Missionary

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A missionary is traditionally defined as a propagator of religion who works to convert those outside that community; someone who proselytizes. While some faiths like Judaism, Mandaeism, Parsees or those focused on ancestor cult and/or local spirits, as in Animism and Shintoism make little or no effort to spread beyond their ethno-cultural home societies, many religious groups engage in missionary activities.

The word "missionary" is derived from Latin missio 'sending', the equivalent of the Greek-derived word apostle "messenger". In predominantly Judeo-Christian cultures and their languages, such as English, the term is most commonly used for missions to propagate Biblical faiths, but it applies just as well to any proselytizing creed or ideology. Buddhism, in fact, launched 'the first large-scale missionary effort in the history of the world's religions' (Foltz, R.C., Religions of the silk road, 1999, p.37).

Missionaries of all religions make up just one component of Faith-Based Foreign Aid. Furthermore, historically alternative, often less ethical, conversion-inducing methods were rather based on force, employing trade, economic and military methods including religious war, (see Christian Crusades and the Islamic Jihad for examples), or via socio-economic stimuli by the dominant religion (such as reserving offices and privileges, and/or lower taxation for adherents).

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[edit] Christian missions

Since the Lausanne Congress of 1974, a widely accepted Protestant definition of a Christian mission has been "to form a viable indigenous church-planting movement." As a matter of justice being at the heart of the Gospels, most modern missionaries now promote economic development, literacy, education, health care and establishing orphanages as well as education in political consciousness and analysis.

[edit] Biblical mandate

Biblical authority for missions appears first in Genesis, 12:1-3, where Abram is blessed so that through him and his descendants, all the "peoples" of the world would be blessed. The New Testament further says in Matthew 28:19 that the apostles were to "make disciples of all nations". This New Testament reference is understood by Christian missionaries as the Great Commission to engage in missionary work.

[edit] Catholic missions

The New Testament missionary outreach of the Christian church from the time of St Paul was extensive throughout the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages the Christian monasteries and missionaries such as Saint Patrick, Saint Boniface and Adalbert of Prague propagated learning and religion beyond the boundaries of the old Roman Empire. In the 7th century Gregory the Great sent missionaries including Augustine of Canterbury into England. During the Age of Discovery, the Roman Catholic Church established a number of Missions in the Americas and other colonies through the Augustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans in order to spread Christianity in the New World and to convert the Native Americans and other indigenous people. At the same time, missionaries such as Francis Xavier as well as other Jesuits, Augustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans were moving into Asia and the far East. The Portuguese sent missions into Africa. These are some of the most well-known missions in history. While some of these missions were associated with imperialism and oppression, others (notably Matteo Ricci's Jesuit mission to China) were relatively peaceful and focused on integration rather than cultural imperialism.

Much contemporary Catholic missionary work has undergone profound change since the Second Vatican Council, and has become explicitly conscious of Social Justice issues and the dangers of cultural imperialism or economic exploitation disguised as religious conversion. Contemporary Christian missionaries argue that working for justice is a constitutive part of preaching the Gospel, and observe the principles of Inculturation in their missionary work.

As the church normally organizes itself along territorial lines, and because they had the human and material resources, religious orders, some even specializing in it, undertook most missionary work, especially in the early phases. Over time a normalised church structure was gradually established in the mission area, often starting with special jurisdictions known as apostolic prefectures and apostolic vicariates. These developing churches eventually intended 'graduating' to regular diocesan status with a local episcopacy appointed, especially after declonization, as the church sructures often reflect the political-administrative reality.

[edit] Orthodox missions

The Greek Orthodox Church and then the Orthodox Church of Constantinople was vigorous in its missionary outreach under the Roman Empire and continuing Byzantine Empire, and its missionary outreach had lasting effect, either founding, influencing or establishing formal relations with some 16 Orthodox national churches including the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (both said to have been founded by the missionary Apostle Andrew), the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (said to have been founded by the missionary Apostle Paul). The two ninth century saints Cyril and Methodius had extensive missionary success in Eastern Europe. The Byzantines expanded their missionary work in the Ukraine after a mass baptism in Kiev in 988. The Serbian Orthodox Church had its origins in the conversion by Byzantine missionaries of the Serb tribes when they arrived in the Balkans before the eleventh century. Orthodox missionaries also worked successfully among the Estonians from the 10th to the 12th centuries founding the Estonian Orthodox Church.

Under the Russian empire of the 19th century, missionaries such as Nicholas Ilminsky moved into the subject lands and propagated Orthodoxy, including through Belarus, Latvia, Moldavia, Finland, Estonia, the Ukraine, and China. The Russian St. Nikolai of Japan took Eastern Orthodoxy to Japan in the 19th century. The Russian Orthodox Church also sent missionaries to Alaska beginning in the 18th century, including Saint Herman of Alaska, and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia continued missionary work outside Russia after the 1917 Russian Revolution.

[edit] The British Missionary Societies

Main articles: London Missionary Society and Church Missionary Society

The London Missionary Society was an extensive Anglican and Nonconformist missionary society formed in England in 1795 with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa. It now forms part of the Council for World Mission. The Anglican Church Missionary Society was also founded in England in 1799, and continues its work today. These organisations spread through the extensive 18th and 19th century colonial British Empire, establishing the network of churches that largely became the modern Anglican Communion.

[edit] Evangelical Church missions

With a dramatic increase in efforts since the 1900s, but a strong push since the Lausanne I: The International Congress on World Evangelization in Switzerland in 1974, [1] evangelical groups have focused efforts on sending missionaries to every ethnic group in the world. While this effort has not been completed, increased attention has brought larger numbers of people distributing Bibles, Jesus videos, and establishing evangelical churches in more remote, less Christianized areas.

Internationally, the focus for many years in the later 20th century was on reaching every "people group" with the Christianity by the year 2000. Bill Bright's leadership with Campus Crusade www.ccci.org, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board www.imb.org, The Joshua Project http://www.joshuaproject.net/, and others brought about the need to know who these "unreached people groups are" and how those wanting to tell about a Christian God and share a Christian Bible could reach them. The focus for these organizations transitioned from a "country focus" to a "people group focus." (From: What is a People Group? Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins A "people group" is an ethnolinguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the various members. There are two parts to that word: ethno and linguistic. Language is a primary and dominant identifying factor of a people group. But there are other factors that determine or are associated with ethnicity.)

What can be viewed as a success by those inside and outside the church from this focus is a higher level of cooperation and friendliness among churches and denominations. It is very common for those working on international fields to not only cooperate in efforts to share their gospel message but view the work of their groups in a similar light. Also, with the increased study and awareness of different people groups, western mission efforts have become far more sensitive to the cultural nuances of those they are going to and those they are working with in the effort.

Over the years, as indigenous churches have matured, the church of the "Global South" (Africa, Asia and Latin America) has become the driving force in missions. Korean and African missionaries can now be found all over the world. Unburdened by Western cultural blindspots, these missionaries represent a major shift in Church history.

Brazil, Nigeria and other countries have had large numbers of their Christian adherents go to other countries and start churches. These non-western missionaries often have unparalleled success because they need few western resources and comforts to sustain their livelihood while doing the work they have chosen among a new culture and people.

[edit] Jehovah's Witness missionaries

See also: Organizational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses are known for their missionary activities. Typically, all adult Witnesses are expected to spend time every week "witnessing" in their area. Depending on the civil law in the respective country, this may take the form of proselytizing door to door, distribution of magazines and other literature such as The Watchtower and Awake! or responding to the questions of passersby.

[edit] Latter-Day Saint 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 encouraged to go on a two-year, full-time proselytizing mission. This is usually served in a foreign country or different area of the country from where the missionary lives. 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, Utah, or in other MTCs 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 52,000 missionaries worldwide. [2]

[edit] Muslim missionary activity (Dawah)

Dawah means to "invite" (in Arabic) to Islam, the second largest religion next to Christianity. From the 7th century it spread rapidly from the Arabian Peninsula with explorers, traders and caravans after the death of the prophet Muhammad.

Political leaders (originally the Caliphs, meant to head both religion and the universal Islamic community) actively and often aggressively spread their rule, thus spreading a wider Muslim social order. To those ends many waged holy wars (the military application of jihad 'by the sword', jihad bis saif) against non-Muslim states, or even declared a war holy against 'heretical' muslims. For example, the Islamic conquest of the Indian subcontinent proceeded through the 7th to 12th centuries.

