Missionary disciples are those who have committed not only to following Jesus with their whole lives, but also to bringing as many people with them as they can. After receiving and embracing the call to mission, the next step is to understand the “how” of teaching people to be faithful and fruitful missionary disciples.
Optional Lectio Divina Prayer
- Read John 1:35 – 42.
- Meditate on the words.
- Speak to Christ about this passage.
- Rest and listen in God’s presence.
- Discuss together.
In the early 1500s, two college students, Peter and Francis, were rooming together at the University of Paris.
The University was filled with all sorts of vices — brawling, drunkenness, and sexual immorality — among both students and their teachers. Peter and Francis both stayed out of this trouble, but more out of fear than piety. Francis hoped to use his nobility to live a posh lifestyle in luxury and comfort. Peter, however, could not quite decide what he wanted to do. At times he wanted to get married and become a lawyer, a teacher, or a physician; at other times, he wanted to become a simple priest or monk.
For three years, Francis and Peter continued to room together, until one day, their lives were completely changed. A thirty-six-year-old man named Ignatius became their new roommate. Ignatius had already lived a storied life. He began his young career in pursuit of worldly fame and fortune through military conquest; however, a cannonball to the leg left him bedridden for months. With nothing but time on his hands, Ignatius turned to the only books available to him: the Bible and a book on the lives of the saints. Reading these books led to a conversion experience, and Ignatius devoted his life completely to serving God.
Peter, like many other students, was quickly moved by Ignatius and soon shared his desire to win souls for Jesus Christ. He became a follower of Ignatius’ way of life and wished to join his order. Francis, on the other hand, was quick to make fun of Ignatius and Peter.
For three years, Ignatius invested in Francis. He showed a deep interest in everything Francis did. Ignatius attended Francis’ lectures, found Francis students to teach, and even supplied him with money. As his roommate, you can imagine all the time they spent together: studying for classes, sharing meals, having discussions late into the night and taking excursions around town. And yet, Francis was still resistant to Ignatius’ invitations for him to go deeper in his faith.
At one point, Peter left the university on vacation, leaving Francis and Ignatius together. When Peter came back, his roommate of six years had changed. Francis had finally heeded Ignatius’ question, “What profits a man to gain the whole world, if only to lose his soul?”
Soon, the three friends co-founded a new order: the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. Ignatius, whom we know now as St. Ignatius of Loyola, served as the superior general. Peter, now known as St. Peter Favre, went on to evangelize in Germany, Spain and Portugal. And Francis, better known today as St. Francis Xavier, was sent to India as a missionary. He baptized hundreds of thousands in Asia and was, by most accounts, the greatest singular missionary force since St. Paul.
Discuss: What stands out to you about the way that Ignatius evangelized Peter and Francis? What does this story teach us about evangelization?
THE METHOD MODELED BY THE MASTER: WIN, BUILD, SEND
In St. Ignatius, we observe a great example of “making missionary disciples” (cf. Mt 28:18). Francis was transformed from a worldly man to an other-worldly saint. But how can you and I accomplish this same work? How can we make disciples who both know Jesus Christ and share him with the world?
This “Mission Strategy” image (printed in the full article, attached) presents the path of missionary discipleship.
This model presents three key phases in the process of missionary discipleship: Win, Build, and Send. These phases are separated by two key moments: accepting the Gospel and accepting the High Call to Mission. As we seek to raise up missionary disciples, each of these steps has its own goals and objectives. Let’s look at these key phases and learn how we can lead others to become missionary disciples.
The first step to forming missionary disciples is to lead people to a life-shaping encounter with Jesus Christ—one in which they become a true disciple of Jesus, where Christ is not just a part of their lives but becomes the very center. Many people might know about Jesus and the Catholic Faith, but a disciple is someone who knows Jesus personally in the biblical, covenantal sense of being in a close, abiding friendship with him. Jesus isn’t only informing us of his teachings; he is proposing a new way of living — living like him.
