The First Missionaries

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.


The first missionaries had no theological training and no platform. In fact, they probably couldn’t read. The first people to spread the good news about Jesus were grungy, rough-hewn farm workers on the graveyard shift. 

This was not by accident. 

God’s plan was to entrust his mission to regular people, and to do it in personal terms. This was not the last time Jesus would take laborers and make them heralds. A few chapters later, he would do the same with fishermen. The New Testament’s greatest heroes were tent-makers, fishermen, carpenters. They spread the message of their own experiences. They were authentic, unaffected, and true. 

When they shepherds spread the word about the angelic choir and the newborn Messiah, they didn’t expound on ancient prophecies or flaunt their advanced degrees. They didn’t write books or go on speaking tours. They simply told others what they had seen. 

The royal courts were silent that night while heaven opened for lowly farm workers. The royal trumpeters and palace courtiers slept right through it. And the institutions of higher learning changed no syllabi for classes the next day. Jesus came to the lowly. And without instruction, they shared their story.

Those truths should encourage us to follow the shepherd’s example. We don’t have to be educated, ordained, or commissioned to spread the word. We only have to have been in the divine presence.