Johnson is to be commended for the gospel-centrality of this book. Churches need a gospel-culture, which means pastors should be preaching the gospel, church members should know the gospel, and both should be sharing the gospel near and far. Moreover, Johnson offers a helpful take on missionary success: “Good gospel work won’t always yield immediate visible results,” for God is in control of those who are saved.
In the week-to-week grind of my work as a Mobilizer for the International Mission Board, I often meet with college students interested in spending a portion of their college years overseas to make the gospel of Christ known in a cultural context not their own. This is a noble aspiration and one that I’m thankful to see in students. Our conversations typically start with the student’s communication of a deep passion to proclaim Christ to the unreached: a passion that is good, right, and biblical. Over more cups of coffee than I care to consume, I’ve talked with many students who are looking for some sort of affirmation. Can I do this? What are my next steps? Am I qualified? Am I ready? Without a doubt, the first question I most often ask—before anything else—is this: “To what church do you belong?”
Mission and the Primacy of the Local Church
Though I work for a missions sending agency, I do not believe the International Mission Board—or any other agency for that matter—holds the primary responsibility for fulfilling the Great Commission. Though our work consists of sending Christians all over the world to proclaim the gospel, the primary responsibility for this belongs to another institution: the local church. The local church is God’s primary instrument for completion of the Great Commission, and it is the local church that must first approve and send any believer willing to go. Don’t get me wrong; we care about the fulfillment of the Great Commission. However, missions cannot and should not be divorced from the local church. In his book Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global, Andy Johnson communicates this concisely and clearly.
Johnson encourages his readers to imagine “a church where the congregation’s mission to the nations is clear and agreed upon” (19). His book is for interested church members, missions leaders, and local church pastors to see that missions should be “a core ministry of the church” (19-20). His overall purpose in Missions is to help local churches send and partner with missionaries for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This work is desperately needed in a time where “global missions is tragically neglected,” a time in which many have “no access to the gospel” (14).