Besides the Bible, what is the most important missions book of all time? As a pastor, I would try to read at least one book on missions every year. That practice helped me and our church keep in touch with missions realities in our changing world. Books like John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad, Ruth Tucker’s From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Elizabeth Elliot’s Through Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty, Don Richardson’s Peace Child and Eternity in Their Hearts, have all made the list. Each of these have added something to my understanding about helping to fulfill the Great Commission.
But recently George Verwer sent me a book which he referred to as “the most important mission book of all time.” He sent me the new edition of Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation, Jason Mandryk (Revised 7th edition).
Are you familiar with it? It is a treasure. While it is billed as a tool for prayer mobilization, it is a virtual missions briefing book covering every region and nation of the world. The seventh edition brings Operation World up to date yet again. It will be of immense value to anyone who wants to get up to speed on missionary outreach and strategy. Its authors hope it will mobilize the church for informed intercession.
Operation World first gives a statistical survey of Christian influence on the world. Then it focuses on key regions. Then it narrows down to countries. It ends with a section on prayer resources and networks.
The idea for Operation World was first proposed in 1964—it would attempt to give an overview of the missionary challenge and opportunities in every part of the world. The first edition of the book came out in 1974 through the efforts of Patrick Johnstone.
Operation World is motivated by a desire to exalt Jesus Christ and takes the doctrinal outlook of the Lausanne Covenant. It presents its data not simply to inform, but to prompt people to prayer. You can’t come away with it without a greater burden of prayer for the nations.
In its opening section on the world, it first explains its use of statistics. Then it reviews key subjects, like….
- Cities That there are 487 cities with a population over one million, and 21 with a population of over ten million. It points out that the world’s urban population reached over 50% for the first time in history in 2009.
- People Groups In discussing people groups, it points out the different ways to count them. For example, Joshua Project says there are 16,350 distinct people groups. But The World Christian Database lists 13,6774. Both are based on different understandings of groups.
- Languages The World Christian Encyclopedia says there are 13,411 distinct languages and 30,000 dialects. The largest language groups are Chinese, then Spanish, and then English. Not all language groups have a Bible. 457 language groups have the whole Bible. 1,202 have the New Testament. 953 have portions of the New Testament. Yet still a whopping 2,252 languages still need Scripture translation.
Other sections cover:
- World economic statistics
- The growth of evangelicals and pentecostals
- Answers to prayer
- Global hot spots
- Global trends to watch
- Human trafficking figures
- Demographic figures,
- Church world wide
- Persecution figures
- The unfinished task
All this in just the first 30 pages of a thousand page volume. This section alone is worth the price of the book. But there is more. After a world overview, it goes into a continental analysis—Africa, North America, Asia, Europe, etc.. But there is more. Then comes a country by country analysis.
How should one use Operational World? The first and most important use of this book should be for prayer. When we pray for a part of the world, there is no better guide. This can help pastors who lead in prayer for a particular part of the world. Or, you can use it as a kind of prayer calendar for families and churches to pray around the world.
Second, it can be used to give a missions committee members a sense of current missions realities. If I were leading a church missions committee, I would make sure every member had a copy (as well as every pastor).
Third, it can be used to help our people prepare for short term mission trips. You might use this as a briefing book before you send a mission team to another part of the world. If you form mission partnerships with churches in other countries, this guide is essential.
Finally, if nothing else, this guide will heighten your awareness of world wide Christian trends. It will help form you into a global Christian. You can find Operation World at: https://www.amazon.com/Operation-World-Definitive-Prayer-Nation/dp/1850788626/ref=sr_1_1s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1306090885&sr=1-1
Great article Don. You may also want to check out http://www.prayercast.com. They have created tools to help people pray for these nations represented in OPW.
Blessings – Michael