Whether you are going on a mission trip or are simply eager to learn more about Christian missions, there are an abundance of great resources available. From missionary biographies to textbooks on the theology of missions, it can be a little overwhelming to try to find the right book for you.
We have put together this simple list to help you find the book that fits your needs. It seems unfair to “rank” these books because they approach Christian missions from many different angles and cover many different topics.
With that in mind, we wholeheartedly recommend all ten of these! Since adding ten books to your reading list might be a little daunting, we encourage you to read the short blurb about each book to help you decide which few books might be the best fit for you.
There are MANY more books that we could have listed here. To see our even larger list of recommendations, go here.
Radical, by David Platt
This book is not so much about mission trips as it is about living a missional lifestyle. David Platt now serves as the president of the International Mission Board and has played a huge role in helping mobilize a generation of believers to the mission field.
“God blesses his people with extravagant grace so they might extend his extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth.” – David Platt, Radical
If you are looking for a volume of missionary biographies, search no further. This book profiles ten different prominent missionaries from the last few centuries and looks at a passage of Scripture that fits each of their lifestyles. Missionary profiles include William Carey, Lottie Moon, Ann and Adoniram Judson, Jim Elliott, and others. Author Danny Akin serves as the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
John Piper is a brilliant author and pastor, and in this book he lays out his understanding of our call to missions and connects it all to the glory of God.
“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” – John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad
One of the most widely acclaimed books for short-term missions among the impoverished, When Helping Hurts seeks to demonstrate that not all methods of ministry are beneficial in the long-term. This book helped shift many contemporary Christian mission efforts away from harmful practices. If you are trying to discern what kind of missional methodology is helpful and God-honoring when working among the poor, this is your book.
“Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do more harm than good. I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something. I am not okay, and you are not okay. But Jesus can fix us both.” – When Helping Hurts
This book is simple to read, yet highly practical and profound in its application. Author Duane Elmer uses his missionary experience to explain the importance of entering a cross-cultural setting while retaining the humility and servant nature of Christ. We cannot assume that our ways of thinking and doing things will translate into other cultures. We must, in humility, lower ourselves in order to raise and exalt Christ.
“If God connected with us as a servant, that becomes the way we too connect with people of this world. While it runs counter to our natural desire, we have no choice. We are never more like Jesus than when we serve others.” – Duane Elmer, Cross-Cultural Servanthood
This book follows the journey of a missionary couple through all the ups and downs of life on the mission field. It is a remarkable story of intense faith and will certainly challenge you to consider how much you truly rely on the Lord as you carry out your faith. The Ripken’s story is an enjoyable read, but also an intense and compelling story about life in the Middle East.
“If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus.” – Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God
This book serves as a great introduction for those who are considering the call to be a missionary. Sills deals with topics such as “What is the missionary call?”, “Understanding your missionary call,” and “Fulfilling the missionary call.” It is both an introduction to missions and a crash course on missions and life on the mission field.
“When God calls His child to live the life of a missionary, He gives them the desire with the calling.” – M. David Sills, The Missionary Call
Instead of focusing on cross-cultural missions, this book focuses on evangelism in general—which is of course a prerequisite for missions. Author Robert Coleman seeks to get to the heart of evangelism strategies by looking at the greatest missionary and evangelist of all time, Christ himself. If you are looking to grow as a communicator of the gospel, this is the book for you.
“It is good to tell people what we mean, but it is infinitely better to show them. People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation.” – Coleman, Master Plan of Evangelism
For those of you who are looking for a thorough, yet easy to read theology of Christian missions, this book is a great starting point. It does not feel as dense or overwhelming as a textbook, yet is rich in content. Editor Bruce Ashford covers topics related the mission of God and the church’s mission to the nations (including missions to specific people such as Muslims or postmoderns). He connects his understanding of missions back to the biblical grand narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.
“One of the most significant challenges facing churches, agencies, and missionaries today is the imperative to allow Christian doctrine to shape their actual ministry practices.” – Ashford, Theology and Practice of Mission
While this hearty work is styled more like a textbook, it is an excellent read as J.D. Payne covers “the whats, whys, and hows of global church planting.” He argues for different biblical, historical, and missiological principles related to church planting strategies and methodologies. If God’s plan for the spread of the gospel is going to be accomplished through Kingdom communities (aka, “churches”), then it is important for believers to propagate the gospel in a biblical, God-honoring, Christ-exalting manner.
“Believers are not commanded to go into all the world and plant churches, but rather make disciples. It is in the process of making disciples (evangelism) that new churches (congregationalization) result. Biblical church planting is about using contextualized methods in a strategic manner to reach unbelievers, equip them as church leaders, and send them as evangelists and church planters throughout the world.” – J. D. Payne, Discovering Church Planting