Missionary Field Guide

The Upstream Collective have launched their new book, Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission. It’s a collection of nine basic missionary skills which, according to the authors, was written for “all Christians everywhere.”

In the old days (and by old days, I mean the First Century), missionary skills were treated as basic discipleship. If you were going to be a follower of Jesus, you had to know how to join tribes, exegete culture, and build relationships. Jesus instructed His disciples to look for persons of peace and to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Being a Christ-follower was being a missionary.

But somewhere along the way, we separated out the missionary training from the rest of discipleship. It became acceptable to be a Christian not on mission (as if there was such a thing!).  The missionary training we reserved only for those who would commit to living abroad.

With Tradecraft, Upstream calls on the Church to re-integrate missionary skills back into discipleship. It’s one thing for a church to say that they are making disciples, but it’s another thing altogether for a church to make missionaries.

Tradecraft is an important book, if for no other reason than it moves beyond defining mission (as so many other books do) to focus on how to do mission. Believe it or not, there’s really very little

in the way of practical guides to mission available today. Most prescribe formulas for small-group Bible studies or consider cleaning up the local public school to be “mission.” Tradecraft instead focuses on the skills that help Christians sort through all of that and decide how best to live a God’s people among those who do not know Him.

While the authors may have intended the book to be for non-professtional missionaries and their churches, it’s actually the professionals who could use this kind of guidebook. The vast majority of international Christian workers have no formal training (or education, for that matter). Even those career missionaries with seminary training often don’t get much practical instruction. Tradecraft would be an excellent “field guide” for missionaries everywhere.

I recommend the following uses for Tradecraft:

  • Church small group studies: this is a great way for a small group to have a common vocabulary and perspective on everyday incarnation.
  • Mission teams required reading before a trip: no more ignorant missions teams! Require volunteers to read this before they get on a plan.
  • Church planting team formative study: you’re doomed to replicate the attractional, event-based consumer model unless your team thinks like missionaries.
  • Missionaries on the field: it’s like continuing education; even if you’re been around for a while, refresh your memory of the basics.
  • University/Seminary missions courses: Tradecraft fits nicely as a practical complement to Christopher Wright and David Bosch.
  • Student groups: turn students into campus missionaries by teaching missionary tradecraft.
  • Church staffs/elder boards: missionary thinking is the best way to insure that you’re building God’s kingdom, not yours.
  • A gift for missions supporters and donors: if they understand how missionaries think- why they do what they do- donors are less likely to make ridiculous suggestions or have unrealistic expectations. Disciple those who send you into being missionaries themselves!