Doing Missions Well: Examples from Missionary History

What can we learn from the missionaries of the past?

Brief biographies (500 words each) that point to key missiological concepts shining through the life story of each missionary

Published in Engage magazine

Doing missions well
What do Britishers Mary Slesor and William Carey have in common with an Italian named Francis of Assisi, a Canadian named Sustan Fitkin and an American named Steve Saint? Well, the years of service of each one to the cause of world evangelism can be used to highlight important concepts in missiology.

  1. Mary Slessor and "identification" -- It was said of this 19th-century missionary to what is now Nigeria that she was "more African than the Africans."
  2. 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.
  3. 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 church-planting movement.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 message of Christ.
  6. Far-sightedness: Harmon and Lula Schmelzenbach -- Harmon's vision of what could be in southern Africa went far beyond what he himself was actually doing.
  7. Gladys Aylward: Example of humility -- Rejected by a mission board, Gladys Aylward went to Asia anyway and found work to support herself and began fulfilling her missionary call.
  8. Dedication: Anskar -- In thirty years of ministry in Scandanavia, Anskar saw no lasting fruit. Still, he felt that was where God had called him and so he ministered faithfully.
  9. Missions mobilization: Susan Norris Fitkin -- Though illness kept her from being a "go-er" as a foreign missionary, Susan Fitkin poured her energy into promoting world evangelism, raising money, drumming up enthusiasm and painting a vision.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Pioneering: Earl and Gladys Mosteller -- Missionaries are not duplicate copies of each other. Earl and Betty Mosteller had the gift of pioneering new works.

Heart of God: 500-word reflections on significant Bible passages about world evangelism

What are the "hot topics" in world evangelism today? Check out these 500-word articles on key topics in global outreach

    -- Howard Culbertson

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