The Mission-Centered Life: Following Jesus into the Broken Places, Study Guide

Bethany Ferguson
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In this in-depth study on missional living, Bethany Ferguson draws on her fifteen years of missionary experience to examine the reasons believers should pursue lives of service and evangelism. The Mission-Centered Life explores why holistic missions is needed, how God’s grace empowers us to serve in places of need, what to do when we fail as missionaries, and how to cultivate hope in the midst of a broken world.

For Christians who long to serve God in broken places but aren’t sure where to start, The Mission-Centered Life speaks to the “whys” and “hows” of missional living.

Designed for personal reflection and small group discussion, Ferguson provides Scripture study, profound application and questions, as well as essays and personal stories to illustrate the importance of missions—both for the missionary and the community being served by the missionary.

Several books on missions tend to focus on the adventure or challenge of living cross-culturally. Others focus on the number of conversions as the primary measurement of success. The Mission-Centered Life offers instead the option to explore how our weakness and need is what prepares us to serve a needy world. Ferguson invites readers to take on a posture of humility, which is vital for the church desiring to be relevant in the world. This invaluable resource urges others to see how we are like those we come to serve and how we can learn from them.

Find confidence in God’s missional purposes in the world and a deeper understanding of life with Jesus, who pursued the marginalized as shown throughout the New Testament. Anchor your hope to Christ, who moves us out of our comfort zones to care for the needs of the world.


Bethany Ferguson, MA, has spent most of the last fifteen years serving with Serge in Uganda, South Sudan, and Kenya. Her cross-cultural work focuses on promoting education and mental health care for children and adolescents in under-resourced areas. She is currently pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.

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"This book contains a lovely family of reflections from the front lines of mission and ministry. They are artfully and honestly told with a tone of grace-filled discovery. Together, these reflections provide a gentle invitation to regularly examine oneself, opening oneself to discern the movement of the Spirit within oneself and in the world. I recommend these spiritual exercises to anyone considering or already deeply involved in the work of God's mission in the world."
Bryant L. Myers, Professor of Transformational Development, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary; author of Walking with the Poor and Engaging Globalization: The Poor, Christian Mission, and our Hyperconnected World

"Ferguson deftly weaves gripping stories of her life in South Sudan with eloquently expressed biblical truth, to give us an authentic basis for missional living. We glimpse her griefs and failures even as she points us to hope and Jesus. The format invites a communal journey to find that God 'will disrupt our expectations, and that is a gift.'"
J. A. Myhre, Serge Area Director and Doctor, Serge, East and Central Africa; author of The Rwendigo Tales

"You've heard it said, 'Find out what God is doing in the world and join his mission.' But if, like me, you are asking how to do this, I recommend The Mission-Centered Life. Best of all, this is a group study. Read, discuss, meditate, pray, and reflect together as God shows you his heart for the world and your part in his mission."
Philip G. Monroe, Director of Training and Materials, Mission Trauma Healing, American Bible Society; clinical psychologist; visiting professor of counseling and psychology, Missio Seminary; director, Global Trauma Recovery Institute, Missio Seminary

"This exquisite book is like having a trail guide walk you through a nature preserve, helping you see what often gets missed. Bethany Ferguson invites us to Scripture, her journey, and questions that illuminate our heart's search for how we are to participate in the kingdom of God. Bethany is wise to know that all service for God is kingdom labor, yet there are unique dimensions to a mission field that take you far from your home and family. This life-giving book is first and foremost for all who want their lives to participate in the joy of the King, and in engaging the wisdom needed to grow, you'll have an opportunity to imagine how and where our Father most wants you to play."
Dan B. Allender, Professor of Counseling Psychology and Founding President, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology; author, The Healing Path and Leading with a Limp

"The Mission-Centered Life draws us to winsome and profound reflection on God's work in the world intertwined with God's work in us. Bethany Ferguson paints images of beauty and pain in her stories that show us the core of human experience. Joining in this model of group study and discussion will create space for deep relationship and personal development, grounded in both tears and laughter."
Cynthia B. Eriksson, Program Chair and Associate Professor of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Graduate School of Psychology.

"In the years I have known Bethany, I have found her to be a vibrant and imaginative speaker, who shares from her own experiences of God in the broken places. Reading The Mission-Centered Life is like having a conversation with my deeply insightful friend/colleague in which she shares authentically and challenges us to missional living. I look forward to sharing this book with every new appointee of AIM."
Susan Stocksdale, US Counseling Liaison, Africa Inland Mission

"I have known Bethany for many years, even tried to persuade her to come to London, but God overruled and sent her into the dark, broken places of Uganda and Sudan. Out of her experiences comes this book. It is a group study, but woven through the pages is her own weaknesses, trials, difficulties, and the power of the gospel to change. She knew that grace truly understood moves us out into the world. This is a must for all who have been impacted by the gospel and need to hear God's call to families, neighbors, and into the market place."
Rose Marie Miller, Missionary; author of From Fear to Freedom and Nothing Is Impossible with God; coauthor of Gospel-Centered Parenting.