In some Muslim states, other creeds were treated as a protected minority, such as the millets in the Ottoman empire and even the Hindu majority in 'Hind'(ustan) of the Mughal Empire - as long as they accepted Muslim rule, refrained from public worship and paid a tax called jizya. While these state actions certainly went further than strictly missionary activity, they served as a great aid in converting conquered lands. Once state authority was wrested from the Dar al-Harb (land of war) to the Dar al-Islam (land of Islam), Islamic rulers such as in the Balkans under the Ottoman Empire were relatively accommodating for non-Muslims, especially the people of the book" (Christians and Jews) - despite the controversial devshirme recruitment of Janissary troops under the Ottomans.

Islam moved into Europe, Africa and Southern Asia through explorers and later Arab generals, sometimes resulting in both small conflicts and larger battles like the Battle of Kosovo in 1448, the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the 1456 Siege of Belgrade and the Siege of Vienna in 1529.

However, once the political expansion, "planting the green banner of faith" had met its limits, the focus had to shift from the "integral" model of Islamizing whole communities, to voluntary conversion drives, or "dawah", which had always been important.

Since the 20th century, funding by Muslim governments was used to open Islamic schools and mosques. Generous donations, especially from Gulf States, has enabled Islam to make significant advances, especially in Africa.

A Muslim missionary is often called a Caller to Islam which is the English adaptation of the Arabic word Da`ee or Da'i for one who proselytises for Islam.

See a List of callers to Islam for prominent Da`ees.

[edit] Jewish missions

Despite some uncharacteristic inter-Testamental Jewish missionary activity, contemporary Judaism states clearly that it is not missionary, and conversion occurs chiefly through marriage of non-Jews to Jews.

Modern Jewish teachers repudiate proselytization of Gentiles in order to convert them. The reason for this is that Gentiles already have a complete relationship with God via the Noahidic covenant (See Noahide Laws); there is therefore no need for them to become Jewish, which requires more work of them. In addition, Judaism espouses a concept of "quality" not "quantity". It is more important in the eyes of Jews to have converts who are completely committed to observing Jewish law, than to have converts who will violate the Abrahamic covenant into which they have been initiated.

On the other hand, most Jewish religious groups encourage "Outreach" to Jews alienated from their own heritage owing 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 American Reform 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.

[edit] Eastern traditions

The first missions in history were sent by the Dharmic religions, in particular, Buddhism, have a history of successful missions from India, where they originated, and some branches still are very active, as well as various related syncretisms.

[edit] Buddhist Missions

Main article: Buddhism in the West

The first Buddhist missionaries were called "Dharma Bhanaks". The Emperor Ashoka was a significant early Buddhist missioner. In the 3rd century BCE, Dharmaraksita - among others - was sent out by emperor Ashoka to proselytize the Buddhist tradition through the Indian Maurya Empire, but also into the Mediterranean as far as Greece. Buddhism was spread among the Turkic people during the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C. into modern-day Pakistan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, eastern and coastal Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. It was also taken into China brought by An Shigao in the 2nd century BCE.

The use of missions, formation of councils and monastic institutions influenced the emergence of Christian missions and organizations which had similar structures formed in places which were formerly Buddhist missions.

Duiring the 19th and 20th centuries, Western intellectuals such as Schopenhauer, Henry David Thoreau, Max Müller and esoteric societies such as the Theosophical Society of H.P. Blavatsky and the Buddhist Society, London spread interest in Buddhism. Writers such as Hermann Hesse and Jack Kerouac, in the West, and the hippie generation of the late 1960s and early 1970s led to a re-discovery of Buddhism. During the 20th and 21st centuries Buddhism has again been propagated by missionaries into the West such as the Dalai Lama and monks including Lama Surya Das (Tibetan Buddhism). Tibetan Buddhism has been significantly active and successful in the West since the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1959.

[edit] Non-religious missionaries

The original meaning of the word "missionary" is not specifically religious, but refers instead to anyone who attempts to convert others to a particular doctrine or program.

[edit] See also

[edit] Sources and references

[edit] External links

zh-min-nan:Thoân-kàu-sū bg:Мисионер da:Missionær de:Missionar it:Missionario lb:Missionnär nl:Missionaris ja:宣教師 ru:Миссионерство sl:Misijonar tr:Misyoner zh:传教士

Missionary

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