the weblog of Alan Knox

Staying home = missionary

Posted by on May 19, 2009 in discipleship, missional, scripture | 6 comments

There’s a misconception among many Christians that only those who travel away from home are “called” to be missionaries. In fact, this dichotomy is foreign to Scripture. Instead, all followers of Jesus Christ are “called” to be missionaries.

While the various “commission” passages in the Gospels and Acts indicate that God expects all of his children to “make disciples” and “be his witnesses”, there are other passages as well that show that this is exactly how the early church understood their purpose. In other words, the early church knew that they were to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ if the Spirit led them to travel away from home or if the Spirit led them to stay near their home.

For example, consider this passage from 1 Thessalonians:

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. (1 Thessalonians 1:4-8 ESV)

Paul says that he recognizes that they were changed by the power of Holy Spirit because of the way they responded to the gospel. God was now working through them (the Thessalonians) to both strengthen other believers in their regions (Macedonia and Achaia) and also to spread the “word of the Lord” through that region. In fact, Paul says that they were “imitators” of him and of those who were traveling with him.

This is very important: they were imitating Paul and other believers who were traveling away from home to spread the Gospel, but they were not traveling away from home to spread the Gospel. Instead, they were allowing God to use them in his work of reconciliation right in their home city and region. They were “missionaries” even though they did not travel away from home.

Unfortunately, when we use the term “missionary” today, we usually mean someone who travels away from home – either to another part of the world or another part of the country. There is certainly an indication in Scripture that the Spirit called some believers to travel from place to place. And, there is an indication in Scripture that the Spirit called some believers to stay in their home area.

But – and this is key – God worked through his “itinerant” servants and his “local” servants in much the same way! He used both to strengthen churches and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ – wherever they happened to be.

It is wonderful for us to recognize those believers who are following the Spirit of God to go to foreign lands to be used by him. We should recognize them, and pray for them, and send them, and encourage them!

We should also recognize that we are all “missionaries”, regardless of where God leads us to live, or whether or not God calls us to travel from place to place. Our “work” is the same: strengthen churches and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

So, are you a traveling missionary or a stay-at-home missionary? How’s the missionary work going for you? To be honest, it’s not going that great for me, and God is pointing that out.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-19-2009

    This is so true. It’s something I think we all need to be reminded of. I describe myself as a stay-at-home mum and I think that the first place of mission for me is actually in my home, with my two boys – I am trying to be a witness of Jesus to them and to lead them into a life of discipleship with Christ. I hope that trying to be an imitator of Jesus will have more of an impact on them than me just telling them what to believe. (Of course there are times when it doesn’t go according to plan – I mess up! But I hope at those times they see that I rely on God, and so can they.)

  2. 5-19-2009

    some super-awesome points in this post… amen to them all…

    I remember when I was in a “missions” organization for a couple years, everyone was expected to give their “missions testimony”, to share about how we received our secondary “missions calling”… I could never do it, though at the time I didn’t understand why, I thought I was just not as spiritual as everyone else. Now I know that it was because there is no such thing as any kind of “secondary calling” whether to “missions”, or the “pastorate”, or any other kind of higher tier of “ministry”…. Thanks for writing this… Daniel

  3. 5-19-2009


    Sometimes it is easier to go to the outter most parts than it is our own communities. Especially our neighbors and coworkers. Many people skip over those they are in direct relationship with. I don’t know why, I guess it is not as “spiritual” to minister to your neighbors. I know many people who come to me for fundraising and the first question I ask is if they have been a missionary to their family, friends and own neighborhood. It seems that is the way it worked in scripture though. I guess if it is my neighbor the reward may be a cost.

  4. 5-19-2009


    Yep, we all mess up. Thank God for his grace and his Spirit to continue moving us in the right direction… if we let him. To be honest, I’ve fought against this for too long.

    Daniel (Like a Mustard Seed),

    Yes, we’re all called to be ministers and we’re all called to be missionaries. I think the Anabapists got this right.


    I would have to include myself in those who would be willing to go around the world to spread the gospel but would have problems going across the street. God willing, that is changing.


  5. 5-20-2009


    Thanks for this post. We are all called to be ‘ministers’/ ‘missionaries’ wherever The Lord has placed us. I really appreciate what rachy said, that her first place of mission is in her home. Amen.

    So many of our wives actually feel guilty for being at home ministering to their families. They have been convinced that ‘real ministry’ takes place ‘out there’.

    again Alan …. thanks

  6. 5-20-2009


    Yes, our work as ministers and missionaries start where we are – our home, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, etc.