A Vision for Missionary Discipleship: Win-Build-Send
Making disciples of all nations is a monumental call. How do we live it out day-to-day? This article lays out the three habits necessary for spiritual multiplication to flourish. It also describes the method by which we can form and raise up other missionary disciples.
A Vision for Missionary Discipleship: Win-Build-Send
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, on the other hand, 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— and then, one day, their lives were completely changed. A thirtysix- 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. During this time, he had a conversion experience and 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 disciple of Ignatius 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 or 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 of souls in Asia and was, by most accounts, the
greatest singular missionary force since St. Paul.
What stands out to you about the way that Ignatius
evangelized Peter and Francis? What does this story teach us
Three Habits of Missionary Disciples
In St. Ignatius, we observe a great example of “making disciples”
(Mt 28:18). Francis was transformed from a worldly man to
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? Let’s explore some of the key
principles for making missionary disciples.
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.”17
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, sacraments, fellowship 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.
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—talking with them, being with them, giving his time and attention to them. We need to do the same with the people we serve.
St. Paul models this in the way he himself evangelized— giving people not just the truths of the Faith, but pouring his life out into the people he was serving. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, he writes, “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.”18
Clarity and Conviction for Spiritual Multiplication
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. And, 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 Spiritual Multiplication—the method by which we imitate Jesus, who invested in a few and commissioned them to do the same. This is the “Little Way of Evangelization.” We must have clarity that this is the most effective way to fulfill the great commission and the conviction to prioritize this mission in our lives. 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.
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.
How have you already lived these three habits? Where do you
still need to grow? Are you living divine intimacy, seeking to
know Jesus in a deep, personal way? Are you loving the people
you serve through authentic friendship? Do you have clarity
and conviction about spiritual multiplication?
The Method Modeled by the Master: Win, Build, Send
As we seek to raise up missionary disciples, there are several key
steps or phases along the way, each with its own objectives. Let’s
look at these key moments in the journey:
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 himself says, “This is eternal
life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ
whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). In the win stage, our goal
is to invite people to this kind of friendship with Christ.
We do this through our prayer and example and though
investing our lives in authentic friendships, sharing the
Gospel message and inviting them to say “Yes” to Christ—to
surrender their lives to Him.
Once someone has surrendered their lives to Christ, it’s
crucial we “build” them up in the Faith. We help them
deepen their divine intimacy by growing in prayer,
fellowship, the sacramental life and their formation in
Christ’s teachings (cf. Acts 2:42). We also begin to cast
a vision for evangelization, and train them in practical
skills of sharing their faith (such as how to lead a Bible
study, give a testimony, do incarnational evangelization,
etc.). But we don’t just talk about these things, we model
Christian leadership for them, give them opportunities to
accompany us while we’re on mission and, over time, even
give them incremental opportunities to practice leadership
Pope St. Paul the VI wrote, “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.”19 Jesus says something similar, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples” (Jn 15:8).
That’s why 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 them as spirit-filled evangelists themselves. When disciples become disciple-makers, the “Little Way of Evangelization” begins to take off.
We’ve seen how St. Paul did not merely pass on good
Christian teaching to his disciples. He 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.
FACT (Faithful, Available, Contagious and Teachable)
While all Christians are called to become missionary
disciples, those who are already faithful to Christ, 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. These four qualities can be summed up
with the acronym FACT:
Faithful—A missionary disciple must be a faithful disciple
first, someone who is passionately pursuing Jesus Christ, living the four habits of a disciple in Acts 2:42 (prayer,
sacraments, fellowship 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,
especially in terms of chastity, sobriety and excellence (the
“Big 3”). And they are faithful to the Church and believe all
Available—They are willing to make time in their schedule for Christ and the mission to share him with others. This 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 and 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—They are willing to learn from others, including FOCUS leaders and local chaplains and campus ministers. 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 the people to whom we present the High Call to Christian
leadership and to changing the world as a missionary
A Final Note
It’s important to note that these stages build upon one
another. They are not completely separate phases where
one stage ends when another begins. We should continue
to win while building, and we should continue to win and
build while sending. We must continue to invest deeply in
these friendships and always continue to pursue Christ
This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
How have you experienced being won, built and sent? Are you
prepared to win, build and send others? Who in your life needs
winning, building and sending?
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?
What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
After reading the questions above, what struck you? Why?
What in this article stood out the most to you? Where do you
need to grow? Discuss how you can take one key step toward
more faithful and fruitful discipleship.
Three Habits of Missionary Disciples: Divine Intimacy, Authentic Friendship, Clarity and Conviction for Spiritual Multiplication.
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.
“He who abides in me, and I am him, he it is who bears much fruit” (Jn 15:5; cf. Jn 17:3)
Authentic Friendship: In forming missionary disciples, it is not enough to pass on the Gospel message and the teachings of the Church. We must also genuinely love the people we are serving, accompanying them in life and personally investing ourselves in them through authentic friendship.
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 Spiritual Multiplication: 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 we must have the conviction to prioritize this mission in our lives.
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.
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.
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). We also begin to cast a vision for evangelization and train them in practical skills of sharing their faith.
Send: A successful missionary disciple doesn’t merely form
others in the faith but also launches them to become disciplemakers
Making Missionary Disciples by Curtis Martin
FOCUS Equip SLS18 talk: “The Method Modeled by the Master” by
17 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_pvi_ hom_19671015.html
18 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
19 Pope Paul VI. (1975). Evangelii Nuntiandi, 24 [Apostolic Exhortation]. Retrieved from http://