Missionary

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This article is about the religious missionary. For the sexual practice, see Missionary position. For the US generation, see Missionary Generation.

A missionary is a propagator of religion, often an evangelist or other representative of a religious community who works among those outside of that community. The English word "missionary" is derived from Latin, the equivalent of the Greek-derived word, "apostle". Although missionaries can be sent by any religion, the word is most often used to refer to Christian missionaries.

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Jewish missions

In ancient times, the Hebrew patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah were considered to be the prime role-models to "convert" the masses to Monotheism based on the verse in the Book of Genesis:

"God said to Abram, 'Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you ... Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all their belongings, as well as the people they had gathered, and they left, heading toward Canaan..." [1] (Genesis 12:1;5).

"[T]he people they had gathered" is interpreted to mean the people whom Abraham and Sarah had brought over to the belief in the Hebrew God worshipped by Abraham and Sarah themselves.

In modern times, Jewish teachers repudiate proselytization. One basic argument is that all people have the law of God in their heart to a limited degree, and that to teach them more would be to make them responsible for more than Jewish law requires of them. That is, they would start as virtuous gentiles, protected by their lack of formal Torah observance, but after contact with Jewish teachings they would be held accountable to a higher Jewish religious standard. Non-Jews are therefore encouraged to observe the universal "Seven Noahide Laws" through which they can attain all their pre-destined goals in the world during their entire lifetimes.

However, most Jewish religious groups encourage "Outreach" to Jews alienated from their own heritage due to assimilation and intermarriage. The overall movement encourages Jews to become more observant of Jewish religious law (known as halakha). Those people who do become religious are known as Baal teshuvas. The large Hasidic group known as Chabad Lubavitch has internationally promoted such "outreach." Others, such as the National Jewish Outreach Program do the same in North America.

In recent times, members of the Reform Judaism movement began a program to convert to Judaism the non-Jewish spouses of its intermarried members and non-Jews who have an interest in Judaism. Their rationale is that so many Jews were lost during the Holocaust that newcomers must be sought out and welcomed. This approach has been repudiated by Orthodox and Conservative Jews as unrealistic and posing a danger. They say that these efforts make Judaism seem an easy religion to join and observe when in reality being Jewish entails many difficulties and sacrifices.

Catholic missions

During the Age of Discovery, the Roman Catholic Church established a number of Missions in the Americas, in order to spread Christianity in the New World and to convert the Native Americans. These are arguably the most well-known missions in History.

Examples

Christian missions

Since the Lausanne Congress of 1974, a widely accepted definition of a Christian mission has been "to form a viable indigenous church-planting movement." This definition is motivated by theological analyses of the acts required to enhance God's reputation (usually expressed as "glory" or "honor"). The definition is claimed to summarize the acts of Jesus' ministry, which is taken as a model for all minstries. The motivation is said to be God's will, plainly stated throughout the Bible, including the Old Testament.

Most missionaries promote economic development, literacy, education, health care and orphanages as well, because these all promote the glory of God. Standard Christian doctrines (the Doctrine of Love) cause most missions to give this aid without requiring conversion.

In the Bible

According to the documents of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, the Biblical authority for missions begins quite early in Genesis, 12:1-3, in which Abraham is blessed so that through him and his descendants, all the "peoples" of the world would be blessed. The Bible also says in Matthew 28:20 that the apostles were to "make disciples of all nations" Others point to God's wish, often expressed in the Bible, that all peoples of the earth would worship Him. Therefore, Christian missions go where worship is not, in order to bring worship to God...

See also: Christian Mission

Jehovah's Witness missionaries

Jehovah's Witnesses are known for their missionary activities. Typically, all adult Witnesses are expected to spend ten hours every week "witnessing" in their area. Depending on the laws in the respective country, this can take the form of proselytizing door to door, distribution of magazines and other literature (among these, The Watchtower and Awake!) and responding to questions by passers-by.

Missionaries take on special tasks, such as publishing in remote areas. This requires a commitment to at least 130 hours in the public ministry. To prepare them for this, a special training course is provided annually for Jehovah's Witnesses who have proven an ability to perform this service. Normally they attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Called Pioneer service, it is of particular importance in areas where the need of publishers is great. The requirements are challenging, as Jehovah's Witnesses do not receive salaries for their minsterial work. A Pioneer strives for self-sufficiency, working part or full time while fulfilling ministerial obligations, especially important when working in poorer nations where they need to provide for their own needs while organizing congregations.

LDS missionaries

Main article: Mormon missionary

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the most active modern practitioners of missionary work. Young men between the ages of 19 and 26 are strongly encouraged to go on a two-year, full-time proselyting mission. This is usually served in a foreign country or different area of the country from where the missionary's home is. Young women and retired couples may serve missions as well. Missionaries typically spend one to two months in the Missionary Training Center(MTC) in Provo, UT or in other MTC's throughout the world studying scripture, learning new languages, and otherwise preparing themselves for the culture in which they will be living. The LDS church has about 60,000 missionaries worldwide. [2]

External links

Individual missionary links

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