In the Win stage, our goal is to invite people into friendship with Christ. We do this primarily through our witness. In the words of Pope St. Paul VI, “Above all, the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness” (1). Our prayer, our example of life, our deep friendship with the person we are leading all contribute to leading souls closer to Christ. More important than any faith formation program, resource or study is the living witness of faithful individuals (2).
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.
Once we have reached out and established a relationship of trust with the people we are leading, it’s time to share the Gospel explicitly. In the words of Pope St. Paul VI, “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed” (3). This proclamation can take several forms. However, we have found that an explicit presentation of the Gospel (the kerygma) and an invitation to say “Yes” to Jesus is one of the most effective (4).
Acceptance of the Gospel is a crucial moment. Jesus himself says, “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Sometimes we want to teach others all sorts of wonderful truths about the faith, but when those truths are not preceded by an interior conversion, a true commitment to Christ, they often fail to deeply penetrate the hearts of those who hear them. Therefore, it’s crucial that we explicitly invite others to make Christ the very center of their lives. Once someone personally accepts the Gospel, we can move in our efforts from proclaiming Christ in evangelization (or what we call the “Win” phase) to helping them cultivate a “program of life” that deepens one’s adherence to Christ (or what we call the “Build” phase).
Once someone has surrendered their life to Christ, it’s crucial we “build” them up in the Faith. Within FOCUS, one way we do this is by inviting the person to meet occasionally, either one-on-one or in groups, for ongoing formation in the faith. This gives them a specific way to begin living out their commitment to Christ. It also allows us to continue leading them further along the path of missionary discipleship.
In the words of Pope Paul VI,
“Proclamation only reaches full development when it is listened to, accepted and assimilated, and when it arouses a genuine adherence in the one who has thus received it…an adherence to the truths which the Lord in his mercy has revealed; still more, an adherence to a program of life—a life henceforth transformed” (5).
Therefore, we need to help others deepen their friendship with Christ by growing in prayer, fellowship, the sacramental life and their formation in Christ’s teachings (cf. Acts 2:42). The act of building answers two questions: What do people need to know so they can think with the mind of Christ? And with which habits ought they to be formed so they take on the character of Christ? The goal is to help them become more and more like Jesus.
But we don’t just talk about these things; we also model the Christian life for them, accompanying them in living the four key practices of a disciple (Acts 2:42) and, over time, giving them incremental opportunities to practice leadership themselves (6).
The High Call to Mission
As we build others up in the practice of the faith, it’s important that we also lead them to embrace Christ’s mission: “It is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn” (7). The High Call to Mission is an explicit invitation to participate in the Church’s mission of making disciples (Mt 28:19). But before discussing the High Call itself, how do we know someone is ready to receive this invitation?
We can use the acronym FACT to discern if someone is ready to be more formally invited into mission. While all Christians are called to become missionary disciples, those who are already faithful to Christ and the Church, available with their time, contagious in their faith and teachable in their heart are ready to answer the call to mission most wholeheartedly and effectively. These are four key basic dispositions we should be looking for when considering whom we invite into discipleship and to whom we give extra training for mission. Let’s look at each one:
Faithful—A missionary disciple must be a faithful disciple first, someone who is passionately pursuing Jesus Christ, living the four practices of a disciple in Acts 2:42 (prayer, fellowship, sacraments, and the teaching of the apostles) and seeking to deepen their intimacy with Christ. They are also faithful to Jesus in moral authority, living beyond reproach — which flows from a willingness to ask more of themselves than they do of others — especially in terms of chastity, sobriety and excellence (the “Big 3”). And they are faithful to the Church and believe all her teachings.
Available—Missionary disciples are willing to make time in their schedule for Christ and the mission to share him with others. They must be willing to make time to meet with you and make time to give themselves to the people they are leading. It’s impossible to mentor someone if they are unwilling to meet with you. And it will be difficult for them to evangelize others if they can’t make time for the people they’re leading. Being available doesn’t mean they aren’t busy. It simply means they are so strongly committed to Christ that they make him and his mission a priority in their lives.
Contagious—They radiate the joy of the Gospel — including the fruits of the spirit (peace, joy, patience, gentleness, etc.) (8) that draw others to Christ. They also possess the basic human formation necessary to lead and inspire others. This doesn’t mean they have to be extroverted, popular or “cool.” Simply, the way they live their life renders the Christian life attractive. They are willing to step out of themselves and draw others in.
Teachable—A missionary disciple is willing to learn from others, including you as well as other leaders in the ministry, the pastor and parish staff. They humbly acknowledge they don’t have it all figured out and are willing to grow and receive training or correction.
These are four key characteristics we should be looking for in potential leaders — the people to whom we present the High Call to change the world as a missionary disciple (9).
Once we discern someone is FACT, it’s time to share the High Call to Mission. This is an explicit invitation to accept the mission of making disciples. Often, people do not understand the great need for evangelization unless someone explains it to them. The High Call allows you to express clearly both the importance of mission and the role that each of us can play in bringing others to Christ.
Once someone has accepted the High Call to Mission, we move into the Send phase. A successful missionary disciple isn’t someone who merely forms others in the faith. Indeed, we have not succeeded in forming missionary disciples until we launch others as spirit-filled evangelists who become disciple-makers themselves. It is only when disciples become disciple-makers that the “Little Way of Evangelization” truly begins to take off.
To do this, we need to train disciples in the work of mission. St. Pope Paul VI writes, “A serious preparation is needed for all workers of evangelization (10).
We’ve seen already how saints like St. Ignatius did not merely pass on good Christian teaching to their disciples. They also sent them out to find other trustworthy people to train them to do the same for others (2 Tim 2:2) — in other words, he trained his disciples to become disciple-makers. This is our task as well. We must diligently train others in the mission of making disciples, so that they have skills and formation necessary to raise up others who will continue the work of making disciples. The articles in the “Send” section of this book can help you in the work of sending others to make disciples.
While all Catholics are called to mission by virtue of their baptism (and confirmation), those in the Send phase have demonstrated that they are prepared to accept additional leadership in mission.
A Final Note: It’s important to note that these stages build upon one another — one stage does not end when another begins. We should continue to win while building, we should continue to win and build while sending, and we all need to hear the Gospel and High Call repeatedly so we can embrace them more deeply as we grow as missionary disciples.
Discuss: Are you prepared to win, build and send others? Who in your life needs winning, building and sending? Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to help others grow?
Three Habits of Missionary Disciples
If we are going to live this model of Win-Build-Send effectively, then we need to be people totally transformed by Christ, people committed to loving him with all our hearts, loving others and living his mission in the world. FOCUS has identified three key habits of a missionary disciple, habits that will allow us to become the kinds of people that can make other missionary disciples: Divine Intimacy, Authentic Friendship, and Clarity and Conviction for the Little Way of Evangelization.
Like Ignatius, as men and women committed to forming disciples, our first goal is to have a deep, personal friendship with Jesus Christ. Evangelization is first and foremost the work of God, and we will be fruitful in the mission of sharing the Gospel only to the extent that we ourselves are abiding in deep union with him. The Gospel tells us, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). As Pope St. Paul VI explained, “Only your personal and profound union with Christ will assure the fruitfulness of your apostolate, whatever it may be” (11).
How do we grow in our union with Christ? By following the four key practices to which the earliest disciples of Jesus dedicated themselves: prayer, fellowship, sacraments and forming our minds with the teachings of Christ (see Acts 2:42). These are the four main ways we continually renew our encounter with Christ and grow in divine intimacy.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
In forming missionary disciples, it is not enough to pass on the Gospel message and the teachings of the Church. That is essential, but we must do more. We must genuinely love the people we are serving, accompanying them in life and personally investing ourselves in them through authentic friendship. Think of how Ignatius invested deeply in Francis and Peter: he talked with them, spent with them, gave them his time and attention. We need to do the same with the people we serve. This certainly includes religious activities, but we ought to share every part of their lives except sin.
