About Paul Schlehlein

Christian, husband, father of eight, missionary church-planter to the Tsongas in rural South Africa.

Show Me a Sign: How Missionaries Should Pray When Resistance Comes


Christians should ask God for a sign. There are good and bad ways to do this. Many are bad. 


There are few things more “churchy” on the continent of Africa than asking for a sign. The Zion Christian Church (ZCC) is Sub-SaharaN Africa’s largest African-Initiated church. They have well over 5 million members. They live and die with signs and wonders. The denomination began through signs and wonders. They continue to ask for signs. Continue reading

Should Children Aspire to Be Future Missionaries?

87C0F729-70B2-4D20-95A4-83B1A2AABB80_1_201_aMay children be saved? Yes. Spurgeon said that as soon as a child is capable of being lost, it is capable of being saved. Cotton Mather called the parent an ostrich who pretended their lost child was a Christian. Parents must call them to faith, for children can be converted.

So if a child is capable of being saved, is he capable of aspiring to be a missionary? Yes. Parents should not deter such dreams. In fact, they should pray for it.

“Lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children” (Lam. 2:19).

Historical Examples

When John Paton volunteered for missionary service to the cannibals of the South Seas, his whole church discouraged him from doing so. He was in his early 30’s at the time, but he returned home disheartened. It was then his parents broke the secret they had long kept from him. They had prayed since his birth that he would become a missionary but they hadn’t wanted to unnecessarily sway his opinion. From his youth they had consecrated him to worldwide missions.

Paton wrote in his Biography the words of his mother that fateful evening:

“We feared to bias you, but now we must tell you why we praise God for the decision to which you have been led. Your father’s heart was set upon being a Minister, but other claims forced him to give it up. When you were given to them, your father and mother laid you upon the altar, their first-born, to be consecrated, if God saw fit, as a Missionary of the Cross; and it has been their constant prayer that you might be prepared, qualified, and led to this very decision; and we pray with all our heart that the Lord may accept your offering, long spare you, and give you many souls from the Heathen World for your hire.”

Anthony Norris Groves aspired to missions as a boy. He became one of the greatest missionaries in church history. He ministered for a time in Bagdad, the headquarters of Islam. He eventually established the first Protestant mission to Arabic-speaking Muslims. Continue reading

Paul or Timothy? 5 (More) Questions to Ask Potential Pioneer Missionaries

How do you know if you should enter into pioneer missions? Recently we looked at five initial questions to ask yourself. Here are five more.

  1. Are you willing to suffer on the mission field?

Paul did not have a rosy, ignorant picture of the mission field. He knew it was difficult and dangerous. He could do nothing else.

Paul said, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). He didn’t run from trials. He remembered Jesus’ words, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). He was whipped thirty-nine times on five occasions. He was beaten with rods three times. He was stoned once (2 Cor. 11:24,25). When a prophet foretold that Paul would be captured in Jerusalem, his friends told him to stay. He refused to run away (Acts 21:13). Missionary suffering is often the means to the conversion of the lost.

  1. Do you want to go where other missionaries aren’t?

Paul’s ambition was different than most Bible teachers (Rom. 15:20). He wanted to go where Christ was not worshipped. This isn’t the desire of every missionary and teacher, but it was the aim of Paul and must be the ambition of every pioneer missionary. He realized that his ministry was distinct from others. Paul “planted” and Apollos “watered” (1 Cor. 3:6).

A pioneer missionary may have periods when he primarily pastors, “waters”, and cares for mature sheep, but he will not find long-term contentment unless he is planting churches or evangelizing among the least reached places in the world. Continue reading

Paul or Timothy? 5 [Initial] Questions to Ask Potential Pioneer Missionaries

B79D4849-1CE3-4CA2-A3C1-BE373B343F68_4_5005_cNot every Christian is a missionary. Not all missionaries are Paul-type pioneer missionaries. Some missionaries will teach the reached, others the lesser reached, and some the unreached. Paul was a pioneer missionary. Are you fit for such a task? Here are five (initial) questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do you believe the unevangelized will go to Hell?

You’ll have less motivation to evangelize the lost if you believe the unreached will receive God’s mercy on judgment day. Paul preached: “The times of this ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

Paul knew that everyone stands guilty before God (Rom. 1:18), not because they have rejected the Gospel but because they have rejected God’s truth in creation (Rom. 1). All men are “inexcusable” (Rom. 2:1). Those who do not trust in Christ will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9).

  1. Has God called you into pioneer missions?

Not everyone is called like the apostle Paul. On the Damascus Road, God told Paul that his ministry was not just to the religious Jews but to the unevangelized Gentiles (Acts 26:17). On another occasion, Paul called condemnation upon himself if he did not preach the Gospel among the Gentiles (1 Cor. 9:16).

The story of Paul’s calling was told three times in the book of Acts alone. It motivated him to go farther and farther among the unevangelized. Every pioneer missionary must at least have a deep burden to see untouched lands reached for Christ. Continue reading

Don’t Fit the Missionary Mold? Nine Amazing Facts About William Carey Before He Surrendered to Missions

EA650E07-BD3A-4141-AC65-25F4A4CDB851_1_201_aNot all missionaries look the same. Timothy came from an interfaith home. Paul didn’t. God pulled Jonah into missions by using a whale. God pulled Paul into missions by using blindness. Isaiah ministered for decades. John the Baptist preached for only a few years.

