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What is Missionary Work?

A vast array of people, projects, organizations, evangelistic efforts and social endeavors all line themselves up under the heading of “missions.” They seek, in some way, to win the financial support of Churches so their work can continue, their people can be financed and the needs of their ministry will be met.

Considering the plethora of organizations seeking this support from our church’s missionary funds, the question must be answered, “What is missions?”

Vernon Mortensen, former General Director of the Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), wrote the following analogy concerning missionary work.

A hospital is a lot of things. It is a hotel where people must be housed in comfort. It is a restaurant where hundreds of meals are served daily. It is a communications center where the switchboard handles dozens of calls an hour. It is a business office where records, accounts, flow charts and job descriptions are kept. It is a training center where doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel increase their skills.

But above all else the hospital is a place where people are healed. The purpose for its existence is the healing of the body. Therefore, central to all its varied activities is the work of the surgeon and other medical specialists. All the other activities would be pointless and futile if they did not further the skill of the medical practitioner.

Missionary work is also a lot of things. It is a combination of the skills of many trades and professions. It is a building, because houses, churches, schools and hospitals must be built. It is linguistics because languages must be reduced to writing, grammars and dictionaries compiled and translations undertaken. It is medical work because people are afflicted with a great variety of diseases that sap their strength and carry them to an early grave.

It is business administration because finances must be cared for, personnel assigned and directed and the work evaluated. It is relief work because famines plague the world and natural calamities befall great numbers of people. It is education because millions have no other opportunity of breaking out of ignorance and poverty.

But above all, its indispensable purpose is the preaching of salvation through Jesus Christ so that man’s dire spiritual need may be met. It is the discipling of converts so they in turn will be able to minister to souls around them. It is the establishing of believers in a spiritually effective congregation according to the New Testament pattern so there will be a living and expanding permanent witness in the community.