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9 Must-Read Books on Missions

By Mike Pettengill, Jul 14, 2016

If you are on the mission field, contemplating missions, or a disciple of Christ who wishes to expand your understanding of missions these books should be in your personal library. The combined content of these nine books will boost your understanding of God’s passion and mandate to make disciples among the nations.

1. The Life and Diary of David Brainerd
This is a biography of missionary David Brainerd written by theologian Jonathan Edwards. First published in 1749 the work was edited from Brainerd's diary. Such missionary greats as William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, and Jim Elliot acknowledge being greatly influenced by this book. Brainerd served as a missionary to the American Indians in modern day New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. His missionary service and life ended when he died of tuberculosis at the age of 29.

2. The Hole in Our Gospel
Richard Stearns tells us that if our individual faith in Christ has no positive outward expression then our faith has a hole in it. As Christians we committed our lives to following Christ and living in such a way that those watching would see a reflection of God’s love, justice, and mercy through our actions. Stearns takes a challenging look at followers of Christ. For many of us the problem with our faith is we have ignored, rewritten, or lied about what the gospel says regarding poverty and justice. Much of the gospel is about serving the poor and the needy as Christ has called us to do.

3. Let the Nations Be Glad
This is a theological and biblical defense of God’s supremacy in missions. It makes it clear missions is not simply a good option, but a mandate for all Christians. We must be senders or goers. John Piper shocks the reader by explaining we cannot take our own comfortable lives and make them the measure of what we allow the Bible to mean. God’s glory is man’s chief end. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. It is our call to spread the worship and glory of God through missions.

4. On Being a Missionary
Thomas Hale wrote this landmark book on missions. Every prospective missionary would benefit from reading it before leaving for the field, and every Christian should reread it regularly. It is challenging and fascinating. The author pulls from his experience as a missionary in Nepal. Hale explains about being a missionary, what it’s like, the problems, the challenges, the heartaches, and the joys.

5. The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor
Taylor was a pioneer missionary who spent the last half of the nineteenth century serving in China. He provided an example of faith and prayer that was unequaled. He spent more time in prayer than any other activity. His level of faith in God was unshakable. Taylor knew God would honor his work as long as Taylor continued to honor God. This book is worth reading if only to catch a flavor of the depth of faith possessed by Hudson Taylor.

6. Book of Jonah
This short Old Testament book tells the story of the minor prophet who served as a reluctant missionary to Nineveh, the great capital of the ancient Assyrian empire. This short, four chapter book helps the reader see how our sovereign God uses a sinful and imperfect man to accomplish His glory and the salvation of the lost. This insightful work helps disciples of Christ experience how God can and does use His imperfect servants.

7. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
J.I. Packer has written a great book addressing the topic of evangelizing in the name of our sovereign Father. It is a privilege to evangelize and tell others of the love of Christ, understanding that there is nothing they need more then to know the saving grace of God. The world is full of people who are not aware they deservedly sit under God’s wrath. It is urgent we try to arouse them and show them the way to be free of our well-earned punishment.

8. Through Gates of Splendor
In 1955 five missionaries entered the jungle in Ecuador to bring Christ to a violent and primitive tribe. They were massacred by the very people they went to serve. Elisabeth Elliot uses interviews, articles, journals, and personal accounts to take the reader to the jungles of Ecuador. This book and these five men have done more to advance Christian missions then almost any event in the past 100 years. This story caused a swell of men and women willing to give their lives to Christ in missions and still influences missionaries into action 60 years later.

9. Finish the Mission
A collaborative book written by some of the top modern theologians. The book focuses on God’s call for His followers to be engaged in missions. The book has contributions from John Piper, David Platt, Michael Oh, and other heavy hitters. The six primary authors each wrote a separate chapter focusing on a different facet of missions.

There are many great biographies and books on the practice and theology of Christian missions. This list is by no means exhaustive. But these must-read books will provide a foundation to better understand God’s mandate for missions and the role His disciples are called to play.

Mike Pettengill has served with MTW in Honduras and Equatorial Guinea. He is now the director of MTW’s West Coast office.

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