A few months after I began my first pastorate, Mrs. Jefferies, a faithful but outspoken member, said, "Brother Avery, you know what I like about your preaching?" I leaned forward expectantly. ‘‘It’s that you don’t preach no doctrine." Stunned, I slumped back in my chair.
"But everything I preach is doctrine, Mrs. Jefferies!" I exclaimed.
"Well, it don’t sound like it."
"But doctrine means truth or teaching. Everything I preach is doctrine because I preach the Bible."
From the outset, I want you to know that this book may not sound like doctrine, but it is. I encourage you to read the Word along with the book to test the truth of my interpretations. If the book causes you to examine the Word to discover for yourself the biblical basis of missions, I will have succeeded.
I do not intend for this book to sound like a theological textbook. I have studied most of the theological textbooks on missions, but I doubt that many people would read this book if it were couched in those terms or documented extensively. I have written dialogue to help some of the key issues come alive. The Scripture passages from which these truths were derived usually are listed following the accounts so that you can study the Bible for yourself and determine their validity. My primary concern is for you to see this world from God’s perspective and understand his plan to establish his kingdom.
My first interest in writing this book began years ago in a missions seminar when a professor remarked that Baptists needed an up-to-date book on the biblical basis of missions. I was startled because I thought that everything on the biblical basis of missions had been written already. Later I wrote an outline and did research on the contents of this book. I realized then that I did not understand nor had I experienced all that I had discovered in the Bible about missions. I had served one term of missionary service, but I returned to Indonesia to put into practice what God had revealed to me in his Word.
Through fourteen years of missionary experiences in Indonesia, God forced me to study his Word over and over for a deeper understanding of the biblical basis of missions and ministry and its implications for us today. He has given me a fresh perspective of his purpose and plan for the world and the ways he intends to bring people of all nations to himself. I hope that this attempt to share these insights with you will result in your understanding the biblical basis of missions; but even more, I hope that it will result in your making world missions the overriding purpose of your life.
No doubt you will read some things here that you have never heard before. I hope that you will be like the Bereans who ‘‘received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11).
About the Author
Avery T. Willis, Jr. is well qualified to write this text. He is presently manager of the Adult Discipleship Training Section of the Discipleship Training Department of the Sunday School Board. This places him in a position to be in touch with the training needs of people. Dr. Willis came to the Sunday School Board from the mission field, where he served as president of the Indonesian Baptist Theological Seminary. Consequently, he writes with the expertise of an educator and with the heart of a missionary.
A native of Arkansas, Dr. Willis is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received the Th.D. degree in 1974 with a major in missions and minors in philosophy and in preaching. He pastored churches in Oklahoma and in Texas for ten years before being appointed by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dr. Willis is the writer of MasterLife: Discipleship Training for Leaders and MasterBuilder: Multiplying Leaders, as well as numerous other books.
I want to thank Dr. Roy Edgemon and the Discipleship Training Department of the Sunday School Board for asking me to write this book. I also want to express appreciation for the confidence of the mission agencies that recommended me as the author.
Dr. R. Cal Guy and Dr. Jack Gray of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary stimulated my thinking and encouraged me to study the biblical basis of missions. Many authors contributed to my thinking. A selected bibliography at the end of each chapter lists some of the books that I found helpful.
My deepest appreciation goes to my wife, Shirley, and our five children, Randal, Sherrie, Wade, Krista, and Brett, because the time used to write the book was taken from them. Shirley also typed the manuscript and made many helpful suggestions.
My missionary colleagues and my Indonesian brethren deserve recognition for their willingness to attempt to turn to a more biblical model of missions. They have been patient and supportive in attempts that succeeded and in those that failed. They taught me much.
Bill Latham, editor, and Anne Donahue, manuscript assistant, have improved the manuscript and have made it more readable.
For all of these and many more unmentioned friends who have helped me, I give glory to God. Any errors and shortcomings in the book are my own.
AVERY T. WILLIS JR.