"You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” Indigo Montoya, Princess Bride
Words can instill meaning and purpose. They can just as much sway folks to our cause, and can be used to quickly express our intent. Using the right term is critical and understanding the definition use is even more so.
Let’s take the word missionary. It’s a simple enough word we have all heard and I am sure we have an idea of its meaning. We might even know missionaries so we feel pretty good about knowing the definition.
The definition of missionary is a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, such as educational or hospital work. Fun fact, the word missionary was first used in 1625.
Seems easy enough. But WAIT! That isn’t what I am thinking when I hear the word missionary.
When I hear missionary, I think of folks leaving their current life and going to another country, learning a new language, sacrificing their current life and lively hood, living with another group of people, and being sent by a local church to share the gospel of Jesus and to shine Christ’s life into the lives of others.
Similar and yet different. Notice how my definition says another country and sacrifice?
And by the way, I have a natural inkling to want to support missionaries because I believe they are sacrificing to share the gospel, so I can sacrifice to help. See how using terminology is critical?
If you agree with me, the story is over. If you don’t agree with me, let's continue on.
We as Christians are called to the great commission. Our lives are always on mission to share the gospel whether it’s with family, work, streams, neighbors or communities.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20
Based on what I deem a missionary, digital missionaries are not missionaries.
I have struggled with this for the last year after getting to know streamers and gamers wanting to share the gospel, missionaries in other countries, and even some of my church friends who are going overseas for 5-year mission trips.
Based on the definition I laid out for a missionary; digital ones are not missionaries. Where is the sacrifice and going to another country?
Gamers can feel to others as if they are in another world. So, I give that one as similar to another country. So, I am left with where is the sacrifice?
Consider this. If you are looking to be fully funded as a digital missionary, then why not go overseas where the cost of living is cheaper and still having the bandwidth to stream? Full time streaming doesn’t care about your location.
What happens once you get enough subs and sponsors? I think that is a good goal so folks like me funding the initial stage can go support another.
We resist allowing someone to call themselves pastor just because they call themselves pastor. Are they ordained or trained or work for a church? You need to be a degreed engineer to be called an engineer. Why are we OK with missionary being used similarly?
Now, I don’t think there is ill intent to mislead others by calling oneself a digital missionary. My caution is in using the term missionary as a 'cheat code' that gets the point across without having to explain the finer details, especially to those who are not streamers or gamers.
Christians are always on the mission field. Whether it's family, work, neighbors, streams, associations, clubs, etc. Christian steamers are no different and their ministry is no less important. We just need some new terminology for the digital online presence. It’s not a missionary.
PLEASE don’t think online evangelism and sharing of the gospel is not important. Online evangelism is very important. I fear that it will get watered down if you call it something it isn't by taking on or co-opting the term and taking away from the meaning by using missionary.
How about Christian Streamer or Streamer Evangelist or Evangelist Streamer or Christian or Streamer?
Anyone got some better ideas? Let me know.