A team from two churches and one parachurch ministry has caught a vision for missions. Members travel regularly to Bangladesh to train pastors, minister to orphaned girls, and plant churches. The needs and opportunities in the South Asian nation of 153 million people, 99 percent of whom are Muslim or Hindu, are seemingly endless. According to the Operation World prayer guide, Christians there face discrimination from extremist Muslim groups. Compounding their difficulties is that despite the country's rapid economic growth, per-capita GDP stands at an anemic $1,300—or $3.56 a day.
When team members share their passion for Bangladesh with American Christians, they hear an all-too-typical response: "We have enough poor people in our nation to take care of without you going to some other country." In fact, many Westerners wonder whether we still need to send missionaries at all.
Our doubt springs from some common misconceptions. Before we can examine them, however, we need to agree on some definitions. The English word mission comes from the Latin mitto, which is a translation of the Greek apostello, which means "to send." Okay, a missionary is sent, but what does a missionary do? The best-known missionary marching orders come from Jesus, who said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations [ethne, in Greek], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." So at rock bottom, a missionary makes disciples, in addition to all the other good works he or she may be called to do.
Now, on to those misconceptions:
"There are pressing needs right here." When you think of all the poor living in the shadows of the American dream, all the ...