Upon hearing that phrase, a picture starts to form in our mind. Either we imagine playing in a village with little African children, giving food to the least of these, or building wells in a foreign country. However, the truth is that there is a much wider variety of different types of missionary work.
While these aren’t bad examples of what missions can look like, none of these matter if the gospel is not being shared right at the beginning. Mission work will not be effective unless you address both the spiritual and physical needs of a person.
Mission work puts God first, then others, and finally the missionaries themselves. Missionaries realize that there is more so much more to life than just the here and now. Instead, they see the “eternal perspective.” Because of this, missionaries are able to do simple tasks and still make an impact that lasts while giving glory to God.
1. Early Childhood Education
This is probably one of the most common types of missionary work. A lot of the time, you hear about missionaries working with children or being a teacher in a foreign country. Although those are different aspects of children ministries, it’s more the process of loving children as Christ did.
As Jesus said:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
God’s heart went out to the children, just as ours should. These children are our future. These young individuals are the ones who are being raised up in a corrupt society, and it’s our job in order to help them to realize the truth. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but my life would be radically different if I were able to grasp God’s love and truth at a young age.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
I sometimes still picture missions as working with young children in order to raise up a generation that sees in the glory of God in everything. We can only hope and pray that as we pour into them that God will work through them, and change the world through this next generation. That hope can only come true if there are missionaries who are willing to pour into these young souls.
2. Social Justice
It’s no secret that we live in a fallen world because there is evidence of this everywhere you look. Because of this pain, it opens many doors in order for missionaries to come in and make an impact. It’s sad to hear about, but a lot of the time there is a multitude of injustice done in this world and they need help.
One of the biggest injustices that we can see in the world is in the realm of sex trafficking. According to Polaris, sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Missionaries all over are trying to fight this fact. One of the best ways to fight it is by providing a way out, by giving the individuals trapped in trafficking freedom.
In this case, helping out those in sex trafficking doesn’t look a certain way. There is a lot of avenues that can be taken in order to help save men, women, and children from this horrible outcome. Whether that be friendships with them in order to slowly get them out of the trade, knowing the signs in order to take note of the individuals who might be in the trade, or breaking through to the “owners” and giving the victim the one thing that they truly want: freedom.
The truth is when you take these individuals out of sex trafficking, you are giving them their life back. You are helping them to see that they are more than just an object. And most of all, you are helping them take a stand.
3. Business as Missions
Most of the time when we think about business in missions, we think of the cover that comes up so that people are able to get into a country. However, business is more of a platform in order to change the lives of the people in the country that you are. There are so many aspects that allow businesses to actually make a lasting impact.
- Immersed in Culture: In order for a business to really thrive, the owner needs to know what the culture likes and how to intertwine the key principles of the culture with the business. When there is a God-fearing individual in charge of a thriving business, it will bring economical transformation to that region.
- Provides Local Jobs: Jobs are needed. That’s a fact. Unemployment rates are finally down, but there are still 192 million people out of work globally according to ILO. When a business starts up, stable jobs are now becoming available.
- Relationships: Business as missions opens the door for deeper relationships to be made and creates a free place for the gospel to be shared in a comfortable setting. It also allows the owner to help their workers grow in various ways.
In the end, though business as missions, we are able to impact the community around us and help them to grow both spiritually and financially while bringing transformation.
Though it isn’t always thought of in the list of types of missionary work, it is one of the most important actions that a missionary can take: Evangelism. For without those who are willing to go out and tell the good news, there is no way for it to be heard.
Paul speaks this truth over us in Romans 10:14-15 saying,
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? How are they to hear without someone preaching? How are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”
We need to have those willing to teach and reach out to the lost in this world because there is too many of them out there. We should be willing to go in order for our family to grow. There is no question as to whether or not this leaves an impact.
For anyone reading this, I can assume that you’ve been changed by the Holy Spirit. You know the impact that can come from accepting Christ as your Savior. If you do know the impact that Christ has had on your life, you can only imagine how God is able to change someone’s life as well.
5. Teaching English
For some reason, the world has decided to make English the language of business. However, the truth is: English is confusing. Many times I, even as a native speaker, mess up. Think about how more confusing it is when it isn’t your first language. There are more and more people striving to learn this language, and missionaries are realizing that there is a need for quality English teachers and answering that call.
It is believed that as many as one billion people are trying to learn English–that’s about 13% of the world. Though language learning doesn’t always seem impactful, it can be a lot more than simply learning a language for someone. It seems weird to hear, but this could radically shape someone’s future. More job opportunities could arise, more people in order to converse with, more hope for the future can sometimes form.
It’s not about them learning a language, but it’s about being able to show them the love of Christ and helping them have more opportunities in order to take a step farther in their life.
6. Church Building
If I were to ask you what a church is, very few people would respond with “the body of Christ.” Though that is the more biblical answer, the first thought is the building with four walls and a big cross somewhere in it. When missionaries go abroad, they not only have the opportunity to build a building for the church to congregate, but they get to help organize the church in such a way that the Church can thrive.
There are very few times where we are able to do something the first time that we try it. Think about the first time you tried to ride a bike or take your first steps. I’m almost positive that it didn’t work out that great. You probably ended up with a scraped knee or a bump on your head to be a reminder of your failure. However, it is so much easier when you have your parent’s hand to hold on to for supporting your balance.
This is what missionaries hope to be as a new Church is coming together and forming something new. The goal of the missionary, in this case, is to make sure that the Church is thriving. This, of course, has a lasting impact. This allows the Church to then send people out and continue to impact this planet with the truth and love of Christ. Also, God is going to remember the growth in the Church, and He will bless you for your hand in it (Hebrews 6:10).
7. Medical Missions
Did you get sick this past winter? Or, did you need to get a vaccine in the last couple of years? Imagine if you couldn’t get the help you need in a reasonable amount of time. This is a sad reality in a lot of places. There are young children dying of AIDS, those who are unable to get clean water in order to survive, and various other situation that causes either the people themselves or the environment to be unhealthy.
Medical missionaries are those who are willing to go abroad and help the people there in order to be as healthy as they can be. They not only take over medicines, but they also inform their clients about the best way in which to stay healthy.
This world needs help, and it can be your hands and feet to go and help. This has a huge impact on the world. You could literally be saving lives, and helping people to live better. As you provide the resources to heal them physically, you can be opening the door for God to heal them as well. He is the “Great Physician,” and is able to heal every hurt, pain, and deeply etched sorrows in our hearts.
8. “The Least of These”
Another common thought with types of missionary work is working with the “least of these”. Orphans, Street Children, Widows, Homeless, Prisoners–these people are everywhere. However, those who desire to serve these people are not everywhere. This is something that God calls us to strive for in Matthew 25:40-45,
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Missionaries see this as an opportunity to serve those around them while also serving God. This also opens up the opportunity to love those who could be viewed as “unlovable” in today’s society. Too many times our society sees these people are hassles, problems, or even mistakes. However, this is not the truth. They are precious, loved, hand-made masterpieces, and filled with purpose by the God of the universe.
Part of the goal of missionaries working with the “least of these,” is to have the world see people as God sees them and to also view themselves as such. Once they realize that they mean more to God and stop striving after the world’s means, an even great impact will unfold and our very society’s outlook on people could change.
How Do We Leave That Impact?
I genuinely believe that one universal goal for humanity is to leave a legacy. We want to know this life that we are living is worth it. Again, none of our mission work will matter unless we bring the gospel message to these people. With different types of missionary work, we are able to make a lasting impact. But, there is also one commonality in all types of missionary work: striving to be Christ-like to all.
The goal of any Christian should be to be a light in this world. With that goal in mind, you are able to glorify God with almost anything that you do. The types of missionary work aren’t strictly the ones that are listed above. The reality is that there is no true list of “types of missionary work.” There aren’t certain jobs that God is going to work through more. God is willing to use any and every job for His glory, it’s just a question as to whether we allow Him to. Christ was able to impact the world in an irreversible way, and He promises that we can do even greater things than He (John 14:12-14).
Even in the most mundane of situations, God is at work. In Him, we can leave the most impactful legacy ever. Who can impact this world more than the One who created it from His own words? Who can use you more than the one who formed you in His image? No one.
As we continue our lives, we should try not only to complete the different types of missionary work but strive to be Christ-like so that there is an eternal impact on those we reach. When God works through us, it rarely only impacts us. Instead, it’s an illuminating light that all can see. And when people see God, well, that’s when the real change starts happening. So go impact the world with God.