The Father of Modern Missions certainly didn’t look like your typical missionary prospect. Before William Carey started the Baptist mission society and before he wrote his classic work An Enquiry, he had a number of unconventional characteristics. Here are nine.

  1. Unusual looks: Carey went bald at age 22 due to a severe fever. He was 5’4″ at adulthood.
  2. Unusual wife: Carey’s wife could not sign her own name on the day of their wedding. She only learned how to do this later.
  3. Unusual brilliance: At age 12, Carey memorized a 60-page Latin book, a harbinger to his later linguistic brilliance. He taught himself Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, French and Dutch.
  4. Unusual baptism: Carey came to Baptist convictions after hearing a paedobaptist sermon. Carey’s Baptist church allowed people to be members before they were baptized.
  5. Unusual obscurity: Carey did not come from an upperclass home or from clerical stock. When he was baptized at age 23, only a few attended.
  6. Unusual denomination: Many Baptists in Carey’s day were hyper-Calvinists, stressing God’s sovereignty such that it eliminated man’s responsibility.
  7. Unusual convictions: Carey stopped using sugar to protest the slave trade. He also chose to be a Baptist even though only Anglicans could be masters in government schools, officers in the army and graduates from the university.
  8. Unusual hobby: Carey loved globes, maps and world population statistics. He hung globes in his home and made his own maps. He referred to them as his second Bible.
  9. Unusual pastorate: The country church he applied to rejected him as a pastor after his first time preaching there. When he did eventually become the pastor, the church attendance went down.

Conclusion: God calls faithful servants that are dedicated to him. He doesn’t summon cookie-cutter Christians. The goal is not to look like everyone else. The goal is to look like Christ. If God has called you into missions, then accept and thank Him for the unique way He has made you. Then use your gifts for His glory.

My Top Twelve Books on Missions

D72B3AB0-DFD3-4144-898B-907A3CD5C73D_4_5005_cYou’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 SecretBut 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. Continue reading

Opposites Attract: How and Why Missionaries Should Embrace Their Differences


Yesterday’s post argued that unity made the great missionary teams great. These men had the majority of things in common, like background, theology, age and interests. 

In this post, I’d like to encourage missionary teams to embrace their differences. Sometimes it’s the contrasts that make the Missions Locomotive run fast and far. 

The Serampore Trio embraced their dissimilarities. Here are three of them. 

1. They Had Different Personalities

Carey might have been the leader, but he was painfully shy in some settings compared to his teammates. There seemed to have been little jealousy between the Trio. They sharpened each other when they saw a dull blade. Carey wrote to his friend Ryland back home about his teammate Marshman:

“Marshman is all keenness for God’s work. Often have I seen him, when we have been walking together, eye a group of persons, like a hawk, and go up to try on them the Gospel’s utmost strength. I have known him engage with such for hours, more eager for the contest when he left off than when he began. It has filled me with shame. In point of zeal he is a Luther, I an Erasmus.”

Carey excels twice. First, he acknowledges a serious way Marshman is his superior. Carey owns this very real difference and verbalizes it to a mutual friend. Second, Carey tries to improve by observing Marshman’s superiority. It filled him “with shame,” he said. Carey didn’t say, “that’s just the way he is.” Carey effectively said, “When I watch Marshman evangelize, guilt fills my heart. I’ve got to do better. I’ve go to improve.”

Continue reading

Birds of a Feather: What Made the Greatest Missionary Team Great


When Jesus sends missionaries around the world, he’s uses them as individuals and as parts of a team. David Brainerd lived alone for many years as he evangelized the Native American Indians. Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, John Paton, Robert Moffat, James Gilmour, David Livingstone and a host of other missionaries all experienced years of ministry alone. The very definition of pioneer missions often means working solo, at least in the beginning.

But I’m a proponent of team missions and believe the Serampore Trio is one of the greatest examples of teamwork in the history of world evangelism. They tripled and quadrupled the output of their work compared to what they could have done individually.

Henry Martyn, the great missionary to India and Persia, never had the privilege of enjoying a permanent teammate and companion on the field. He did, however, have the joy of knowing each member of the Serampore Trio. He wrote:

“Three such men as Carey, Marshman, and Ward, so suited to one another and their work, are not to be found, I think, in the whole world.”

In 1793, William Carey arrived in Bengal as a missionary. Today he is known as the Father of Modern Missions. William Ward and Joshua Marshman joined him six years later. They eventually chose as their headquarters the city of Serampore, just a few miles north of Calcutta, one of the largest cities in India. They became known as the Serampore Trio. Carey’s biographer wrote of this team: “No three men ever had a soul so single.” Continue reading

Two Words That Are Key to Being a Successful Missionary

You won’t like my answer. Here it is anyway. Endure hardness.

There are no shortcuts to becoming a successful missionary. There’s no quick, alternative route to imitate Barnabas, Brainerd, and Borden. Paul told Timothy: “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2Tm. 2:3). Timothy must share in the suffering of Jesus.

Just as soldiers endure rough treatment in war, so Christians must suffer as they follow their Master. Contra the Prosperity Gospel, it is “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Ac. 14:22).

Carey’s Enquiry

In William Carey’s pamphlet that launched the modern missionary movement, he hammered this point constantly. In Section 4 of his book An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, he addresses five of the most common obstacles to worldwide missions. The first was distance, the second was their savage manner of living, the third was the danger, the fourth was poverty, and the fifth was language acquisition.

