Question:I hate history classes with all of those dates and names and garbage like that. Will this be another boring lecture stuffed with that kind of material?
I could throw at you thousands of names of famous missionaries, all of them "heroes" in spreading the faith across barrier of culture, language and geography.
I could throw at you hundreds of dates, all of them of important events in global evangelism.
I could talk about lots of trends, all of them keys to understanding the spread of the gospel around the globe.
Alas, you'd be swamped with data and wind up suffering from information overload. So, I'll resist the temptation to swamp you with too many dates and names.
I hope you'll devour and internalize Ralph Winter's wonderful encapsulation of missions history in his second 5 epochs of redemption history. All of you are reading that chapter. Make this oversimplified historical summary the one thing that you take away from this week's study:
Bear in mind that these 400-year periods are very rough approximations. Winter is not using them to pinpoint things precisely. He came up with them as a memory device.
If you're willing to be patient in getting a large file, click here to see my PowerPoint presentation on this subject.
The March 17 celebration of St. Patrick's Day shouldn't be about leprechauns and green beer and rainbows with pots of gold.
Patrick, who lived during the 400's, was a young English boy captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland. While a slave there on a farm, he was converted. Eventually, he escaped and went home. But Patrick felt called to go back to his former pagan captors as a missionary. He did and led much of Ireland to faith in Christ.
His use of the 3-leaf clover to illustrate the Trinity to a pagan tribal chieftain forever tied Patrick and Ireland to the shamrock. Sadly, the shamrock that's sometimes used for decorating on St. Patrick's day is the four-leaf kind.
Next time March 17 rolls around and you see leprechauns, pots of gold and 4-leaf clovers, think how disgusted Patrick would be at what we've made of his life.
Another of my heroes of that period is Boniface who dared to march in a German forest one day and defy the pagan gods by chopping down a huge sacred oak tree. In a further act of defiance, this missionary to some of my ancestors used wood from that fallen tree to build a chapel.
Yes, he was. Francis and Raymond Lull in the 1200's were two of the few people in the middle of that bloody Crusade period who tried to witness to the Muslims. Francis actually went to Egypt and met with the Sultan and talked to him about Christ. Lull gave 40 years of his life to evangelizing the Muslims and wound up being martyred at age 80.
William Carey [ more info ] went 7 years before he had his first convert in India. Adoniram Judson worked in Burma for almost the same period of time before he had his first convert.
What about Robert Morrison, first Protestant missionary to China, who labored for 25 years and had fewer than a dozen converts?
Or what about Anskar, the Apostle of the North, who gave his life to preaching the gospel to the Vikings without any long-lasting results?
What about missionaries to East Africa who in the early 1800's shipped their goods to Africa in coffins because most of them knew they most likely would be struck down during their first term by disease or unfriendly natives?
What about Jim Eliot, Nate Saint and those five others who were martyred on a sandy beach in South America as they made the first attempts to reach the Auca Indians with the gospel?
I stand in awe of these pioneer missionaries. Many of them died without seeing great results. Yet, many of the outposts they planted eventually flourished as the gospel took root in culture after culture.
It does. Our denomination was born at the turn of the last century. The 1800's were a period that historian Kenneth Scott Latourette calls "The Great Century" of Protestant missions. The early Protestant Reformers had shown little interest in global evangelism. Then, in a 100 year period, Protestant missionary activity swelled to incredible proportions.
At the end of the 1700's Christianity was still pretty much confined to Europe and the Americas. By 1900 Christianity had become truly a global religion.
I think the fact that we were born in that kind of missions atmosphere contributed much to the missionary spirit of our denomination.
Let's come back to Winter's three eras/four men. There's a poignant phrase attached to three of them:
As for Donald McGavran, he became obsessed by several thoughts. Among them:
Here's a question for reflection: So, were these people that I've mentioned as well as others you ran across in your reading super giants of the faith? Did they reach a level of spirituality that is out of reach for you and I?
A missionary's prayer"May thy grace, O Lord, make that possible to me which is impossible by nature."
— Amy Carmichael, missionary to India for the first half of the twentieth century
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