"This book delves into the various rhythms of missional living with practical insights into the biblical foundation for each and accompanied by thoughtful and engaging reflections by the author. Bethany grapples with the complexities of her experiences of missions in Africa whilst gently posing hard questions, acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between life and death and ultimately encouraging the reader to taste God's unquenchable grace and join him in his redemptive work here on earth."
Ann Mara, Teacher; trainer; mission partner, Serge; founding member of The Justice Conference; international development consultant; advocate for victims of human trafficking in her home country of Ireland

"Bethany Ferguson has new things to say, and they are well worth hearing. However, the rarer and more difficult accomplishment is to say anew the things I already know but desperately need to hear again. This has been the great benefit of The Mission-Centered Life for my often dull ears and my often weary heart."
Eric McLaughlin, Professor of Family Medicine, Hope Africa University, Burundi; missionary, Serge; author of Promises in the Dark: Walking with Those in Need without Losing Heart

"Bethany Ferguson has given us an invaluable introduction to living missionally. I was particularly encouraged to note that she cannot conceive of doing missions apart from our union with the risen Christ. Anyone will find themselves enriched by her insights and experiences, but I particularly commend this study to those who are considering a life of missions. Go through these studies with others so you can talk and pray about the realities and joy of what is before you. You may not be going to Africa, but if you are serious about going with Jesus on his mission, something of what Bethany has experienced will be part of your experience as well."
Stephen Smallman, Former Executive Director, Serge; pastor; author of The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus

"Bethany Ferguson guides us with candor and humility through the sometimes-rough terrain of missional living. When she encounters the complexities of life in East Africa and doesn't have easy answers, we are there with her. Then in a well-paced journey through Scripture and self-reflection, we are invited to the cross and the grace that heals us and those we long to help."
Nancy Baggé, Wycliffe Bible Translators

"Bethany takes the grand idea of following Jesus into the beautiful brokenness that is mission and breaks it down into a discussion that feels conversational, realistic, and hope-filled. She does not shy away from the brokenness of our own hearts and the world around us, but she pushes the reader to find the grace of Jesus shining through precisely these places of darkness. I highly recommend this study to anyone looking for more grace and hope for more missional living."
Heather Nelson, Counselor; author of Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame

"Bethany weaves her own real-life, relatable and raw stories with a great depth of scriptural insight. I love the way she helped me integrate the brokenness as well as the intense joy of a meaningful life. She holds the paradoxes in a healing way. Her psychological insights are so powerful, and the study questions help groups get to a deeper level of intimacy that is natural and gentle."
Christi Byerly, Life Coach and Spiritual Director, Commission To Every Nation

"Bethany Ferguson presents a balanced approach of mission-centered living, one that includes both our sin and God's grace, both the world's beauty and the world's pain. She effectively challenges the too easily accepted dichotomy of the missionary-as-hero and the missionary-as-villain by authentically telling stories from her years in Africa through the grid of God's grace and by inviting us into Bible-based discussions and prayer."
Nancy Crawford, Associate Professor, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University; affiliate member, Africa Inland Mission

"Through her life, and now her words in The Mission-Centered Life, Bethany points people to Jesus. As Bethany shares her personal journey of following Jesus into the broken places, she paints a picture of the joy that comes from living a life of mission. This is a study for all of us, no matter where we are on this journey ourselves, as we seek to love God and love others."
Emily Wiarda, Dean of Women, Rift Valley Academy, Kenya

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3 Reviews

  • 5
    Focused application for mission

    Posted by Lori on 12 29 2019

    The Mission Centered Life: Following Jesus Into The Broken Places by Bethany Ferguson shares many of the hard things Bethany has experienced in her mission work abroad. This Bible study has a gospel focus which means the study keeps the focus on Jesus and the good news of his love and power to save. The study will prompt you to go out to serve others, whether near or far. This Bible study is set up with an introduction and then ten (10) lessons. The study can be done independently, though more will be gained from a small or large group study. Each participant will benefit from having their own book as some exercises have lists or charts and having the written discussion questions in front of you allows you to better consider answers and participate. This is considered a topical study with each lesson approaching a different aspect of missions. Much of the scripture used comes from the book of John. I found that reading all the way through John before I began the study really helped me focus on the mission life being addressed. You can expect each lesson to take approximately an hour of group time, though I found I could easily spent close to an hour working through a single lesson on my own. I would expect, if I were working through this in a group, that it could be easy to spread each lesson out over two meetings or closer to an hour and a half. The ideas behind each of these articles honed in on challenging aspects of how a person who claims to be Christian lives their life. Reaching out to those around us is not necessarily second nature to us and this study will push us to push our own personal boundaries. It is a good study and the personal touch of the author’s experiences helps bring the ideas to life.

  • 4
    Great bible studies for those considering their place in world mission

    Posted by Wendy on 09 08 2019

    Anderson has spent 15 years in cross cultural ministry in Africa, and has written a guide that will help anyone considering what it means to live in a mission focussed way. It’s not only for those who are considering cross-cultural mission, although there certainly is an emphasis on that. However, anyone who wants to be challenged how they consider mission in any context will benefit. Designed for small group use, there are ten chapters. Each starts outlining the big idea, there is a short bible study, a few pages of written reflection and questions to discuss after reading it all. For those who want to push a little further, there are another few pages by the author at the end of each chapter, and further options for discussion or private journalling. She covers a wide range of topics, including going, prayer, service, suffering, repentance, joy and identity. She was honest about her own struggles with sin on the field, and how God grew her in faith and understanding. It could be used for personal reflection, but I think there would be real value in doing it with at least one other person. There would be benefit for bible study groups and the like to also work through this material together. It would be eye-opening and challenging, whether or not anyone in the group was considering overseas service. Couples or family units considering cross cultural work could do it together with great benefit as they ponder Christ, the gospel, world mission and their potential place in it. As such, it could be a resource to assist with decision making to enter the mission field and further training. At the same time, I suspect those already on the field could benefit as well as they take a step back and reconsider the truths of the gospel in light of their service, and reconsider their own hearts in it.

  • 5
    Life Coach and Spiritual Director

    Posted by Christi Byerly on 03 26 2019

    Bethany weaves her own real-life, relatable and raw stories with a great depth of scriptural insight. I love the way she helped me integrate the brokenness as well as the intense joys of a meaningful life. She holds the paradoxes in a healing way. Her psychological insights are so powerful, and the study questions help groups get to a deeper level of intimacy that is natural and gentle.

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