The Nineteenth Century Missionary Movement

Plaque outside the house in Kettering, England where Carey formed the Baptist Missionary Society

A culture-changing progression is observable:

In the 16th Century – the Reformation in Europe, with the rediscovery of the authority of the Bible as the basis for faith and practice. ‘You are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law!’

In the 17th Century – the attempt by the Puritans to apply this rediscovery to all of life, and to restore the European church and society. ‘Do all to the glory of God!’

In the 18th Century – the evangelistic proclamation of this rediscovery to those outside the normal influence of the church. ‘You must be born again!’

In the 19th Century – the explosion of the message to nations beyond Europe, with thousands leaving Europe to take the gospel to those who have never heard it. ‘Go into all the world!’

In other words there was a rediscovery of the Bible as the authoritative guide for a relationship to God and each other, a thorough attempt to apply it pastorally, and then a Spirit empowered evangelistic proclamation of the gospel, first in Europe and America and then to the ends of the earth.

This progression gives us a general but helpful guide to place movements and leaders in their historical context. Of course, if you read previous posts, you’ll know that all of these various emphases have been happening all through church history, and with mighty demonstrations of the Spirit’s power, but it is not altogether inaccurate when considering Christianity in the 19th Century to speak of ‘the missionary movement’ or even ‘the missionary century’ as some do.

Nor is it altogether inaccurate to refer to one particular pioneer as ‘the father of modern missions’ as we turn our consideration to one of the most inspiring figures in church history, William Carey.

To read the next part of the William Carey Story click here

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

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2 thoughts on “The Nineteenth Century Missionary Movement

  1. Nancy Bunge November 6, 2010 / 8:33 pm

    I just wanted to let you know about a book of mine Michigan State University Press just published: WOMAN IN THE WILDERNESS: LETTERS OF HARRIET WOOD WHEELER, MISSIONARY WIFE, 1832-1892. She and her husband were missionaries to the Ojibwe Indians in northern Wisconsin for 25 years. All suggestions for getting it reviewed welcome.

  2. Lex Loizides November 8, 2010 / 4:29 pm

    Details of Nancy Bunge’s book (which I haven’t read) can be found here:

    http://wrac.msu.edu/2010/11/03/nancy-bunge-publishes-book-detailing-life-of-a-19th-century-woman/

    I was interested to see (from the recommendation) that, once again, a missionary defended the indigenous people (in this case against removal). Helpful to see the love of Christ as a key motivation in those missionaries who were seeking to spread the knowledge of the Bible.

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