Intentional Missionary Discipleship: A Reflection

Someone asked a question in a recent conversation. It had to do with three priorities Archbishop Nelson Perez has mentioned for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In descending order, his priorities are:

3. Move from crisis to hope.

2. Build up resources for the sake of the mission.

1. Develop and grow a culture of missionary discipleship.

The person asked, “What exactly is missionary discipleship?”

Let’s start with a definition. Missionary or “intentional” disciples are people who are formed to be able to:

  • Know and use their own spiritual gifts (charisms).
  • Identify another person’s spiritual level (or threshold) or where that person is in their personal relationship with God.

Why is this important? So that the disciple is able to …

  • Have threshold conversations to help move a person to a higher threshold. This is done especially through the proclamation of the kerygma.
  • Be a personal, lived witness of the faith for Jesus Christ

The blueprint is Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: On The Proclamation Of The Gospel In Today’s World. Pope Francis, along with Archbishop Perez, sees the world that is hurting. The world is in need of healing: spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial. The transformative power of the Gospel can do this.

Yet, both men see a Church that is not helping. The Church is stuck. It is in self-preservation mode. It continues to do what it has done for decades, even longer in some cases. Both men see that the People of God are stuck too. They need to be trained, formed, equipped, and sent out as intentional, missionary disciples. As Pope Francis has written:

“A missionary impulse is capable of transforming everything. In this way, the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (E.G. #27)

A key element is for a person to take the whole discipleship thing seriously. One must first have some idea where they are, quantitatively, in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Some models are available and have been preached about or taught at Saint Monica. Diagrams of each are below each model.

Discipleship Thresholds (Catherine of Siena Institute, Sherry Weddell):

  1. Pre-Trust (Hostile association with Christ or the Church)
  2. Trust (No association with Christ or the Church, but at least not hostile)
  3. Curious (Intrigued and desiring to know more, but not open to change)
  4. Open to Change (Actively looks to move towards a more serious relationship with Christ)
  5. Seriously Seeking (“Dating with a purpose.” Challenges God to prove He exists and actively seeks answers)
  6. Intentional Discipleship (A decision to drop the nets and follow Jesus is made. Orders their life accordingly)
  7. Apostle (Actively seeking, finding, accompanying, and forming other Disciples)

Click here for Discipleship Threshold Model


Discipleship Diamond Model (Evangelical Catholic):


  • Trust and relationship is built
  • Gospel is announced and heard

ESTABLISHING to move from Believers to Disciples

  • Intentional accompaniment on the beginning discipleship journey
  • Faith and moral life is full and developed

EQUIPPING to move from Disciples to Missionary Disciples

  • Faith and moral life bear fruit in the world and life of others
  • Mindset, skills, and habits for the mission are developed

ENGAGING from Missionary Discipleship to the World

  • Person is trained and equipped to be sent to pre-evangelize others

Click here for Discipleship Diamond Model


Discipleship Roadmap (Catholic Leadership Institute)

Beginning Disciple (Acts 2:37-38)

  • Change of attitude towards Christ, Church, sin
  • Desire to grow spiritually
  • All Sacraments of Initiation received

Growing Disciple (James 1:19-25)

  • Heart for God motivates their life
  • Observable changes in life seen
  • Seeks to grow in interior prayer life
  • Practices Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy
  • Accepts suffering

Commissioned Disciple (Matthew 28:18-20)

  • Decision made to take an active part in the mission of the Church
  • Striving to win others to Christ

Disciple Maker (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

  • Commits one’s life to Christ.
  • Makes sacrifices to help others grow in their faith
  • Life decisions based on how she/she can best fulfill the Great Commission

Spiritual Multiplier (2 Timothy 2:2)

  • Has major influence on other Disciple Makers
  • Trained and equipped to go to other locations for Catholic mission
  • Regular participation in personal prayer, sacraments, vocational commitment
  • Lives influential life of faith at work, parish, and community

Click here for Discipleship Roadmap


Back in 2017, Fr. Zlock proposed a concept for a St. Monica Discipleship Pathway. He based it on Sherry Weddell’s study of spiritual thresholds above. It contained 4 levels:

  1. Inquiry Phase: This would include the introductory course to Christianity called Alpha. Walking With Purpose was proposed for the women and That Man is You! for the men. An in-house program to include a series of events, study resources, and small group meetings would be offered for families and youth.
  2. Seeking Phase: This would include the Augustine Institute’s catechetical program, Symbolon, together with materials from the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (or RCIA). Advanced courses would be provided from That Man is You! and Walking With Purpose. The second year of events, study resources, and small group meetings would be offered for families and youth.
  3. Ongoing Formation Phase: People would learn about their spiritual gifts (or “charisms”) through the Called and Gifted 1 course. Walking with Purpose and That Man is You! would offer more challenging materials for women and men. The same would be offered to families and youth.
  4. Disciple Phase: Called and Gifted 2 would be offered. Catholic Leadership Institute would lead a cohort of people to be trained in CLI’s Parish Missionary Disciples course. Catherine of Siena’s Ananias Training would be offered for people who wished to be trained in one-on-one spiritual accompaniment. Finally, in-house leadership courses would be offered for teens and similar training for Small Group Youth leaders and catechists.

Here is a proposed Discipleship Schedule for all that is mentioned above.

Hopefully, that gives you some idea of what intentional, Missionary Discipleship is about. Still unsure? That’s a good sign. Stay in that place. Pray. Talk to others for clarity. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life and make His presence known.

Something will happen.



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