Interview with Dr. Sills, Part I

david-sills-missionary-callWhile working on the book review for Dr. Sills’ new book, The Missionary Call, I was blessed to be able to interview Dr. Sills. We had to do this interview via email since he was on the mission field in Ecuador. I would like to publicly thank him for his willingness to answer these questions in the evenings when he was supposed to be resting. Thank you again, Dr. Sills.

Also, Dr. Sills has agreed to answer a number of questions in addition to what he has answered in this two-part interview. The questions can be follow-ups to what was said here or can be something completely different. The only stipulation is that the question is germane to missions work. There will be a drawing based upon the questions asked, only one entry per person, but you can ask multiple questions.  Moody Publishers has sent us an additional copy of The Missionary Call that Dr. Sills has graciously autographed.  The winner of the drawing will receive an autographed copy of The Missionary Call. I will contact the winner via email before I announce who won.  Thank you, Moody Publishing and thank you, Dr. Sills.

You can either ask your question in the comment section of either one of these interviews or you can email me at with your question and I will see that he gets the questions. We will post the questions and answers in a separate post at a later date. I will comment on both posts as to when the questioning will close regarding Dr. Sills answering them and being entered into the drawing. 


1. What are you doing in Ecuador right now?

My wife and I are in Ecuador leading a mission team from our church (Ninth and O Baptist). We are working with two indigenous churches outside of the capital city of Quito. We have held Vacation Bible School, evangelistic services, and helped to encourage the indigenous leadership in the area. We have been fortunate to work with a good friend from when we served in Ecuador, Joselito Orellana. We have had a team of eleven from Ninth and O as well as Joselito’s family working alongside us over the past week.

I actually arrived in Ecuador straight from Peru where I was for two weeks leading a field course and mission trip from SBTS. We worked in Anchuasi, Peru where I have taken groups from Ninth and O several times. We have an ongoing church planting partnership with that community as part of the REAP South program in cooperation with the IMB. It was especially encouraging to be there for a baptism on this trip.

Upon returning from Ecuador I will travel to Atlanta to teach for the REAP South leadership training seminar. I will then return home for a day and then head to Panama to preach for a few days. I will return just in time for the beginning of the semester.

All of the traveling can be tiring, but I am so thankful for the opportunities I have to stay involved in field ministry. I typically lead 4-5 mission trips per year and often have 2-3 other international ministry opportunities throughout the course of the year. Not only does this help me to more completely fulfill my own sense of call, it also allows me to stay plugged in to what is happening on the mission fields of the world so that I am a more effective professor.

2. Could you please share with us your testimony of how you came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

I grew up in a Christian home and my family was in church every time the doors were open. My mother was the church organist and my father was a deacon, so we were often the first ones there and the last to leave. Being raised in the Bible belt of Mississippi and wanting to do what “good boys” did, I prayed some version of the sinner’s prayer with my pastor and was baptized when I was eight. However, I didn’t have any concept of repentance or true faith in Christ.

Around the age of fifteen, I began to hang around with the wrong crowd. I eventually became involved in a life of consistent sin. Even though I thought I was a Christian, I consistently pursued sinful choices. It was not until I was twenty-five and married that I responded to the Lord drawing me to Himself.

He used three key traumatic events to reveal Himself and my need for Him. First, while at my office, an armed robber shot at me at point blank range. Miraculously, the bullet missed my head. Second, my wife and firstborn nearly died during childbirth as the umbilical cord was wrapped around my son’s neck. Third, a suspicious growth in my mouth was thought by my doctor to be cancerous. The Lord used the combination of these events, which occurred in a very short amount of time, to reveal that I was not ready to face death. All of this left me questioning what I believed about being a Christian. During this time the Lord also gave me an indescribable desire to devour His Word and listen to sermons. Looking back, I can see that God had been drawing me throughout that year, but it was those three incidents combined with the sudden study of God’s Word that led me to genuine repentance and faith in Christ.

My wife, newborn son, and I began attending a Southern Baptist Church in our hometown of Jackson, MS. The interim pastor of the church was a gifted preacher named Tom Nettles. For many months we sat in the second row under Dr. Nettles’ teaching, absorbing everything he gave us. God saved us both within months of each other and on New Years Day 1984, Dr. Nettles baptized my wife, Mary, and me together. The Lord was, and is, incredibly gracious to me and my family!

3. You say at the very beginning of your book that 1/3 of the world’s population (2 billion) has never heard the gospel message before and of that 2 billion, 50,000 die daily. Can you help us comprehend those numbers?

