Abuse of Words (III)

Wright Randolph
Cincinnati, Ohio

Having discussed the word "'mission" in a preceding article, we now turn our attention to one of its relatives, the noun form of the word, "missionary." Much like the word "mission," this word is defined by the lexicographer as "A person sent by a church into an area, especially into a newly settled region of a foreign country, to carry on evangelism or other activities." It is well to state once again that these definitions are given in the light of present day use of the word. It is in this sense that people use it today. We have no quarrel with such use except in one area . . . that of Christianity, or where members of the Lord's church resort, almost wholly, to this use.

I have pointed out, in connection with the word "mission," that an error has been made in using that word in lieu of the word "church." I can also say that, the same error is made in the use of the term "missionary" in lieu of the word "Preacher" or "evangelist."

In McGarveys commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, he refers to a statement supposedly made by Petronius, the Roman satirist, "It was easier to find a god than a man in Athens." If this be true of the "gods" of Athens, it is, equally true of our use of the word "missionary." It is much easier to find a "missionary" than it is to find a gospel preacher. There seems to be a distinct difference in the two terms and the use made of them by religious writers. John Doe may be just a simple, down to earth, gospel preacher in Any City, U.S.A. - but when he leaves that place to go to some foreign country where there is no church, he automatically ceases to be a "gospel preacher" and becomes a "missionary." This usage of the word is not limited to the realm of the unlearned; it is commonly used by those "who seem to be somewhat" among us. I have before me the August issue of Oklahoma Christian College Bulletin. In this issue is a front page article under the caption "World Mission Workshop" in which is listed a number of participants. I ask you to note the identification: (italics mine, WR)

Bob Douglas, missionary to Lebanon,

David Caskey, Denton, Texas, former missionary in East Africa,

Don Shackelford, missionary to Italy,

Ellis E. Long, missionary to Brazil,

Abe Lincoln, Jr. missionary to Africa,

William Miller missionary to the Bahamas,

Ted Kell, missionary in the Wisconsin area,

Otis Gatewood, missionary to the Iron Curtain countries,

Wendell Broom, missionary to Nigeria.

Some of the men listed here as "missionaries" I have known in the past as just "preachers." And, before becoming addicted to this "missionary fantasy," they did a rather respectable job of preaching the truth.

It would naturally follow, where you have so many of these "missionaries" you win have need of some "Directors" of their activities, and so we have listed, "Dr. George Gurganus, Dr. Joe Hacker, and Dr. Carl Mitchell." These men, associated with Abilene Christian College, Harding College, and Pepperdine College respectively, are identified as "mission program directors."

Where you have so much of the ingredient "missionary," it is a rather safe deduction that you will wind up with a "Society" to bind them together - and this will be the title of a following paper!

January 28, 1971