What are Christian Missionaries?


A Christian missionary is one sent to a foreign field, another village or city with the purpose of spreading the Gospel. In Romans 10:14-15 Paul writes, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?”[1] The early church lived this verse as they spread out throughout the world. Today, because of the stage set by the early church fathers; any man or woman, from around the world can be a missionary. Christian missionaries are effective no matter where they are from and they make huge sacrifices.

Obeying the Great Commission

The first Christian missionaries were commissioned by Jesus in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”[2] The Apostles took this seriously as they spread throughout the world. According to M.R. Thomas, “It was not without tension and conflict, but then (the apostles), God’s eternal purposes were clarified and understood.”[3]The early Christian fathers followed the Apostles’ example and continued to obey Jesus’ commission. Together, their work was foundational to Christian modern missions.

Missionaries Being Sent

Today, there are many Western and global south missionaries being sent to foreign countries or laboring in their own country. According to an article in Christianity Today, in 2010, there were 127,000 missionaries sent from America, making it the largest sending country (See Chart below).[4] These Christian missionaries learn the culture and language of the people they minister to and show God’s love practically.

mb-120415-christian-missionaries       [5]

Indigenous Missionaries

There are also indigenous missionaries working in foreign countries around the world. According to the mission organization Heartcry, “An indigenous missionary is one who seeks to take the gospel to his or her own people group.”[6] Indigenous missionaries know the culture and language of the people they are reaching. Often times they go through hardships, including their very life being threatened to reach the people they are sent to. According to Come Let’s Reach the World by K.P. Yohannan, the workers are already on the field waiting to be sent[7] They are sent to villages where the name of Jesus has never been heard.


Missionaries are those sent to share God’s love, whether to people in their own neighborhood or to those across the ocean to share God’s love. By following Jesus’ commission, the early church set the foundation for these missionaries. Wherever they are from or where they go, Christian missionaries impact lives by sharing the love of Jesus Christ.


  1. Romans 10:14-15, New Living Translation
  2. Acts 1:8, New International Version
  3. Perspectives, Copyright 1999, page 119.
  4. Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com
  5. Wall Street Journal, “Cash-Strapped Missionaries Get a New Calling,” http://wsj.com
  6. Heart Cry Missionary Society, http://www.heartcrymissionary.com/
  7. Come, Let’s Reach the World, Copyright 2004, pages 160-161.

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