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Church History - The Modern Missions Movement Print E-mail
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I.  Introduction:

 Missions has often been neglected throughout the history of the Church.  In fact, a separate study on the history and practice of missions in Church history would be very interesting and profitable.  Although the Church has struggled with this call, there have been times of great emphasis and success in missions.  Possibly the greatest period of emphasis came in the 19th century, often referred to as ‘the century of missions.’  Tonight, I want us to consider this portion of the history of the Church.  As usual, there is so much to talk about, but I simply want to hit the highlights as best I can.  Let’s begin with some thoughts on the background to this movement.

II.  Background

 As we saw last week, the Church in America grew rapidly during the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings.  These revivals brought a renewed interest in missions and taking the gospel to the whole world.  Not just in America, but Christians from other countries as well began considering how to get the gospel to those who have not heard.  Likewise, during this time many discoveries of new peoples were being made.  The world was getting smaller and Christians were becoming more aware of all the different peoples who needed the gospel.  Of course, there were other motives besides just missions that were taking people to other lands.  Many of the major world players were longing to secure settlements in other parts of the world.  As they did this, they often forced their own culture and way of life on the people who were already settled there.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with those whose lands were being occupied.  This approach greatly hindered the missions effort as well.  These issues and struggles opened the door for new efforts in reaching the world with the gospel.

III.  2 Key Leaders:

 A.  The main leader of the modern missions movement that I want to discuss tonight is William Carey (1761-1834).  Carey is considered the ‘father of modern missions.’  Indeed, his efforts have greatly influenced and impacted the way evangelicals do missions.  Carey began his career as a shoemaker in England.  He was very intelligent and taught himself other languages while he worked on shoes.  Even though he was raised in the Church of England, he later became involved with a group of Particular Baptists, the Calvinistic side of the early Baptists.  Through his studies (reading Edwards and Andrew Fuller) and ministry, Carey became convicted about taking the gospel to places it had not been before.  In 1786, at a meeting involving different ministers, Carey began to talk about taking the gospel to the nations.  It has been said that a hyper-Calvinistic pastor responded to him and said: ‘Sit down young man.  If God wants to save the heathen, he will do it without our help.’  I should note at this point, that a number of the Particular Baptists were hyper-Calvinists and did not believe that the command to repent and believe should be preached to those who could not obey (the non-elect).  Yet, men like Carey and Andrew Fuller fought hard against this error.  They believed in reformed theology and the free offer of the gospel to all.
 
 In 1792, Carey published a work entitled: An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.  In this work, Carey called for the formation of a Baptist missionary society, which he would later help form called the Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen (1792).  Around this time, Carey also preached a sermon that included his most oft quoted saying: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”  Carey and his family left for India in 1793.
 
 Carey served in India for many years.  His service there was difficult.  Many have noted that he did not have a local convert during his first seven years of service.  His wife struggled with insanity after the loss of one of their children and eventually died.  There were also problems with the government and other agencies.  Yet, Carey continued to labor.  During his ministry he was able to translate and print the Bible in many different languages.  He was able to encourage other missionaries (including Adoniram Judson, a Baptist from America) and missionary societies.  He founded a college in India to train ministers.  He was also involved in correcting some of the social ills of the culture in India.  His approach to missions, namely adapting the message to the culture and language of the people, has been one of the most valuable lessons for modern missions.

 B.  The second missionary that I want to mention is Hudson Taylor (1832-1905).  Taylor was converted at 17 and he went as a missionary to China at 22 (1854).  He started the China Inland Mission, which served as a great model for later missions organizations to follow.  His health prevented him from remaining in China after going in 1854.  Yet, later he would return and the Lord would use him greatly to impact the entire country.  Like Carey, Taylor believed in living among the people and not forcing them to adopt western culture.  This approach would radically transform modern missions.

IV.  Lessons from this period

 A.  First, we must see the importance of reaching the world with the gospel.  These men and so many others that we did not even mention, modeled for us the compassion and desire that is required to take the gospel to every tongue, tribe, and nation.  Obviously, not all of us will serve as missionaries to India, but we all must serve as missionaries.  Missions begins with compassion for the lost.  May the Lord give us such compassion for our friends, neighbors, co-workers.  Likewise, may He give us such compassion for the nations.  We should pray that the Lord will raise up more men and women like these who will continue the work of taking the gospel to the lost.  May the Lord give us another century of missions!

 B.  Second, we must support missions financially.  As I was studying about these guys this week, I was struck by how much time they had to spend raising support.  Missions cannot happen without money and resources.  I pray that we as a Church would faithfully support local and world missions through our giving to the Cooperative Program that all the world may hear.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 September 2007 )

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