St. Ignatius lived out the words in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Personal investment in the people we’re serving matters, especially outside of formal settings like Bible study. A true missionary disciple gets to know the people he serves. He doesn’t passively wait for people to come to him. He goes out to them, takes an interest in their interests, visits them in their settings and is a true friend, not simply a small group leader. Consider the words of Pope Francis: “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives … Evangelizers thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep,’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice” (12).
Clarity and Conviction for the Little Way of Evangelization
Think back to the story of St. Ignatius. From the very beginning, he was laboring with clarity and conviction. He invested his life in Francis and Peter. He helped them grow. From the beginning, he sought them out as men that he would train to evangelize the world.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul exhorts Timothy, “What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” It isn’t enough to teach people the Christian life; we must also teach them to teach others the Christian life. Disciples must not only be faithful but also fruitful.
As we strive to make disciples, we must have both clarity and conviction about the Little Way of Evangelization — the method of investing in a few and commissioning them to do the same, just as Jesus did. The fruit of these efforts is spiritual multiplication — exponential growth that can reach the whole world in a generation. We must have clarity that the Little Way is the most effective way to fulfill the Great Commission and the conviction to prioritize this mission in our lives. This clarity and conviction is based on the urgency to reach this generation with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. Only the Little Way of Evangelization offers exponential and cellular growth: it not only reaches everyone, but when they’re reached, they’ll be known, loved, and cared for throughout the rest of their journey. If we are faithful to this model — if we invest deeply in a few and if we make investment in their lives a priority, preparing them to be not only faithful but also fruitful — then we can have a profound impact on the world for Jesus Christ.
Discuss: How can you begin to live these three habits more effectively?
While this article is full of many concepts and ideas, don’t let that overwhelm you. You won’t do everything in this article tomorrow. However, it is important that we begin: souls are at stake! Create a plan for how you will begin to win, build, and send others.
Win, Build, Send
- Win: We must first lead people to a life-shaping encounter with Jesus Christ — one in which they become a true disciple of Jesus, where Christ is not just a part of their lives but becomes the very center.
- Gospel: The Gospel must be proclaimed explicitly, inviting others to make Christ the very center of their lives. Accepting the Gospel is the key step between Win and Build.
- Build: Once someone has surrendered their lives to Christ, we help build them up in the Faith, deepening their divine intimacy in prayer, fellowship, the sacramental life and their formation in Christ’s teachings (cf. Acts 2:42).
- The High Call to Mission: We must explicitly invite others to embrace the mission of making disciples. Accepting the High Call is the key step between Build and Send.
- Send: A successful missionary disciple doesn’t merely form others in the faith but also launches them as spirit-filled evangelists who become disciple-makers themselves.
FACT: While all Christians are called to become missionary disciples, those who are already faithful to Christ and the Church, available with their time, contagious in their faith and teachable in their heart are ready to answer the call to mission most wholeheartedly and effectively.
Three Habits of Missionary Disciples: Divine Intimacy, Authentic Friendship, Clarity and Conviction for the Little Way of Evangelization.
- Divine Intimacy: Evangelization is first and foremost the work of God, and we will be fruitful in the mission of sharing the Gospel only to the extent that we ourselves are abiding in deep union with him, particularly through prayer, fellowship, sacraments, and forming our minds with the teachings of the apostles (see Acts 2:42).
- John 15:5: “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is who bears much fruit.”
- Authentic Friendship: In forming missionary disciples, we must genuinely love the people we are serving, accompanying them in life and personally investing ourselves in them.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
- Clarity and Conviction for the Little Way of Evangelization: We must have clarity that the method by which Jesus invested in a few and commissioned them to do the same is the most effective way to fulfill the Great Commission and have the conviction to prioritize this mission in our lives.
