You’ll notice that 8 of the 12 best books on missions are biographies. Books only on missions theory are like a one-wheel bike. They only inform. Good missionary biographies are like a two-wheel bike. They inform and inspire.
1. Father of Faith Missions: The Life and Times of Anthony Norris Groves (Robert Dann, Autentic Media, 2004, 606 pp)
This book inspires as a good biography should. It also teaches like good missiology should. It touches on parenting, child rearing, support raising, Muslim apologetics, friendship, team ministry, church planting, language learning and much more. The book is out of print and difficult to find, but not impossible. Sometimes you must sell all you have to obtain a great treasure.
2. William Carey (S. Pearce Carey, Wakeman Trust, 2008, 437 pp)
William Carey may be the greatest missionary since the Apostle Paul. Ironically, he wasn’t a church planter. He didn’t even arrive on the field until his early 30’s. I’ve read this volume from cover to cover twice. His teammates were just as great of missionaries as he was.
3. Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies, and Methods (Eckhard Schnabel, IVP, 2010, 519 pages)
This is my go-to book for a biblical perspective on missions. Schnabel argues for the right missionary methods by ransacking the relevant New Testament texts. Churches should used this volume when crafting their missions philosophy. I wrote a review of it here and a summary here.
4. John G. Paton Autobiography (Banner of Truth, 2013, 538 pages)
This could be the most thrilling, fast-paced and adventurous book on missions ever written. Paton was a missionary to the cannibals of the South Seas in the 19th century. He lost his wife, child and many friends, but he never quit. It is a missionary classic. I wrote a review of it here.
5. Hudson Taylor, Two Volume (Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, OMF, 1996)
If you want a shorter version than the two volume, read Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. But the two volumes of Growth of a Soul and Growth of the Work of God are far superior. I’m shocked at how cheap both hardback volumes are. A missionary to Ghana and close friend gifted this biography to me in my early twenties. The Lord used it to strengthen my calling to missions.
6. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Roland Allen, Eerdman’s, 1962, 179 pp)
This groundbreaking classic was far ahead of its time. It questioned the mission policies of the 19th century and beyond. Roland Allen, an Anglican that served briefly as a missionary in China, uses the New Testament to bring the church back to biblical methods of church planting and worldwide evangelism. I wrote a review on it. You can also get it for $.99 on Kindle.
7. The Three Mrs. Judsons (Arabella Stuart, Particular Baptist Press, 2013, 410 pp)
Missions is not just a task for men. Stuart tracks the sacrifice and devotion of Judson’s three wives as they served in Burma. For a great bio on Adoniram, read To the Golden Shore by Anderson. For other excellent books on missions from a female perspective, see A Chance to Die (Elliot), Letters and Sketches (Paton) and Evidence Not Seen (Rose).
8. The Life and Diary of David Brainerd (Jonathan Edwards, 256 pp)
You’ve heard of a “pastor to pastors”. Brainerd is a missionary to missionaries. Many of the great missionaries over the past 200 years have drawn inspiration and courage from the diary of Brainerd. Edwards, a theological giant in his own right, thought so highly of this young man that he compiled information about Brainerd’s work among the Native American Indians. For another excellent biography about a single missionary, see John Sargent’s The Life and Letters of Henry Martyn.
9. Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (Elisabeth Elliot, HarperCollins, 2009, 256 pp)
Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth, tells the thrilling account of her husband Jim’s move into missions and his tragic martyrdom among the people he was trying to reach with the Gospel. For more books on The Auca Five, read Through Gates of Splendor, The Savage My Kinsman, and Passion and Purity.
10. Let the Nations Be Glad (John Piper, Baker, 2010, 288 pp)
This is one of the great books on missions of this generation. Piper uses Scripture to show that God’s glory is the chief motivation for missions. He draws attention to people groups and challenges a sleeping church. He also motivates youth toward global evangelism in a way no one had done for decades. For a helpful book similar to this, read David Doran’s For the Sake of His Name. Another modern classic would be Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism.
11. Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation (Jason Mandryk, IVP, 2010, 978 pp)
Now in its 7th edition, Operation World informs Christians about the spiritual needs of each nation around the world and then encourages them how to pray for each country. Every pastor and father should keep close at hand this unique work. It will help him inform his flock and family about the missionary needs throughout the world.
12. St. Andrews Seven (Piggin and Roxborogh, Banner of Truth, 1985, 168 pages)
Many of the great missionary movements began with student societies at universities. This book tells the stirring account of six students (and their teacher) at St. Andrews University in Scotland that became overwhelmed with missionary zeal. Their lives urge courage, dedication and hope beyond one’s wildest expectations. It’s a quick read and would b