About Missio Works
Back when I was growing up in the 80's and 90's, "missions work" used to be defined as being a missionary fully supported by a local church or denomination. That was what it meant to have a true vocation or calling. Everything else was "secular work."
There's been a broadening revolution of sorts in what counts as "missions work" within the church. “Missions work” now encompasses short-term mission trips, social justice activities, business as missions, compassion ministries, etc. But outside of the church, there have always been non-Christian "missionaries" from other religions and secular "missionaries" that see their work as mission-driven, which includes people in both nonprofits and for-profit companies that feel animated by a larger purpose and a sense of calling.
What ties this entire ecosystem of “missions work” together? It's not just about having a mission statement. The word “mission” comes from the Latin word ‘missio,’ which means ‘to be sent.’ It's about having a discipline, one cultivated over time by experience, that understands your work as serving a larger mission, bringing about a greater good in this world and/or beyond. There is an intentionality to your work, perhaps even a sense of calling. Christian missions is just a single slice within this larger ecosystem of missio work. How can we learn from these multifaceted disciplines across an entire missio ecosystem?
At some point we need to own the fact that Christians do not have a monopoly over "missions work," nor are we always the most sought-after “missions workers.” We need to be aware of other missions workers. We have to learn from other organizations who are also on a "mission" and thinkers who challenge our faith-assumptions who are asking similar questions about what it means to do good and succeed in our respective missions. This is not a veiled argument for ecumenicalism. We just need to become humbly aware of all the mission-activity around us, if only so we are not repeating each other’s errors.
At the same time, we need to ask ourselves, “What makes Christian missions unique?” This is a big question that I’ll be asking throughout this blog. My belief is that Christian missionaries, perhaps more than any other missionaries, offer a deeper and more enduring hopeful message: that we can be saved from our egos and all that we feel enslaved by. This is a message that we must exemplify on a daily basis in our personal lives. Knowing that we, too, must be saved should be the source of our humility.
My personal grownup journey into "missions work" began twenty years ago. While working in my stress-packed corporate job, I began volunteering with different missions-organizations, supporting “missions as a hobby.” I found that I was fearless in my volunteer work and felt free to take smarter risks because I didn't idolize my performance like I did in my day job.
I eventually transitioned to working in missions full-time; I work in a traditional missions organization and a compassion-activist nonprofit. My work has been everything that I longed for and expected, even though there have been plenty of bumps along the way. I know that the secret to keeping it fulfilling is to not fixate on my vocation and treat it as a work-salvation. This blog is an account of my reflections on how to tread that line, as well as my observations on this revolutionary missio ecosystem.