Carey dismantled each argument. He showed how none of those five objections could stand up against biblical and logical scrutiny. Even an average person can learn a language in a couple years. Many of the savages are dangerous only in self-defense. It’s not nearly as difficult to travel around the world as it used to be (said Carey in 1791, pre cars and jets!). Continue reading

Yamikani and Nondumiso


Today we celebrate the union of Yamikani and Nondumiso, or, Boti Karni and Sesi Miso…as our congregation in Mbhokota Village affectionately refers to them. The word “boti” means “brother” in Tsonga and the word “sesi” means “sister”. Ironically, this means that this wedding ceremony today is not the formation of their first relationship together. God forged a relationship between these two some years ago. It was not a union in marriage. It was a union with Christ.


For some years now they have referred to each other as brother and sister. This didn’t come come through family blood but through Jesus’ blood. This has not always been the case.

The Bible teaches that no one is born in the family of God but only in the family of His greatest enemy, Satan. Paul calls unbelievers “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:3) and Jesus calls unbelievers children of their father the Devil (Jn. 8:44). No one is born a Christian, the way Muslims say they are born a Muslim or the way a boy is born a prince into a royal family or the way a girl may be born a princess because her father is a king.

Karni was born a Katunga and Miso was born a Hlela, but no one is born a Christian, even if they are born into a Christian family. Being born to Christian parents does not make you a Christian  any more than being born the child of a World Cup winner makes you a soccer star.

What this means is that salvation is really a transfer of families. When a sinner turns from his sin in repentance and looks to Jesus in hope and faith, not only does God instantly give him eternal life and the Holy Spirit, but God also becomes his Father. God makes him one of his children. For this reason Scripture uses the idea of adoption to explain how people are saved. They move from one family, a family of darkness, misery and sin, and into another family, a family of light, joy and righteousness. John says: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (Jn. 1:12). Continue reading

Should Christians Still Use the Word “Savage” When Describing the Unreached?

A145192B-B704-4AD4-8F43-19D5749BE5C9Yes, Christians should still use a word like “savage”. It accurately describes the human condition before Gospel light comes. Let me explain.

In 2017, Wheaton College removed the word “savage” from a plaque honoring a group of murdered missionaries. In the early 1950’s, a band of American men were speared to death by the Auca Indians in Ecuador. “Auca” means “savage” in the local language. Some of those men, like Jim Elliot, were graduates from Wheaton College.

The president of Wheaton, Philip Ryken, claimed the college removed the word because it was regarded as “pejorative” and “had been used historically to dehumanize and mistreat peoples around the world.”

Wheaton made a mistake. I think “savage” is a helpful word that should be preserved. Here are three reasons why.

Biblically Accurate

First, biblically, many of the authors of Scripture use similar language to describe man’s fallen state. Paul used the word “savage” in Acts 20:29 to describe vicious and cruel opponents of the Gospel. Jesus calls sinners children of Satan (Jn. 8:44). Peter calls them “blind” (2Pt. 1:9). The author of Hebrews calls them “ignorant” (Heb. 5:2). No one is denying that “savage” is politically incorrect in today’s world. It certainly is. But so is calling someone a child of the Devil. Should we scrub that verse too?

Theologically Accurate

Second, theologically, the term savage correctly reflects sinful man’s position before God. The word “savage” carries the idea of wild, ignorant, and uncivilized. This is how Peter describes man’s position before Christianity came to him. He had inherited from his forefathers his “futile” way of thinking (1Pt. 1:18). He was in darkness before Gospel light came. If Wheaton can remove “savage” from a plaque, shouldn’t the Swiss remove post tenebras lux from the Reformation Wall in Geneva. Darkness? What darkness? Continue reading

15 Questions A Christian Dude Should Ask Another Christian Dude About Their Friendship

Combined Task Force 4-2 conducts combined foot patrol with ANA partners

Fellow Soldiers and Friends

J.C. Ryle said that friendships double our joy and halve our troubles. Good Christian friends should ask each other these fifteen questions to improve their friendship.

A Warning

Guys don’t converse well sitting across from each other. Guys need to move. Guys use their hands and feet when talking. Girls are better at talking across a booth. Ladies like to talk with their legs curled up on the sofa. Guys like to talk in front of a football game.

If you’re uncomfortable talking over coffee, shoot hoops instead. Drive across town. Hike up a mountain. Go to the driving range. Clean out the carburetor. Sharpen the lawn mower blade. Throw the baseball. While you’re at it, ask the following questions.

When you’re done reading, I’ll show you what to do with them at the end.

