My on-campus class this semester is called “Biographies of Outstanding Missionaries” and we kicked off the class today talking about one of the greatest missionaries of all time: Jesus! We think of Jesus in many different ways and in many different roles but the label “missionary” is not often used. But there are several ways that Jesus lived out a model for us.
First, in His incarnation Jesus modeled the importance of presence among the people we are serving. As the Message puts it in John 1, Jesus “moved into the neighborhood”. When we go and serve another culture, we must really live among the people and learn about the culture and traditions. This does not mean taking on every aspect of a culture, we are to remain true to our Biblical foundation, but we must be present and learn as much as we can.
Jesus was God’s apostle, which means He was the one “sent out” from the Father to share the way of salvation made possible by His death and resurrection. Just as Jesus was sent by the Father, He also sent out the disciples and also sends us out (John 20:21). This is an important discipleship and church planting principle for missionaries today. God sends us to our neighbors, those in our town and sometimes to other parts of the world. As we teach people to obey all that Christ commanded, we must also send them to share the same teaching with others.
Lastly, Jesus focused on the outcasts, sinners and the hurting. He didn’t go to those who had it all together religiously (often they would not listen) but he shared hope and love to those on the fringes of society, those no one else loved. There are people around the world who have no opportunity to hear right now about the love of Christ. These are the people we need to go to. There are people in our own country and in our own towns who cannot feel the love of Christ because they have been shunned by others. These are the people we need to love.
Jesus lived out missionary principles that we can put into practice. As we look to Him as our Savior and Shepherd, we can also look to him as our great missionary model.
P.S.- A random fact: do you now where the word “pagan” comes from? Another great missionary was Paul, and his strategy for missions was to start with the cities and urban areas. He planted churches there and commissioned the believers to spread the Gospel throughout the other cities and on into the rural areas. The word “pagan” from the Latin means farmer, or rural-dweller, because they were the last area evangelized in this strategy. These people were also resistant to the Gospel at first because of their strongholds of tradition and other gods.