The World That Missionaries Made

Recently, Robert Woodberry created a stir when he published his findings on the impact that evangelical missionaries have had on developing countries. The current consensus among most anthropologists and sociologists is that missionaries have had an overall detrimental effect on the cultures in which they engaged. Woodberry, an assistant professor of sociology at the Univ. of Texas argues that, rather than exerting a negative influence, conversionist missionaries played a pivotal role in the rise of democracy in majority world nations. In fact, the evidence indicates that such missionaries were the key factor in those countries.Woodberry

The Southeastern community has an opportunity to hear Dr Woodberry make his case. The Bush Center for Faith and Culture and the Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies are hosting a lecture by Dr Woodberry this Thursday, at 7 pm, in the sanctuary of Wake Forest Baptist Church. The church is located on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can register for the event here.

Book Notice: Introduction to Global Missions

Global missionsIf you’ve got any interest at all in global missions, you’ll want to make sure you purchase and read Introduction to Global Missions, by Zane Pratt, David Sills, and Jeff Walters.[1] The authors have significant and extended experience in missions and in higher education. The book distinguishes itself from many other introductory texts because it is concise, lucidly written, and theologically-driven.

The book’s 13 chapters are divided into four main sections: Biblical and Theological Foundations for Global Missions (chs. 2-4), Historical Foundations for Global Missions (chs. 5-6), Culture and Global Missions (chs. 7-8), and The Practice of Global Missions (chs. 9-13). The first section introduces the reader to the biblical and theological foundations of mission. The second section recounts the historical spread of the gospel. Section three focuses on key 21st century anthropological and cultural issues significant to missiology. Finally, section four discusses the practice of mission dealing with topics like church planting, discipleship, and the local church on mission.

The book is written from a distinctly evangelical perspective. Each author roots himself in biblical authority. The biblical and theological section is, well, very biblical and theological. The historical section not only traces the history of missions but also gives warnings about when and how missions have gotten “off track.” Significantly, the cultural and anthropological section is thoroughly conversant with the social sciences and yet treats Scripture as its supreme norm. Finally, the practical section offers the reader a treatment of strategies and practices which are shaped by Scripture.

Introduction to Global Missions is an excellent introductory treatment of global missions. It is designed to be the perfect volume for a one-semester course on global mission providing the reader with a comprehensive and contemporary survey of missiology. This is well written book that is very accessible, serving perfectly as course material for a college or seminary. Highly recommended. So pick it up here.


[1] Zane Pratt, M. David Sills, and Jeff K. Walters, Introduction to Global Missions (Nashville: B&H, 2014).

Windows on the World: Praying the Great Commission

Windows on the WorldI was a college student when I first became burdened for global missions. I certainly would have said I cared about missions before then. After all, who doesn’t want to see lost people come to faith in Christ, especially in nations with minimal Christian witness? But as a Southern Baptist teenager, missions was little more than supporting the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and hearing occasional reports from the two missionary families who had ties to our local church when they were home on furlough.

Like many folks of my generation (I’m in my mid-30s), my personal interest in missions was ignited when I read John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad as a junior in college. Piper introduced me to other authors who had written on missions. One book I became familiar with was Patrick Johnstone’s Operation World (check out the website), which became a helpful guide for me as I learned about and prayed for unreached people groups in various nations. (The latest edition of Operation World, published in 2010, is edited by Jason Mandryk.)

I’m so very grateful for the ways that God has continued to keep global missions before me in the years since I first read Piper’s book. God has graciously allowed me to serve as a professor at a seminary that is passionate about the Great Commission and to serve as one of the pastors of a church that is committed to God’s global vision for the nations. He has also blessed me with a wonderful wife and four precious children. Leah and I want very much to raise our children to be global citizens and, one day, Lord willing, global Christians. This means we are training them now to care about what God is doing among the nations.

My children (we call them the “Finnlings”) already understand that Daddy sometimes goes to other countries to tell people about Jesus. They know that many of our friends live in other countries and work as full-time missionaries and that it is important that we pray for them. They know that our church is missions-minded and that I work in the building at Southeastern Seminary with the giant globe and all the pictures of people in other countries who do not love Jesus. The Finnlings know about Lottie Moon and they understand that we give money to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering every December. They also know a little bit about Operation Christmas Child (and similar ministries) and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

In recent months, we have discovered a great tool for teaching our children about the nations in Windows on the World: When We Pray, God Works. Windows on the World, written by Daphne Spraggett and Jill Johnstone, is a more kid-friendly version of Operation World. When we have our family worship time after breakfast in the mornings, we read the Scriptures, sing some songs and pray together. Nearly every day we pray for a new people group based upon a chapter in Windows on the World. Our kids are not only praying for the lost, but they are also learning about different cultures. They are beginning to understand that there are false religions that enslave people and that many people live in abject poverty or are oppressed in various ways. They are also learning that some people hate Jesus and persecute those who love and serve him.

We are grateful for Windows on the World and are hopeful that it will help cultivate a burden for global missions in our children from a very young age. We want our children to understand that to become a follower of Jesus Christ does not end with their personal salvation, but it is also about joining God in his mission to save the lost, serve those in need and promote shalom in a fallen and fractured world. We want them to own God’s missional heart as their own and allow the Great Commission and the Great Commandment to shape every part of their lives.

If you are a parent (or wannabe parent) who has similar desires for your children, I highly recommend Windows on the World as a great resource for helping to form our children into the young men and women that God would have them to be. In fact, even for those of you who are single or those who are older and whose children have long moved on, I would recommend you pick up both Windows on the World and Operation World as you cultivate your own heart for global missions.