SNT (Stained Napkin Theology)
December 28, 2017, 12:00 AM

Missionary or Pastor?

Often the question is asked: “What is the difference between a missionary and a pastor?” Biblically speaking, there is a significant difference: a missionary is sent – a pastor is called.

The word missionary is not found in Scripture. It derives from mid 16th century Latin mittere - ‘send’, which is translated: mission. “Missionary” denotes one who is sent on mission. Using a military analogy: as the Marines during WWII, today’s Special Forces are sent into enemy occupied territory to establish beachheads. Afterwards, a base or fort is constructed and a commander assigned. The original Special Force unit, as well as newly assigned units, may then be sent on new missions from the new base. Likewise, missionaries are assigned to engage lost-ness by invading enemy territory and establishing churches (spiritual beachheads). After a church is established, a pastor is called and additional missionaries are sent from the church. (Mat 16:18…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.) Thus, pastors are called by existing churches (forts) to “occupy”, and provide “oversight” until the Lord returns. (1Pe 5:1-2…The elders which are among you I exhort…Feed the flock of God… taking the oversight thereof…) The new church is to disciple, equip, and send additional missionaries. (Lu 19:13…and said to them, “Occupy until I come”.)

Sent and Send are translated from two words, which entail a “push - pull” concept which is prevalent throughout Scripture. The two words have different emphasis. In John 20:21…”Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent [apostello] me, even so send [pempo] I you”, sent [apostello] implies going away (push) and send [pempo] implies inviting or drawing near (pull).

Throughout New Testament Scripture, sent is translated from the verb apostello, and is transliterated as the noun: apostle. It means appointed or assigned and relates to origination [push] - sent by someone. John the Baptist was a man “sent (apostello) from God” - Jo 6:44 [push]. Send (pempo) means to “dispatch or deploy, and relates to destination [pull] – sent to someone.

The Hebrew Old Testament also supports the “push – pull” concept. In Gen 45:7, Joseph confessed “God sent me before you [push]…and again (v 8)…it was not you who sent me here [pull]. In Ex 14, the “strong east wind” blowing toward the opening in the Red Sea is analogous to the Holy Spirit continually nudging [push] souls toward Christ, God’s way of Redemption. In Isaiah 6:8...I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send [push]. Then I said, "Here I am! Send [push] me… (v 9) And he said, "Go…to these people… [pull].  Moses was sent (shalach) by God [push] - Ex 3:10

 What appears to be an exception to the “push – pull” pattern appears in Act 3:2, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart…Barnabas & Saul for the work to which I have called [pull] them." It appears that Barnabus and Saul were called (like a pastor) to missions. Yet, the next verse reinforces the “push – pull” idea: Act 13:3...they…sent [push] them off. The Greek word translated “call” is proskaleomai which means “to call to one's self”. The voice of the verb is middle-deponent, emphasizing the subject as the receiver of action. In this application, the receiver is the Holy Spirit, indicating that Barnabus and Saul are called by God, the Holy Spirit, to Himself [pull] and are subsequently sent [push] away on a missionary journey.

In the New Testament, the word translated “called” [kalein] consistently implies being drawn to Christ (Jo 12:32 - And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.) (John 6:44) -No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws [pull] him. In contrast, send [pempo] implies assignment to a mission. (Jo 20:21 - Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you, as my Father hath sent me even so send (pempo) I you.)

Back to the original question- Is there a difference between a missionary and a pastor? The answer: Yes! A missionary is sent [push] and a pastor is called [pull]. Someone being “called” to ministry (drawn to Christ then equipped and gifted to pastor) is not the same as God “sending” (equipping & gifting to be a missionary).

In the next post, we shall address the question: How does one know that God is sending them?

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