By Evan D. Burns
“Only eternity will reveal how many fires of evangelistic zeal have been lit by the perusal of the account of [David Brainerd’s] short but powerful ministry.” The role of spiritual biography in arousing Christ-pursuing passion is incalculable. Consider all the great missionaries, such as William Carey (1761-1834), Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), Henry Martyn (1781-1812), and Jim Elliot (1927-1956), who claimed they were fortified and encouraged with hopeful perspective by reading of God’s mysterious providence and Christ’s abiding presence in the life, labors, and suffering of David Brainerd (1718-1747). Imagine how many unknown missionaries there have been who likewise found strength from Jonathan Edwards’ biography of Brainerd. For young men and women, reading evangelical biography is enduringly formational. In addition to pointing the rising generation to timeless spiritual biographies, ministers and scholars should also consider writing new biographies of nameless, faceless servants whose lives and labors testify to the grace of the gospel of God.
Here is a great list of free ebooks of missionary biographies. It includes biographies of missionaries such as: Brainerd, Carey, Chalmers, Geddie, Gilmour, Ginsburg, Grenfell, Judson, Livingstone, Mackay, Marsden, Moffat, Paton, Slessor, Taylor, and other collections. Here also is another more extensive list of shorter biographies of many other great evangelical missionaries.
Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons. They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.
John Thornbury, David Brainerd: Pioneer Missionary to the American Indians. (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 1996) 298.