They Shall Share Alike: Rethinking the Roles and Rewards of Missionaries

By David Prairie

Missions is the primary occupation of every follower of Jesus. If there is a downside to calling some “missionaries” it is that it causes some Christians to think that missions is not for them. Yet Jesus’ final words make it clear that every believer is to be a disciple-maker among all nations (Matt 28:18-20).

Another downside is that the title “missionary” is often spoken with a sort-of reverence, as though missionaries are super-Christians. But when we think of missions as the sovereign work of God as he saves people through regular means of disciple-making, we are helped to see that all of us are missionaries. God is gracious in that he does not give more value to “prominent” ministry roles, as is typically our tendency.

Consider an Old Testament example of the significance of each role in the advancement of God’s name among all peoples. David had been anointed as king in Israel, but he had not yet ascended to the throne. In fact, the reigning King Saul had determined to oppose David, which put David on the run. Yet even his status as a fugitive did not stop David from leading his men against the enemies of God that he might display to them what kind of God Yahweh is.

Upon returning home from one encounter, David and his men realized that their town had been raided and their families had been captured by the Amalekites (1 Sam 30:1-5). For a moment, David’s own life was threatened by his own men, but he “strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (v. 6). After inquiring of Yahweh (v. 8), David took his best 600 men with him to overtake the Amalekite captors (v. 9). Four hundred of the men went and fought with David while the other 200 stayed behind (v. 10). David and his men were victorious (vv. 16-17), all that had been lost was recovered (vv. 18-19), and the people proclaimed, “This is David’s spoil” (v. 20).

But when it came time to divide David’s spoil, some thought that the men who fought deserved all the rewards and the men who stayed behind deserved none (vv. 21-22). In other words, only those on the front lines deserve the benefits of the victories of battle. David, however, recognizes the significance of all the men, not just those who swung swords. He corrects their thinking by telling them, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us” (v. 23). David’s spoil is not really David’s. It’s Yahweh’s. And David wanted to make sure that everyone knew that. He continues, “For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike” (v. 24).

What does David’s point have to do with missionaries? Some Christians are on the front lines of advancing the gospel in nations where Christ is not yet known. Other Christians “stay by the baggage” to guard the rear, keeping those on the front lines strategically stocked and refreshed. Yet all take part in the “fruit” of the gospel that abounds to the accounts of both the giver and the goer (Phil 4:17).

Praise God for an even greater and wiser king than David, who, like the master of a house, generously rewards those who work in his vineyard (Matt 20:1-16). Some work long and hard (v. 12), and some contribute less (vv. 6-9), yet all who are hired to work receive what the master graciously provides. Our task is not to compare (vv. 10-11), but to labor gladly for the one who has called us (vv. 13-16).

This school year we are hoping to be able to share the ministry of ABWE with many individuals and churches. If you or your church is interested in hearing from us, please contact us at dprairie@abwe.cc. We are still in need of financial partners, so please pray about how the Lord might use you to “stay by the baggage” for us. If you are willing and able to begin a financial partnership with us, please visit abwe.org/work/support and enter “Prairie” in the search bar.

We will be involved in the missions conference here at Grace Baptist Church in October, so please pray for our ministry to the church during that time, as well as for the church’s ministry to us. We are also developing plans for a survey trip to Chisenau in November, so please pray for the Lord to direct those endeavors. Thank you.


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