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Encountering Missionary Life and Work

Preparing for Intercultural Ministry

series: Encountering Mission

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"A much-needed textbook to prepare missionaries. . . . Tom Steffen and Lois McKinney Douglas draw from their vast experience to provide what will inevitably be the new standard textbook."--J. Ronald Blue, Evangelical Missions Quarterly
A generation of students preparing for intercultural mission work has relied on the classic text Life and Work on the Mission Field by J. Herbert Kane, a guide to the practicalities of missionary life. Encountering Missionary Life and Work, a new volume in the award-winning Encountering Mission series, seeks to build on Kane's work and provide practical guidance for a new generation of twenty-first-century missionaries. The authors are well qualified to write such a manual, each having served on the mission field for more than twenty years and each having taught missions at the seminary level.

The authors begin by examining the contemporary context for mission work, including the recognition that the world's mission fields are in constant and often rapid flux. They then discuss various aspects of preparing oneself for the mission field, beginning with home-front preparations and moving to on-the-field preparations. The final section deals with practical issues of missionary life and its unique challenges. The text is supplemented with case studies and many helpful sidebars for reflection and discussion.

About the series: The Encountering Mission series is designed to introduce a new generation of students to missions. Authored by leading evangelical scholars, these volumes explore the issues, context, and changes in world missions in the twenty-first century.


"This book is a wonderful introduction to missionary life and work, addressing most of the questions that a person might ask about a possible career in Christian missions. Steffen and McKinney Douglas emphasize that preparation for missionary effectiveness begins first and foremost in one's relationship to God and then in one's relationships to God's people. They also address most of the practical questions--support, agency, culture, language, family, schooling--related to the daily life and work of a missionary. This is an excellent resource for introductory missions classes in any training context."--Sherwood Lingenfelter, provost and senior vice president, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Blending their own rich experience in missions, a strong biblical foundation, insights from the hundreds of students they have taught, and in-depth awareness of key research studies and literature, Steffen and McKinney Douglas comprehensively explore the broad range of issues that affect missionary training and life. Encountering Missionary Life and Work will give aspiring missionaries a solid start in their preparation for the field and will help missionary veterans navigate the rocky waters of cross-cultural service."--Steve Strauss, director, SIM USA

"Tom Steffen and Lois McKinney Douglas have produced a work that is sure to become a classic text for those who anticipate ministry in another culture. Encountering Missionary Life and Work goes beyond any merely academic approach to cross-cultural ministry. It focuses on the lifetime development of deeper spirituality, self-understanding, and relationships essential for effective ministry that honors God in a global context. Tom and Lois write from a rich background in effective cross-cultural ministry and years of preparing others for such ministry. I anticipate using their text in my own classes. Others have written effectively on missionary life and work, but this text is for today's missionary and suits the dynamic world situation that confronts us."--Michael Pocock, senior professor and chairman of world missions and intercultural studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

The Authors

  1. Tom Steffen

    Tom Steffen

    Tom Steffen (DMiss, Biola University) is professor of intercultural studies at Biola University and director of the doctor of missiology program. He served as a missionary for twenty years in Southeast Asia.

    Continue reading about Tom Steffen

  2. Lois McKinney Douglas

    Lois McKinney Douglas

    Lois McKinney Douglas (PhD, Michigan State University) is professor emerita of mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She served as a missionary for twenty-three years with the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society.

    Continue reading about Lois McKinney Douglas


"A much-needed textbook to prepare missionaries is here! . . . Tom Steffen and Lois McKinney Douglas draw from their vast experience to provide what will inevitably be the new standard textbook. For today's dynamic generation, Encountering Missionary Life and Work provides inspirational and practical training to those who anticipate ministry in this rapidly changing world. With amazing skill, the authors carefully address challenges and delights in the missionary journey from God's initial direction to serve cross-culturally to the day of homeland reentry. Strong biblical foundations and essential spiritual issues are combined with basic realities of life and intensely practical considerations. . . . This inclusive volume provides sensible answers to a myriad of questions. Multiple sidebars provide added information and living illustrations of issues covered in the text. Timely references and examples, a list of multiple websites, and an extensive bibliography are added evidence that this volume is truly contemporary. Encountering Missionary Life and Work is invaluable not only to those who are preparing for missions. Veteran missionaries and all those who have a vital interest in world outreach will profit greatly from the wise counsel and helpful insights this superb text provides."--J. Ronald Blue, Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"A 400-page textbook on missions . . . and I could hardly put it down! . . . [The book contains] realistic insights from authors who have lived the life. Using personal stories, current research, emerging trends, case studies, and discussion questions, the authors challenge their readers to think hard about vital issues. And sensitive matters, like women's roles in ministry, are presented with care and balance. The book's forte is clearly its ability to engage its reader. For anyone considering missionary life and work, this is a must-read. Degree-programs should utilize this text, and churches will want to make this available in the resource library."--David Mundt, CBA Retailers + Resources

