Must-read Books for Missionaries (& All Ministers for That Matter)

A Listmania! list by chilemery (Santiago, CHILE)
The list author says: "After almost 10 years as a missionary, I can confidently say that it is a vocation more about serving (as a servant-leader) and discipling than about ministering (and even less about ad-ministering). Should a missionary lead? Yes, by serving. And how can s/he best serve? By being a true disciple. And how can he be a true disciple? A true disciple only comes into being when s/he incorporates disciple-making into the walk. But what about ministry? Shouldn't s/he minister? Yes, but only alongside and through (and, eventually, vicariously through) the national Christians. And shouldn't he teach? Yes, but only if he is willing to learn (especially from those he presumes to teach). The books on this list have helped me immensely in my work over the past years and I recommend them to you with confidence that they can make you a more effective missionary as well. You'll notice that there are few theology/mission methodology books on my list. That is not by design but rather due to experience -- let the Bible be your theology/methodology book -- these books are more for the expanding of your mind in other complementary areas that will influence and enhance your work. God bless, God speed!"
Zondervan NIV Study Bible
1.  Zondervan NIV Study Bible by Kenneth Barker
The list author says:
  "In case it wasn't obvious, always start here.  There are so many great books out there that it is easy to take the Good Book for granted.  Read books that provoke but always remember: If it sounds too 'good' (read mundane) to be 'true' (read Biblical), it probably is."
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Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time
2.  Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time by Greg Ogden
The list author says:
  "If you don't do anything else, at least become a disciple and a disciple-maker.  If you're at all curious or interested about discipleship, this book will get you pumped and rolling along. (Sadly, Ogden's study manual, Discipleship Essentials, which he mentions in this text and while good, has proven not to be this book's equal.)"
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The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics
3.  The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics by Richard B. Hays
The list author says:
  "OK, a nod to some theology.  I wholeheartedly agree with Hays' conclusion regarding the central and complementary doctrines of community, cross and new creation (which just so happen to be central to discipleship)."
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Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't
4.  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't by Jim Collins
The list author says:
  "And now a nod to a bit of wisdom from the business world.  There's not a concept in here that doesn't translate to mission work.  Read it through a missional lens."
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The Cost of Discipleship
5.  The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The list author says:
  "Leaders are readers; and reading leaders read the classics.  Bonhoeffer is a classic among classics.  You'll find a lot of hard-to-hear, harder-to-do truths in this volume, but isn't that the only kind of truth worth putting into practice?"
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Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth
6.  Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster
The list author says:
  "There is no discipleship without discipline.  We celebrate it because discipline is about freedom not enslavement; about realization not restriction.  Dare to discipline yourself before you presume to disciple others."
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Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness 25th Anniversary Edition
7.  Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness 25th Anniversary Edition by Larry C. Spears
The list author says:
  "While Jesus is certainly the founder and ancient father of servant leadership, Greenleaf is regarded as the modern, secular father.  He approaches the lifestyle from a decidedly spiritual perspective (not Christian, but spiritual nonetheless)."
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The Master Plan of Evangelism
8.  The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Emerson Coleman
The list author says:
  "It’s titled 'Evangelism' but really about discipleship.  But, in my view, there really is no evangelism (not as a stand-alone concept anyway); there’s only discipleship, of which evangelism is merely a part.  Don't evangelize unbelievers, disciple them!  But if they don't believe, start with the Good News and your own story of faith.  Evangelism without discipleship is dead! (Hear James 2:17?)"
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The Training of the Twelve
9.  The Training of the Twelve by Alexander B. Bruce
The list author says:
  "Question: How do you train disciples? Answer: How did Jesus train disciples?"
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Jesus Christ, Disciplemaker
10.  Jesus Christ, Disciplemaker by Bill Hull
The list author says:
  "See comments on A.B. Bruce above. I find the writing organization a bit erratic, but it is full of nuggets of truth. Take a holistic approach when reading -- pay attention and you'll find plenty of good stuff even on Hull's frequent rabbit trails."
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The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders
11.  The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders by Andy Stanley
The list author says:
  "This book may be written with teenagers in mind, but isn’t what’d be good for our teens’ spiritual development be good for everyone else’s as well? To think otherwise would be a do-as-I-say-not-necessarily-as-I-do approach. The 7 checkpoints are boil-it-down-to-the-core principles/practices good for any Christian, especially a new one. They’d make mighty fine foundational teaching for discipling."
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The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership
12.  The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership by Steven B. Sample
The list author says:
  "If thinking outside the box is good, thinking contrarily is better. A great book for any leader; secular, spiritual, whatever. And since missionaries qualify as leaders..."
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A Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us
13.  A Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Larry Osborne
The list author says:
  "Another 'Contrarian's Guide'? Sure! Why not? But don't worry; I'm not contrarian for contrarian's sake—that would be conceited not contrarian. It's just that missionaries often find things aren't always as they seem[ed], much less as has always been told. Osborne said it well, “Contrarian thinking at its best simply asks, Is that really true?”"
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Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Power of Dialogue in Educating Adults
14.  Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Power of Dialogue in Educating Adults by Jane Kathryn Vella
The list author says:
  "Much of discipling, much of leading, is teaching so here we give a nod to that noble profession and strive to apply some of its relevant practices (or as Vella would prefer to call it; its praxis -- action followed by reflection)."
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Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry: A personal and practical guide to starting right
15.  Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry: A personal and practical guide to starting right by Doug Fields
The list author says:
  "Two modifications to this book's title would explain its inclusion on this list: replace 'first' with 'next' and remove the word 'youth'.  The text’s advice is less limited temporally and more applicable generally than the title would imply.  (As a bonus, there’s also insightful information on selecting an employing (i.e., supporting for missionaries) church that is a good fit for you.)"
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The Disciple Making Church: From Dry Bones to Spiritual Vitality
16.  The Disciple Making Church: From Dry Bones to Spiritual Vitality by Mcdonald Glenn
The list author says:
  "Disicpleship is all about relationships, and every discipleship book says so in one form or another.  This book, however, takes a novel approach by making a disciple's and a disciple-maker's relationships the centerpiece of the conversation. (Don't confuse this text with the Hull book by the same name.)"
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Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples
17.  Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples by Thom S. Rainer
The list author says:
  "You'd think churches would be adept at 'keeping it simple'— after all Jesus was a pretty straightforward guy.  However, institutions tend towards ever-greater complexity. Churches abhor a program-vacuum.  Discipling isn’t a program; it isn’t program-friendly. Therefore, if you want to be a disciple-making church, you've got to leave room for it. The best way to do that? Simply 'keep it simple'."
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Maxwell Leadership Bible, Revised and Updated
18.  Maxwell Leadership Bible, Revised and Updated by John C. Maxwell
The list author says:
  "In case it wasn't obvious, always come back here. I'm referring to the Bible, but the leadership stuff from Maxwell is a nice bonus.  Just remember; no matter how good something sounds, hold to the inspired text as your frame of reference.  Just because some publishing house prints words in a book (even if in the margin of the Bible itself) doesn't make those words true, much less inspired."
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chilemery (Santiago, CHILE)
Qualifications: 11 years as a missionary in South America
Last updated: 4/11/10
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