We’re only a few weeks away from the July 11th release in America and Britain of my forthcoming biography David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist. Here are a dozen good reasons (stated concisely) for people to read the book.
1. Livingstone was one of the most consequential individuals of the nineteenth century. He explored vast regions of south-central and south-eastern Africa never before visited by a white man. His pioneering endeavors opened the door for Christianity and legitimate commerce to be brought to that portion of the continent, and led to the Portuguese and Arab slave trades being abolished in it. He provided Western nations with a thoroughly revised and expanded understanding of southern Africa, its people groups, geography, natural resources and much more.
2. Livingstone was one of the most prominent and influential missionaries in the history of the Christian Church. He is likely the most eminent missionary ever to serve in Africa, and is probably to be numbered in the top five of outstanding missionaries to serve anywhere in the world. In reading his life story, it is not hard to perceive why Livingstone came to have such eminence and influence among the countless thousands of faithful, capable Christians who have served as missionaries. Of course, Livingstone never sought or imagined that he would become such a distinguished missionary. He simply went about his duty in diligent, determined fashion, and God granted him exceptional prominence and influence.
3. Christian Focus Publications, the publisher of this biography, describes it as “the most comprehensive and accurate ever written about Livingstone.” Readers can be confident that this volume will provide them with an extremely thorough and reliable account of Livingstone’s life and ministry. Thorough documentation is provided in the book’s many citations and footnotes, which point readers to the substantiating sources for what is being presented. Such accuracy is vital because a number of Livingstone biographies, even some well-known ones, contain not a few inaccuracies and misrepresentations of him and his history.
4. This book seeks to portray Livingstone as accurately as possible. He possessed many remarkable, God-given strengths. But like virtually all individuals who possess exceptional strengths, Livingstone also had some corresponding weaknesses. This work certainly points out his positive strengths and accomplishments, but also deals honestly with his weaknesses and shortcomings.
5. As sometimes happens with eminent individuals, Livingstone has come in for not a little unjust and inaccurate criticism. He is criticized for neglecting his family and for associating with slave traders (though he always opposed their nefarious practices). He is accused of promoting British Colonialism, of being a poor leader, and of having other faults and failures. This book carefully examines and endeavors to accurately respond to all such charges, resulting in a clearer understanding and greater appreciation of Livingstone being gained.
6. Livingstone’s personal example and perspectives are instructive with regard to making marked personal sacrifices and enduring even extreme hardships in order to faithfully serve Christ and to fulfill one’s rightful duty to God and fellow human beings. Livingstone endured much adversity and made many sacrifices throughout his career. He did so with unwavering trust in God (see the next paragraph), unflinching determination, courage, grit and ingenuity. He repeatedly stated that Christians ought not to think or speak of such matters as actual sacrifices, especially in light of the far greater sacrifices Christ made for those He came to serve and save.
7. Livingstone maintained unshakable trust in God’s guidance, providence and protection. His journals contain many Scripture citations and personal perspectives highlighting those themes. There were numerous occasions when he stated his confidence that God would allow even deeply disappointing and concerning circumstances that he was experiencing “to turn out right in the end.” Contemplating Livingstone’s habitual, Bible-based trust can strengthen our own faith and assurance in these same ways.
8. Livingstone’s private devotional perspectives and statements of personal consecration, both of which are scattered throughout the narrative of his life, are inspiring and beneficial. To cite but one of many such examples from his personal journal: “I will place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of Christ. If anything will advance the interests of that kingdom, it shall be given away or kept only in reference to whether giving or keeping will most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time and eternity … I will try and remember always to approach God in secret with as much reverence in speech, posture and behavior as in public. Help me Thou who knowest my frame and pitiest as a Father his children.”
9. Livingstone’s missionary perspectives are also profitable and worthy of serious consideration. He thought that all Christians, out of love and gratitude to Christ for having redeemed them, should devote themselves to taking that same message of salvation to those who need to hear it. Livingstone was thoroughly committed “to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known” rather than merely “building on another man’s foundation” (Romans 15:20). He had strong convictions that missionary societies should devote their limited resources to reaching unreached people groups rather than carrying out ministry in areas where the Gospel was well-known and Christian work was well-established. He had unbounded, steadfast confidence that God’s Kingdom work was inexorably advancing and would ultimately triumph throughout the world, though he might not live to see that come about in his own lifetime.
10. Livingstone’s life story, especially his decades of service in Africa, are filled with adventure! He took many extensive journeys that were filled with interesting experiences and significant discoveries. He was famously attacked and injured by a lion. Besides lions, he had dangerous encounters with rhinos, hippos, African buffalo, crocodiles, snakes, army ants and swarming bees. While most tribes were civil towards him, several times he was threatened and even attacked by suspicious, opposing tribesmen. He and his men occasionally interfered with the slave trade and were able to free slaves. On a number of occasions he had to navigate difficult and hazardous rivers or traverse treacherous terrain. Such adventures occur regularly enough throughout the book to keep the narrative interesting.
11. A fellow Christian laborer invested six and a half years of his available writing time (parttime, on the side of other fulltime ministry responsibilities) in researching and composing this extensive biography. Christian Focus Publications has made a significant commitment in publishing an attractive hardbound edition of this substantial volume at considerable cost. It is our shared hope and prayer that many will perceive the benefits that can be gained through this book and decide to read it.
12. Ultimately this work can and should be read to the glory of God. It is a substantial record of how God graciously draws people to saving faith in Jesus Christ, then gives them the desire and determination to serve their Savior with their lives. It is also a testimony of how God uniquely equips His people with the gifts and perspectives they need to faithfully, fruitfully serve Him. It shows how God works in and through His imperfect human instruments to carry out the ministries He intends and enables them to fulfill. This is seen in Livingstone’s ministry and experienced in our own lives as well. To God be all the glory!
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Here’s a link to the information the publisher has posted online about the Livingstone biography: https://www.christianfocus.com/products/3110/david-livingstone
Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie