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[[quoteright:350:[[Film/TheMission http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_e0034633_1329222.png]]]]

->''"Oh, the missionary man, he's got God on his side''
->''He's got the saints and apostles backin' up from behind''
->''Black-eyed looks from those Bible books''
->''He's a man with a mission, got a serious mind."''
-->-- '''Music/{{Eurythmics}}''', "Missionary Man"

To go with the more simple definition, a missionary is someone who travels far away from home on a religious expedition to another culture. The vast majority of the time, it is making efforts to convert the locals to their faith. While, obviously, dedicated to his religion, he can be anywhere on the range from SinisterMinister to GoodShepherd.

Just about any historical figure who founded a religion could be called a missionary, because they would have had to spread "The Word" to increase the numbers of the believers. The Apostle Paul in the Bible was most well known for his travels throughout the Roman Empire.

In some cases, there are negative implications with regards to the pure intentions of the devout. Sixteenth-century Spanish Catholics set up many missions in South America after the conquistadors left. To some people this might be a case of MightyWhitey as they are trying to "[[WhiteMansBurden enlighten the savage]]." Indeed, to many the idea of a missionary is a person lurking around in the [[DarkestAfrica deepest and darkest jungles of Africa]], mingling with [[HollywoodNatives the Bushmen]]. (Winding up [[StewedAlive in a stew pot]] with a CannibalTribe is optional.)

One common plot line involves a WideEyedIdealist going to the mission field expecting to do some EasyEvangelism, only to have a CrisisOfFaith when their targets don't respond quite so readily. Of course, it will probably turn out that God works InMysteriousWays. (If the Easy Evangelism ''works'', you've probably got an AuthorTract on your hands.)

Not all missionaries are motivated by the scriptures to evangelize. Some missionaries are merely sponsored and paid by a church to bring medical and other supplies to areas in need. Either way, a missionary has above average chance to be a BadassPreacher.

Of course, in more everyday life, people have the image of people [[KnockingOnHeathensDoor knocking on your door asking you to read various books or magazine]]s. Modern missionaries are likely to be from one of two specific organizations:

* [[HollywoodJehovahsWitness Jehovah's Witnesses]]: Each member of this faith has made an extensive study of the Bible and dedicated his or her life to Jehovah God to do his will. Their main objective is using God's word to preach the good news of God. The stereotype is usually of someone knocking on your door early in the morning giving you a pamphlet about how the end times are coming.

* [[UsefulNotes/{{Mormonism}} The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]]: Usually young men or women, but may also be older married couples. LDS missionaries are identified by name tags (usually black) and always work in pairs. The young men are typically seen wearing white shirts with dark pants and conservative ties, often riding bicycles.

Modern variants include HollywoodJehovahsWitness and KnockingOnHeathensDoor.

!!Examples of Missionaries in Fiction

[[AC:Comic Books]]
* One of Jack Chick's ''ComicBook/ChickTracts'' features some white missionaries who had done charitable work in DarkestAfrica end up going to Hell...because they tried to help people instead of accepting [[PowerGlows glowy]] [[TheFaceless no-face]] PureEnergy Jesus as their personal savior.

* In ''Film/{{Rambo}}'', a bunch of Christian missionaries were pretty much the MacGuffin for Rambo to go do his thing.
* The movie ''Film/BlackRobe'' and...
* ''Film/TheMission'' (naturally) were about missionaries.
* ''The End of the Spear''.
* Mormon filmmakers have made several fictional films based on missionary experiences:
** ''The Best Two Years''
** ''God's Army''
*** The sequel ''God's Army: States Of Grace''
** ''Film/TheSaratovApproach''
* ''Film/TheOtherSideOfHeaven'' was about the RealLife story (mostly--some of the more spiritual parts of [[TheFilmOfTheBook the original book]] were dumbed down in order to appeal to a wider audience) of a Mormon missionary in Tonga.
* Michael Palin's ''The Missionary''
* The 1919 film ''Film/BrokenBlossoms'' features a Buddhist missionary working in a Western country... it [[TearJerker does not end well.]]
* Eric Liddel in ''Film/ChariotsOfFire''.
* One appears in the first ''Film/OnceUponATimeInChina'' movie. He appears to just be a background character up until he proves to be the ''only'' man in the entire community with the courage to testify against the criminals that Wong Fei-Hung is trying to take down in court.
* Creator/KatharineHepburn's character in ''Film/TheAfricanQueen'' and the recycled in the Old West version ''Film/RoosterCogburn'' was a missionary, in WWI-era Central Africa and 19th C. Oklahoma, respectively.

