The Difference Between Movement and Church (Missionaries)

The Free Methodist Church has a wonderful mission-sending agency, Free Methodist World Missions, that has a very wide variety of ways people can get involved in missions.  These range from being long-term missionaries to short-term teams, and many points in between.  People can sponsor missionaries or specific mission projects.  It is a great blessing to the Kingdom of God.

The United Methodist Church has the General Board of Global Ministries for its official mission-sending agency.  Another mission-sending agency is The Mission Society, which works with Evangelical Wesleyans of various denominations.  All of these, along with other countless organizations and groups provide a very real and necessary aspect to the life of the Church.  After all, Jesus said to go and make disciples.  Sending missionaries out to all of the corners of the earth (near and far) goes a long way to helping the Church as a whole obey the Great Commission.

Yet I find it very interesting, and personally convicting, that the Methodist Episcopal Church, the father or grandfather of most of the Methodists in North America, which was founded in 1784, did not have a missions department until the 1820’s.  What is convicting about that for me is that during this time, the Methodists went from under 30,000 members confined to not even all of the original thirteen colonies to over 200,000 members in over half of today’s states, as well as Canada.Ware

Thomas Ware, an itinerant minister who attended the Christmas Conference of 1784 that created the Methodist Episcopal Church, gives the reason for this kind of growth.  It was a completely different understanding of missionary than we tend to have today.  Ware’s autobiography is available to read (and it is a good read).  He recounts an incident that occurred in 1792.  He had just been assigned the Superintendent of the Susquehanna District and had an encounter with a “Low Dutch” minister.

I was passing a public house where he [the minister] was, on my way to Wyoming [New York]; and he mounted his horse and overtook me.  On coming up he inquired if I was not a missionary.  I replied that I was a Methodist, and we were all missionaries.

Just imagine what our congregations and our communities would be like if we had that very same kind of understanding of missionary that Ware and the early Methodists had!  Being a foreign missionary will always be a very special and distinct calling in the Body of Christ, but we are all called to be missionaries of one sort or another: letting our light shine and offering a ready defense of the hope we have.

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