- 2 Timothy 2:2: ”What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
- Making Missionary Disciples by Curtis Martin
- From SLS18: “The Method Modeled by the Master” by Curtis Martin
- Evangelii Nuntiandi 21
- For more details on how to win others effectively, see the articles “Incarnational Evangelization: The Art of Accompaniment,” “The Power of Your Testimony,” and “Leading a Transformative Bible Study.”
- Evangelii Nuntiandi 22
- You can read more about how to make this invitation in the article “Sharing the Gospel: A Call to Conversion.
- Evangelii Nuntiandi 23
- Articles in the Build section of this book can be very helpful in forming people in this stage.
- Evangelii Nuntiandi 24
- Galatians 5:22-23
- Using the articles “Moral Authority and the ‘Big 3’” and “Faithfulness to Christ and His Church” will help you lead others in becoming FACT.
- Evangelii Nuntiandi 73
- Pope Paul VI. (1967). Third World Congress for the Apostolate of the Laity [Homily]. Retrieved from https://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/homilies/1967/documents/hf_p-vi_hom_19671015.html
- Pope Francis. (2013). Evangelii Gaudium, 24 [Apostolic Exhortation]. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html
PRACTICAL STEPS: A MISSIONARY DISCIPLE’S EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
So many practical steps could be involved in discipleship, but here are a few things for you to prayerfully reflect upon as you seek to make disciples:
Winning through Authentic Friendship
Do you tend to stay in the familiarity of your own circle of friends and ministry programs? Or are you going out of your comfort zone to get to know people who don’t know Christ—people at work, in your classes, your activities? Are you on the lookout for opportunities to share Christ with people not yet connected with Catholic programs? Or do you spend most of your time with those who already are committed to the Faith?
Do you live incarnational evangelization, imitating Jesus, by going out into their world? Do you take an interest in what they’re interested in? Do you hang out where they hang out? Or do you prefer to wait for people to come to you?
Do you share life with the people you lead? Do you spend time with them outside of Bible study and formal meeting times? Do you accompany them amid ordinary daily life? Do you ever stop by their dorm or house or where they hang out? Do you, in the words of Pope Francis, “take on the smell of the sheep” or is your life far removed from theirs? Are you creating shared experiences–social time, road trips, retreats, a common passion?
Are you an authentic friend to them or just a Bible study leader?
Are you seeing people with the eyes of Christ, as souls worthy of your love? Are you giving yourself as a gift? Are you willing to make sacrifices for the people you serve—a late ride home, a tough conversation, rearranging your schedule when they need your time and attention?
Building in Divine Intimacy
Are you helping disciples grow in the four practices of Acts 2:42? Are you helping disciples “not be conformed to this world but be transformed by a renewal of [their] mind[s]” (Rom 12:2)? Are you helping them develop habits of forming their minds with the truths of the Faith, of being more discerning about what they watch and listen to, of learning about the Faith, seeking spiritual direction or going on retreats?
Are you sharing in the sacraments together or encouraging participation in Mass, adoration and confession?
Are you inviting disciples into Christian community, connecting them with other strong Christians? Are you pursuing sanctity together like “iron sharpening iron” (Prv 27:17)? Are you spending radical amounts of time together? Are you helping them be more discerning about what kind of friends they hang out with? Do you invite the people you lead to times of prayer? Do you model daily prayer in your own life? Do you teach them about prayer?
Sending with Clarity and Conviction for Spiritual Multiplication
Are you living the mission together, witnessing to each other how to share the Gospel?
Are you investing deeply in a few? Or are your efforts scattered?
Are you leading a Bible study? If not, when will you start one? Or how else will you make disciples?
Are you committed to spiritual multiplication, seeking two or more disciples who will raise up two or more disciples?
Are you preparing to do this for a lifetime or are you simply part of a club or program?