Doing Missions Well: Examples from Missionary History
What can we learn from the missionaries of the past?
Brief biographies in which key missiological concepts shine through
the life stories of missionaries
Published in Engage, an online missions magazine
Doing missions well
How did 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 of 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
19th-century missionary to what is now Nigeria that she was "more African than the
- 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 message of 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 and began
fulfilling her missionary call.
- Dedication: Ansgar (or Anskar) -- In thirty years of ministry in
Scandanavia, Ansgar saw no evidence of lasting fruit. Still, he felt that was where God had
called him and 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
promoting world evangelism, raising money, drumming up enthusiasm and painting a
- 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
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
Ten imperatives for missionaries
Crossword puzzle on key figures in
world missions history Firey world
missions sayings Historic global outreach
slogans Seres: How can world mission ministry
10/40 Window explanation and
map Seareching for God's will?
African martyr's commitment
Mission trip fundraising
Ten ways to ruin your mission trip
Nazarene Missions International resources