What the Heck is Missionary Discipleship?

What the Heck is Missionary Discipleship?

Missionary Discipleship!

As the Church, in Her various dioceses and parishes has become more comfortable with the language of evangelization, more and more ink (and pixels) have been “spilled” talking about missionary discipleship. Pope Francis speaks about it frequently, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently created a resource entitled Living as Missionary Disciples! It seems like only a few years ago Sherry Weddell wrote her groundbreaking book, Forming Intentional Disciples, that helped shift the conversation around evangelization–particularly in the United States–and now we are wrestling with missionary discipleship.

The problem is that for many pastoral leaders, key volunteers, and Catholics in general missionary discipleship is a mystery. Because of the crisis of discipleship within our communities, our personal experiences of missionary discipleship are limited. Often leaders lack even an imaginative category for such an expression of discipleship. Therefore, It is hard to begin with the end in mind when that “end” is essentially a theory or, even worse, an unknown developmental stage. Even when we as parish and diocesan leaders understand that the developmental goal is missionary discipleship (which itself is rarer than you would think), how can we lay a solid foundation for the development of missionary disciples in our programs and processes of formation when we ourselves are unsure what we are building toward?

In order to help parishes have a clearer understanding of missionary discipleship, M3 Ministries has created a very basic overview of the characteristics of a missionary disciple. It is a useful resource to begin conversations about missionary discipleship at all levels of the parish, and we want to offer it to anyone who wants it. If you are interested in downloading a copy of this resource, simply click on the image below.

The Dangers of Functionality

If you would like to use this resource in order to foster conversation in your organization, ministry, parish, or diocese be prepared to navigate a pretty substantial obstacle: Because of our lack of familiarity with missionary discipleship, we tend to reduce this multi-dimensional developmental stage of the spiritual journey only to its functions. In other words, we may have individuals in our parishes and dioceses who do or lead activities that fall under some of the characteristics of a missionary disciple, and therefore we (or they) may assume that they are missionary disciples. Missionary Discipleship, however, is more than simply a list of activities or functions. It is a fundamentally relational response to Christ that encompasses the whole of one’s life. A catechist who teaches his students about Christ within an RE program but never talks about Jesus in any other facet of his life may not have actually be a disciple who has, through the grace of God, taken a missionary approach to life.

Understanding this key reality will help you utilize this resource more effectively. May it truly be a help to the work of parish renewal and transformation!



Welcome to the inaugural post of Transforming Parishes, Transforming Lives, the official blog of M3 Ministries.

In every age, the Mission of the baptized, which is to say the Church’s Mission, is the same: to offer people salvation in Jesus Christ through explicit proclamation of the Name & Person of Jesus and a “making present” of God’s Kingdom here on earth. This is not simply the work of specialists–of deacons, priests, and those in consecrated life. God desires that each of us would take our place in the evangelization of the world. This is the work of disciples–of ordinary believers who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will do extraordinary things for the Kingdom of God.

The crisis of discipleship within the Catholic Church has been well documented. In her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell writes:

“…that there is a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon between the Church’s sophisticated theology of the lay apostolate and the lived spiritual experience of a majority of our people. And this chasm has a name: discipleship.”

Many of our Catholic brothers and sisters, though baptized, have no explicit, personal relationship with Christ. They may be thoroughly wonderful, kind, generous people, but something foundational is not in place–something that would allow the grace they have received through the Sacraments to transform them, set them free, and empower them to be Christ for the world.

Identifying this crisis of discipleship, Saint John Paul II, in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, called for a New Evangelization, a renewed commitment to helping Catholics encounter Christ and make an intentional decision to follow Him in the midst of His Church.

It is my hope that this blog becomes a resource for those working in the New Evangelization and those active in the Church’s efforts to evangelize the world–whether they work for the Church or volunteer.

We will discuss all aspects of culture, theology, history, Church practice, etc. through the lens of evangelization, and we will, hopefully, break open practical ways that we can evangelize right now—in our homes, workplaces, parishes, and dioceses. Like the podcast of the same name, Transforming Parishes, Transforming Lives will focus particularly on concrete ways that the culture of our parishes can change and renew so that they focus on mission, evangelization, and discipleship.

If you are looking for support, encouragement, and ideas from other men and women who are trying to transform their parishes, then consider joining the M3 Missionary Leadership Academy by clicking here.