Missions is a crucial mandate of the Christian church. This is seen in Jesus‘s last words to his disciples before he ascended into heaven. He told them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded” (Matthew 28:19). From that point forward, believers have set out to accomplish that goal. Yet, many disagree on how such a mission should be accomplished. For the better part of 200 years, the modern missions movement has set the goal of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. Yet, there appears to be a growing trend towards expediting the missions process in ways that are unhelpful and unbiblical. This is what Matt Rhodes discusses in his new book No Shortcut to Success: A Manifesto for Modern Missions (Crossway 2022).
In the book Rhodes, who writes under a synonym for security purposes, shares his concern for this expedited process for modern missions. He sees the desire to reach the nations in a faster rate as detrimental. He is concerned that taking a unnecessary shortcuts, undermine the integrity of the mission. Some of these shortcuts that concern the author are: not taking the time to learn the language or dialect of the people that missionaries are working among, but choosing to always work through a translator. Another shortcut is having unrealistic expectations for new churches to be started in a given region, expecting a new church to be planted every six months.
In addition, Rhodes points out that he has seen a growing trend towards missionaries not having seminary or theological training of any kind. His concern here is that coupled with a lack of understanding of the native language and a lack of biblical knowledge, does not potentially bode well in making disciples. Some missions sending organizations do, in fact, require seminary and additional extensive trading for missionaries before sending them to the field. One such example is the International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Rhodes point is that missionaries are and should be considered professional disciple makers. Their job is to contextualize the gospel to a certain people group. This should require years of preparation before they are simply “let loose.”
These concerns do seem reasonable and the author is to be commended for doing his part to bring them to light. As one who has had experience in church planting, there truly is no shortcut to success. This has, unfortunately, become the expectation for missions both domestically and internationally. Yet this is not reality. It takes long, arduous dedication in order to plant a church in the states. That difficulty grows exponentially internationally when taking into consideration the time it takes to learn a new language and culture. Missionaries cannot simply parachute into a country and expect immediate success. I’m not saying that it is impossible, but it is unlikely. What is needed is longterm faithfulness, and even then success (at least in the way the world defines it) is not guaranteed.
In the book’s foreword, Pastor Mark Dever commends this book to be read widely. While it is important for all believers to have a grasp on the missions work of their denomination or a missions organization they support, they are not the target audience of this book. This resource is best suited in the hands of pastors, denominational leaders, missionaries,and the leaders of mission organizations who can help bring about the changes proposed in the book. No Shortcut to Success is a very thought-provoking book. It’s points is well argued and hopefully well taken by it’s intended audience. Taking the gospel to the ends of the earth is no small task. Missionaries are, in fact, dealing with the souls of unreached people, and this should never be taken lightly.
For additional resources regarding No Shortcut to Success check out 9Marks.org and check out the conversation on Pastors Talk between Jonathan Leeman, Mark Dever, and Matt Rhodes.
- On “No Shortcut to Success,” Part 1 (with Matt Rhodes) – Pastors Talk, Ep. 196
- On “No Shortcut to Success,” Part 2 (with Matt Rhodes) – Pastors Talk, Ep. 204
Editors Note: Reading for the Glory received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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