No, I’m not giving up my calling or losing my passion for reaching unengaged people groups. As the president of Within Reach Global, reaching unreached people groups will always be my passion. I am simply considering the terms by which I am labeled in my line of work.

I am big on terminology, because it is labels and terms that so often define (and misdefine) us.

That’s why I now call myself a Missional Starter and Artistic Creative.

  • Missional Starter: one who pioneers apostolic, cross cultural outreach with the specific purpose of giving the ministry reigns to local leaders who will implement indigenous styles of outreach.
  • Artistic Creative: one who uses his innate artistic talents to pioneer missional outreach in cross cultural settings. 

I am big on terminology, because it is labels and terms that so often define (and misdefine) us. That’s why I now call myself a Missional Starter and Artistic Creative.

Consider this loaded word: missionary. That’s what I used to call myself. But the word evokes innumerable descriptions, mostly outdated and irrelevant. See Why I Dislike the Word Missions by Rick Love.

What are your first thoughts when you hear the word missionary? [CLICK TO TWEET]

How about David Livingstone, I presume, boiling in a man-sized iron pot as cannibals with bones through their noses dance and chant around the fire?

Or perhaps blonde-haired blue-eyed Elder Joe in pressed black suit, peddling his bicycle past the local market, Mormon Bible tucked under his right arm?

And you’ve all heard the well meaning young Christian man explain why he is not going to Africa or China, “because,” he says sincerely, “I am a missionary to my own city.”

A friend of mine said someone recently told him, “I am a missionary to my family.”

Just Because You’re A Christian Does Not Mean You’re A Missionary.

But you see, there is a difference between missional living and being a missionary in a cross cultural setting. Both missional living and the missionary calling are necessary. They go hand in hand. That’s why the disciples were sent to “Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

“Missional churches—those focused on living on mission where we are—must remember that Jesus called us to reach people where the gospel is not,” says Ed Stetzer[CLICK TO TWEET]

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“[Missional living and cross cultural missions] are distinct and yet integrated. They are not mutually exclusive, but thrive best when they are both embraced and implemented in a local church body. Living on mission is not a missions issue, per se. It’s a Christian issue. Part of living on mission, however, must lead to missions.

The danger of such cultural [terminology] is that the meaning of the word can be diluted, misunderstood, and lost.” 

“The danger of such cultural [terminology] surrounding the word ‘missionary’ is that the meaning of the word can be diluted, misunderstood, and lost.” 

“Here’s the reality: We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first.” – Oswald J. Smith

If we are all missionaries, then the meaning of the word is lost. They are empty euphemisms. Not only that, but as we seek only to bless those in our own zip code, we are in danger of losing the drive to reach the 2 billion plus people who have yet to hear the name of Jesus!

“If every Christian is already considered a missionary, then all can stay put where they are, and nobody needs to get up and go anywhere to preach the gospel. But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel? The present uneven distribution of Christians and opportunities to hear the gospel of Christ will continue on unchanged.” – C. Gordon Olson

“If every Christian is already considered a missionary, then all can stay put where they are, and nobody needs to get up and go anywhere to preach the gospel. But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel? The present uneven distribution of Christians and opportunities to hear the gospel of Christ will continue on unchanged.” – C. Gordon Olson

I’ve grown weary of the dubious response I receive when announcing my line of work with the term “missionary.” The word is too suspicious for me these days.

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“The “age of missions” is fading into the past,” says Rick Love. Old ways and traditional terms no longer fit the 21st century. For example, the term “missions” was first coined by Ignatius Loyola in the 1500s. But the term has sadly come to imply aggressive proselytism and cultural imperialism, rather than describing the peaceable way of Jesus.”

So I’ve made a decision. I am no longer a missionary. Instead, I refer to myself as a Missional Starter and Artistic Creative. Even though I am, in fact, a cross cultural missionary to Southeast Asia, I don’t feel that the title missionary holds as much weight anymore.

So I’ve made a decision. I am no longer a missionary. Instead, I refer to myself as a Missional Starter and Artistic Creative. Even though I am, in fact, a cross cultural missionary to Southeast Asia, I don’t feel that the title missionary holds as much weight anymore.

It’s a rebranding of myself and the calling and gifts that God has given me.

Yes, it may take a little more explanation the next time I tell someone I’m a Missional Starter, but that’s part of the fun! [CLICK TO TWEET]

What do you think? Do you still like the title missionary, or do you think Missional Starter and Artistic Creative better describes me?

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global

David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.


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