The lyrics for this song came from a poem that Annie Lennox had written. Musically, her bandmate Dave Stewart wanted to create a song that would play well in an arena setting, as he was inspired by the concert films Under A Blood Red Sky
by U2 and Stop Making Sense
by Talking Heads. British synthesizer bands weren't crossing over to big arena shows, and Stewart wanted to buck the trend. He wrote in The Dave Stewart Songbook
: "'Missionary Man' opened the album and became a lynchpin song on the Revenge tour. I wanted to create a spiritual feeling at the opening of the song. I felt like an alchemist cooking up a weird brew of blues, rock and voodoo, with a strange mixture of guitars, synthesizers, backwards noises, and harmonica that spiraled toward the opening line, 'Well I was born an original sinner.' This was the perfect way to take our shows to another level."