If you want to learn about missions, where do you start? The sheer volume of literature on the subject can be daunting. In fact, the list below may be overwhelming for many. But the goal of this list is to provide a brief introduction to noteworthy books on missions for those who want to learn more. Within each category you’ll find a recommendation to “Start here.” Subsequent works are arranged alphabetically by author, and their ordering doesn’t suggest priority.
As with any book I recommend, presence on this list doesn’t suggest my complete agreement with the authors on every issue—or even on significant points in their works. Some of the authors below actively disagree with one another. Nevertheless, these books have much to commend them to the discerning reader.
In this selection, you’ll find books large and small, some academic and some more accessible. Many of the authors below are prolific missiologists with excellent books on a variety of subjects, not to mention numerous articles. But I’ve limited myself to one entry per writer. I’ve also limited this list to broad and general categories. A much longer bibliography could include topics such as world religions, evangelism, contextualization, global theological education, and suffering, to name only a few.
Introduction to Missions
Start here: An Introduction to the Science of Missions by J. H. Bavinck. At a time when readers are starting to discover the forgotten Bavinck, this may be the best place to begin.
Introducing Christian Mission Today: Scripture, History, and Issues by Michael W. Goheen. This wide-ranging survey draws on other influential missiologists such as Lesslie Newbigin and David Bosch.
Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation by Jason Mandryk. This handy resource orients readers to strategic needs and prayer points for people groups around the globe.
Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey by A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. As an introductory textbook, this work benefits from being both readable and practical.
Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-First Century by Timothy Tennent. As the subtitle suggests, Tennent seeks to ground contemporary missiology in the mission of the triune God.
Start here: Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies and Methods by Eckhard J. Schnabel. This book explores the beginnings of missions history in Pauline strategy, distilling the second volume of Schnabel’s comprehensive work on Early Christian Mission.
Encountering the History of Missions: From the Early Church to Today by Robert Gallagher and John Mark Terry. This sweeping account of missions history in one volume is a useful introductory textbook.
Christian Mission: A Concise Global History by Edward L. Smither. As a concise yet detailed account of missions history, this book is helpful for initial study on the subject.
From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions by Ruth A. Tucker. Here the history of missions is told via the stories of missionaries through the centuries and around the world.
The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith by Andrew Walls. As a collection of essays by Walls, this book gives access to the thought and work of a significant historian of Christian missions.
Theology of Missions
Start here: Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission by Andreas J. Köstenberger. Drawn largely from the New Testament, this excellent volume engages significant texts and themes for a biblical theology of mission.
Missions by the Book: How Theology and Missions Walk Together by Alex Kocman and Chad Vegas. This book seeks to bring systematic theology and the regulative principle to bear on practical missiology.
Theology of Mission: A Concise Biblical Theology by J. D. Payne. This short work is an accessible and well-balanced companion to Smither’s text on missions history.
Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper. This is one of the most influential missions texts of our time. Piper believes missions is all about God’s worship and our joy.
The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative by Christopher J. H. Wright. In an ambitious project rich in Old Testament reflection, Wright argues for holistic mission within the missio dei.
Start here: World Mission: Theology, Strategy, and Current Issues by Scott N. Callaham and Will Brooks. This work succeeds at being both biblical and practical on a wide range of contemporary issues.
Mission Affirmed: Recovering the Missionary Motivation of Paul by Elliot Clark. Like Roland Allen’s Missionary Methods, this book weighs current strategies with Paul’s approach while focusing on the final day.
What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. This text carefully argues for the priority of evangelism and church planting in contrast to holistic mission.
Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global by Andy Johnson. Ecclesiology is a discipline that’s often overlooked in modern missiology, an issue this book seeks to correct.
No Shortcut to Success: A Manifesto for Modern Missions by Matt Rhodes. Movement methodologies are graciously challenged in this work that argues for patience and professionalism in missions.
Start here: To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson. This classic recounts the Judsons’ journey to Burma and is recognized as one of the greatest missionary biographies.
Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. Of Elliot’s many works, this may be the most influential, recording the tragic martyrdom of her husband and four other men in Ecuador.
Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes by Iain Murray. This short biography details the more than 50 years spent by a courageous woman caring for children in South India.
John G. Paton by John G. Paton. Likely the greatest of all missionary autobiographies, Paton gives a harrowing account of his mission to the South Pacific.
Give Me This Mountain by Helen Roseveare. As a physician serving in the Belgian Congo, Roseveare testifies about deep spiritual valleys and the glorious heights of gospel ministry.