15 Questions on Friendship

  1. Do you think I’d stand shoulder to shoulder with you in battle, or do you doubt my loyalty? (Gal. 6:2)
  2. Where’s one area I’ve really encouraged you such that you wished I did it more often? (Heb. 10:24)
  3. Is there anything I’ve said or done in the past that still bothers you because we never reconciled the matter? (Matt. 18:15)
  4. What’s one annoying thing I do that isn’t a huge deal and you wouldn’t bring it up on your own but it’s still, frankly, irritating? (Gal. 5:15)
  5. Would you say you have a number of good, meaningful friendships, or are you isolated? (Pr. 18:24)
  6. Do you have confidence I pray for you and what does or doesn’t give you such confidence? (James 5:16)
  7. Do I better our friendship by loving your family or do I hinder our relationship because of how I treat your wife and kids? (2Sm. 9:1)
  8. What are two goals and dreams you have that are so big and far-fetched you neglect to voice them? (1 Thess. 5:11)
  9. Can you be open and honest with me or do you wear a mask covering your weaknesses?
  10. Do I do anything that causes you to stumble or stops you from being your best? (Rm. 14:13)
  11. Do I actively look for ways to serve you or am I selfish in my ambitions? (Gal. 5:26)
  12. Am I quick to forgive or do I prefer to hold a grudge? (Eph. 4:32)
  13. Would you say I’m petty over small foibles or do I look for the best and glory in what you do well? (Col. 3:12)
  14. Do I constructively criticize you with open rebuke, or do I wimp out and ignore your faults? (Pr. 27:5-6)
  15. Where are two ways I can keep you accountable? (Pr. 9:8)

Actions Steps:

  1. Locate your 2-3 closest friends. DO NOT use this list with a general acquaintance. That would be weird.
  2. Send him an email or a link with these questions. Ask him to answer honestly.
  3. Or, join him for a road trip or barbecue and toss him a few questions.
  4. If #3 goes well, try it again with new questions.
  5. If this was helpful, consider asking these similar questions to your wife.

Should Missionaries Send their Prized Pupils Overseas to Train?

In the country where I minister (South Africa), it is common to talk with young men that have crossed the ocean to train for ministry. I do not doubt their good intentions, nor am I incredulous about his pastor’s benevolent and optimistic hopes.

The thinking is generally along these lines. “Africa (or Asia or South America) is severely lacking in solid teaching. The church is a mile wide and an inch deep. Our context is filled with thousands of pastors that are untrained theologically. It’s going to take many years (and several degrees) from a Western seminary to train a native pastor so that he can take that knowledge back to his people. Sure, it may take 6-10 years of training but it will be worth it in the end.”

There is some validity to these arguments. If you give a native pastor the “best training” and he returns with that training, not only will that help his countrymen, but should it happen to enough men, it could eliminate the need for foreign missionaries.

But I’m skeptical, sometimes bordering on downright doubtful. Here are a few reasons why.

Three Reasons This is Rarely a Good Idea

First is the cost of training and maintaining the prospective pastor. I read recently that it costs nearly $60,000 to bring one pastor from Africa to the US to study for a year. With that same amount of money, one could train dozens of pastors in their own context. But it’s not only the cost of education that is an issue. Continue reading

When is a Local Church Autonomous? 8 Observations About Native Pastors

When can a missionary feel comfortable moving on from the church he established? How can he know the church will flourish and make the proper decisions? There are many ways to answer this question but my conviction is that a missionary can move on when he has installed a native pastor. This is the key issue. It is also the most difficult issue.

In one sense, it makes little difference if the church has 5 members, 50 members, or 500 members. If no one is able to lead them, preach to them and shepherd them, the missionary cannot depart. Better to have a church of 10 with a pastor than a church of 100 with no leader. The point is to “appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5). Then the missionary moves on.

Rufus Anderson, the American Presbyterian missiologist, made several acute observations about native pastors installed at missionary church plants. Here are eight:

1. Native pastors should lead a church where there are true converts.

“I now enquire, what should be the nature of the mission church? It should be composed only of hopeful converts…” – Rufus Anderson

2. Native pastors should lead a church early.

“[The church] should have, as soon as possible, a native pastor…” – Anderson

3. Native pastors should lead a church among his people.

“[Native pastors must be of the same race…” – Anderson

4. Native pastors should be trained (formally, or most often, informally).

[“A native pastor]…has been trained cheerfully to take the oversight…” – Anderson

5. Native pastors often will lead very small, poor congregations.

Anderson: “[The native church]…will generally be a small, poor, ignorant people…

6. Native pastors can connect with the church much better than the missionary.

“[The native pastor will]…mingle with them familiarly and sympathetically.” – Anderson

7. Native pastors will carry out the same role as the missionary did.

“By a native pastor I mean one recognized as having the pastoral care of a local church, with the right to administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” – Anderson

8. Native pastors should be paid according to what the congregation can give.

“As soon as the mission church has a native pastor, the responsibilities of self-government should be devolved upon it…The salary of the native pastor should be based on the Christianized ideas of living acquired by his people, and the church should become self-supporting at the very earliest possible day.” – Anderson (Beaver, To Advance the Gospel, 98).


A missionary should not hang on as long as he can to the church he is trying to establish. His goal is to install native elders as soon as possible. Rather than trying to create a large church, he should put much of his energy into training a national pastor that can shepherd the small congregation of local believers.

Review: An Enquiry

William Carey, 1792, 85 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Every Christian interested in missions should read William Carey’s An Enquiry. The word “enquiry” means investigation. In this book, Carey examines missions in a way never done before. The full name of the book is An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.

The book has five sections. Section One is the Argument, where he answers over a dozen objections to cross-cultural missions. Section Two is the Review, where he surveys the history of missions up to that point. Not a whole lot there. Section Three is the Statistical Survey. Map-making was a hobby of Carey’s. At the time of writing, the world population was just north of 700 million. Today it is 7.8 billion. Section Four is the Challenge, the part of the book I enjoyed the most. Section Five is the Program, where Carey gives practical ways the church can move forward in missions.

