What does a Missionary Do?

top half of globe for missionary sending organization page

What comes to mind when you think of a missionary? 

Maybe it’s: 

Someone who starts a church in another country

Someone who is translating the Bible into a new language

Someone who shares the gospel across cultural borders

Someone who is caring for sick people in very poor parts of the world

So maybe you’ve wondered: what’s their job description? What does a missionary actually do? 

The basic definition of a Christian missionary is a disciple of Jesus who has taken up the Great Commission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples for Him across unreached people groups and to all tribes, nations, and tongues.

“But wait,” you are hopefully asking, “shouldn’t all Christians be doing that?” 

If that is your thought, you’re right. In fact, that’s a main reason we don’t like to use the word missionary at all. We prefer to talk about the people we partner with as people who are living missionally in a culture that isn’t their own. Missionaries can be doctors, teachers, lawyers, builders, pastors, church planters, or more. YOU can be a missionary, right in your context!

But no matter the occupation, language, or culture a missionary has, there are some common elements of the job and life of a missionary. 

Here’s what it means to be a “missionary” here at Communitas: 

Job Description #1: Get Plugged Into the Local Culture

When a missional worker is sent to a foreign country or culture, it is vital that they get connected to the culture they will be living in. These believers living on mission tune into the work that the Holy Spirit is already doing around them. 

They effectively share the Gospel when they are connected to, trusted by, and listening to the cultures where they live. This might look like enrolling in a school to take language classes, or opening a business, or starting a Bible study in a local coffee shop. It may look like being integrated in an existing local church to see how God is moving, with the plan to launch a new church plant in a new neighborhood.

This posture allows missional workers to build genuine relationships with people, building trust and opening space for questions about their lifestyles, as well as the ability to share the good news of Jesus Christ in their neighborhoods.

Job Description #2: Build on Local Context and Life

Communitas missional workers believe God is already at work in the communities in which they live, and they’re on the lookout to find and encourage Kingdom practices that are already happening.

There’s no “one size fits all” way of being a missionary–or to starting churches. For our teams in Brazil, church looks very different than for our teams in Poland because the “style” of a new church plant follows the look and needs of its neighborhood. 

We don’t evaluate our team members by conversions or church size, but we do care that they are creating relationships with people who do not yet know Jesus and inviting them to belong in community. As these relationships deepen and opportunities for faith arise, missional workers develop discipleship patterns and help people mature and grow in their faith. 

Communitas staff always practice going deep in their discipling relationships by praying, studying Scripture, and having intentional conversations with those around them. Mature and intentional missionaries go deep with the people they serve and practice their faith in real, tangible ways, right in their own neighborhoods.

Job Description #3: Multiply

The call to missions comes from Matthew 28, the Great Commission. Jesus tells His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, tribes, and tongues, “teaching them to obey” everything Jesus has taught them. Missionaries do this in the communities, neighborhoods, and churches God has called them to.

But because the call to mission is so grand, it pushes missionaries to spread out and take the gospel outside the walls of churches they (and most of us) feel comfortable in. Maybe a missionary is called to start another church plant, or maybe they start an initiative in their city to reach out to homeless or incarcerated people. Creativity and context are critical to understanding where God is calling us next. 

At Communitas, many of our partners spend a year or two at an existing project to prepare and train to launch their own project in a new city. If this sounds like a good fit for you, contact one of our mission coaches for an inspiring conversation here.

The call of the Great Commission is that EVERYONE should hear the good news of Jesus! And that is God’s calling for YOU and for ME. Missionaries serve in churches and communities, and they are passionate about extending their reach and sharing the love of Jesus to people no matter where they are, whether that’s in America, West Africa, East Asia, and beyond! 

A missionary’s job is incredibly important and can not be categorized by just one thing. Every missionary has unique gifts and talents when it comes to missionary work and living out God’s special calling on their lives. But all missionaries love God, love people, and engage in deep and intentional relationships wherever they go!