There is nothing in Scripture that states that a missionary must be a certain age. The major criteria is love for the Truth and love for souls. Whether young or old, there is a potential problem that is addressed in Joseph Cannon’s book, “For Missionaries Only”.
II Corinthians 10:18: For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
I’ve been told that I don’t look like a missionary, and I don’t know wether that’s good or bad, but I can remember one occasion when I thought it was good. Not knowing I was a missionary, a national said to me, as he pointed out a missionary passing by, “I hate missionaries, they think they own everything and act like big shots.” Being a Cannon, I could not see anything wrong with a big shot, but nevertheless my friend was irritated and he irritated me. I think I know what he was driving at though.
Most of us landed on the mission field as ordinary fellows, and from average to poor families at that. But all of a sudden we are now foreign dignitaries, ambassadors, rich capitalists. Wow! This is about all our poor humble heads can stand. We get looked at wherever we go; we are like movie stars; we are important; we are just discovering how wonderful we are! Surely the little native churches must recognize this, too. We can tell them how things should be run. Didn’t I just meet the mayor? Don’t I have more money than the average fellow here? (Generally more than the average mayor). Why, it soon becomes known in most places that every one who becomes a Christian first must be baptized by the missionary. I know places where baptisms are store up until the Missionary arrives – what a grand harvest! The capital “M” can take the credit for the whole works and write a fine report. I can remember “fudging” on somebody else’s labor myself. A few “borrowed baptisms” here and there can enhance one’s stature.
Now the nature of foreign evangelistic work is such that big egos go starving for attention. Turning to the world, the capital “M” can find numerous outlets for self-commendation. He can find a “place in the sun.” Instant praise can be found for all charitable endeavors and for all observable phenomena. The system is there. The Appointment, the Presentation, the Pictures, the Reporters, the Certificate, the Banquet of Honor. Good works should not be avoided, but most of the honors can be avoided with a little presence of mind. Anyway capital “M” can find “missionary work” very self-satisfying.
I was reprimanded by a fellow missionary once for trying to get native Christians to stop calling me capital “M”, and he said “They will always exalt the missionary above everyone else, so just accept the title and let it go at that.” Well, I have never taken to being bossed around religiously, or any other way, and I wondered if there might be some nationals who felt the same way. After a few discreet inquiries, lo and behold! I found out that most of them felt the same as I! They wanted us all to be brothers, as the Lord taught, and that in most cases capital “M” was exalted not because of love and respect, but because he held the purse strings, and cut a big figure.
Preachers, we do not need to capitalize on the opportunities to commend ourselves. The passage from II Corinthians, by the way, which is the greatest defense of missionary work ever written, teaches us to wait for the Lord’s commendation. When it comes, it will be genuine, not built upon false titles and positions, but upon truth. Not according to “other mens labors,” nor “another’s filed,” but according to what we really are and what we really have done.