“Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global” by Andy Johnson—A Book Review

In Missions, Andy Johnson argues that the local church is responsible to identify, train, send, and support missionaries. Based primarily on a biblical understanding of the local church, the gospel, and missions, Johnson provides wise and practical counsel on how a local church effectively accomplishes its role in global missions.

Johnson, Andy. Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global. Wheaton: Crossway, 2017. 126 pp.

Key Insights

Eight key ideas stood out to me. First, Missions done apart from how God designed it to be done robs God of his glory. Here is how Andy puts it:

God intends not only that his mission would go forward but that it would go forward on his terms. He means to get glory by showing that the mission is his and that his power sustains it. Any effort on our part to change or broaden the mission, or to substitute our ideas for God’s, runs the risk of trying to rob God of his rightful glory.

Missions, 24

Second, the task of missions is primarily given to local churches because the church 1) identifies disciples through baptism and membership (Acts 2:41); 2) creates an atmosphere of discipling (Heb 10:24-25); 3) sends missionaries (Acts 13:3); 4) cares for missionaries (Phil 4:15-16; 3 John 1-8); and 5) reproduces other healthy, reproducing churches (Acts 15:41; Tit 1:5). (p. 26)

“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.”

Missions, 19

Third, Andy also has helped me think about missions biblically. Andy argues that

The Bible is fully sufficient to give us the agenda and principles that inform our methods and decisions. In it we find a wealth of principles and imperatives that will give order and shape to our endeavors, and in the process free us from the oppressive tyranny that comes from relying only on our own pragmatic resources and humanly devised notions.

Missions, 20

Specifically, the Bible tells us…

  1. What the mission is – “to display the glory of God by declaring the gospel to all peoples, by gathering churches in every place, and by filling them with disciples who obey God and will praise him forever for his grace (Isaiah 56; Matt 28:18-20; Rom. 15:7-13; Eph. 3:8-11; Rev. 7:9-10).” (p. 28)
  2. How it will go forward through prayer, gospel proclamation, biblical discipling, and church planting (Ex 6:5-8; Rom 10:17; Col 4:2-4; 1 Thess 5:11)
  3. Which missionaries to support – biblically faithful, methodologically patient, gospel-proclaiming, and church-loving missionaries (Acts 16:1-3; Rom 10:14-15; 2 Cor 8:23; 2 Tim 4:1-5; 3 John 1-8)
  4. The end goal of missions –transformed individuals in the church who will ultimately praise the Lamb forever (Rom 8:1-11; Heb 10:19-25; Rev 7:9-10)

Fourth, the fuel for missions is deep love and understanding of the gospel, not guilt, hype, or sad stories (p. 32).

The heart for God-glorifying missions starts with joy in the gospel. Our churches must first cherish the God who sent his own Son to save sinners like us. The right fuel matters…. Do not try to get your church excited about missions until they love and value (really, deeply value) what Christ has done for them in the gospel.

Missions, 32

Christ will have the nations for his inheritance. Frantic speculation and guilt are weak motivators compared with the truth of God’s unstoppable plan to rescue every child for whom Christ died.

Missions, 120

Fifth, the local church is God’s appointed place to equip and assess would-be missionaries (pp. 44-48).

Sixth, here is a helpful analogy: local churches that send their own missionaries (parents who homeschool their kids); local churches that entrust missionaries to mission agencies (parents who send their kids to public/private school). In both cases, the parents continue to be ultimately responsible for their kids, whichever avenue they choose. In missions, the church is finally responsible for the missionaries, not the mission agency (though it may be helpful).

Seventh, Andy gives wise counsel on missionary support. Here is his three principles for supporting: 1) focus on work aimed to plant/strengthen local churches; 2) focus on work done well theologically and methodologically; 3) focus on work/workers with whom the local church has significant relationships.

Andy addresses a common situation in many churches regarding missionary support. This may sound harsh, but there is wisdom here:

 Too many churches view the breadth of their missions commitments, rather than the depth, as the measure of their love for the nations. I’ve seen many a church hall adorned with a map sprouting pins for every place where the church supports a missionary. That may be just fine, but not if the church assumes that having more pins equals more impact for missions.

Missions, 59-60

Lastly, here is Andy’s summary on the goal of missions: 1) to gather churches that plant other churches through evangelism and church planting; and 2) to strengthen local churches that already exist so they are biblically structured, established in sound doctrine, and protected against false teaching (pp. 63-64).

Personal Applications

Andy Johnson reminded me how serious the qualifications and assessment of missionaries are, for both the church and the missionary. Sending unqualified missionaries produces awful consequences, undermining the work of missions for many generations to come.

Johnson also helped me gain greater clarity and affirmation 1) to submit to our elders and church body regarding our future plans in the Philippines; 2) to focus our plan and strategy on church planting and strengthening existing local churches or church plants; and 3) to build our methodology based on a clear biblical understanding of the church, the gospel, and God’s glory.

Lastly, I was warned about the temptation of speed and the unhealthy desire for quick results. Andy writes,

The work of missions is urgent, but it’s not frantic. We long for a harvest, but God has nowhere guaranteed a rate of increase. Instead, when we look to the Bible, we see a repeated concern that God’s missionaries would never abandon patient, diligent faithfulness.

Missions, 68-69

Having a sense of urgency while remaining patient with slow work is difficult but necessary, and we trust God to increase the harvest. Have a sense of urgency, while not focusing on speed and numbers.

More Quotes

  • “The glory of the gospel—not the neediness of mankind—is the self-sustaining fuel for global missions.” (pp. 34-35)
  • “Biblical missionaries are connected to a local church. It’s always been that way.” (p. 40)
  • “Many churches seem to view missions partnerships as a way to enhance their own ‘missions program’ rather than as an avenue to serve Christ by serving missionaries.” (p. 77)
  • “I’ve observed absurd conversations where a church leader who knows almost nothing of the language or customs of another culture tried to ‘take charge’ in order to ‘help’ an overseas worker ‘do evangelism better’ and ‘grow the church.’” (p. 78)
  • “I remember a trip to Central Asia where some of our church members from Washington, DC, were caring for missionary kids during a training meeting. It wasn’t especially exciting or fun. The meeting place was run down. But one afternoon a missionary couple came to me almost in tears. They had just figured out that the person sitting on the dusty floor playing with their two-year-old and changing diapers all day was White House official. Say what you want about worldly power and importance. For this missionary couple the idea that someone on a first-name basis with the US president would use vacation time to serve them so humbly was a huge encouragement.” (p. 94)

You can purchase Andy Johnson’s Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global at Amazon here or at the 9Marks website here.

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