Many Christians are inclined to believe that missionaries are worthy of being placed on a pedestal, even though the missionaries themselves usually resist being placed there. In this second post of a series, Pastor Jeff Jackson introduces his answer to an important question that missionary pedestal-placing provokes.
Based on my understanding of the history of the church from its founding, (recorded in the book of Acts), right up till today, missionaries have usually been given an increased level of respect, regard, and attention from a majority of their fellow believers.
When God made clear to me and my family that He was calling us to move to another country, that was certainly our experience.
The increased level of respect, regard, and attention that missionaries are given by fellow believers has been described as being placed on a pedestal.
Which is exactly what it feels like to the missionary.
I didn’t enjoy being placed there.
And neither do most of the missionaries that I know.
In fact, if a missionary actually declares and promotes his worthiness to be placed on the pedestal, he will actually diminish the respect, regard, and attention others give to him and end up keeping himself from the very thing he desires.
But for those who don’t seek the pedestal and who are genuinely uncomfortable with being there, that is exactly where they are placed by both the people who know and love them and many times by those who don’t actually know them, but have heard about them.
This pedestal-placing is a reality, whether we agree with it or not.
Which provokes a very serious question that I believe is worth thinking through and answering.
Are God’s people doing anything inherently unbiblical, unhealthy, or wrong when they place missionaries on a pedestal that is composed of increased respect, regard, and attention?
I’m convinced that not only are they NOT doing something wrong–in fact, they are doing something very right; very biblical; and very healthy for both themselves, the missionaries, and many others.
And no, I’m not naive enough to believe that there aren’t some potential pitfalls and dangers in placing missionaries on a pedestal. (Some of which I will cover later on in this series).
But the inclination to pedestal-place and the benefits of doing so for both the placers, (the senders) the placees, (the goers), and especially those the placees are sent to, far outweighs the potential dangers that could possibly develop.
With what I’ve written thus far as my introduction, I believe it will be helpful to unveil for you a bit of the back story that has provoked me to put into writing the thoughts and convictions that I’ve come to on this subject.
To put it succinctly, my perception is that the mindset that believes that every Christian is an actual missionary is spreading rapidly.
But in the various gardens, (think: local churches), of God’s kingdom that I navigate in, wherever that mindset takes root, the interest and care for those that used to be referred to as missionaries is pushed to the outer edges, away from where the greatest concentration of life-giving nutrients is found.
And thus, in most gardens where that mindset spreads, the interest and care for those who have been called to live and serve in other countries actually shrinks substantially.
Which many times produces devastating consequences for those who have been receiving God-ordained and absolutely essential vitality from that garden that they themselves were originally planted in and grew to maturity in.
I believe I understand the motivation that prompts some people to challenge every believer to view them selves as a missionary.
I will address that.
I will also address what I believe is the American cultural trait that helped to generate and that reinforces that motivation and why I believe that specific American cultural trait should be rejected, not embraced by God’s people.
In the midst of laying these things out, I will be giving definitions for some of the words that I use and the biblical basis for the definitions of those words.
And even though I won’t be there for a while, give some thought to this:
Luke 6:13 And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles.