Pastors traffic daily in books. Of course, they preach the Book, and so they’re endlessly looking for books that’ll encourage and equip them in ministry. Their limited time and a never-ending stream of books means they need discerning guides who will point them in the right direction.
I asked a few church leaders, theologians, and former missionaries, what one book (other than the Bible) they’d commend to every pastor on the subject of missions. So whether you’re sending out or supporting missionaries, or just seeking to build a dependable library on missions, below are five books that’ll serve you—and those to whom you minister.
A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story (Baker Academic, 2011), by Michael Goheen
Goheen calls this book a “missional ecclesiology,” but it also functions as a biblical theology of the Christian mission. Goheen traces the entire biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation to show the reader how God always intended for his people to be a light to the nations. This book is so good that I outlined it and then memorized the outline.
Recommended by J. D. Payne
Missiology: An Introduction to the Foundations, History, and Strategies of World Missions (B&H, 2010), by John Mark Terry (ed.)
This book is a one-stop shop, providing both an introduction to and depth of content in the field of missiology. This graduate-level text is divided into five sections (forty-two chapters): introduction to missions, biblical basis of missions, theology of missions, history of missions, and applied missiology. Numerous evangelical authors address a multitude of topics related to contemporary missions. Although this book can be read from cover-to-cover, pastors will also benefit by using it as a reference book—selecting individual chapters to read as needed. An extensive, forty-one page bibliography is included for additional study.”
Recommended by Elliot Clark
Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel (IVP, 2010), by Mack Stiles
If the heart of Christian mission is gospel proclamation, then Marks of the Messenger deserves a spot on every pastor’s bookshelf. While not expressly a missionary text, Mack Stiles’s volume provides concise clarity on the vital subject of living and speaking the gospel. By focusing on messengers themselves, it also avoids common pitfalls in books on evangelism. You won’t find canned presentations here. Nor is there a minimalist view of the Great Commission or conversion. Instead, Stiles drills down to understand, believe, and defend the gospel. He also includes aspects of evangelism often absent in related works, discussing the need for the messenger to be an example of the evangel, for good deeds to accompany and adorn the gospel, and for discipleship and love to express themselves ultimately in the local church. Perhaps most importantly, Marks of the Messenger is readable and stirring. This book won’t simply collect dust on a shelf but will be one pastors will want to recommend for those witnessing to Christ both at home and around the world.
Recommended by Keith Eitel
Paradigms in Conflict: 10 Key Questions in Christian Missions Today (Kregel, 2005), by David Hesselgrave
Sometimes one wanders through a familiar area only to discover new concepts, which may not really be new at all. They may pose opportunity mixed with danger. The 10 questions that Hesselgrave examines are just such a blend. Missiologists have faced these issues for a long time. Yet, in this new millennium they take on revised meanings, sometimes with dangerous implications. This book is a clarion call for cautious progress rooted soundly in and determined only by absolute biblical truth. As missiologists and practitioners alike reflect on and shape the future of evangelical missions, this work is essential to those tasks, and David Hesselgrave continues to be viewed as one of the most prophetic voices of our age.
Ivan Mesa is an editor for the International Mission Board.