Four Reasons to Read the Book

First, William Carey is the GOAT. Many agree Carey is the greatest missionary of all time. He’s the father of modern missions. He kicked off the greatest missions movement the world has ever seen. God used this book to stir missionary zeal among pastors and parishioners. Carey has more ethos than any other missionary author. Loving missions but never having read An Enquiry is like being a student of the violin but having never heard Itzhak Perlman play. Continue reading

What is “Euthanasia of a Missionary”?

Euthanasia is sometimes called “mercy killing”. The term comes from the Greek word thanatos (death). It literally means “good death”. It typically refers to the killing of a patient with an incurable disease. In Christian ethics, euthanasia is considered sinful and contrary to God’s word.

When Euthanasia is Good

But when it comes to Great Commission work around the world, “euthanasia of a missionary” or “euthanasia of a mission” is actually a good thing. It’s one of the goals of missions.

When St. Paul was establishing churches from town to town, his plan was never to stay at one particular church plant for the long haul. He was always looking to leave the new congregation in native hands. He was always looking for ways to work himself out of a job, or “kill himself off” if you will. It wasn’t long after establishing the church in Philippi that Paul could write: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1:1).

Paul sometimes stayed in a town for only a few days or weeks. Other times he was able to plant a church in a matter of months, like the church in Thessalonica (Ac. 17:1-9). Sometimes it took a year or two to establish a church, as it did in Corinth (Ac. 18:1-17) and Ephesus (Ac. 19:10).

Regardless of the exact time it took, Paul was always looking to get out of Dodge, basically from the time he arrived.

Johnny Mac is Not a Missionary

John MacArthur began pastoring Grace Community Church on February 9, 1969. He’s still pastoring the same church over fifty years later. It took him over 40 years to preach through the entire New Testament. This is awe-inspiring and praiseworthy, but only because he is a pastor. But what is commendable for a pastor is often damning for a missionary.

Continue reading

20 Questions a Husband Should Ask His Wife About Their Kids


She’s not happy because he never gave her this list

I recently asked these questions to my wife. It spurred excellent conversation. If a husband genuinely wants to know his wife’s thoughts on these questions, he’ll discover many things about her he never knew before.  

  1. Are you glad we had children when we did, or would different timing had been better?
  2. Are you happy with the number of children we have, or do you wish we had more or less?
  3. What are two practical things I can do to make your job as a mother easier and more enjoyable?
  4. Am I doing a good job teaching biblical doctrine (“what the Bible says”) and character (“how do I do this”) to the children?
  5. What is one way you think I manage the children well and one way I need to manage them better?
  6. Do you think I treat you as my chief confidant and advisor when raising the kids, welcoming your suggestions and advice?
  7. Do you think I give you freedom and help you to spread your wings as you train the children, or do you think I hold you back?
  8. Do you think our children are happy, or do you think I exasperate them and provoke them to wrath?
  9. Am I too optimistic and naive with the kids, thinking they’re little angels, or too pessimistic, thinking they’re demons incarnate?
  10. Do you think I’m doing a good job of creating warm, fun memories with the kids, or am I too firm and glum?
  11. Are there some ways you think I am hypocritical with the kids?
  12. Do I have a good balance of showing them love with affection and words, or am I too negative?
  13. Have I created a home that is safe from mockery and ridicule and where the children are free to make mistakes?
  14. Have I made the rules in our home clear or is there confusion among the children as to what I expect?
  15. How would you say I need better balance when it comes to disciplining the kids?
  16. What are two practical ways I can make rules in the home that are more clear and more easily attainable?
  17. Do you think I am quick to ask forgiveness from the children when I have sinned, or am I reluctant?
  18. Am I a good listener with the children, spending adequate time learning their likes and dislikes?
  19. When it comes to caring for the children, how would you fill in the blank? “Often I’ve thought, ‘I wish my husband would do ____ better.’”
  20. At my 75th birthday birthday party, what do you think I will be most glad I did when it comes to training the children? The biggest regret?

What is the Difference Between a Missionary and a Missiologist?

3CBD980D-1511-4CB5-9805-9C7505B4DEC6All missionaries are missiologists (or at least should be). Not all missiologists are missionaries. They often are not.

Missionaries vs. Missiologists

A missionary is a Christian that is sent out of his church to evangelize cross-culturally. A missiologist is a student and often times a teacher of missions. Surprisingly, many of the books on my shelf about missions are not written by missionaries. They are written by missiologists only. They are written by armchair missionaries.

Two of the greatest missionary thinkers of the 19th century were Henry Venn (a British Anglican) and Rufus Anderson (an American Congregationalist). Neither were missionaries.

Dentists (or, former dentists) make the best dentistry professors. Pastors (or former pastors) make the best teachers on the pastorate. And missionaries (or former missionaries) make the best missiologists and teachers on missions. This is why missionaries often struggle listening to missiologists that have never served overseas.

“Missionaries and missiologists, though laboring with the best of intentions, sometimes find each other completely incomprehensible” – Robert Dann, Father of Faith Missions, 468

Non-missionaries can still speak intelligently about missions. John Piper was never a missionary, but his book Let the Nations Be Glad inspired many to cross the globe with the gospel. Roland Allen was only in China for a few years, but his work Missionary Methods is considered a classic in its genre. But there is a kind of depth that only a veteran missionary can give when writing about cross-cultural evangelism.

