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 church-planting movement.
- 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
- Foresight: Harmon and Lula
Schmelzenbach -- Harmon's vision of what could be in southern Africa went far beyond what
he himself was actually doing.
- 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 evangelismand 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 works.
-- Howard Culbertson,
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