It was early 2008 when I was first introduced to movement thinking at a world wide gathering for the mission agency I was working with at the time. I was new to the mission field, to church planting and so the week long seminar I attended rocked my world. There were so many paradigm shifts in what I was hearing, so much that was counter intuitive to what I'd done my entire church life in the U.S. It was disorientating at first but it struck a chord deep in my soul.
Church planting movments (CPM), disciple making movements (DMM), the spontaneous expansion of the church - all of it seemed born in the pages of scripture. Reading the case studies of movements happening in Asian and Africa looked like the book of Acts far more than my own church experience. And we we living in a country that was less than 0.01% Christian.
Doing what we'd always done was just not an option.
Over the next several years, we got some great training, had a great coach and dove into our own personal journey of rewriting the paradigms of church that had been embedded in us by a lifetime of North American church culture. I also began reading everything I could get my hands on in order to help me grow in my understanding and practice of all that it would take to see a church planting movement birthed where we were.
The first book that I read over and over again was the book of Acts. It is where everyone should start. But after that I began to find other books that helped me learn what God was doing in the book of Acts.
And so here are seven books that I found helpful on that journey.
These seven books will do much to help anyone interested in multiplication and movement. The paradigm shifts needed to begin to apply the Biblical principles of multiplication are enormous. These books will help you make those shifts.
A few other helpful books:
I was first introduced to Steve Smith through another book he was a part of writing: T4T: A Discipleship Re-revolution. That book detailed the work of Ying and Grace Kai as they labored toward a church planting movement in China. For me this was a paradigm shifting book and one I’d highly recommend.
And so last year when I saw that Steve had a new book coming out, I knew I’d want to read it. As I learned more about the book and then started reading it, I quickly realized that it would be even more important for me than the first.
Smith’s new book is called Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People.
It was written for people just like me. I grew up in a wonderful church environment but one which we sometimes joked believed in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Bible. I had a tremendous foundation of Biblical knowledge but the working and power of the Holy Spirit was sometimes lacking.
I also had a strong Midwestern work ethic and desire for results which inevitably lead to the constant search for the silver bullet - the right method or tool or program that would get results.
Spirit Walk is a book that will guide you into a new understanding and relationship with the Spirit of God.
Here is a snippet from the preface:
At the core [of church planting movements around the world] is not a method (though simple, Biblical methods are important). At the center is not a discipleship process (though life on life interaction is critical). What is driving and sustaining the explosive growth of God’s kingdom is the age old Spirit Walk that God designed us for. Disciples are learning to keep in step with the Spirit of the Almighty God who knows no boundaries, opens every closed door, and produces fruit that lasts for eternity.
Spirit walk is an important book for anyone wanting to live a life of kingdom impact. It’s practical, relatable and a helpful guide into a more abundant relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
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What is it that has shaped the way you think about the world around you?
What is shaping your worldview right now?
I often say that we are all, always being discipled by something. We don't have a choice. The things we listen to, watch and read are shaping us. They are shaping how we think, forming our character and driving our interests.
It is a reality.
If we go to church for an hour and a half each week and then spend two hours every day watching Oprah or listening to Rush Limbaugh, guess what? Our thinking, character and interests will look a lot like Oprah or Rush. We don't have a choice. That's just what happens.
The choice we do have is in the content of what we listen to, watch or read. We are in control of those choices.
Our Multiply team was reflecting today on the desires of our heart. It was during this time that I began to think back over my life and the things that shaped some of my strongest desires. One book in particular came to the forefront of my mind. I read it first in college and it began to shape my thinking in powerful ways. It was the missionary biography Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot.
There are others as well and with today's post I want to share with you 7 missionary biographies that I think will fuel your missions fire. They certainly have for me!
You'll probably be able to find most of these in a church library near you, but if not, you can purchase them from Amazon at the links given.
I in no means intend to say that these are the seven best missionary biographies that are out there, but they are seven that get me excited and they are stories that will both inspire you and help to shape your heart for the nations. I hope you will find time to read them all in the next year!
Perhaps you have a favorite missionary biography - if so, please share it in the comments below.
I'd have to say that one of the biggest influences on my heart for the nations and the fullfilment of the great commission has been books. As I first read biographies of missionaries and now more and more often, educational and inspirational non-fiction around missions, books have shaped the way I think about the world, the values I hold and the place in my heart that missions holds.
And so I'd love to encourage you to consider reading these books to fuel your missions fire. These are not necessarily in any order and aren't in any way thought to be the best seven books. And it certainly isn't an exhaustive list.
As always, if you have a book that has been instrumental in growing your heart for the nations and the completion of the great commission, mention it in the comments.
