Missionary Disciple: What it Means & Why it Matters


Written by faith.smitt

Missionary disciple may seem like a complicated term that only the elite Christians can attain to. However, this is far from the truth. All believers have the potential to be a missionary disciple, no matter their background or circumstance. In fact, missionary discipleship is a common thread in the New Testament that the early church followed.

What is a missionary disciple? A missionary disciple is someone who believes in Jesus Christ and follows His teachings. A missionary disciple is discipled by other believers and also makes his or her own disciples. Additionally, a missionary disciple is on a mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to non-believers. Typically, missionary is defined as someone who travels cross-culturally to share this message. However, all believers should be on this mission, whether they can travel or not.

In this blog, I will be describing with further detail what a missionary disciple is. I will also be explaining what it means to become a missionary disciple and how to know if you are one. Additionally, I will uncover why it matters and how you can fulfill your role while using Biblical examples throughout.

What it Means

A missionary disciple is a believer in Jesus Christ. This person believes in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. This individual also recognizes Jesus to be both God and human and the only way to receive eternal life. Eternal life, freedom from judgment, and the forgiveness of sins only come from the free gift of grace provided by Jesus.

We are only able to receive this because Jesus took our place and paid our debt for us on the cross. Now, through faith, we can receive this salvation and reconciliation. Missionary disciples recognize this as truth. Missionary disciples are also discipled by other people of faith. They then go and disciple others. They are people on a mission to fulfill the Great Commission throughout the ends of the earth.

The term “missionary disciple” has two key focuses. The first being missionary. The second being disciple. In order to clearly understand the concept, I will explain both of these terms. I am choosing to describe discipleship first because, in the life of a believer, discipleship precedes mission work.

The term missionary disciple has been known in the Catholic denomination, however, the term can be used in various denominations. Simply put, a missionary disciple is a Bible-believing individual who seeks to make disciples in a missional way.


The term disciple is explained as a student of a specific teacher, or leader. It is also used to refer to the people that walked with Jesus during His life, learning from His teachings. Today, discipleship follows the same concept even though the situations are much different. Disciples today are students that follow the teaching and example of Jesus.

They also follow other church leaders and disciple-makers. Jesus commanded the disciples to, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”. We can see from this that discipleship is a multiplying effect. First, the 12 disciples were taught by Jesus, then they were commanded to go and make their own disciples. This multiplication continues because Jesus adds this statement, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Now, we have the new disciples, in turn, making more disciples.

A true disciple is taught by the word of God, which is the scriptures and is led by the Holy Spirit. Other people and leaders in the faith can facilitate this and provide a suitable atmosphere for an individual to grow. They can also share all that they know and have learned over the years. In John 14:26, Jesus explains, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

How to Know if You Are a Disciple

If you are considering if you are disciple, consider the following questions. Do you believe in Jesus Christ as the only way for the remission of sins and salvation? Are you consistently learning about the teaching of Jesus and the truth of all scripture? Are you being mentored or discipled by someone? If you are not in a location or situation where you can have personal contact with other believers, are you using your available resources to grow in truth and faith? Do you regularly pray? Are you reaching out to other people to make disciples of them?

These questions may help you to gauge where you are in the discipleship process. Remember, disicplship is a journey. You do not have to be perfect or have mastered all these areas. A true disciple dedicates his or herself to grow to the best of their abilities. This includes both the growth of the individual and the growth of leading other disciples.

If you are interested in assessing yourself in your journey of discipleship, refer to my blog, “Are Discipleship Assessments Worthwhile?” In this blog, I explain the benefit and purpose of discipleship assessments. I also provide links to popular assessments.

My fellow colleagues also have researched and experience in discipleship at great levels. Learn more about discipleship in the following blogs. “Five Bible Reading Plans for Personal Discipleship” and “Before You Disciple Others: Here are the Qualifications.”


The next term we are to define is “missionary.” There are a couple of different ways to define this term. The first and most common way a missionary is explained is, as a person who is on a religious mission to share their faith. A missionary is someone who has a specific purpose in his or her interactions and actions. Most commonly, a missionary is noted as someone who travels cross-culturally on this mission.

Another way that missionary tends to be explained is simply as a person who is on a mission to share his or her faith. This definition does not include cross-cultural travel or travel to a foreign country. It is debated whether or not a missionary is someone who travels cross-culturally. Some individuals and organizations will recognize anyone sharing their faith to be missionaries whether they sojourn or not.

In these cases, the common objection is that a missionary is someone who travels cross-culturally. An evangelist is someone who shares their faith where they are. Whether that is with their neighbors, in local ministry, or within their workplace. Both roles are extremely important in the spreading of the gospel and the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Why it Matters

Why does it matter whether we are a disciple or missionary disciple considering the fact that we are not saved by works? Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works so that no one can boast.” Does this mean that we have a free pass and nothing is required of us?

Indeed we are saved by grace through faith. However, there is another reality that we should consider. James 2:20 declares, “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” Our good works should be evidence of our faith. Therefore, it is extremely important that we ourselves are disciples and that we are growing in our ability to disciple others.

Furthermore, we should take part in the global mission, considering that Jesus made it very clear that the gospel is for all nations, tongues, and tribes. What we define as missions must be considered in the context.

How to Participate as a Missionary Disciple

Not everyone has the ability to travel overseas to be a missionary. However, all believers have the ability to share their faith with those around them. Go on a mission to witness to your family, friends, community, and city. Expand your efforts to your state or country if possible. Do all that you can to spread the good news of Jesus Christ wherever you are and with the resources you have.

Consider the parable of the talents found in Matthew 24:14-30. Each servant was given a different amount. The master judged their work based on each circumstance and each man’s amount. He expected each man to use whatever amount he had and to increase it in relation to what he was given. We are the same. Each of us has received different lots in life, we are expected to use them accordingly. However, be careful not to be like the servant who buried his talent and did not do anything with it.

Additionally, whenever possible, we should participate in the global mission through prayer and finances. We can also encourage our brothers and sisters in their mission. Our care for missionaries, while they are local, can greatly help them in their time overseas. Missionaries need rest and support. All the ways that we can support them in their work are benefiting the Great Commission. Our role in mission may look different than the role of those who go on the mission. Yet, both are crucial are beneficial.

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