Outside of the Bible, biographies can be some of the most encouraging, inspiring, challenging, and beneficial types of books for Christians to read. We learn valuable lessons from reading about the lives of other people—their trials and their triumphs, their struggles and their strengths, their greatest mistakes and their greatest achievements. But there is one particular kind of biography that I believe has immense value for Christians, arguably more value than any other kind, and that is the missionary biography. So in the brief space I have here, I want to commend to you the practice of reading missionary biographies by highlighting just a few reasons why they are so valuable.
One, missionary biographies fuel and inform our prayers for missionaries. Reading their stories reminds us that most days on the mission field are a grind, not glamorous. We’re reminded that missionaries frequently face loneliness and discouragement. Often times, they experience the same day-to-day struggles that we do, only they do so without the comfort and assistance of family and close friends. Other times, they endure unique challenges due to living in a different culture. And on top of all of that, they may minister for years without seeing much fruit. As a result of realizing such realities, we become more burdened and better informed in our prayers for missionaries.
Two, missionary biographies inspire us to make sacrifices for the advancement of the gospel. It is hard to read about the sacrifices of missionaries and not be stirred and challenged. A look at their lives forces us to look at our own. We begin to ask ourselves what risks we ought to be taking to help spread the gospel. And in the end, we often find our own evangelistic zeal strengthened by theirs.
Three, missionary biographies cultivate a culture of missionary support in our churches. The more people in our churches who are aware of the hardships and trials that come with missionary service, the more people who are willing to pray regularly for missionaries, email them notes of encouragement, send them care packages, love on them when they return, and listen attentively to their stories. Missionary biographies can help cultivate that kind of mindset in church members.
Four, missionary biographies awaken us to the need for all nations, tribes, and tongues to hear the gospel. They provide gripping examples of darkness throughout the world and remind us why we prioritize unreached and unengaged people groups in our missions strategies. At the same time, they also provide vivid illustrations of the power of the gospel to bring joy and hope to people who had never before heard the name of Jesus.
Five, missionary biographies mobilize God’s people to go, both short-term and long-term. So many of the men and women on the mission field today are there because they were first inspired by reading or hearing the story of another missionary. Who knows how God may use missionary biographies to raise up more missionary laborers?
So pastors, missions pastors, children and youth pastors, church librarians, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, parents, I encourage you to read, recommend, utilize, give away, and fill your library with missionary biographies. And if you are looking for where to begin, let me suggest just a few: To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson, Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliott, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliott, J. Hudson Taylor by Roger Steer, Faithful Witness: The Life and Mission of William Carey by Timothy George, and Ten Who Changed the World by Danny Akin.
Justin Wainscott is the pastor of First Baptist Church, Jackson, Tennessee.