[READ ALL OF THE 7 SERIES BLOG POSTS]
Author: Russell T. Hitt
Nate Saint was one of the five missionaries killed in Ecuador by the Waodani Indians in 1956. Their story caught the attention of the church and God used their martyrdom to ignite a new passion for frontier missions - it certainly did for me. While Through Gates of Splendor is the most famous of the books on this incident, Jungle Pilot is an inspiring look into the life of Nate Saint and the motivations and love that drove him.
Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret
Author: Dr. Howard Taylor
A missionary biography classic, this book about Hudson Taylor's life looks into a time when missionaries were first pressing into the inlands of places like China, Africa and India. Filled with stories of risk taking obedience to Jesus and great faith, this missionary biography is one everyone should read.
Eternity in Their Hearts
Author: Don Richardson
Don Richardson was a missionary in Indonesia in the 1960s and while there discovered a principle: God has been preparing the peoples of the world to know him. Through the lense of twenty five uniques stories from all across the globe, Eternity in Their Hearts proves the truth in the words of Ecclesiastes: He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Let the Nations Be Glad
Author: John Piper
With deep Biblical insight and reflection, Piper forcefully makes the case that, "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate." This is a great resource for everyone interested in learning more about why we do missions and why it should be in the mind of every follower of Jesus.
In the Gap
Author: David Bryant
In the Gap lays a foundation of understanding for what it means to be a world christian, those who are (in Corrie Ten Boom's phrase) tramps for the Lord who have left their hidding places to roam the Gap with the Savior. They are heaven's expatriots, camping where the Kingdom is best served.
Out of the Comfort Zone
Author: George Verwer
George Verwer is the founder of Operation Mobilization where he now serves as the "Special Projects Dude". This small book has been used to mobilize many to the mission fields of the world. You can even get this book and others free when you email George.
Western Christians in Global Misssion
Author: Paul Borthwick
As the state of Christianity increasingly shifts to the global south, our missionary strategies and thinking will need to adapt to new realitites. Borthwick presents a thoughtful book to help the church navigate these new realities with honest self reflection and missional determination.
This list of seven books is in no way exhaustive and so I want to encourage you to share the book that has helped you catch the missions vision in the comments below.
*all links to books are affiliate links
I first met Any McCullough at an international church in Central Asia. He was on an short trip preparing to move to our city and we had the privilege of taking them out to eat that day. As a language coach and a friend, I got to have a bit of a front row seat to the settling of his family and team into the cross cultural context of ministry. What I observed impressed me in so many ways and so when I saw he had written a book on how we should enter into new cultures, I was excited.
Global Humility: Attitudes for Mission is powerful, insightful and a must read for anyone interested in cross-cultural ministry. Broken into six different sections, Andy explores all facets of cross cultural work through the lens of what he believes is the most important aspect of this work: humility. Filled with first hand experience, personal stories, Biblical insight and sharp observation, Global Humility is a must read for anyone interested in learning from the global church and in moving cross-culturally as an ambassador of Christ. We will certainly be incorporating some of the lessons into the Becoming a Cross Cultural Ambassodor session of E2E.
In Andy’s own words, he hopes that this book will stimulate, provoke and challenge you and cause you to pray more, cause you to think about the world in a humbler way with a broader perspective.
Global Humility does just that.
Andy writes in an easy to read way that is engaging and insightful. There are so many nuggets of wisdom in this book and so here are some those nuggets that I found as I read: one from each chapter. I hope this will give you a taste of what the book is all about and motivate you to order your own today.
Click Here to Get Global Humility*
Section 1 - Moral Humility: Thinking About Sin
Chapter 1 - Tamar: Voice from the Margins
One of the great sins of those who cross cultures, particularly those who travel from the powerful to the powerless, is the sin of judging. The centre judges the margins. The strong judge the weak. The missionary judges the heathen. The Christian judges the non-Christian.
Chapter 2 - The Sins of Jonah
Humility is reading scripture and identifying with its weak characters. If Jonah had such gaping flaws, the chances are we do too. Jonah does not have much to teach us about strategy, but a whole load to teach us about our hearts.
Chapter 3 - The Men from James
The word of the gospel is able to keep and build the believers. All of the tree is in the seed. Everything is an enormous mature tree was originally in the seed; all the DNA necessary. A seed needs planting and watering and needs space clearing out for it to grow (James 1:21), but does not need adding to. So with the gospel of the grace of God in Christ!
Chapter 4 - Softening Your Certainty
Our greatest theologians have only read the first line of the first page of an infinite library which is the knowledge of God. May our speech, our self-perception and our approach to God and others be softer!
Chapter 5 - Humanity as Victim
We must not forget that Sin as Tyrant is as big a theme in the biblical witness as Sin as Choice. The latter is still true, and the Christian formulation of sin includes both, but one of the things that makes Christianity unique as a world religion is the picture of sin as a power oppressing humankind and hence, necessitating a Savior. Islam, for instance, would teach Sin as Choice but not Sin as Tyrant. We, however, have a Savior who came not to judge but to save the world! If we can see people in this way, then instead of blaming we will serve and instead of judging we will empathise.
