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    And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. -- Mark 16:15

Outreach & Worldwide Faith

After twenty centuries of only sporadic attempts at going out into all the world to convert people to Christ, the modern missionary movement has mushroomed, bringing the Gospel all over the world, moved by an army of people, through educational and medical work, by way of literature, radio, television, and other forms of communication.

An English Baptist, William Carey was one of the pioneers of the modern missionary movement. Carey began his preaching career at a time of exploration and national expansion.

In England, Carey busied himself writing, preaching, and organizing missionary societies; and finally, with Joshua Marshman and William Ward, he traveled to India as a missionary himself, landing in Calcutta in 1793. He went to work, learning the language, translating the Bible, and making converts. He never returned to Britain.

The Anglicans soon followed Carey's example. Despite strong discouragement from the British East India Company, which feared that trade might be hampered by interference from evangelists, Henry Martyn began his missionary journey to India, dying at the age of 31 after preaching in India and Persia.

William Carey was instrumental in devising the missionary society, a voluntary body for sending missionaries abroad. His own Baptist Missionary Society was the first in the field, rapidly followed by the London Missionary Society in 1795, the Scottish Missionary Society in 1796, and the Church Missionary Society, along with many others, both Protestant and Catholic.

Urban Missionaries

As the first industrial nation, Great Britain saw burgeoning cities, mushrooming towns, and large new urban populations. People moved from rural areas to the cities, where many of them were housed under miserable conditions.

This presented a new challenge for the church. There were attempts to create new parish churches, but this did little to meet the needs of those who felt rootless in their new surroundings.

With their simpler church buildings, lay preachers, and straightforward doctrines, the Methodists were well equipped to reach the urban working classes, but the mass of the working classes were still alienated and unaffiliated with any church.

One response was to send missionaries into the urban jungles. The London City Mission was established early in the 19th century with the goal of winning souls who could be integrated into their neighborhood parish church. Similar missions were put in place throughout most of the larger metropolitan and industrial areas.

More colorful, effective, and famous was William Booth's Salvation Army. Motivated by a horror of sin and a hatred of squalor, Booth brought imagination, superb organizational skills, and charismatic leadership to the task. He had a basic message of repentance and salvation, organized in a military fashion. He used whatever was effective, from working class leaders and evangelists, brass bands, and music hall tunes.

The Salvation Army is still known worldwide for its readiness to respond to human problems such as homelessness, disasters, accidents, and addictions.

Grassroots Unity

In order to maximize effectiveness, Christian denominations learned to work together, and to support one another on the mission field. As early as 1927, five denominations in China gathered in one Church of Christ. Later, the Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Reformed joined to form one Church of South India, a model for many others. The United Church of Canada was organized as a merger of several denominations in 1925, and many smaller denominations combined with one another in the United States.

At the local level, Christians of differing faiths have come to take for granted that they will work, pray, and evangelize together. Home Bible study groups, young people's meetings, student groups in colleges, relief work and missions, serve to demonstrate that for many Christians, their shared life in Christ is more important than their denominational tradition.

Communist China

In 1807, Robert Morrison led the first Protestant assault on China. Although he made very few converts, he did manage to produce a translation of the Bible in Chinese. Other Protestant and Roman Catholic orders soon followed, although Chinese domestic policies posed serious problems.

James Hudson Taylor's China Inland Mission was one of the pioneers. Depending on God alone, Taylor refused to advertise for support.

The Boxer Rebellion in 1900 was a violent nationalist reaction against missionary colonialism, second only to the 1947 Maoist Revolution in its damage to Western Christian activists.

Now, while evangelism can still bring a death sentence in China, such penalties are rarely imposed. Still, China remains hostile to evangelism, both as a national policy and by a seeming lack of successful missionary campaigns.

Dr. Paul CarlsonAfrica

North Africa was one of the strongholds of early Christianity, but since the Muslim takeover, the Christian church has been almost non-existent. In Central and West Africa, the picture has been different, but recent years have shown a worsening of conditions for Christians and Christian evangelists throughout the African continent.

Dr. Paul Carlson (depicted above), a medical missionary for the Swedish Evangelical Misson Covenant Churches, of which my family were members, was martyred in 1965, while serving as a missionary to the Congo during a time of unrest. I believe that he was related to me in some way, and I know that our church supported his mission.

Islamic Nations

Traditionally, the Islamic nations have been hostile to Christianity, and in recent years the Muslim nations of the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa have become increasingly dangerous mission fields for the Christian evangelist. There have been successes, but they have been few, and gained only at great risk to the Christian missionary.

A missionary to the United Arab Emirates said that missionaries are not permitted to reside in the country for that purpose, but must enter the country for another reason, such as secular employment. Once there, they are allowed to speak to others about their faith only in response to questions, and may provide Bibles only when asked for them. God truly does use everything to His glory and for His purpose, however. Because of the criticism of Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion," labeling it anti-semitic, the movie played in every theater in the UAE and in other Arab nations, prompting those who saw the movie to ask questions, thus providing legal openings for missionaries to share their faith in Christ to those whose doors would otherwise have been closed.

Still, the UAE is among the friendlier of the Arab nations. Missionaries to the Islamic nations generally risk imprisonment and death, as did the earliest of the Christian missionaries.















Overview of Bible Study