Why Be a Missionary?

Monday, June 30, 2003



I have been extremely busy at work for the past month, with lots of overtime, and it is getting harder and harder to find time to blog. I am working so hard in order to try to save some people's jobs - so pray for us!

I hate to put down rushed thoughts that haven't been fully formed and edited, but it is getting to be impossible to maintain such a site without going out on a limb and just posting my half-baked ideas.

This is a half-baked post that will hopefully be transformed through my own editing into something more meaningful in the near future.

My wife and I have been praying about and discussing the possibility of doing lay missionary work in a developing nation. We have some slightly different perspectives on the subject, and I thought other may be interested in our questions.

My wife is willing to do missionary work so long as she does need to evangelize with her lips. Her attitude is that if she is living a good Christian life, people will simply ask her the source of her joy, and they will imitate her without her needing to intitiate such a dialogue. Furthermore, if challenged, she feels no need to offer an "apologetic". Her interest in missionary work is largely to do charitable work, and she is willing to go to Latin America, where many people are already Catholic.

On the other hand, I tend to look for opportunities to share my faith with others, so long as they seem interested in dialogue. When challenged on my faith, I try to follow 1 Peter 3:15, seeking to be always ready to offer an explaination for the hope that lies within me, with gentleness and respect. While I strongly want to do works of charity and social justice, I also hope to bring people to Christ if they are seeking something more in life.

I do not necessarily seek to convert those who are devoted to other religions and already feel close to God. However, I do wish to bring the good news to those who are still seeking, and I seek to stump those who attack my religion. I primarily share my faith with those who are interested - but I look for the opportunity, where my wife waits for things to happen without her effort.

Then, there are those evangelist who seem to want to share their faith in season and out of season with everyone, whether their audience is interested or not. They care nothing about whether their audience is seeking more out of life, but they feel compelled to proclaim the Gospel as they understand it. They feel all others are wrong and need to be corrected.

On my home page, I have links to my own articles about salvation outside of the Church, the salvation of Jews, and even an article suggesting that Protestantism and Catholicism are two very different paradigms leading to the same God. So, why would I even want to share my faith with another? Why bother if I do not believe others are going to hell.

Personally, I believe there are three major reasons for evangelizing:

1) I believe that the Gospel is good news and the ultimate form of humanism. When we discover a truth that is valuable, it is natural to want to share the good news with others. Which one of us, if we discovered an infinite fountain of youth would not want all our dearest friends and relatives to share in our discovery. Christianity is not exactly a fountain of youth, but the fact that a man rose from the dead is similarly good news! The fact that God has joined our human condition is fantastic news! I want my loved ones to see what I see what I see in Jesus!

2) Despite the fact that I believe there is salvation outside of the Church, there are religious ideas that are harmful. Think of human sacrifice - or even David Koresh - the crusades - or the suicide bombers of 9-11! While some people who call themselves "Christian" have erroneous spiritual ideas, the idea that error exists is a true proposition! Error does harm, and to the extent that I can convey truth by sharing my faith, I hope to help stamp out harmful errors - whether those errors are made by Christians or others!

3) Christ commanded us to go out and make disciples in every nation. Yet, he calls each one of us to discipleship. Discipleship is derived form a word meaning somethig like being a student. We are to make fellow students - but we always remain learners ourselves. Personally, I believe what Christ was up to here is that he is drawing us into relationship with those who differ from us. Through these relationships, we ourselves continue in the path of discipleship. We are not called to simply breed more Catholics. Rather, we are called to become better Catholics by learning from Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and so forth! I cannot learn from those whom I refuse to relate with. Christ commands us to go out to other nations not only to teach, but to learn!

My wife is originally from Africa, and knows from experience the effects missionaries can have on another culture. Many of these effects are positive, but many are not. Often, missionaries come to a country with an attitude of superiority and arrogance. These missionaries force not only a particular religious view-point, but an entire cultural point of view that is harmful to the indiginous people who are often unprepared for the intrusion.

But we do not need to consider developing nations to understand the point of view of those being evangelized. What Catholic hasn't been a bit annoyed when a Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, or other evangelist knocks on our door and starts telling us our own religion is wrong and theirs is right - especially when the evangelists are not even willing to dialogue!

I think this is key to evanegelism. We Catholics must be willing and able to hold a true dialogue with others. This means being willing to admit our collective mistakes (such as the crusades). We must be willing to listen to others as well as being willing to discuss our own beliefs. This is difficult, but we must be willing and able to do it if we are to be true witnesses of the love, compassion, mercy and humility of Jesus Christ.

I want to write some more about this, but I think I hit the highlights of my thoughts. We are called to mission not to teach, but to learn. If we bear this in mind, we will become better evangelists in the process!

Peace and Blessings!

Readers may contact me at jcecil3@attglobal.net


posted by Jcecil3 5:20 PM

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