Section 2 - Public Humility: Thinking About the World
Chapter 6 - Whose Story?
The geographical heartlands of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam are still where they have always been, and the faithful go their on pilgrimage. Not so with Christianity.
Chapter 7 - On Memory
When introducing yourself to someone from a high-context culture, they don’t just want to know who you are as an individual, but who your father and grandfather were, where your people come from originally, where your village is. Third generation urban migrants still talk about their village, even if they have never been there. One of the major differences between identity in the East and the West is the role of memory.
Section 3 - Semantic Humility: Thinking About Language
Chapter 8 - Nimrod Versus Abram
That is why Christian mission must be dominated by an Abrahamic ‘go’ rather than a Nimrodian ‘come’. In multicultural cities and towns of Europe the same dynamic is true. There are many in your town who can never come to your church, the geographic, linguistic, cultural barriers are too many. You may think your church is accessible because it has a good website and a wheelchair ramp, but what about emotional and cultural accessibility? Instead, you must go to them!
Chapter 9 - Heart Language
In any cross-cultural relationship, language is an invisible power differential. If our whole desire is to see local responsibility, local leadership, local ownership in the Church, one of the most decisive ways to achieve this is local language.
Chapter 10 - Translatability
One of the most important things about Christianity is its translatability. I can talk to God in my own heart language. God can speak to me (through the scriptures) in my own mother tongue. I don’t have to learn a sacred language - the gospel invades my language and renders it sacred!
Section 4 - Intercultural Humility: Thinking About Differences
Chapter 11 - Whose Reason?
Have you ever noticed that in the Old Testament there are very few ‘photographic’ descriptions of appearance, whether of people or of buildings? But there is an obsession with the process of building. This because in the East, verbs are more important than nouns. For the biblical writers, describing what the temple looked like was not as important as describing how it was made.
Chapter 12 - I Am Because We Are
We have learned that when Westerners talk about church as ‘family’ they mean something very different to what Easterners expect. If you are going to use that word, are you prepared to live up to the implications? Family pool financial resources to send a nephew to university, or to buy a married couple a house. Family find jobs for each other. Family is invasive, comments on everything, admits no no-go areas.
Chapter 13 - Honour Motivation
There is a Turkish proverb, ‘A stone is weighty in its place.’ Where you are from, where you are known, you have weight.
Chapter 14 - Multisense
… if we discount all form and ritual, then we are making informality a gospel essential, when it is only a cultural preference. We must learn to contextualize to high-context cultures!
Section 5 - Incarnational Humility: Thinking About Leadership
Chapter 15 - Contextualize Yourself!
Although it is rare for cross-cultural workers to genuinely ‘become’ local, the effort that you make to expose yourself to the same lifestyle as those you are seeking to reach - your schooling options, accomodation, work hours, food - will go a long way to communicating the compassion of Christ who lived among Jewish men as a Jewish man.
Chapter 16 - Sent Like Jesus
We are servants of the Sent One! Jesus’ incarnation is the model for our incarnation. His vulnerability is the template for our vulnerability. His humility, the prototype for our humility. His pain, the pattern for our pain.
Chapter 17 - Scaffolding
Reaching the unreached requires collaboration between different apostolic spheres, open-handedness and a non-possessive approach.
Chapter 18 - Leadership is Not Like Riding a Bicycle
The science of leadership is one of the most prevalent forms of neo-colonialism around in the Church today.
Section 6 - Theological Humility: Thinking About Thinking
Chapter 19 - Narrative
The goal of missions is indigenous expression of ancient truth. The danger for missionaries is bringing the gospel plus something additional.
Chapter 20 - Parable
Jesus was unafraid to say ‘the kingdom of heaven is like . . .’ In fact, he knew that the only way our tiny human brains could conceive of the divine was through the medium of comparison to the material, everyday world.
Chapter 21 - Theology as a Verb
Theology should be taught as a verb and not as a noun. To theolog-ise. Especially cross-culturally. We must teach people how to think, not what to think.
Chapter 22 - De-Westernising Your Eschatology
Eurocentrism is rarely more evident in Bible interpretation than in the history of the interpretation of Revelation.
Chapter 23 - Apostolic Plurality
If an Indian reads a verse one way, and an Inuit reads it another way, because of cultural lenses affecting their reading, who is right? Who is wrong? And how can these be reconciled? How different should a Middle Eastern theology be from a North American theology? I know this is a mind boggling question, but we have to have the courage to ask it.
Click Here to Get Global Humility*
Take a moment to watch Andy talk about his book below.
* The links to this book are affiliate links.
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