Why study theology if my goal is to go impact people overseas who don’t know Jesus at all?

Why do the missionaries I know sound so different from my pastor?

Which missionaries should our church support?

If you’ve ever had thoughts like these, it’s because across the church, there is a rift between the realm of theology and the world of missions.

There are around 78,000 evangelical Christians for every one unreached people group, yet a 2020 study found that nearly half of self-professed evangelicals in the US believe that God accepts all religions equally.

Bad theology produces bad missions, and bad missions fuels bad theology.

We wrongly think that we must choose between making a global impact and thinking deeply about the things of God. But the relationship between theology and missions is symbiotic—one cannot exist without the other. They walk hand-in-hand.

Because I believe all this, I was deeply grateful a while ago when my friend Chad Vegas, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Bakersfield, Calif., invited me to join him in co-writing a book on the symbiosis between doctrine and missions methodology. In light of the swarm of concerns surrounding disciple-making movements, obedience-based discipleship, insider movements, and other questionable trends in missions (about which I’ve written much more over on ABWE’s blog), we agreed that now was the right time to press into this space.

That project became a book called Missions by the Book, available now from Founders Ministries or on Amazon. (An audio version is also in the works.)

We’re deeply grateful to Founders Ministries for publishing it and to Carl Trueman for contributing the foreword. We are indebted the important feedback we received early on from such friends as Rich Barcellos, James Dolezal, Benjamin Vrbicek, Josiah Vencel, and more. We are also grateful for Brooks Buser, Ian Hamilton, Dustin Benge, and Joel Beeke, who kindly wrote some very humbling commendations.

Chad and I sat down with our friends Tom Ascol and Graham Gunden to talk about why we wrote the book. We also spent some time on The Missions Podcast explaining one of the core issues of the book: recovering a method of evangelism that takes seriously our responsibility to “proclaim” the gospel (rather than merely suggesting it). You can watch part one here and part two here when it premieres this Sunday night. I also gave a talk to a group of Westminster Theological Students recently unpacking chapter nine of the book.

If you read the book, we encourage you to leave a review on Amazon and share it with a friend—but we also want honest feedback, dialogue, and conversation. Some have said that they have yet to hear a positive articulation of the methods of missions we’re describing. We aim to change that. We’re also noticing that there’s a bit of a wave of books in this vein coming down the pike—so I would also commend to readers my friend E.D. Burns’ latest two volumes as well as Elliot Clark’s new treatment of Pauline motivations.

In closing: let me simply name the elephant in the room. I am not, nor have I ever been, a cross-cultural missionary. I struggle with boldness in evangelism, fervency in prayer, and attachment to worldly goods as much as (or more than) anyone else. But if God can speak through Balaam’s ass, then maybe I’m overqualified to write this book.

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