* Creator/GrahamGreene's ''A Burnt-out Case'' had Christian missionary work as a sneering sort of background to the overall story.
* ''The Canopy''
* [[Literature/KingSolomonsMines Allan Quatermain's]] father was a Christian missionary in South Africa.
* ''Literature/{{Shogun}}'' had a Protestant protagonist going up against Catholic missionaries. The main character of ''Shogun'' himself went very local though, and was never a missionary. He was just a dude who happened to be Protestant.
* Chinua Achebe's ''Literature/ThingsFallApart'' is partly about the conflict between missionaries and the native Africans they're trying to convert. There are two missionaries present in the narrative: the respectful and fairly well-liked Mr. Brown, who builds a school and hospital and respects the Igbo beliefs, and the harsh Reverend James Smith, who forces his beliefs on others and incites conflict between his congregation and the non-believers. Missionaries are not shown to be simply good or bad, it just depends on the sort of person they are.
* Nathan Price from ''Literature/ThePoisonwoodBible'', with a dash of MightyWhitey.
* ''The Mormon Missionary'' Those "Caucasian midwesterners with strong regional accents" who try to "carry the gospel" to highly secularized, predominantly Lutheran (nominally) white people and having very little success at it.
* The Azadi Apostles in ''Dreamfall'' mix this with Church Militant.
* Creator/JulesVerne had a lone French missionary in ''Five Weeks in a Balloon''. Not a large part, but a sympathetic portrayal.
* Played with in ''Missionaries'' (by Lyubov and Yevgeny Lukin). Caravels show up in Oceania, and there's missionaries in addition to adventurers. [[TheDungAges Not quite nice or cool people]]. Only, there's a catch. A few nerdy guys found a portal into the past (turned out to be AlternateUniverse instead) and tried to stop European colonization... via giving to-be-colonized [[NobleSavage savages]] a "[[BambooTechnology better fighting chance]]"... but local development [[HeWhoFightsMonsters overdid it]].
* Mightily Oats, at the end of Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Discworld/CarpeJugulum'', sets out to be this in Uberwald. In the BackStory of ''Discworld/UnseenAcademicals'', we learn that he succeeded.
* Literature/JaneEyre's cousin St John aspires to be this.
* In Creator/RobertEHoward's "The Hyborian Age", the BackStory to ''Franchise/ConanTheBarbarian'', Arus.
-->''he determined to go into the western wilderness and modify the rude ways of the heathen by the introduction of the gentle worship of Mitra. He was not daunted by the grisly tales of what had happened to traders and explorers before him, and by some whim of fate he came among the people he sought, alone and unarmed, and was not instantly speared.''
* In Creator/RickCook's ''Literature/LimboSystem'', Father Simon starts to do this accidentally, while not thinking himself authorized.
* In ''Literature/TunnelInTheSky'', two of the students on the survival test, Bob and Carmen, intend to get married and become missionaries after the test.

[[AC:Video Game]]
* The basic capping unit for the Sisters of Battle in ''VideoGame/DawnOfWar: Soulstorm'' is called a Missionary. This being ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'', he also has an eyepatch, a chainsword, and the ability to rain fiery retribution on the Emperor's enemies.
* ''Videogame/FalloutNewVegas'' has the New Canaanites, who are post-apocalyptic Mormons known as one of the more benevolent societies by traders. One of them, a man by the name of Joshua Graham, ended up becoming one of the founders of [[TheHorde Caesar's Legion]] and would end up as one of the most [[TheDreaded legendarily feared men of the wasteland]].

* ''Theatre/TheBookOfMormon'' is about two young Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda.

* In ''Webcomic/TalesOfTheQuestor'', [[http://www.rhjunior.com/totq/00118.html after an unsubtle hint]], [[http://www.rhjunior.com/totq/00120.html Brother Linnaeus undertakes this.]]

[[AC:Western Animation]]
* The ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' episode "Starvin' Marvin In Space" was a satirical version of missionaries in Africa.
* Parodied in ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode "Missionary: Impossible" when Reverend Lovejoy tricks Homer into becoming a missionary for a South Pacific island.