"Encountering Missionary Life and Work blends the rich experiences of two missionary authors. . . . Both have shared their insights and wisdom gained through many years of field missionary experience in this book. Moreover, their differences in style, background, perspectives, and personalities, as well as genres have greatly enhanced the quality of the material. . . . Encountering Missionary Life and Work is an excellent textbook with depth of content and balance between theory (concepts) and mission application and strategies. Many illustrations and personal missionary experiences make the material of the book relevant and interesting. . . . An outstanding feature of the book is the many 'sidebars' which provide examples, illustrations, and personal experiences and stories that make the book complete and balanced. . . . The wealth of knowledge expressed in this mission textbook is overwhelming. . . . Encountering Missionary Life and Work is a unique and timely book in its category. It brings together the best missional thinking and fresh practical mission field applications for the life and work of the cross-cultural missionary. . . . [It] can be considered one of the best textbooks for contemporary missionary practice. . . . Encountering Missionary Life and Work is for all mission students, professors of missions, and cross-cultural missionaries, but it can also be used by lay leaders and church administrators as it will help to orient them in the current cross-cultural ministry of the world Christian church."--Wagner Kuhn, Journal for Adventist Mission Studies

"Offering practical guidance for life and work on the mission field, [the authors] write for would-be or current missionaries and those who support them."--Christian Chronicle

"Steffen and McKinney Douglas are well qualified to guide twenty-first-century cross-cultural workers into the future. . . . Encountering Missionary Life and Work is an easy-to-read contemporary textbook geared for the dynamic, global challenges that will face the short-term or career missionary. . . . Appropriate case studies and many personal anecdotal sidebars are incorporated into most of the 17 chapters. Over 120 helpful websites . . . are included in an appendix. A helpful scripture and subject index is also provided. The authors function as two skilled conductors as they orchestrate the 350 plus contemporary contributions into an engaging production. Here is a practical twenty-first century resource tool that will enhance the training of future missionaries at the college and graduate level. Churches involved in sending short-term teams will want to include this 'must-read' in their libraries."--E. Paul Balisky, Missiology

"A book strong on background and theory for the student of missions. . . . The authors do a good job of referring the reader to up-to-date web and print resources for further exploration. . . . A useful text for an introductory missions course and a worthwhile basic reference for field missionaries or mission-minded Christians."--Andrew Wood, Stone-Campbell Journal

"This book is an excellent resource for any person considering mission work, or for training those who may be preparing for involvement in mission. It is written by two exceptionally experienced missionaries with years of practical experience, as well as academic teaching. . . . The book is attractive in its presentation, and modern in its format with many interesting sidebars and quotations from different times in history. Many case studies are given that make the text more readable and engaging. There is a glossary of technical terms used and lists of resources that can be consulted for further reading. Another feature is a good section on helpful websites in the appendix as well as the scripture index, subject index and a very detailed reference list. . . . This book is a must for students and teachers of missions. It offers so much in its 390 pages and will prove invaluable in any study of mission in the contemporary world."--H. M. le Roux, Missionalia

"[This text] introduces a new generation of students to mission and missionary service. . . . Each chapter contains sidebars and case studies designed to engage the class in discussion and reflection on the subject highlighted in the section. At the end of each chapter is a summary, often suggesting implications, definitions, or applications. . . . This volume will be useful in cross-cultural courses in Bible colleges, universities, and seminaries."--Larry J. Waters, Bibliotheca Sacra

"Encountering Missionary Life and Work is almost encyclopedic in its scope. . . . The book is amazingly up-to-date in the light of all the changes taking place in missiology and in the organizations involved in missions. An appendix has four pages of websites where additional up-to-date information on missions may be found. Sidebars filled with helpful information and case studies sprinkled throughout this book should also do much to prepare people for cross-cultural ministry. . . . The extensive reference list completes the book's usefulness. . . . For a number of years I taught a course on missionary life and work. Had this volume existed then, I would have used it as a text book. I would highly recommend this book for a course on preparing for, living in, and returning from intercultural ministry."--Robert J. Vajko, Mission Studies