A missionary author has a special kind of authority, clout, and ethos when he has actually learned a foreign language, moved to a foreign land, lived among the people he is trying to reach, and won converts in a spiritually dark place.


All missionaries should be students of missions but not all students of missions are missionaries. The best books on missions are either written by missionaries themselves or biographies about actual missionaries.

Who Should Send Out Missionaries Around the World?

A700A82B-77D6-4DA2-9E19-69ECC731CA5FAnthony Norris Groves (1795 – 1853) stands as one of the great missionaries of the 19th century. Most people in today’s churches haven’t even heard of him.

Mission Societies vs. Churches

In that day, mission societies sent missionaries overseas, rather than the churches doing the sending themselves. In the early days of the modern missionary movement, mission societies were the sending agencies for cross-cultural missionaries, such as the Scottish Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge (1707), the Moravian Mission Society (1732) and the Baptist Mission Society (1792). The full name of the latter establishment was the Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen (or, BMS). William Carey, “the father of modern missions, helped found it. Continue reading

A Case for Three-Self Churches


In the mid-19th century, a man named Henry Venn argued that missionaries ought to plant churches that are “indigenous”. By indigenous he meant native, autonomous and reproducing. Venn had never been to the mission field, but as a mission administrator, he saw cracks in the foundation of the Great Commission methods of his day, including in his own denomination—the Anglican Church.

In his youth in England, Venn was told by an African boy: “Treat us like men and we’ll behave like men. Treat us as children and we will behave as children.” Venn never forgot that line.

You might think that insisting upon indigenous churches would be obvious, but the popular method in Venn’s day was for missionaries to go to foreign lands in order to pastor the churches they planted. The local people often did not become pastors themselves, and if they did, they were often supported by foreign funding. Moreover, the foreign offices and managerial machinery in the host country continued to make decisions in the foreign church. Not surprisingly, the native church either became addicted to dependency upon the foreigners, or they felt pandered, babied, and belittled.

To fix this issue, Venn urged missionaries to plant churches that were autonomous, evangelistic and generous, or as he put it, a church with the “Three Selves”: self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating. The church was to be self-governing in that she had her own authoritative local elders, void of foreign jurisdiction. The church was to be self-propagating in that she would lead the charge in preaching, evangelism and church planting, void of overseas meddling. The church was to be self-supporting in that she provided for the congregation’s leadership with their own money, void of foreign funding. Continue reading

Review: Missions

You’d be surprised how many books on missions never get around to actually defining “missions” or “missionary”.
John Piper’s acclaimed book on missions, Let the Nations Be Glad, waits until the second to last page to give a somewhat nebulous definition of a missionary: “A missionary is someone who goes out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.” David Doran’s definition of missionary in For the Sake of His Name wasn’t too specific either: “One who is sent on a mission.” 
So I was happy to see that Johnson clearly defines both missionary and missions, and he did it by Chapter Two. Missionary: “Someone identified and sent out by local churches to make the gospel known and to gather, serve, and strengthen local churches across ethnic, linguistic, or geographic divides” (p. 36). Missions: “Evangelism that takes the gospel across ethnic, linguistic, and geographic boundaries, that gathers churches, and teaches them to obey everything Jesus commended” (p. 35). 
This is one of those “see the forest, not the trees” little books that gives a nice overview of missions. Andy Johnson is a pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and has experience with international churches. Let’s overview some of the pros and cons.

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How to Avoid Buying A Bad Book in Ten Easy Steps

The great author Mortimer Adler—author of How to Read a Booksaid that before someone can read, he must pre-read. A person must know how to skim a book before he reads the whole thing.

Imagine you are standing in a library. The bookshelves run for miles. You take a volume off the shelf. Should you sit down and read the whole book or just a portion? Does the book deserve five minutes or five hours? Should you read the book from cover to cover, or just the first page? Sometimes an authority assignsyou a book to read and you have the read the entire thing. But often, you get to decide how much of the book you want to read. If you want to know how much of the book you should devote yourself to, learn how to skim(or pre-read)a book. 

Skimming a book is important because we have limited time. It’s nonsense when a person says they always read a book from cover to cover. That person is a poor reader. Never read more than what the book is worth. This may mean giving it five minutes; it may also mean reading it through twice.

Imagine a young man in a beautiful bookstore. Let’s call him Stephen. The room is full of glossy books. Stephen wants to devour each one. His time and money are limited. Stephen can’t buy each book. He can only buy the best. How can he decide which book to purchase? How can Stephen protect himself from wasting his time and money?

One option is that Stephen sits down reads each volume from cover to cover. Then after that, he can decide which book to purchase. The problem is that the shop owner will kick him out before he finishes. Stephen only has 30 minutes. He must take a shortcut. You must pre-read. You must skim, the first type of inspectional reading.  

How can Stephen makes a good purchase? This is something young people especially need to learn. Here are ten steps:

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Five Pieces of Advice to a Potential International Missionary

By way of introduction, please note that the phrase “international missionary” is redundant. “International missionary” is like saying “unmarried bachelor”. A bachelor is by definition unmarried, and a missionary is by definition international, or at least cross-cultural.

If you are ministering the gospel to your own nation and those within your own culture, you are doing a very fine thing. But you are not a missionary. That term should be reserved for those that engage in cross-cultural evangelism. 

I’ve been asked a number of times to give counsel for prospective missionaries. Here’s how I would answer. 

