Johnson, Andy. Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global. 9Marks Series: Building
Healthy Churches. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017, 96 pages.
In the ninth edition of the 9Marks books, Andy Johnson makes the case for international engagement in Christ’s commission as part of church health. He places the responsibility for the missionary venture squarely on local churches. He presents it as a primarily spiritual issue, charging churches with a stewardship of the gospel. (22) Johnson calls upon them to fulfill the purpose for which they are created, namely to bring glory to God globally. (23) He narrows the mission from God to calling all the peoples of the earth to salvation and gathering them into churches for discipleship. (24) Johnson insists that God assigns this to local churches first with the possible assistance from humanly created organizations. He suggests that mission agencies are “the bridesmaids and not the bride.” (27)
The author prescribes a deep love for the gospel as the foundation for leading a church to fulfill its purpose in God’s mission. (32) The foundation is laid over time by regularly heralding and cherishing the gospel during worship. Johnson observes that churches do not naturally extend themselves until they are captivated by the gospel and hence burdened for those who have not heard. (32) He calls upon church leaders to point to “a passion for global missions as a natural biblical implication of the gospel.” (34)
Johnson advocates the accountability of biblical missionaries to a local church. (39) He urges churches to be cautious in assessing missionaries beforehand and abundant in supporting them after they send them out. (40) He observes that the local church is the best place for assessing the character, fruitfulness, and Bible knowledge of potential missionaries. (43-45) Johnson stipulates that “churches are where faithful missionaries are made.” (46) It is through church membership and participation that sound Bible knowledge and an evangelistic zeal are manifest and form the basis for a true calling. (47)
The author makes a strong appeal for genuine support for those sent out. He lists regular communication, pastoral visits, resources, and short-term teams as essential to real support. (53-56) Short-term assistance from churches should meet the requests of their missionaries. (55) Rather than creating a long list of casual mission connections, Johnson encourages churches to narrow their efforts to a few missionaries for which they can provide quality support. (60) He offers these guidelines for choosing mission endeavors: work centered on planting and strengthening churches around the world, work that is biblically and theologically done well, and work through established connections. (61-62) Johnson warns against falling into work driven by speed, numbers, shortcuts, and formulas. He reminds us that “the work of missions is urgent, but it’s not frantic.” (68)
Andy Johnson has composed a brief but insightful book that provides a sturdy guide for churches seeking to find their place in God’s mission. Although he seems to exaggerate some cautions in sending short-term teams, on a whole, his work is grounded in biblical missiology and ecclesiology and is the fruit of ample personal experience. Church leaders and members would find this book to be a good resource for missions.
Sam Waltman, D.Min., Executive Director of San Felipe Baptist Association and the STARS