Those privy to deliberations within our Village Missions office, especially as it relates to printed matter, know that I often substitute the term “Village Missionary” for “pastor.” I have actually cringed when I see a Village Missionary referred to as a pastor, although I know in many ways the term pastor describes our role. I also know that referring to someone as a Village Missionary who, in most respects, seems to be a pastor, causes confusion on the part of many. So why do I prefer the title “Village Missionary” to “pastor” or even “rural pastor?”
Pastor Couples Serving as a Team
One reason is that the term “Village Missionary” includes our wives. Although having a different role and not a pastor, she is just as much a Village Missionary! Carole and I have functioned as a team throughout our ministry and she has been a Village Missionary just as much as I have. I seem to recall that we both filled out applications! Thus, in communications about Village Missions I like to include our wives in the ministry because they are!
Pastors Thinking Outside the Church
I also like the term “Village Missionary” because of the growing need to think like a missionary in today’s world. George Barna recently identified 15 post-Christian metrics, including such items as “Do not believe in God,” “Identify as an atheist or agnostic,” “Disagree that faith is important in their lives,” etc. Someone qualifying as post-Christian needed to meet 60% or more of the 15 metrics. Using this methodology, Barna found that the number of post-Christians in the United States had jumped 7% to 44% just from 2013 to 2015—an amazing increase in a short period.
Pastors Meeting Rising Challenges
Such statistics translate into the reality that we can no longer assume people will have any understanding of Christianity beyond what someone in “darkest Africa” might have. I often tell the story of the teenager in one of our youth groups who heard the name “Jesus Christ” mentioned and who thought the leader was cursing. Our two countries are indeed mission fields that need missionaries!
Pastors Bridging a Culture Gap
The term “Village Missionary” helps us to realize that we will both have to bridge cultural gaps in understanding as well as earn the right to be heard. Just as a missionary would have to do overseas, we will have to study the culture and find culturally relevant points of communication. In addition, we will have to attempt to understand the rural culture in which we serve. The term “missionary” helps us take the right approach to ministry in our world.
Pastors With A Mission
“Village Missionary” also communicates that we are on “mission” with God to reach lost people and to build His church. We are willing to go to the “unremembered” places of our country so that they too will have a chance to hear the Gospel. Even in our larger church settings, it still communicates that we have a mission to fulfill that transcends the walls of the church. To me it communicates the entrepreneurial, energetic passion to see Jesus Christ make a difference in the lives of people and even in the life of a community.
Pastors Shepherding God’s Sheep
I have nothing against the term “pastor” especially if we use it in its Biblical sense. After all, the term “pastor” really means “shepherd.” According to Jesus, a shepherd actively seeks lost sheep. Both Old and New Testaments are replete with examples of the fulfilling and demanding role of the “shepherd” of God’s sheep. The title “pastor” especially emphasizes the feeding of the flock through the Word of God that is so critically important today.
Unfortunately, however, the term “pastor” today also has cultural associations with professionalism (my place is in the office) that undermines the true role of the pastor, especially the rural pastor.
Therefore, when referring to our great couples who so selflessly give of themselves to God’s work, I’ll keep using the term “Village Missionary!” I hope that those who want to be “on mission” to the rural communities of our nation, husband and wife, will understand and enlist in this noble cause and service. We need many more Village Missionaries!