"Readers are leaders and leaders are readers" - that was a statement that was drilled into us back in our college days by our campus ministry. I'm not sure who coined it, but it has proven to be largely true the longer I've journeyed in ministry.
If you're engaged in cross-cultural work for the sake of the gospel or considering that path down the road, this is a brief reading list we've comprised to help prepare you for this work with short explanations of why we commend this work to you for your consideration. I would encourage you to consider reading these books with two contextual factors in place: you are alongside others who are reading so you can process the implications and you have an open Bible handy.
Your Paper Bible: While digital Bible reading is better than no Bible intake at all, John Dyer's recent research has revealed the digital platform negatively impacts actual Bible engagement ( https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/people-screen-dyer/ ). For sure, we can celebrate how accessible Scripture has become through our devices, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking a crowded platform like a smartphone is a neutral medium.
Think about it: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reveals what Scripture is given for: "All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." So, you tell me - can Scripture do this multitasking work through the platform of that multitasking device in your hand where you receive texts, get social media updates, monitor your health and world news, and send emails? Think about it: just how deeply can the death of blow of "you shall not covet" land when an alert pops up from your friend's BeReal from Disney World? The phone, as a medium of Bible intake, keeps us in the shallows of meditation and impact.
So, pull out your paper Bible and put away the device. No book on this list compares to the ability of this Book to equip us for cross-cultural work.
Conversion by Michael Lawrence: Lawrence connects the dots between our proclamation of the gospel and how that informs our practices of evangelism. If we are unclear on God's activity in conversion, we will be unclear on our role in the process. Our methodology in missions flows from our theology on this issue. This is a book that will make you marvel at God's work in conversion and shape the way you minister in a way that is aligned with His work of conversion.
Conscience by Andy Naselli and JD Crowley: Naselli and Crowley have served the church well in this brief work on the conscience. Paul was able to "glide" between cultures for the sake of the gospel as his conscience was calibrated both to the liberties provided by the gospel and the need to love people cross-culturally. Church becomes the effective "laboratory of cross-cultural mission" when we mature in this arena of our life together. This will help you ask some penetrating questions about your own ideas on conscience issues as well.
Mission Affirmed by Elliot Clark: This is a devotionally rich, faithful deposit in the ever-growing mix of good literature on mission. Clark elevates biblical faithfulness and God's approval as the ultimate aspirations every missionary should keep front and center. This keeps us anchored in the fruitless times and keeps us aspiring for the right kind of fruit.
No Shortcut to Success by Matt Rhodes: What do you expect to be doing in this line of work? While every Christian has a role to play in the Great Commission, Rhodes helps distinguish the marks and expectations for those sent to obey the Great Commission in pioneer and cross-cultural contexts. This book will help recalibrate pre-field expectations in a way that will help you count the costs required to be committed over the long haul to this work.
Paul, The Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon Fee: This is an oldie, but a goodie. Even though you may not land with Fee on all his conclusions, his main point becomes clear: gospel proclamation forms a gospel people, the church, empowered by the Spirit. This is a helpful corrective to our hyper-individualized vision of the Christian life, and it is so Scripturally robust that it becomes a handy aid for disciples who want to disciple others within a church-centric framework. I never read the letters of paul the same and never appreciated the beauty of the Spirit's work in the church until Fee came alongside me in those ways.
Character Matters by Aaron Menikoff: Even though Menikoff largely writes to pastors in this book, the book itself unpacks the fruit of the Spirit with particular applications toward ministry that we've found helpful in having people assess their own maturity and development needs. This is a convicting and challenging book along with seasoned wisdom that applies grace to areas where we need to mature.
Happy reading. Let us know that you're learning!