Mission San Juan Capistrano, April 2005. Photograph by Robert A. Estremo
copyright 2005. {{cc-by-sa-2.0}} - Wikimedia Commons


Previous: Revelation 3:9 - Continued 3

"I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.- Revelation 3:8

Sardis - The Reformation Church - Revelation 3:1-6
Open Door of Restoration

From the beginning of the Reformation in 1517 to the Mid-1700's there were more than a hundred significant developments in the Christian missionary movement - many of them by the reformers, and many by the Catholic Church. We will simplify this data by grouping some of it together, and by listing only the most influential events.

First, let's look at Reformation Missions. In a sense, the whole Reformation movement was a missionary enterprise to Roman Catholics. Martin Luther did not want to leave the Catholic Church; he just wanted to see a revival by the establishment, and a return to faithful interpretation of God's Word.

However, Luther and the other reformers who followed him were persecuted for their beliefs. Those persecuted followers were scattered, and moving to other places, they spread the faith just as the earlier persecuted Christians had done.

Earlier we studied the Anabaptist movement, a continuation of the Reformation, and saw that they were persecuted by the earlier Reformers: the Lutherans and Calvinists (See the notes on chapter 3, verses 1 and 2). Many of them were driven from their homelands, and shared the Gospel with others as they moved to new locations.

Because of these hardships, and their emphasis on repairing Christianity, the Reformers were admittedly less involved in sending missionaries per se, but this following list (culled in part from - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Christian_missions) will show that it was in their hearts to continue evangelizing non-Christians.

1523 - Martin Luther wrote "May God Bestow On Us His Grace," which has been called the "first missionary hymn of Protestantism."
1527 - Anabaptists organized a conference in Augsburg, Germany, and sent out missionaries who were killed for their faith. Afterwards, this first Protestant missionary conference was dubbed the "Martyrs' Synod."
1543 - The Anabaptist Menno Simons left the Netherlands to plant churches in Germany.
1550 - Printed Scriptures had become available in 28 languages.

1555 - John Calvin sent Huguenots to Brazil.
1595 - The Dutch East India Company began sending missionaries to reach nationals in the areas they had colonized.
1643 - 1949 American Indians were evangelized by Lutheran missionary John Campanius, Reformed pastor Johannes Megapolensis, Puritan missionary John Eliot and others. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England was formed.
1651 - Count Truchess of Wetzhausen asked the theological school at Wittenberg why Lutherans were not sending out missionaries in obedience to the Great Commission.
1656 - The first Quaker missionaries arrived at what is now Boston, Massachusetts.
1661 - Quaker George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends, sent three missionaries to China, but they never arrived there.
1671 - Quaker missionaries arrived in the Carolinas.
1701 - The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was organized by Anglicans, and began to send missionaries to America and the West Indies.
1710 - The first modern Bible Society was founded in Germany by Count Canstein.
1714 - In India the New Testament was translated into Tamil.
1714 The Royal Danish College of Missions was organized in Copenhagen.
1719 - Isaac Watts wrote the missionary hymn, "Jesus Shall Reign Where're the Sun."
1726 - John Wright, Quaker missionary to Native Americans, settled in Pennsylvania.

Now let's consider the missionary endeavors of the Roman Catholic Church during this era of Church history. As noted earlier, two powerful orders in the Catholic Church, the Franciscan and Dominican, had been organized in the 11th Century for the purpose of spreading the influence of Christianity. There were Dominican missionaries from time to time, but the Franciscans were much more active in establishing foreign outposts in the "New World" (Americas). Some of them went with Cortes to Mexico in 1519, and during the following century they established missions in many parts of the Americas settled by the Spanish and French explorers.

1529 - Franciscan Peter of Ghent wrote that he and a colleague had baptized 14,000 people in Latin America in one day.
1532 - Missionaries arrived in Peru with Francisco Pizarro's military expedition.
1541 - Franciscans began establishing missions in California.

The primary missionary thrust by the Roman Catholics during this period of Church history was the work of a new order, the Jesuits, which began in 1534 as the "Society of Jesus" and was approved by the Pope in 1540 (See the notes on Revelation 3:1 about "The Rise of the Jesuits"). The major purpose of the Jesuits was to counter the Protestant movement. The co-founders of the movement were Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier. Xavier was a tireless missionary, first to the Eastern destinations of India, Goa, and the West Indies. One entire caste of Paravas in India were baptized - perhaps as many as 20,000 people. He was also effective in Indonesia and Japan, where there were eventually more than 100,000 converts
(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Christian_missions). Unfortunately, Christianity was banned in Japan by the military governor in 1606, and those who did not renounce their faith were gradually extinguished from the nation.

Jesuits also took their message to China, the Philippines, Viet Nam, and Ethiopia.

In 1622 the Catholic Church established the "Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith" (later renamed "Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples") to coordinate and direct missionary work. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congregation_for_the_Evangelization_of_Peoples)

One of their vital objectives was to spread Catholicism in the Americas. Some of their efforts failed, but one interesting story is the work in "New Spain" of Italian Jesuit Eusebio Kino. He was described by one writer as "the most picturesque missionary pioneer of all North America." He was "an explorer, astronomer, cartographer, mission builder, ranchman, cattle king, and defender of the frontier." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Christian_missions#cite_note-166)

The Jesuits were also missionaries to the countries that had already been Christianized, many of which were being lost to the Reformation movement. As we explained earlier in this commentary, in the notes for Revelation 3:1-2, great numbers of them became "undercover agents" in positions of science and education, working to discredit Protestantism and bring people back to the Catholic Church. They were actually banned in France and Spain but were restored in 1814.

Next: Revelation 3:9- Continued 5


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