Book cover for We Are Not the Hero by Jean Johnson | Deep River BooksIn 2012, Jean Johnson partnered with Deep River Books to publish We Are Not the Hero: A Missionary’s Guide for Sharing Christ, Not a Culture of Dependency. This book invited readers—be they current missionaries, missionaries-in-training, churches, or others invested in planting churches and spreading the gospel—on a learning journey across the world to discover ways to contribute to self-sustaining and reproducing church movements that are organic to the culture.

We Are Not the Hero released in October 2012. Five and a half years later, Jean Johnson continues to use and expand on We Are Not the Hero through her work at Five Stones Global. Most recently, she teamed with educator Dr. Darryl Meekins to release a Participant’s Guide and accompanying video series. With this recent installment, we knew it was the perfect time to catch up with Johnson. 

Church Planter, Missionary, Author, Coach

Johnson has been involved in ministry for over thirty-two years. She graduated from North Central University with a BA in cross-cultural communication in 1986 and spent six years church planting among Cambodians in Minnesota before beginning her sixteen years as a career missionary in post-genocide Cambodia. She eventually realized that she’d unintentionally created unhealthy dependence on her resources, expertise, and culture. With God’s help, she was able to identify the unhealthy methods and replace them with a “more organic approach in order to foster spontaneous multiplication, sustainability, and cultural relevancy.”

She returned the USA in 2009 and joined Five Stones Global—called World Mission Associates at the time—as a consultant, trainer, and advisor to missionaries, church staff, and other mission-minded people. She would later become the executive director. Also during this time, she would write and partner with Deep River Books to publish We Are Not the Hero.

Looking back, she identifies two reasons she chose to write this book, rather than be content with other avenues of communication:

I think the need to get it all—all of this passion, experience, and wisdom—to get it up and out of me… I had to get this information out of me onto paper. Second, probably to pass on my learning curve to others I knew were out on the field.

Those on the field immediately grasped onto her message. One of the common pieces of feedback she receives is “I wish I had known it at the beginning.”

Today, Johnson continues to share the wisdom she has gleaned through her book, through coaching and teaching, and through her role as Executive Director at Five Stones Global. As she does, she listens to her readership and their calls for new resources, including some directly connected to We Are Not the Hero.

We Are Not the Hero and Five Stones Global

“A lot of the work I’m doing now [at Five Stones Global], speaking and teaching, come from that book,” Johnson affirms. “Still today, it generates opportunities for me to speak and teach on the issues.”

We Are Not the Hero intertwines with the mission of Five Stones Global more than Johnson originally expected. “I didn’t know when I was writing this book that it was going to be so much a part of Five Stones Global,” she says, and adds with humor, “maybe it’s because I’m the director.”

One saying from the book became a tagline at Five Stones Global: “Day 1 affects Day 100.” Johnson explains, “The reason it became a tagline is that it has been repeated back to me over and over.” Readers see the concept expanded on in chapter 5, “Strategic from the Beginning: Recognizing How Day 1 Affects Day 100, 1000, 10,000…”

If you visit their website, you will see “Day 1 affects Day 100” on the left side of the screen. Clicking this leads to a description of Five Stones Global, which expands on what the tagline means: “What we do from the beginning will either impede or enhance the process of disciples making disciples and churches planting churches, exponentially and over the long term.”

Answering Reader Requests

In February, Jean Johnson and her colleague Dr. Darryl Meekins released the We Are Not the Hero Participant’s Guide and accompanying videos through Five Stones Global. This wasn’t part of her initial plan, and even after readers’ requests for a guide, she was hesitant:

Since We Are Not The Hero has been published, I had received many verbal requests from the readership to create a Participant’s Guide and videos. I was a bit hesitant because the book had been out for a while. But then I was invited to speak at Clark Summit University by Dr. Darryl Meekins. He, also, encouraged me to develop a Participant’s Guide and offered to help. So we teamed up and created a We Are Not The Hero Participant’s Guide and videos, which were released in January 2018 and are available at

Johnson emphasizes, “The videos aren’t teaching videos. We created new material in the videos, [so the] content is fresh, providing reinforcement.” These videos focus on illustrations—stores that complement the participant’s guide, “two to five minutes per video, and there are six videos.”

There are only six lessons and accompanying videos, each corresponding to several chapters from We Are Not the HeroVisual themes from the book carry over to the project: “Each video opens with a cowboy with the cowboy boots.” 

Ongoing Ministry

We Are Not the Hero was written by a long-term missionary and church planter with other missionaries and church planters in mind. It has been useful for churches involved in short-term missions as well, Johnson affirms: “I just had a couple different churches use it.” Still, a need for a more specialized resource presented itself. “As I have been out and about speaking on creating a culture of dignity, sustainability, and multiplication, people have asked for a We Are Not The Hero version (similar content) that is tailored for short-term missions,” she says.

As with the participant’s guide, Johnson answered the need. In June 2018, she will release a book in connection with Five Stones Global, titled Go Light! Go Local!: A Conscientious Approach to Short-Term Missions in a Global World. She says, “Go Light! Go Local! is meant for churches from the get-go.” She describes this as a “guidebook,” meant for more than simply preparing churches for missions. It promotes a “lifestyle,” rather than a mission project, providing “a discipleship tool with a layer of cross-cultural communication.” She encourages churches to “start local, in your Jerusalem.” 

Johnson stands by what she wrote in We Are Not the Hero, and it continues to be a valuable resource. And she continues to listen to her readership to see how she can develop and use more resources to equip missionaries, churches, and church planters. It has been an honor to partner with her for her first book, and to see how she continues to use it both directly and as a stepping stone for new publications.

More About Jean Johnson

To learn more about Jean Johnson, We Are Not the Hero, and her work at Five Stones Global, check out the following links:

Our Page for We Are Not the Hero

Jean on Twitter

Five Stones Global on Facebook