The local church is ground zero for missionaries. It is where missionaries are born and raised, where they learn about God’s plan for people of all nations to worship him in the new heavens and new earth, and where they are taught to take part in that mission by obeying the Great Commission.
All churches should be sending churches—that is, all churches have the capacity and opportunity to send out missionaries. The clearest example of this in Scripture comes from Acts 13, where the Holy Spirit told the church at Antioch to set apart Paul and Barnabas for the Lord’s work. After praying and fasting, the church sent out these two missionaries.
Like the church at Antioch, your church may be led by the Holy Spirit to set apart and send missionaries from your congregation. Although no book is better than God’s Word itself to motivate your church to send missionaries, I asked church leaders and experienced senders what other resources they have found helpful as they lead their church to send missionaries to the ends of the earth.
J. D. Greear
Pastor, The Summit Church, Raleigh, North Carolina
President, Southern Baptist Convention
I have read more books about missions than I can remember. But for me, there is still no other book that compares with John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad! Piper shows how God’s desire to send his people has always been near to his heart. If you want to communicate a contagious passion for missions in your people—if you want sending to become the heartbeat of your church—then you need this book.
Lead Pastor, Antioch Church, Louisville, Kentucky
When Missions Shapes the Mission: You and Your Church Can Reach the World is a book written by a pastor for a pastor. Although the pastor with a biblical theology of mission may find the first half of the book unnecessary, the second half will certainly be a gold mine of practical help. There you’ll find a survey of best practices, advice for casting vision, and guidance for developing strategy. If you’re needing theological and practical motivation for sending, then in the words of my two-year-old, “Don’t eat bite—eat all.”
Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Upstream Collective
Sending Church Defined is a comprehensive study of what it means to be a good sending church. The Upstream Collective pulled together a number of churches who send missionaries well, then came up with a working definition of “sending church.” The book walks through this definition—literally—one word at a time. It’s a great way to begin grasping what sending missionaries entails. This book takes a deep look into what it means to be a good sender using biblical texts and methods being practiced by many churches today.
Senior Church Consultant, Union Baptist Association, Houston, Texas
I count J. D. Greear’s book, Gaining by Losing, as one of my “Swiss Army knife” texts for local church missions theory and practice because it has all kinds of gizmos for a number of different situations. Becoming a healthy sending church is a journey, and Greear provides an excellent first resource for churches starting down this road. Part philosophy, part practical helps and process, and part challenge, Gaining by Losing has the right mix of content to help churches new to missions-sending point the ship in the right direction.
Being a true sending church requires more than programs and processes. It requires a complete culture change within the congregation. A congregation-wide philosophy change is no small feat, but Greear provides a work that is equally challenging for leadership and accessible for any member of the congregation. That makes it the ideal book to set in front of a leadership team or even a small group in order to lay the groundwork for change. Do yourself a favor and start passing these out to your church members.
Dr. Philip Nation
Pastor, First Baptist Church Bradenton, FL
I often look for compact books that will make a big impact on the lives of church members. I Am Going by Daniel Akin and Bruce Ashford is one of those books. It dispels the myth that the mission of God and the missions ministry of a church are separate issues in the lives of Christians. Instead, Akin and Ashford use life stories and clear exposition to help us see the commission of every Christian to carry the gospel in every circumstance of life. This book will call all believers to participate in God’s mission through their church, in their neighborhood, with their vocation, and anywhere in the world. If you want your church to have a going mentality, this book will spark that mentality in your members.
Pastor of Sending, Sojourn Church Midtown, Louisville, Kentucky
There are quite a few great mission books out that that either hit on the theology of missions or get into the pragmatics of the mission, very few do both well. Eric Wright’s Practical Theology of Missions gives the reader a solid grounding in missions theology while also showing how that theology can be worked out primarily in and through the local church. The book seeks to answer the question: “What is the role and work of the church in missions, and how can it best be carried out?”
Practical Theology of Missions is a solid primer for any local church leader looking to develop a more intentional sending strategy within their church. Although there are more robust missions books* available, Wright’s book brings many of the key issues of missions theology, missions practice, and sending church practice into one accessible place. Wright’s book is also a handy resource when developing prospective missionaries from the local church.
*For a more robust book on mission theology check out Invitation to World Missions by Timothy Tennent or Biblical Theology of Missions by George Peters. For a solid book on missions strategy, check out Developing a Strategy for Missions by John Mark Terry and J. D. Payne.
Receiving Sent Ones During Reentry: The Challenges of Returning Home and How Churches Can Help by Zach Bradley, Susan McCrary, Rodney Calfee, and Andy Jansen (The Upstream Collective, 2017)
Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices from Around the World by Kelly O’Donnell (William Carey Library, 2013)
Serving as Senders Today by Neal Pirolo (Emmaus Road International, 2012)
Meredith Cook is a content editor for the International Mission Board. She has an MDiv in missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Find her on Twitter @MeredithCook716.