The Missionary Library: Ten Essential Books
Missions is about God’s glory being proclaimed throughout the world. As I’ve written before, reading a book is like having coffee with an expert. Today, I’d like to share with you ten books that are tremendously influential, on the topic of missions. Since every Christian should cultivate a great commission mindset, you will benefit from them and enjoy them regardless of whether you are called to the mission field.
The first five books on this list are theoretical. They describe the Biblical philosophy or missions.
A Vision for Missions, by Tom Wells (5 stars)
I believe that this is the single best book on mission philosophy. It is a small book, ideal even for those who don’t like to read large volumes. A Vision for Missions bases the missionary endeavor on the glory of God. As it says on the back cover, “The missionary vision must begin with the vision of God.” This is a five-star read that every Christian would benefit from.
Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, by John Piper (4 stars)
Piper’s book has been praised as ‘the best biblical study there is on the nature of missions.’ It is certainly influential. Piper also draws missions back to the character of God – reminding us that missions is necessary because of the God we serve, not the needs of the people we minister to.
The Missionary Call: Find Your Place in God’s Plan for the World, by M. David Sills (4 stars)
This book is essential reading for anyone who is interested in missions. It answers a number of important, practical questions that potential missionaries might face, such as ‘What should I do if my spouse does not feel called?’ and ‘How specific does the call have to be?’
Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? By Roland Allen (4.5 stars)
Allen was an English missionary of the early 20th century who spent time in China, India, and Kenya. Disillusioned with western methods, Allen decided to study the Apostle Paul’s methods. This book presents many important principles from Paul’s ministry, addressing such topics as Paul’s view of finances, baptism, unity, and miracles in the missionary effort.
Understanding the missionary efforts of the past is essential if we wish to build on the foundations already laid.
A History of Christian Missions, by Stephen Neill (3.5 stars)
I am not aware of any other book that is so comprehensive in its coverage of all missionary efforts in every part of the world. Even with this broad range, it is impossible to cover everything in sufficient detail. However, this book will at least provid a starting point for further research. Beware – this book does not limit itself to Protestant missionary activity.
I’ve mentioned it before: biographies are some of the most influential books you can read. These biographies help to bring the theoretical ideas mentioned in the earlier books into practical reality, by showing how others applied them.
John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), by John G. Paton (4.5 stars)
When John Paton determined to bring the Gospel to the New Hebrides, a remote south Pacific island chain, he was practically signing his death warrant. The isles were inhabited by bloodthirsty cannibals who had killed and devoured previous missionaries. Astonishingly, Paton survived and ministered to these rejected peoples. This autobiography contains his story, including his multiple near brushes with death. It’s a powerful testament to God’s ability to protect His people.
To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, by Courtney Anderson (4.5 stars)
I’ve already highlighted this book before, an epic account of one of the first overseas American missionaries. Judson went through numerous trials and tribulations as he brought the gospel to Burma (modern-day Myanmar), and this book certainly does his story justice. Admittedly, the author has taken some ‘artistic license’ in rounding out the account – be forewarned. However, I still feel that it is valuable, and one of my favorites.
George Whitefield, by Arnold Dallimore (5 stars)
At first glance, this book may not seem to be a ‘missionary biography.’ Yet Whitfield was, in many ways, a missionary. He spent a significant amount of time in America, a land very distant from his own, proclaiming the gospel as an evangelist. Even if you disagree with this two-volume book being on the list, his life is undoubtedly one that applied the missionary theory into practical reality.
Diary and Journal of David Brainerd, by Jonathan Edwards
Though he only lived a short life, Brainerd was on fire for Jesus Christ. He devoted himself to a life of missionary service to the Native Americans of the eastern seaboard; after his death, Jonathan Edwards published his diary and journal, which has been a challenge and encouragement to thousands. While I’ve not yet read this book, it is described by some as one of the most edifying books that will challenge you to zealous service for the Lord Jesus.
A Brief Account of the Life and Labors of George Mueller, by Mrs. Mueller (4 stars)
Muller’s story is a life of faith and the faithfulness of God. The German-born missionary determined to travel to London to serve as a missionary to British Jews, but in the end, God used him to start orphanages that served thousands of children. The story of Muller’s childlike faith is only surpassed by the story of God’s paternal provision. In addition, this book contains valuable excerpts by Muller on his views of money and possessions – an important theme in his life of faith.
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