Worthwhile: Missions Book Recommendations

Recently, my friend, we will call him ‘Matt Pilgrim,’ assembled a list of books he recommends for those interested in the mobilization of the church. ‘Matt’ has a passion for difficult places and longs to see the glory of Christ spread across the globe. I take his recommendations seriously and was struck that I have some reading to do! The list is broken down into helpful categories depending on emphasis. Here is his robust list of resources:

Biblical Basis for Missions

Let the Nations Be Glad! by John Piper
Absolutely essential reading for those unpacking God’s heart for the nations and desiring to share it. If I could only choose one to recommend, this would likely be it. The clarity of thought on prayer and on the necessity of sacrifice are foundational and should confront any western Christian with some real questions regarding our walk with God.

Finish the Mission by Various
This edges toward the academic, but is still highly accessible and brings together really compelling thoughts from current theological and missiological heavy hitters.

Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott
This is a classic that is highly compelling and not too long.

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader by Various
This is a reference volume, but perhaps the most complete compilation of arguments for missionary motivations and methods currently available. This brings together articles and essays from across evangelicalism covering four topics: the Biblical Basis for Missions, the History of Missions, Culture and Missions, and Missions Strategy. (Because the physical book is huge, I prefer the digital version that is easily searchable)

God’s Love Compels Us by DA Carson and Kathleen Nielson
Compiled essays on the biblical basis for missions. Addresses the core doctrinal and theological issues that lead us to love the nations like Jesus.

Into All the World by Samuel Zwemer
An older book, some of which covers issues around scriptural integrity and trustworthiness that may be inaccessible to some. The second half, though, is a beautiful argument for motive and method in finishing the task of world evangelization.

Multiply by Francis Chan and David Platt
This is a powerful discipleship tool that walks through the Old Testament and – while not explicitly focused on cross-cultural missions – lays the groundwork for understanding God’s heart for the nations as expressed in the Old Testament.

Mobilization and Motivation (Going)

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken
This is essentially a biography, but is a moving look at sacrifice for the kingdom and learning how to wrestle with the question “is Jesus worth it?”

Radical by David Platt
An essential book in my own journey that I would highly recommend as both convicting and accessible. This book forces those of us in the American church to wrestle with how we’ve intermingled the American Dream with the promises of God and, in doing so, have lost touch with God’s heart for the nations and how he grows us through suffering, sacrifice, and risking all for the Kingdom.

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
Not entirely missions focused, but a very helpful tool for self-reflection and discerning what we’ve allowed ourselves to value over the glory of God. The title sums this one up well.

The Missionary Call by David Sills
A helpful walk through the process of discerning a call to the mission field, including biblical, theological, cultural and other practical considerations with which each individual should wrestle.

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
This is not a missions book, but is a convicting and accessible read targeting millennials in the church who are “stuck” and perhaps overwhelmed by the opportunities and choices they have. Practical advice on getting started in obedience to God’s will with simple steps and stories to help.

Practical Missiology

Global Humility: Attitudes for Mission by Andy McCullough
Not necessarily the first book I would hand someone interested in missions, but this may be the most important book I’ve read in the last 5 – 10 years. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It helps a Western Christian to begin thinking like a global Christian and understanding the biblical model of humility in missions that is traced throughout all of scripture.

The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken
Highly readable and worth a look if only for the fantastic stories. This book looks at the radical nature of pursuing obedience to Jesus among the nations. Some of the content here may be a little overwhelming to someone new to the conversations and culture around missions, but this is a great read nonetheless.

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
A straightforward classic that brings together the why and how of world evangelization by examining the discipleship model of Jesus.

I Am Going by Daniel Akin
A helpful look at the basics of aligning our hearts with God’s mission that includes a biblical basis for going to the nations, the role of the local church in missions, and practical steps for pursuing mission.

Apostolic Church Planting by JD Payne
A practical manual on planting churches where there are no believers. This is a bit technical, but can start opening hearts and eyes to the ecclesiological variance present around the world that may look strange to us, but remains fundamentally biblical across cultures and geographies.

Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission by Caleb Crider, et al
This book captures very practical missiological tools used in cross-cultural missions work and translates them back into principles and tools for the local church. A helpful read for local church leaders in particular.

Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis
A very accessible read on demystifying practical evangelism. Medearis brings experience as a worker in the Muslim world back to the US to offer practical tools for sharing Jesus with friends, neighbors, and family.

Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale
Another potentially overwhelming read for those new to the missions conversation, but this is an eye-opening look at how God is building his church in places many would find it difficult to imagine there being any gospel fruit. This focuses on Muslim people groups but helps paint a picture of how God works differently and powerfully among different peoples.

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Richards and O’Brien
A helpful introduction to learning to be self-reflective in how we consume scripture with a focus on our preoccupation with western ethics, morality, and philosophy that may force us to miss much of what a bible story may be communicating.

Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures by Jayson Georges
On the more technical/specific side, this is a solid entry into the honor-shame dynamic which is essential to understand before working in any context outside of the western world.

Business as Mission by Michael R. Baer
An introduction to the concepts around business as mission that can open up people’s thinking on “what” or “who is a missionary?” Also helpful theologically in breaking down the sacred-secular divide that keeps us thinking that business is a less holy or less important role in God’s Kingdom.

The Local Church and Missions (Sending)

Operation World by Jason Mandryk
A definitive prayer guide to the nations that includes prayer guides for every country and people group around the world. This book, along with the associated online resources, can help guide both individuals and whole churches into praying for and sharing God’s heart for the nations.

When Missions Shapes the Mission by David Horton
A good read for local church leaders to help reflect on the alignment of their local church strategy and culture with God’s purpose for the church to bless all nations with Jesus. An exciting way to think about building the local church around God’s global mission.

Gaining by Losing by JD Greear
A solid argument for building a local church culture that builds leaders and sends them out on mission.

Strangers Next Door by JD Payne
A practical look at why and how the local church can minister to the nations locally. Good context on opening our eyes in our own context to how God is “shaking the nations” to bring them in contact with the body of Christ.

When Everything is Missions by Denny Spitters
A challenge to church leaders to think about how they communicate about missions in the local church and the implications of certain choices that have to be made in building a sending culture.

Missionary Biographies

Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot
The life and death of missionary Jim Elliot and his partners in South America. Easy to miss the valuable lessons in intentionality in preparation, prayer, language acquisition, etc in the shadow of the killing at the end.

CT Studd: Cricketer and Pioneer by Norman Grubb
One of my personal favorites. A winsome, highly-quotable, larger-than-life evangelist who laid it all in the line for the Kingdom over and over again. His poetry (sampled in the book) is also convicting and occasionally hilarious.

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor
An inspirational biography of one of the fathers of modern missions, who resolved to take the gospel to inland China. His intentionality in cross-cultural adaptation and massive personal sacrifices are a beautiful testimony to a life poured out for the nations.

Peace Child by Don Richardson
An important and very accessible book on the concept of the redemptive analogy – or finding the key that unlocks the truth of the gospel in a specific culture. An entertaining read regardless but much to be learned from this story for future practitioners.

Andrew Fuller: I Will Go Down if You Will Hold the Rope by John Piper
A powerful testimony to the importance of a local church that is purposeful and sacrificial in sending missionaries to the nations.

We Died Before We Came Here by Emily Foreman
A beautiful contemporary story of sacrifice in North Africa. This is particularly accessible because of the “average joe” appeal of the couple on which the story focuses. They emerge from broken families and complex lives to be used powerfully and sacrificially in building God’s Kingdom.

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards
This is not an overly accessible read (and it can really drag on at points), but a powerful testimony to a short life poured out for Christ to be known among enemies.

Samuel Zwemer: The Burden of Arabia by Janet and Geoff Benge
A short book on the life of Zwemer, who labored for decades in the Middle East with little fruit to show for it. He patiently and sacrificially laid the groundwork for future ministry to unreached Muslims in Arabia.

This is quite the list and represents a full missions library. May we take up and read… and go!