The above quote by Charles Spurgeon has been making the rounds on Twitter and facebook recently. I have benefited from Spurgeon’s sermons and writings and life story for a number of years. But at the risk of killing a sacred cow here, I must say, “I disagree.”
Let me start by saying, I am fine with saying every Christian is to be salt and light where they find themselves. And I agree that our speech should be appropriately seasoned with words which betray our faith sooner or later. And contrary to popular opinion on what I have previously written, I am not against missions or evangelism.
If it is true, that every christian is a missionary, then the word really has no meaning beyond what a Christian should be doing, missions. There is no point in calling missionaries to Eritrea, “missionaries” because accountants in Meridian are doing the same thing. The word becomes nearly meaningless. And while most missionaries, who have have cast off the comforts of ours for foreign lands, would be too gracious to be bothered by the idea, it would be understandable if they were just a little put-off by such an idea. Of course, then we would criticize them for pride. “Oh you are a Nurse! Me too! I just told my sister to take some Ibuprofen.”
Nursing your children back to health does not make you a Nurse.
My guess is people love the quote because they are still mired in the paradigm of elevating misionary work as the height of spirituality. Ordinary work that is not vocational ministry is not valuable enough in the kingdom if we are not using it as a vehicle for witnessing to people. It is not dignified by itself as kingdom work, something more is needed. So we call ourselves missionaries to justify our taking up of spiritual space.
However, I think most people mean well. Their thinking about Christianity is primarily defined by evangelism and missions. This is not merely part of the Christian experience, it defines it.
All of this seems to support a paradigm of thinking foreign to the New Testament writers. In other words, the quote demands we see ourselves as missionaries. If we do not, then we are impostors. Also, we must see others the same way. “Are they living like missionaries? Well they are impostors, if not.” The problem with this is that the writers of the NT do not ever talk like this. No one is ever called out for the sin of not being a missionary or witnessing or evangelizing. No one’s salvation is ever questioned for anything of the sort.
So while I understand the need for all Christians to be salt and light I disagree with Spurgeon on this. It confuses the difference between those who go and those who stay. And also it evaluates someone’s faith based on a variable of the christian life which almost goes entirely unmentioned in the New Testament letters to the churches.