A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to carry on ministries of the word, such as evangelism and literacy, or ministries of service, such as education, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin missionem (nom. missio), meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send".
In Christian cultures the term is most commonly used for Christian missions, but it applies equally to any creed or ideology. Buddhism launched 'the first large-scale missionary effort in the history of the world's religions' in the 3rd century BC.