Do you know the difference between a missionary and a missiologist? Most people assume that a person with a degree in missiology will make a good missionary, but this is not always the case. In fact, if the cause of missions were to rely only on those people capable of getting advanced degrees in missions, we would likely never complete the task of preaching Jesus among all the peoples of the earth. This is not to say that missiologists are bad people! Nor is it to say that missiology is completely separate from missionaries, but they are not the same.
Agencies send out missionaries to make disciples and plant churches. The skill set needed here is one of being a people person (at least at some level), the ability to adapt and live cross-culturally, and the ability share the good news. In part, they learn how to do these things from being with missiologists. At least, I hope they do. They ought to be informed practitioners of their work. However, field missionaries do NOT necessarily need to know how to write papers, do research, or attend or give conference presentations. Those things are not bad, but those are the purview of missiologists.
I often liken the difference between missionaries and missiologists to being similar to the difference between electricians and electrical engineers. I hope that we can agree that both are useful and necessary professions but are quite different. Electrical engineers create complex schematics for buildings and construction projects. But, when the lights go out, you don’t call them, you call the electrician. How do electricians know where to string the wires and put in the transformers? By talking to the electrical engineers. They are different but both needed. In fact, much of our training for missionaries has been designed by missiologists.
As a sending agency, All Nations Family is happy when we have missiologists, but what we really need are missionaries. The missionaries learn from the missiologists what is involved in cross-cultural church planting, but they might not be able to explain the ins and outs of it all – at least not in an academic way. And, missionaries probably don’t want to sit and write papers about church planting. They want to go and do the church planting.
So, where and how do we train the millions of missionaries that are needed to go out and make disciples and ignite church planting movements? Such training will have to be shorter than a 2 – 4-year degree. Clearly, it cannot require a level of education as advanced as a Masters Degree. And, it cannot require people to move far away from home for long periods of time. If any of those things are needed, then we will not be able to train up the numbers of church planters/ missionaries needed to carry the Gospel to every corner of the globe.
While certainly not perfect, All Nations Family has crafted its own missionary training program called The Church Planting Experience (CPx). It’s short, given locally, and is very practical. In fact, even people who cannot read and write could participate in the training. This has been a strategic decision on our part to raise up a generation that will take the gospel from everywhere to everywhere. Other agencies and groups have also taken similar approaches to ours with similar positive results.
So, if we are going to train missionaries, we have to know clearly what our expected outcomes are. In other words, what do we expect all missionaries to be able to know and do? In All Nations, we have summarized the missionary skill set in seven core abilities, they are:
- Abide with Jesus Christ
- Militant, passionate prayer
- Be a healthy person on a healthy team
- Engage neglected peoples
- Honor other cultures
- Share the Good News
- Ignite and shepherd church planting movements
Thus, to be a good missionary, one does not have to be an academic researcher (though they ought to know the research). One does not have to be a really good book reader (as long as someone else. i.e., a missiologist helps by reading the books and sharing the information with you). One does not have to have long academic degrees. One simply has to be willing to invite people to simple obedience to Jesus and His commands, but that can be a bit tricky when doing it cross-culturally. In the coming blog entries, I will talk about each of these seven core abilities and why we think they are important for all missionaries to have.