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Three Benefits of Christian Boys’ Camps

Boys’ camps are like the crow’s nest on a four-masted schooner.

If a boy’s life could be compared to a Renaissance ship, the Church would be the rudder, giving him direction. His family would be the sails, driving him forward to success. His school and places of education would be the anchor, protecting him from drifting into moral danger. A boy doesn’t have to attend a Christian boys’ camp any more than a yacht needs crow’s nest to sail from Tahiti to the Falkland Islands. But it sure yields a beautiful and unique perspective

If parents have the opportunity, they should send their sons to a Christ-centered boys’ camp. Here are three reasons why.

1. God calls men to teach boys

Specifically, God calls men to teach boys informally. Deuteronomy 6:7 says parents should teach their children the Scriptures when they “walk by the way”. This means Dad and Mom should find way to instruct their kids at places besides the dinner table, church and bedtime prayers.

Girls are domestic by nature, meaning they gravitate to the home and kitchen. Moms train their daughters best while scooping out cake batter and hemming her finest dress. Boys are different. They are hunters, explorers, defenders. A boy learns better when there’s dirt beneath his fingernails. Moses’ phrase “in the way” is a reminder that fathers especially need to maximize the informal teaching moments they have with their sons. Continue reading

Review: Mission Affirmed

a54b0f71-0f29-432a-868e-ff620d578f53_4_5005_cI’d much rather eat a cheesecake baked by a great cook than a Black Forest gateau baked by PhD-holder in cuisine. And I’d much rather read a missions book by a missionary than a missions book by a missiologist. Missiologists are often armchair missionaries. They write from a comfortable desk in their homeland.
I want the book to smell of dusty pathways and busy marketplaces, to sound like foreign voices, to taste of danger, sadness and joy. This is why great missionary biographies are the best books on missions. They’ve been there and done it.
There are exceptions, sure. Some great books on missions were not written by life-long missionaries (e.g. Paul the Missionary by Schnabel; Missionary Methods by Allen). But a main reason Clark’s work takes flight is because he’s labored on the mission field himself.

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Southern Baptist Rot and a Warning to Sola Five

This past July 4th, as Americans celebrated Independence Day, Pastor Jonathan Sims of Shelbyville Mills Baptist Church notified his flock about their formal independance from the Southern Baptist Convention. The reason, he said, was decades long spiritual rot within Southern Baptist churches.
Everything about this address made me cheer. He was humble, convincing and insightful. He calls himself Brother Jono and uses those simple titles for all staff. He was on fire, naming names at every turn, all while lauding historic Calvinism, the centrality of expositional preaching, the importance of church discipline and the authority of Sola Scriptura. 
He gave at least ten examples of liberal rot within the SBC:
  1. Decisional Regeneration
  2. Wokism
  3. Spontaneous baptisms
  4. Softening on abortion
  5. Revivalism
  6. Critical Race Theory (calling it wicked, hellish and another Gospel)
  7. Love for cultural relevance
  8. Women preachers
  9. Parading sexual abuse victims
  10. Bloated membership rolls
Sims is a fifth generation Southern Baptist preacher. He’s been a part of Southern Baptist schools and churches for nearly sixty years. So departing from the SBC speaks volumes to what he sees as a lost cause, a sinking ship and an old wineskin. 
I’ve been a missionary in a little South African Tsonga village for fifteen years. I’m a Baptist but have no SBC affiliations. I am a part of Sola 5, an association of Reformed Baptist churches in southern Africa. I love and pray for and am thankful for these pastors and churches. But the Downgrade in the SBC over the years has been a grave reminder to me that if we preachers of Christ are not walking daily in the Spirit, mining carefully in the Word, admonishing each other with love and firmness and fighting ruthlessly against the greatest errors in the church today, Sola 5 will succumb to liberalism in the church as well. 
God have mercy on the SBC. God give grace to Sola 5. God bless Jonathan Sims.

What I Read in 2020

Better late than never. In 2020 I read five, 5-star books and eighteen 4-star books, which doesn’t mean much to you, but a lot to me. You can find the whole list here.

My book of the year was Life Under Compulsion by Anthony Esolen. My missionary teammate loaned it to me and even let me mark it up, else I wouldn’t have read it at all. Esolen writes with punch, making sure to hit the bad guys (pop culture, feminism) and applaud the good guys (children, stay-at-home moms etc.).

My surprise book of the year was The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Gregory. I first heard about it when Doug Wilson said all the teachers read it at his classical Christian school. It was published in 1886. You can buy it for $.99 on Kindle. It’s good for pastors too.

The worst book I read in 2020 was a biography on Herman Bavinck. It was about 300 pages too long. I didn’t find a quotable line in a book on a quotable man.

Honorable mention include Calvin and Commerce, a book on Reformed economics, Fortunes of Africa, a huge paperback on African history, Mathematics: Is God Silent?, more of a philosophy book than one on math, Same-sex Mirage, a sassy book on marriage and William Carey, perhaps the best missionary biography ever written.

Review: The Price of Panic

Axe, Briggs and Richards, Regnery, Oct. 2020, 287 pages, 4 of 5 stars

This post could also be called Fourteen Reasons Not to Fear Covid, or, RIP (Read if Panicked). The media wants you to think RIP will be on your tombstone this year if you don’t separate and scrub daily. The three authors of this timely and superb book on Covid are here to tell you there is no reason to panic. 

There are fourteen chapters. To help my readers, I broke them down into fourteen reasons not to panic. The authors didn’t state these items exactly this way, but out of the goodness of my heart, I’m here to make your life easier. If you should be limited with time, read chapter ten. It’s the best in the book.

This list is for pastors who think their churches should cancel services. It is for the driver that wears a mask while alone in the car. It is for those that think lockdowns and ubiquitous masks are a good idea. It is for the fearful and the desperate.

1. We’ll always live in a dangerous world.

In the US alone, 1,700 people die of heart disease every day. In 1968 the Hong Kong flu killed one million people globally, far more than Covid. In 2009 the swine flu may have killed a half million. In neither was their panic or a global lockdown. What is spreading the quickest is not Covid but panic. Nothing spreads like fear. In reality, Covid is a really bad flu strain that can be dangerous especially for the elderly because it leads to pneumonia which then leads to respiratory failure. 

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Ten Things I Love About Tsongas

I have lived among the Tsonga-speaking people for the past fifteen years. All of our neighbors are Tsonga. All of our children’s closest friends are Tsonga. All of our church members are Tsonga. Virtually all of my ministerial experience has been among the Tsongas. All of my seven children have been born amidst them. Here are ten things I love about Tsonga culture.

  1. Laughter. Tsongas will laugh until their back teeth show. In general they are happy to laugh at themselves. They laugh in greetings. They laugh at funerals. They laugh at foreigners trying to speak Tsonga. An interesting phenomenon is that robust laughing sometimes makes their legs lose power, so that they begin leaning on each other or falling to the ground. Conversely, robust laughing sometimes makes their legs gain power, so that they start running to and fro. 
  2. Greetings. The ladies will often curtsy or kneel. The men will almost always greet, considering it rude if you get down to business without first exchanging pleasantries. You often must sit before greeting. You must say “How are you” to everyone individually. There are no bulk greetings. 
  3. Singing. Tsongas, like many African tribes, use a “call and respond” method of singing. One person, often a lady, will start the first line of the song and the rest will follow. Gifted male singers have a handsome deep sound that is difficult to duplicate. Churches and funerals often use over half the service for singing. 
  4. Funerals. In funerals, Tsongas live and move, and have their being. Funerals are a central part of African life. Among other things, it is a great way to reconnect with family and friends. They spare no expense at funerals, regardless of personal income. They’ll purchase niceties such as huge portions of food, tents, limos and marching bands. I love preaching at funerals. It provides an audience I would never have in church. 
  5. Ku heleketa. Tsongas almost never part ways in the home or at the doorstep. They walk you out of the gate and often down the road as you return home. Often I’ve had men walk me back to my house a km away. This makes me wonder–am I now to walk them back home? This could go on forever. I like this custom because it’s as if they’re not quite ready for you to leave. “[Jesus] acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, ’Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went to stay with them.” (Lk. 24:28-29).
  6. Language. Tsonga has made this missionary’s life easier by keeping difficult sounds to a minimum. There are almost no clicks in Tsonga and only a few sounds absent in English (“sw”, “v”, “q”, rolled “r”). Sure, Tsonga is limited in some ways, but there is much it can do. For example, unlike English, each Tsonga noun is assigned a concord, making the pronoun “it” less ambiguous. Tsonga also has two Bible versions, one modern and the other archaic. 
  7. Memory. As an oral culture less dependent on the written word, Tsongas have an uncanny ability to remember things. I may say that such and such took place a few years ago. They’ll say: “Such and such happened in September 2012.” They seem to recall with precision objective facts like names, phone numbers and dates. 
  8. Colors. Formal Tsonga dress is full of bright reds, blues, yellows, purples and greens. The women often wear some kind of head covering. Their formal skirt is called a shibelana, which, when unfurled, is about 6 meters long! Uniforms are also common at churches and funerals. Tsongas like to match clothing at dances too. 
  9. Children. Though the family sizes are shrinking, Tsongas still love children. My social standing in the village grows with each child we have. They love to hear each one of the children’s names in Tsonga. Having many children is still a great honor for Tsonga men and women. It’s common for Tsongas to talk to my kids before they talk to me. Xivongo xa kula, they say. Your surname is growing.
  10. Demeanor. Tsongas are not fighters like some other South African tribes. They are humble, friendly and peaceable. They are one of the smaller tribes in South Africa and often maligned. When speaking to another language group in a neutral setting, Tsongas are much more willing to greet and speak the other person’s language.

How Paton Became a Missionary to the Cannibals

Recently I sat down with the Revived Thoughts Podcast to talk about the life of John G. Paton. RT puts great sermons of the past into audio for the modern world to enjoy.

In the interview’s first 20 minutes I overview Paton’s life. In the final 20 minutes a narrator reads Paton’s account of his surrender to the mission field. Paton’s words are a worthy listen for the whole family.

“What a waste of talent.” That’s what his church thought. Paton was a successful evangelist in Scotland. His countrymen loved him. The New Hebrides was dangerous. Someone else could go. Someone less gifted and more expendable.

But Paton had made up his mind. Buoyed by a resolute faith and a mother and father that cheered him on, Paton gave his life to the outcasts of the world.

I saw them perishing for lack of the knowledge of the true God and His Son Jesus, while my Green Street people had the open Bible and all the means of grace within easy reach, which, if they rejected, they did so wilfully, and at their own peril.

John G. Paton, Autobiography, p. 56