Andy Johnson, associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, has contributed this short volume to the 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches Series. As advertised, Johnson is not promoting a complicated missions program, but rather providing straight forward, wise and biblical insights into how a local church can develop and maintain a ministry of global outreach. The author carefully, and graciously, challenges some of the church’s treasured traditions and current fads and trends, and directs the reader to Scripture for a more biblical model. The goal of the book is summed up well in the introduction:
Imagine a local church where the congregation’s mission to the nations is clear and agreed upon. Elders guide the congregation toward strategic missions. Missions is held up as a concern for all Christians, not just the niche “missions club.” The tyranny of new trends and demands for immediate, visible results holds no sway. Members see missions as the work of the church together rather than the personal, private activity of the individual. In this church, members see missions as a core ministry of the church, not an occasional short-term project. Relationships with missionaries are deep, serious, and lasting. Joyful giving to missions is a basic part of the church’s budget, not merely the fruit of occasional and desperate appeals. And members actually value missions enough that some want to uproot their lives and be sent out long-term by the church (p. 19).
Johnson unpacks and applies four principles throughout the volume:
- The mission of missions is primarily spiritual.
- The mission belongs to God, for His glory, on His terms.
- God gave the mission to the local church.
- The Bible tells us all we must know to faithfully fulfill God’s mission (p. 29).
The author treads lightly around the social justice debate, which has become divisive, but emphasizes that the church should concern itself largely with eternal, rather than temporary, suffering as this is its unique mission (pp. 22-24). The ultimate goal of missions is making disciples and it is primarily local churches that should lead in this endeavor (p. 26). Johnson offers clear, biblical definitions of the gospel (p. 32), missions “the unique, deliberate gospel mission of the church to make disciples of all the nations” (p. 35), and missionary “as 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). Concerning who should be missionaries, Johnson calls for sending the best qualified people, trained by the local church and possessing certain characteristics, observable fruitfulness and biblical knowledge (pp 41-45). He suggests that the best preparation for future missionaries is equipping them within the context of the discipleship ministry of the local church (pp. 46-49).
Missions helpfully outlines ways in which the local church can care for its missionaries. Johnson calls for generous financial support to fewer missionaries, maintaining responsibility and care, and in general viewing them as an extension of the local church (pp. 52-61). He encourages churches to focus their mission’s ministry on establishing healthy local churches, especially pioneer church planting, and investing in work being done well, and on people known and trusted (pp. 62-85). Well thought-out guidance is found in this section.
Since the modern phenomena of short-term mission trips have become so predominate in recent years, Johnson wisely devotes a chapter to the subject. He does not oppose short-term trips but has a number of concerns, seven of which he articulates (pp. 88-92). He sees them being beneficial when they aid long-term missionaries, and the people to whom they minister, rather than those taking the trips. He sees their best value in the promotion of future long-term missionaries, and suggests that local churches identify a few strategic places and return to them often (pp. 92-99). Johnson concludes by reminding his readers that there are other options for missions such as involvement with international students, expatriate churches, and internations on the jobsite (pp. 101-116).
Missions is an excellent primer that would prove helpful to any local church either developing or reevaluating its global outreach. Every church leader should read and digest the contents of this book.
Missions, How the Local Church Goes Global by Andy Johnson (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017) 126 pp., hardback $14.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel