There are lots of different kinds of missionaries. The wonderfully diverse nature of God and His infinitely creative design move people to mission with Him in peculiar ways unto the reconciliation of all things. (Colossians 1:20)
This is not hard science and is not for the purposes of peg holing people into a role, but to inspire thought and to ask yourself; “What kind of missionary am I?” Let’s proceed…
1. The Paul-Type Missionary – The Paul-type Missionary is a modern-day missionary sent by the Lord with a passion to establish families of disciples which gather in a way that is indigenously suited to them, and where leadership emerges organically. He or She has a passion which burns within until that particular passion or segment of mission is thought to be fulfilled. (2 Timothy 4:7) His overseer-ship is not captured by his own efforts, but confirmed by the church body at large(Galatians 1: 18-22). The Lord brings other gifted people alongside this missionary to fill in what is lacking in his gifts so the task can be fulfilled. Paul was called by God to make disciple making people among the Gentiles (1 Timothy 1: 1-4; Titus 1).
2. The Peter-Type Missionary – The Peter-Type Missionary seems to be a modern-day missionary who is called to minister within existing institutions, systems, orthodoxies, denominations, and conventional structures expressed in varying degrees of liturgy and worship. Their focus, I think, is directed towards those who have not yet embraced the missionary call of all believers. These missionaries are often challenged and exhorted for propagating a disconnected form and artifact instead of genuine discipleship, but we must allow them, like Peter primarily dedicated to the Jews, to make course corrections from within. I also think that too many have placed themselves in this category for fear of ministering ‘outside of the box.’
3. The Timothy-Type Missionary – The Timothy-Type Missionaries are apprentices of existing disciple makers who receives their commission from their mentors and from God. He or she often works towards the visionary missionary goal of those who are already in motion. This type of missionary often assumes a role ‘under’ the leadership of another. The sphere of ministry is usually, but not always encapsulated within the larger sphere of missionary workers that have ‘gone before.’ These types of missionaries are often pastoral or working with pastors.
4. The Titus-Type Missionary – The Titus type Missionary is a missionary whose scope is regional. (Titus 1:5) They often demonstrate ‘problem solving’ skills in a loosely connected but dynamic network of existing churches. They don’t usurp authority, but are known for wisdom and are recognized and encouraged by the region in which they serve.
5. The James-Type Missionary – The James-type Missionary is a missionary who has God-given spiritual authority in a city or a local area. Sometimes this type of missionary can look like a mega-church pastor. James was appointed by God to serve the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15). He had missionary/apostolic authority in the city of Jerusalem. Whenever apostles or church leaders came to Jerusalem, they met with James and the elders (Acts 12: 17; 21: 18).
6. The Apollos-Type Missionary – The Apollos Type Missionary is characteristically a teaching missionary. (Acts 18: 24-28; 1 Cor. 4: 6,9). Apollos had been given missionary authority for the ministry of teaching the Scriptures by other missionaries. There are diverse Apollos-type missionaries in the Body of Christ today just as there are many types of teaching.
7. The Luke-Type Missionary – The Luke Type Missionary is a missionary to the ‘market place.’ Luke served on Paul’s team of missionaries. The Luke-Type missionary is gifted to work in business, media, art, education, and dare I say, politics. Not everyone is a Luke-Type Missionary and neither is everyone called to be. The bi-vocational designation is often insufficient. They thens towards multi-vocation.
8. The Barnabas-Type Missionary – The Barnabas-type Missionary is a modern-day networker and one who enjoys being a spiritual parent and an encourager amongst siblings. For example, when many in the early Church were afraid of Saul due to his background of persecuting believers in Christ, Barnabas saw potential in him. When Barnabas noticed a great need for an apostolic teacher in Antioch, he invited Saul to serve with the Antioch church. And it was here that Barnabas and Saul were sent out as apostles to start new churches in other regions. When the time was right (see Acts 13: 13), Barnabas was willing to allow Saul to lead the missionary team. He was a true spiritual father.
9. The Silas-Type Missionary – The Silas-Type Missionary assists or serves ground breaking missionaries. For example, Silas seemed to be a key assistant to Paul. When Barnabas decided not to accompany Paul on his second missionary journey, Silas was chosen to go along with Paul as his assistant and companion (Acts 15: 40). Both Silas and Timothy served with Paul on his missionary team and are often mentioned in Scripture together (Acts 17: 14-15; 18: 5; 2 Cor. 1: 19). Yet, Silas is always mentioned first. In First Peter 5: 12 , Paul refers to Silas as a faithful brother who has helped him.
10. The John-Type of Missionary – The John Type of Missionary is one who can be characterized as a missionary of love. The greatest emphasis in the life of the apostle John was love. This type of nurturing missionary has great influence in the Body of Christ, but may not fit into one of the other apostolic roles spelled out in this list. However, they are committed to unity in the Body of Christ and they have an ability to cross denominational lines due to their God-given apostolic gifting.
Not every missionary can be categorized into one of the types above. I suppose, if we worked together, we could collectively come up with many more types of missionaries. Also, these ‘types’ of missionaries cannot exist independently of each other, and it is crucial that we do not become judgmental or overly critical of other types of missionaries. I’ll confess that I have done that more often than I should.
Jesus is the archetypal missionary, all other types are derived from Him. (John 20:21)
Through God’s manifold nature and the way He chooses people from every tribe, nation, and tongue to communicate His Gospel to creation, we become the unified threads in His purposeful and conciliatory tapestry.
What other kinds of missionaries are there?
What type are you?
Use the comment section at your leisure.
*This bulk of this post is adapted from Pierce, Chuck; Kreider, Larry; Stearns, Robert (2011-07-28). Return to Authentic Christianity: An In-depth look at 12 Vital Issues Facing Today's Church (Chapter 11)