The Wrong Idea: Mischaracterizing Missionaries (Unleashed)

linked to Preaching to the unconverted After reading MisterE’s piece on Christianity and conversion, I suppose there is plenty left unsaid that needs – at the least – to be clarified. Let me begin by explaining that fact that sharing one’s faith is healthy. With that said, I would agree with MisterE on this point: That the individuals screaming in the subways that one must accept Christ or go to hell are annoying and counterproductive. As a Christian I want nothing more than to stop them and say, “Hey, you’re turning everyone – including me – off. That’s not the way to show people God’s love.”

But in the general sense of “proselytizing,” Christians do not force individuals to convert, rather, Christians offer the tenants of the faith to others. If an individual makes the decision to accept Christ as his or her savior, than this is his or her personal decision. It cannot and should not be forced. So, in a more general sense, when we discuss individuals yelling and making noise/condemning, then I would agree with MisterE. But, when we consider missionaries peacefully traveling the globe and speaking about their Savior, I strongly disagree.

“But today, there are more Christian conversion television stations and missionaries than any other religion. Everywhere you go, its Christianity all over the place. It would seem that a major focus of being Christian is to convert others.” – MisterE

Yes, it’s true. Christianity has permeated the entire globe; there are very few places that missionaries have not been able to reach with God’s word. And, it’s not just America sending missionaries out. South Korea sends out more missionaries than any other nation (minus the U.S., of course). In fact, there are missiologists who study this on a regular basis:

“Missiology is the integrative study of the expansion of Christianity as it has been propagated by Christian missionaries. Missiology — the study of missionary work — draws together scholarship in biblical, historical, doctrinal and practical theological studies.”

I suppose I am a bit taken aback by the negative remarks presented here. Are these missionaries harming others? If anything, they are providing what they (and I) believe is the word of God. Now, if they do this peacefully and respectfully, then what’s the problem? If a person does not want to learn more about Christ, he or she can simply disregard the pamphlet or walk away (or tell them – as I do the Jehovah’s Witnesses –that I am a Christian and that I do not wish to convert).

I mean, think about motivation. The only thing most missionaries get out of sharing God’s word is the knowledge that they have led one or more individuals toward the path that they (and I) believe that God would want them on. In the end, missionaries are doing what they are asked to do.

“Sometimes its silly to consider how many different sects of Christianity there are, and yet still they all claim to be the "right" one.” –MisterE

Actually, there is much more agreement than you would realize. Sure, there are divisions among Catholics and Protestants, but in my hometown the pastors (and priests) meet quite often to discuss ways in which they can work together. Different denominations are results of various regional differences and discrepancies in faith issues.

At the end of the day it’s like this: There is a wall built of brick. If you remove one brick the wall still stands, but if you remove the base, it falls. So is the same with differences among denominations under the Christian umbrella (the base being the acceptance that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for the sin of each human being who has lived, is currently living or will ever live). So, in the end it’s not all that silly – there are some components (those bricks) that humans can’t be sure of – so we disagree, although we can attest (Believer’s anyway) to the truth that is present in that foundation.

“Again, I’m not trying to pick on Christianity, but have you seen what the LDS do? The church will pay through the nose to set up missionaries in beautiful homes and locations, simply so they can convert others.” — MisterE

If it were only that simple. Consider this: Missionaries don’t just go to gorgeous places – in fact, most don’t. Many Christians choose to go to chaotic and dangerous localities to do good work and to share their faith. It’s a gross overgeneralization to exclaim that all missionaries go “gorgeous” homes and beachfront properties. I’ve been to many churches in my 23-years and I have never once seen a missionary work under the conditions you described. I have, however, seen people abandon beautiful homes and lives so that they can travel the globe helping people better understand God’s love.

”What is that? Religion should be a personal thing. You shouldn’t need others to recognize your faith or give credibility to it by simply expanding in number. If you can’t be faithful without convincing others that you’re right, then you clearly don’t fully believe in your faith.”  — MisterE

This is simply off base. Christians don’t travel the globe to gain better PR for Christianity – or more credibility for that matter. Missionaries work to assist the individual in better understanding Christ’s love. It’s not about the masses; it’s about individual souls. While you may not agree with the aim, it’s simply unfair to run about claiming that you know their motivation(s). The above does not come even remotely close in explaining the reasons why they do the work that they do.

Missionaries travel to dangerous areas of the Middle East, the Philippians and around the globe. While I’m sure many of them would truly enjoy the comforts of the Ritz Carleton, the majority doesn’t even see two-star treatment (most also need to fundraise for their endeavors, which typically involves church sponsorship…and in many cases this is multiple church sponsorship, not simply one body paying their way; it’s much more complicated than you allege).

Let’s also remember that many of these missionaries are working in other ways to fix our broken world. Consider those who travel to build homes for the underprivileged, individuals (like two of my very good friends) who travel to Guatemala and other nations to help build schools and other community resources, or churches like Times Square Church who worked after Hurricane Katrina to fundraise hundreds of thousands of dollars (the church also bought an old hospital, converted it into inhabitable space and offered this housing to women and children affected by the hurricane), to name a few. Without these Christian missionaries the world would be worse off than it is in its current state.

These are only a few of the facts that must be stated in response to MisterE’s piece. It’s not as simple as it seems. Simple web research would show the vast (and important) work that missionaries do on a daily basis.