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A Missionary is a propagator of Christian religion (see History of Christian Missions), a representative of a Christian church who works among non-Christian people. The Biblical authority for mission work is from the Gospel of Matthew 28:18-20, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations...". The English word "missionary" is derived from Latin, the equivalent of the Greek-derived word, "apostle".

Missionaries have often worked hand-in-hand with colonialism, for example during European colonization of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Thus they often viewed their mission as converting the "natives" to a superior culture as well as to their religion. Missionaries were also often followed by others from their country, who came for a wider variety of reasons. For example, in New England, the early settlers, the Pilgrims were very religious, and a few of them devoted themselves to spreading the gospel among the Native Americans. They were successful in obtaining several thousand converts to the faith, but adoption of European culture was slow, retarding acceptance of the new converts as "real Christians" by the Europeans. One solution was the creation of segregated "praying towns" of Christian natives. This pattern of grudging acceptance of converts was repeated in Hawaii later when missionaries from that same New England culture went there.

The word, "mission", is often applied to the building in which the missionary lives and/or works.

Mormons strongly encourage their young men to devote two years to missionary work, much of which is spent trying to convert other people in the United States and other countries to the Mormon faith. Young women may also serve missions.

The decline in Christianity in parts of the West have led to missionaries from Africa making the reverse journey, to evangelise the Europeans. At the same time, many Protestant Christians in Europe and North America have been focusing on what they call the "10/40 window", countries between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude.

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