It appears that the missions is beginning to waver. The priority of missions is no longer found in the churches and so few missionaries are being sent out that not only is missions not growing, but it can even maintain because the number being sent cannot keep pace with the number leaving. As a missionary, this is the world that I am engaged in, and therefore I frequently hear from pastors and lay leaders who are at a loss about how to invigorate their missions program (both as a sending and supporting church). Many know about missions; few understand missions.
Finding good resources to point people to is difficult. There are many great books out there about the why of missions, yet there are few (biblically-based) books out there that can guide church leaders to the implementation of missions. This is partly because there are so many aspects which are further complicated by a degree of separation in which its hard to convey certain thoughts and principles for people who have not actually experienced missions themselves. Andy Johnson, together with IX Marks, has released a book that surveys missions and addresses some of those very issues.
IX Marks is an organization devoted the healthy development of the church. A tremendous resource with much practical insight and advice coming from Scripture, they also routinely release books under this organization that are also devoted to building up healthy churches. Missionsby Andy Johnson is the next book in that series addressing the concept of missions in/by the local church.
The book is short (128 pages) and while very practical, it will not be overwhelming for readers. Instead it will compel deep thinking about why and how we fulfill the Great Commission. The seven chapters and conclusion address varying parts of the mission process, first by setting some foundational principles from the Bible (chapters 1 & 2) before going into some specifics that include sending and supporting missionaries (chapter 3), partnering with missionaries (chapter 5) and even short-term missions (6).
Missions: The Critique
Perhaps a copule of things lack. The first is a chapter devoted to raising up missionaries from within your own church. The second is the role of prayer from the supporting church. I recognize the book is meant to be short and readers should not expect it to be comprehensive, however expounding upon these two concepts would add much value because so many churches seem to have a disconnect between discipling people within their own church and its relationship to raising up future missionaries.
The only other critique is the author’s view on partnering with missionaries and having them spend time with the supporting church. The author stipulates that when they partner with a missionary they want that missionary to spend a large amount of time with the church (even a year or so). In one degree, I personally agree with this. It’s something that I find lacking in the way we do missions today; rarely do we get to intimately know the people of the churches that are supporting us because usually churches only want us to come for a day or two with a few minutes of time presenting our ministry before sending us off again. Therefore, the However, there is an unaddressed point in this concept that makes it impractical. For missionaries heading to the field for the first time, this may be ideal, if the missionary already has support or can maintain a job in order to support the family. However, for missionaries already on the field, this isn’t feasible for two reasons. First, it takes away their time visiting other supporters; second, it can be counter-productive for missionaries to leave their field for that length of time, especially when you are trying to begin a very new work where new believers exist. So while in theory this is a good point, perhaps some flexibility in practicality would be advisable.
Missions: The Substance
Missions is meant to be a book that sets a foundation and gives perspective about missions. It’s not comprehensive in what it teaches, but is profound and insightful in what it teaches. Therefore, it is a book that is necessary. There are several key points that one can expect to find in this book, including the following:
Priority of Missions: As one would expect, Andy Johnson gives clear points as to the necessity and priority of missions. In doing so, he elevates a forgotten task and conveys its importance.
Priority of the Bible: The author has done a great job at not only using Scripture as the foundation, but also explaining its necessity. In doing so, he highlights why correct theology is important. Too often, correct theology is assumed or considered unimportant. What we don’t realize is that a such a view is contributing to the rise of heresy in the world. Solid churches are exporting it to the unsaved world without realizing it because they have failed to properly analyze who they are supporting.
Priority of the Local Church: From the outset the author establishes a key point by stating, “It’s not primarily the job of missions organizations to address the problem. This is a primarily the job of every local church.” Somehow we have disconnected missions from the local church, however the burden in Scripture is clearly placed on the church. Missions organizations can help us, especially in navigating complex laws, finances, and cultural issues that churches are ill-equipped to handle, but they are not meant to supplant the local church, only to supplement. It is important that Andy Johnson brings readers to this point throughout the entire book.
Priority of the Missionary: Finally, it seems simplistic that you cannot have missions without missionaries. However, the author has taken time to discuss who missionaries are. While not taking away from their fallen state that is revived through Christ, he emphasizes how critical it is to have qualified missionaries with a spiritual life above reproach (all biblical concepts). One of my key discussion points with others about who to support is simply this: if you wouldn’t have them serve in your church, why would you support them as a missionary? The author highlights this same concept throughout.
The four key points make the book, Missions, a profound and provocative book for the local church.
As a missionary, Andy Johnson says a lot of things that I would like to say (or have tried to say). He covers many points that should be considered more deeply when thinking about missions involvement and implementation from the local church. Therefore, the book is one of necessity that should be read not merely by those interested in missions, but by the entire church body.
To purchase a copy of the book, Missions, click here. A good book to supplement with this book is Senders by Paul Seger (director of Biblical Ministries Worldwide) which you can find by clicking here. The two books work well together.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, the review was not influenced by the publisher, the author, or anyone else associated with this book and is the response of my own reading.