There is no single book that stands out among the many good books I’ve read. Among my favorites are Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism and A Trinitarian Theology of Religions. Other favorites would include Clark Pinnock, A Wideness in God’s Mercy and Ralph Martin, Will Many Be Saved? I do not recommend the Calvinist exclusivism of John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad, and I have never understood why Wesleyan-Arminians use it as a primary text for the theology and philosophy of Christian mission. I believe our theology of Christian mission has tremendous implications for our practice of Christian mission. Netland, Pinnock, and Martin are examples of theologians who have been formative in the way I actually accomplish Christian mission.
The book, Granny Brand, is the story of Missionary Evelyn Brand, written by her son. She had served in India for well over 20 years when the mission board told her to come home because she was too old to serve at age 70. Resigning from the organization, she stayed on the field, serving another 25 years. Evelyn travelled among villages, living among the people and teaching them how to live as Christians. She eventually walked with a stick, and finally was carried from place to place. Her story grips me because it is a demonstration of a life completely abandoned to the call of God, lived out in simplicity. Such people have always been rare. Because of my role in ministry, my life can never be as simply focused as hers, but I am challenged by her example of devotion.
My current favorite missions book is When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself. One of the great problems that missionaries face is dependency, the national church relying on the mission/missionary for resources and leadership. The healthy church relies on God and on local resources to supply its needs. This book teaches that there is a time for providing relief (in times of catastrophe), a time for aiding in rehabilitation (recovering from catastrophe), and a more important time for helping with development. Too many churches and missions are in relief mode, which should be time-limited, giving whatever people need, when they should have progressed to development mode, encouraging the locals to do everything they can for themselves and helping them over the rough spots. God help us to plant and encourage healthy churches!
My favorite missions book relates specifically to my mission field. I have long struggled to understand what is behind the brokenness of the city. The Meaning of the City, by Jacques Ellul, has helped me greatly in understanding cities.
Tracing the meaning of the city throughout Scripture, Ellul (1912-1994), a philosopher, a sociologist by training, and a devout Christian, does what no one else has done in quite the same way - synthesizing Scriptural truth with the sociological realities of the city.
“Babylon, Venice, Paris, New York — they are all the same city, only one Babel always reappearing…,” he writes. He points out that the story of salvation begins in a garden but ends in a city - the New Jerusalem, a city “whose builder and maker is God.” I’ve learned much from this book that has helped me in city ministry.
The End of the Spear by Steve Saint is among my favorites. No, I am not referencing the disappointing (in my opinion) DVD, “The End of the Spear,” but the book. It gives a realistic view of a mission family living among the Waodani (formerly called “Auca Indians”) and adapting to much of their lifestyle. It emphasizes the “native” being the teacher, the missionary being the student, and the necessity of national leadership development through trust and confidence. One chapter is a hilarious read for any missionary family: when Mincaya and Tementa visit the United States, revealing their awkwardness of not understanding Western cultural ways. Reading about their confusions and cultural reversals added to this great missionary read. Hurt-filled family issues were also discussed. Thanks, Steve Saint, for your honesty, authenticity, and transparency throughout the book!
Never has a book motivated me more to fulfill the Great Commission in its broadest scope and meaning than Radical-David Platt. Why?
It reveals glaring omissions of the Western church in its understanding and living out of the Gospel.
It provokes serious reflection upon many Christian's willingness to ignore plain teachings of scripture with regard to caring for the poor, the widow and orphan.
t exposes the western church's impotence in producing authentic disciples of Jesus who value His cause and kingdom above personal safety and comfort. The self-indulgence of the modern church at the expense of billions of lost souls is powerfully uncovered and censured.
It cogently describes the plight of many thousands of unreached people groups around the globe who literally have not one person to tell them about Jesus. Everyone should read this book!