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

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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

40DC0689-D915-4731-9811-9765E572DF47_4_5005_cIntroduction

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

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

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).

Conclusion

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

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.

Conclusion

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

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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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

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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.

Continue reading

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

Review: A Company of Heroes

Tim Keesee, Crossway, 2019, 288 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Summary: poetic journal entries of known and unknown missionaries and their stories

Below is my endorsement of Tim Keesee’s excellent recent work:

“Peopling that great heavenly choir is among the missionary’s greatest motivations. Tim Keesee compels us to sit at the feet of this great cloud of witnesses by presenting a kaleidoscope of missionary lives. From mosques to Mormons―from first world to third―he urges us to lock shields with the great soldiers and choristers of the past and present. In A Company of Heroes, Keesee writes brilliantly as a reporter and lover of gospel advance.”

Keesee is the founder of Frontline Missions International, an organization which works to spread the gospel to the least reached places in the world. He also produces the missionary documentary series Dispatches from the Front. While traveling around the world, he doesn’t fly at tree top level. He lives and breathes with the people–retelling their stories of trial and triumph.

Keesee is not only a gifted writer but seems to put great value on friendship and building relationships. He esteems what the St. Andrews Seven called “earnest conversation.” Much of what he chronicles are intimate and lively conversations.

Company covers twenty different countries and explores missionaries both time-worn (Georgi Vins, William Carey ) and modern (JD Crowley), well-known (Amy Carmichael) and obscure (Mei Li). I was edified by each chapter, especially chapter 15 “The Broken Sword.” It covers missionaries in Indonesia and explores the nature of risk and the aspect of taking handicapped children to the mission field.

The Dangers of Western Churches Supporting Foreign Pastors

Why should a church support an American missionary family at forty, sixty, eighty or even a hundred thousand dollars per year when a national pastor–who already knows the culture and language–can live on just a small fraction of that?

Among the chief proponents of foreign support for national pastors is KP Yohannan and his ministry Gospel for Asia (GFA). In his best-selling book Revolution in World Missions Yohannan writes: “The primary role for Westerners now should be to support efforts of indigenous missions works through financial aid…” (147). He bemoans the untold millions of dollars being wasted on Western missionaries and structures.

On the surface, supporting foreign nationals appears to be the cheapest, most efficient way for the West to use their missionary funds. Beneath the veneer of this plea, however, are a number of dangers that may make this method more destructive in the long run.

1. It discourages personal responsibility.

When a Chinese cow plows a Chinese field, it is not the responsibility of the French to give it the feed bag (1Tm. 5:18). When a Zambian pastor shepherds a Zambian congregation, it is not the duty of Brazilians to support him (5:17). Except for extreme circumstances (like funds for famine relief, Ac. 11:27-30), it is a sign of an unhealthy church that expects others to support the pastor that labors for them in preaching and teaching. Continue reading

John Paton Roundup

John G. Paton was one of the great missionaries to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific. He labored during the Great Century of Missions at the same time as Adoniram Judson, William Carey and Hudson Taylor. His colleagues on the islands are lesser known because (1) many of them were killed and (2) those who survived were unable to publish an account as vivid and winsome  as Paton.

Improving upon Paton’s Autobiography is impossible–like trying to find an English word that rhymes with silver. Every page is special and deserves to be read by Dad at family devotions, missionaries before assailing the field, pastors in need of anecdotes, and kids in search of adventure.

But for those who cannot imagine reading a 500-page hardback published over a hundred years ago, consider my book on Paton’s life published by Banner of Truth.

Below are a few radio interviews I’ve had over the past year on the life of Paton. The programs cover Paton’s exploits and philosophy of ministry as well as some insight into our ministry here in South Africa.

  1. VCY America Radio
  2. Reaching and Teaching Podcast
  3. Janet Mefferd Radio

For some brief reviews of the book, check out Tim Challies and World Magazine.

Video: Reformation Day Celebration in Rural South Africa

As many churches around the world celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (October 31, 1517), our church members gathered to lift their voices in gratitude for the Five Solas: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria. 

We translated the Reformation Hymn (© Chris Anderson/Bob Kauflin) into Tsonga, sang it as a choir and congregation, observed its application in Acts 19 and capped it off with baptisms of new believers from Valdezia and River Plaats.

Continue reading

Missionary Minds: Porchers in Ghana

Missionary Minds is a series of exchanges with missionaries around the world.

