  3. Andrew Petcher May 4, 2015 at 07:19 #

    I would suggest that Faith and Belief is constantly being tested, more so now than ever before. Maybe Christian Missionaries to Christian countries are just a way of providing encouragement to ‘Keep the Faith’? Just a thought. It isn’t original, the Jesuits have been doing this sort of thing for five hundred years or so!

    • Rick May 4, 2015 at 12:09 #

      That is understandable. Helping people keep the faith is an important part of helping the faith thrive.

  4. NotAPunkRocker May 4, 2015 at 15:38 #

    What Marilyn said, but then I will add that in some cases being Christian isn’t enough…you have to be THEIR brand of Christian.

    *yes, I know that does not apply to all Christians or even only to them, just in this context is what I am saying…*

    • Marilyn Armstrong May 4, 2015 at 16:01 #

      The cool thing about American Christianity is that it is SO competitive. If you don’t like one church, there’s a more agreeable one around the corner. They will be just thrilled to have you. No one drags you to church or synagogue or mosque. You can shop around and find something that works for you. I know a lot of people who can and do “church shop” regularly. They decide the minister isn’t their kind of guy anymore, so they move on. The UUs have always been very accommodating. Unfortunately, their group is too far for us and we’d never get up that early on Sunday anyway. Oh well.

      • Rick May 4, 2015 at 18:23 #

        The competition is fierce. It is especially fierce during times when church membership is on the wane.

    • Rick May 4, 2015 at 18:22 #

      I think that has a lot to do with it.

  5. jcalberta May 4, 2015 at 18:00 #

    You’ll have to ask God.
    Each of us might get a different answer.

    • Rick May 4, 2015 at 19:14 #

      I think that some people think they are the only ones who are going to get an answer.

      • Marilyn Armstrong May 4, 2015 at 22:20 #

        I think there are many stupid, vain people in our world and they all seem to have more power than I do.

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