{21}     Missionary work

ERA 6 << Modern Church (2): Revival & Missions (AD 1700-1900) >> SESSION 4

Reference: Gonzalez, volume 2, chapters 30

        21.1.1  Background to missionary activities

·         Missionary centuries: The 16th-c was the great age of Catholic expansion and 19th-c was the great age of Protestant expansion.

·         Colonialism & missions: Missionary activities led to the founding of a truly universal church, encompassing peoples of all races and nations. Unfortunately, the expansion took place within the context of colonialism and economic imperialism. The relationship between colonialism and missions was very complex. There were accusations that missionaries were agents of colonialism but this is not true.

·         Different patterns: In Latin America, the pattern was neocolonialism. The former Spanish colonies won their independence. In Asia and in black Africa, colonialism took the traditional form of military conquest and overt political domination. Historical empires like China and Japan were forced to open trade with the West.

        21.2.1  Formation of missionary societies

·         Missionary spirit: The missionary enthusiasm was the result of revivalism among the pietists and Methodists and among the evangelicals of the Anglican Church.

·         Early societies: Two forerunners were founded by Anglicans: the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) [1698], and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) [1701].

·         William Carey (1761–1834)—He is often called “the father of modern missions” because:

o        Free access: Because of Carey’s effort, Parliament included a clause granting missionaries free access to areas under control of the British East India Company in 1813.

o        Impact on missions: Many missionaries societies were founded because of his influence.

·         More societies:

o        The London Missionary Society (LMS) [1795]—It was the first large missionary society founded with interdenominational cooperation by Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists. Later different denominations founded their own missionary societies, including Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans.

o        Outside England: After the beginning of missionary activities in England, missionary societies were founded in Holland [1797], Switzerland [1815], Germany [1824], Norway [1842], and the United States [1822].

·         Cooperation: Missionary activities fostered a spirit of cooperation, leading to the ecumenical movement in 20th-c.

·         3-self churches: A New York Missionary Conference [1854] set out the ideal of establishing churches in mission fields with characteristics of: self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating.

        21.3.1  Asia & Oceania

·         Protestant missionaries: They reached the Indian subcontinent (1709), southeast Asia (1825), Japan and Korea (1859), the Philippines (1899), Australia and New Zealand (1800s).

        21.3.2  Africa

·         Rapid colonization: The European powers started large scale colonization after 1795 when the British seized the Dutch colony in south Africa. Subsequently, Britain, France, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Italy all established colonies in Africa. By 1914, the only independent states in Africa were Ethiopia and Liberia.

·         Missionary societies: North Africa Mission (founded in 1881), Africa Inland Mission (founded in 1895).

·         Missionaries: The most famous was David Livingstone (1813–1873). Eventually, all colonies had some churches by the end of 19th-c.

        21.3.3  Latin America

·         Protestant growth: The independence of Catholic churches in Latin America led to the founding of Protestant churches in every nation in Latin America. By 1914, there were significant numbers of Protestants in every country in Latin America.

·         Helping the needy: Most early missionaries were concerned not only with salvation of souls but also with physical wellbeing and intellectual development. Therefore, Protestants soon became known for their work in medicine and education.

        21.4.1  Cooperation leading to ecumenism

·         Definition: “Ecumenical” means “pertaining to the entire inhabited earth.” The emphasis is on the worldwide unity of Christians in all nations. One of the driving forces leading to the modern movement for Christian unity was the missionary movement.

·         Cooperation for missions: In overseas missions, cooperation between denominations was mandatory.

o        [1] Limited resources: Bible translations prepared by missionaries of one denomination were used by all others.

o        [2] Avoid duplication: As there were vast regions waiting for the gospel, it made sense to divide the area to save duplication of effort.

o        [3] Avoid confusion: If different denominations preaching to people who never heard the gospel, even slightly different interpretations would confuse the listeners.

·         Student Volunteer Movement [1886]—It was an interdenominational agency in the US. It was launched when 100 university and seminary students at Moody’s conference grounds in Massachusetts signed the pledge to become foreign missionaries. The 100 missionaries were deployed in one year in China under the China Inland Mission [1887]. By 1945, the organization had recruited over 20,000 missionaries.

        21.4.2  World Missionary Conference [1910]

·         Objective: The first large scale missionary conference met in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was stipulated that the conference would deal exclusively with missions among non-Christians, and that therefore there would be no discussion of Protestant missions among Catholics in Latin America, or among Eastern Orthodox in the Near East. The conference was attended mostly by representatives from Britain and North America.

·         Impact: The conference achieved its goal of exchanging information. But its significance was far greater.

o        [1] Conferences on other subjects: It paved the way for other conferences where subjects other than missions would be discussed.

o        [2] International cooperation: The conference appointed a Continuation Committee indicating that such cooperation will continue. Eventually, the International Missionary Council would be formed.

o        [3] Ecumenical leaders: The conference gave international stature to many leaders of the ecumenical movement such as Methodist layman John R. Mott.

o        [4] Ecumenical movement: Out of the exclusion in this conference came the development of the Faith and Order movement which would lead to the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948.


[1] treasure our heritage

God’s church is a missionary church. Impact of the church on the world is greatest when the focus is outward.

[2] appreciate God’s providence

God raised up a whole army of missionaries to save the world.

[3] avoid past errors

The work of the missionaries was no doubt made easier by imperialism but it also cause longlasting enmity from native people.

[4] apply our knowledge

Missionary work was often facilitated by assistance to the poor and the sick through orphanages, schools, and hospitals. It is important to look after the body in additional to the soul in missions.

[5] follow past saints

There were countless number of missionaries who sacrificed their whole lives to carry the gospel to dangerous places.