Joel Porcher, his wife Deanna and their four small children minister in Ghana, West Africa. They are in the midst of a church plant started by a missionary friend who is now stateside. The work is called Anchor Baptist Church, which is located in a village community just outside Cape Coast, Ghana. Continue reading

Missions Myths: Missionaries are Mavericks

Samuel Maverick (1803-1870) was a Texas lawyer so preoccupied in his business that he failed to brand his cattle. His neighbors soon dubbed his large herd of stray, unbranded calves “mavericks” and in time the term came to mean an independently minded person.

This is not a picture of St. Paul

To many, this is the perfect description of a missionary. He’s an individualist, a free spirit, and a dissenter, roaming the foreign fields without the branding of any higher authority save God himself. Off he goes to distant lands, a cowboy throwing caution to the wind—a kamikaze itching to make his mark.

The heroes adorning his wall are men like David Livingston—pioneer explorer to Africa—and Robert Morrison, the father of Protestant missions in China who sailed for the Orient alone. And couldn’t one add St. Paul to this list, for it was the apostle who wished bachelorhood upon everyone (1Co. 7:7)? Continue reading

Four Cautions for the Short-Termer’s Swag

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-3-28-03-pmShort-term missionaries are as popular as ever these days. Like Abraham’s descendants, they are too many to count. Short-term missions (STMs) has its advantages. I’ve counted myself among their rank many times and I may not even be a full-time missionary today had it not been for those early short-term trips.

But there is a dangerous side that churches would do well to spend more time thinking about.

Let us address just one: STMs, by their very nature, appeal to fallen humanity’s infatuation with the new. If familiarity breeds contempt, the new and avant-garde breeds respect and esteem. Continue reading

Missionary Minds: Shipe in Tanzania

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 1.14.17 PMAaron Shipe, his wife Nicole, and their seven children are missionaries in Tanzania where they are church planting in the small village of Mapea. Though the church consists of over 15 tribes, their primary focus is to contact the lesser-reached tribe of the Datooga. For more, visit their blog.

  1. Finish the sentence: Do not become a missionary if ____. You do not have a wife who is fully dedicated to the ministry.
  2. What Scripture passage(s) is most comforting to you amidst the difficulties in missionary life? Hebrews 12:1-4 has been a consistent help to me as I consider the sufferings of Christ and the pattern He laid for me. My struggles have not been to the point of bloodshed. I may be mocked, harassed, robbed and deceived, but I have not suffered as my Savior or as other Christians throughout history. These verses are telling me to toughen up, stop looking at myself, and focus on my Savior.
  3. What are the most common errors that missionaries make? Many missionaries hurt the ministry with their wealth. Well-intentioned generosity can lead to false disciples.
  4. The most comical mistake I ever made is when ______. I was talking with college students and recounted the two years my brother and I lived together in college (chuo). Unknowingly I told them we had lived together for two years in a bathroom (choo). Their unbridled laughter clued me into my mistake. When I was preaching on the judgment of God, I inadvertently mispronounced the word judgment and spoke instead about female reproductive organs. Embarrassing!
  5. What role does the foreign language play in your ministry? Without Swahili, there is no ministry here in Tanzania. There are no English speakers in my entire church nor a single person even proficient in English in our surrounding villages. Tanzania has over 120 tribes and therefore over 120 languages. In Tanzania, Swahili is king.Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 1.14.39 PM
  6. How has missions changed the most over the past 50 years? The world has become much smaller because of the expansion of technology and the improvement of transportation. As a result, many missionaries come in for short stints and throw money after missions. They start churches and build buildings but their disciples are few. Missions is becoming more focused on outward humanitarian projects and “sound bites” and less geared toward the hard, often discouraging work of disciple making.
  7. What kind of dangers do missionaries face that other ministers do not? Spiritually, the lack of oversight often breeds laziness. Physically, they face muggings, traffic accidents due to chaotic road conditions, and sicknesses like malaria, TB, and meningitis. There are also the emotional/relational dangers of living in a foreign culture. Many marriages are tried significantly by culture shock and the challenges of living far from friends and family.
  8. What is the most misunderstood thing about you and/or your ministry? True intimate friendships with Tanzanians are very difficult because of the cultural/economic/educational differences. We have many friends, but the barriers to intimate friendship are many.
  9. If we visited you, what is the place we would have to see? Ministry wise, the Sunday worship service with the believers in Mapea. From a tourist point of view, you would need to see the Tarangire and watch the animals come to the river in the evening.
  10. What is the best advice you have ever received? God is looking for faithful men not famous men.