Key missiological concepts illustrated by the lives of missionaries
What can we learn from the missionaries of the past?
Doing Missions Well: Examples from Missionary History
Published in Engage, an online missions magazine
How did missionaries help spread Christianity?
What do Britishers Mary Slesor and William Carey have in common with an Italian
named Francis of Assisi, a Canadian named Susan Fitkin, and an American named Steve Saint?
Well, what each one did during the years of service given to the cause of world evangelism can
be used to highlight important concepts in missiology.
These are examples of missionary heroes. That doesn't mean they had arrived at absolute
perfection. It does mean they were used by God in extraordinary ways and can serve as models
for us. These are examples of missionaries who helped spread Christianity with how they lived
and how they treated those to whom they went to minister.
Do you need sermon illustrations on missions? Use some of these stories!
- Mary Slessor and "identification" -- It was said of this
red-headed British lady who went in the 1800s to what is now Nigeria that she was "more African
than the Africans."
- Boniface and power encounters -- When he escaped unscathed
from cutting down a sacred oak tree in what is now Germany, Boniface demonstrated that the
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is more powerful than any other spiritual force.
- Paul Orjala and "indigenization" -- By empowering Haitians to
lead churches and other ministries in Haiti, Paul Orjala set the course for a vibrant and fruitful
- William Carey's holistic ministry -- By insisting that our mandate
is that of ministering to the whole person, Carey followed the example of Jesus' ministry.
- Francis of Assisi and ministering incarnationally -- At a time
when those who called themselves Christian were sending armies to wipe out the "infidels,"
Francis went to see a Muslim leader and talked of the life and message of Jesus Christ.
- Foresight: Harmon and Lula Schmelzenbach -- Harmon's
vision of what could be in southern Africa went far beyond what he himself was actually
- Gladys Aylward: Example of humility -- Rejected by a mission
board, Gladys Aylward went to Asia anyway and found work to support herself so she could
fulfill her missionary call.
- Dedication: Ansgar (or Anskar) -- In thirty years of ministry in
Scandinavia, Ansgar saw no evidence of lasting fruit. Still, he felt that was where God had called
him, so he ministered faithfully.
- Missions mobilization: Susan Norris Fitkin -- Though illness
kept her from being a "go-er" as a foreign missionary, Susan Fitkin poured her energy into being a
senser and mobilizer who promoted world evangelism, raised money, drummed up enthusiasm,
and painted a vision.
- Empowerment: Steve Saint -- Steve Saint insisted that the
Waorani who took his father's life in an Ecuadorian jungle and then later became Christians must
determine their own future as a tribal people rather than simply being recipients of whatever
foreigners decide to do for them.
- Strategic Action: William Cameron Townsend -- Townsend's
realization that not having the Bible in a people group's mother tongue sorely limited evangelism
and discipleship among that group.
- Pioneering: Earl and Gladys Mosteller -- Missionaries are not
duplicate copies of each other. Earl and Betty Mosteller had the gift of pioneering new
-- Howard Culbertson,
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