The reality is that it is almost impossible to comprehend the numbers of the lost and those who die without Christ. I know that it helps me to bring it down to as small a number as possible and then consider that impact alone. Almost 35 people who have never heard the Gospel die each minute of each day. The odds are that in the time it takes you to read this article, over one hundred people will die and enter eternity without Christ– and every single one of those individuals will have gone into that eternity never having heard a clear presentation of the Gospel.

As I say in the book, the need is immense– but the need is not the call. I know at times the need can seem overwhelming. Yet we can all point to lives of single individuals whose faith and obedience was used by the Lord to make a deep and eternally lasting impact. Ultimately, it is an awareness of the vast need that leads me to consistently challenge myself to teach teachers and train trainers. Just as Christ was obedient to serve and obedient to disciple, we must do the same.

4. What do you mean when you say, “I believe that God has called every Christian to the task of international missions?” Why is it international and not home missions?

I do not believe it is an either/or situation. Jesus commands His disciples to be His witnesses in their immediate community, their home land, and to the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8). Every Christian is called to the task of missions in each of those areas. Historically, we have often understood “a call to missions” to actually refer to the specific call to leave one’s own culture and travel to a distant land for the purpose of serving across cultural and linguistic barriers. It is this understanding of the call that I am writing to clarify. Incidentally, this somewhat generic sense of the call is often accompanied with a belief that a “call to go” must be mystical and highly experiential. When I say that, “I believe that God has called every Christian to the task of international missions,” the emphasis and point is that every Christian is called to advance God’s glory around the world. The expression of the call is distinct between goers and senders, but the call is present nonetheless.

5. You say that “The work of missions is the reason for the Bible.” That is a slightly different perspective on the Bible than what I am familiar with, could you develop that thought a bit more?

The Bible tells the story of God’s redemptive plan for all nations for the glory of Christ. From start to finish, the Bible is about God redeeming a people for Himself through Christ Jesus and the ultimate glory that would come Him. That is exactly what missions is about as well. Ask yourself, If we did not have the Bible, what would we know about God? Psalm 19 and Romans 1 teach us that we would know that there is a Creator, and Paul continues in Romans 2 saying that we would also know that we are sinners, but we would not know Him or His redemptive plan. God revealed Himself to us in His word that we might know Him and make Him known–that is missions. Therefore, I argue (along with people like Ralph D. Winter, Christopher J.H. Wright, etc.) that rather than making an understatement about a biblical basis for the Bible, we should say–as the Bible seems to say–that there is a missiological basis for the Bible.

6. If you could choose one biography of a missionary to have with you while you are out on the mission field, whose would it be?

The faith and story of Jim Elliot has been incredibly influential in my own spiritual pilgrimage and sense of call. So, I suppose if I must choose just one, then I would choose the very comprehensive “Journals of Jim Elliot.” Incidentally, my website includes a section of bibliographies with one bibliography specific just to recommended missionary biographies. It is available here. This might be helpful for anyone who, like me, cannot imagine the thought of restricting yourself to just one book! There are many very helpful missionary biographies in print today.

7. Besides your own book, The Missionary Call, what one other book would you recommend to a Christian seeking God’s will regarding missions?

I do not mean to be trite, but the one book I would recommend more than any other (including mine) is the most obvious. God’s Word is the one vehicle through which, as believers, we can be assured that He will speak to us. If we are seeking guidance in any area of our life, our first reach must be for our Bible. In The Missionary Call, I speak of how when I was first discerning my missionary call, it seemed that every scripture I read was reflecting the needs of the nations and my place in going. There is no other book or resource that will ever be more helpful in discerning God’s will for your life than His Word. I hope and pray that my book is an accurate reflection of what His Word reveals on the subject of the missionary call coupled with some practical applications from my own life and ministry. But ultimately, do not seek guidance from me or my book if you are not primarily seeking it from the Lord!

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6 Responses to Interview with Dr. Sills, Part I

  1. Pingback: Free Book on Missions | Going to Seminary

  2. Matt Pierce says:

    What is Dr. Sills opinion about sending children to boarding schools while living overseas?

  3. Pingback: Last Call!! | Said at Southern

  4. Tony Kummer says:

    @Terry: Is this an alter call for comments? I guess that sermon by Dr. Vines really moved you!

  5. Eligible Questions are now closed. I will let y’all know the winner in a follow up post with Dr. Sills’ answers. Thank you and God bless.

  6. Tony Kummer says:

    @Terry Delaney: The final stanza of “Just As I Am” has ended.

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