William Carey - "The Father of Modern Missions"


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"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

Philadelphia - The Missionary Church - Revelation 3:7-13
Open Door of Revival

We have just gone through a review of missionary activity in each of the previous periods of Church History, but we come now to the sixth major phase, represented by the Philadelphia Church. This is the great "Age of Modern Missions" (Middle 1700's to the middle 1900's). The name "Philadelphia" is especially appropriate for this wonderful era, because, as we saw at the beginning of this letter (see chapter 3, verse 7), the name means "brotherly love." The highest motive for the outpouring of missionary activity during this time was love for the lost! God-given love motivates believers to evangelize others (Romans 5:5).

In terms of the number of people reached with the Gospel, this is certainly the most exciting period of history, and we have had the unbelievable privilege of living while a significant portion of this missionary movement was still unfolding! On the other hand, we are now seeing the gradual encroachment of that final dark period of the Church Age, a time of apostasy. We will study this in the next section, the letter to the Church at Laodicea.

What we can write in these few pages is only a beginning of the wealth of wonderful knowledge that exists about missions. There are encyclopedias of missions, and a separate discipline called "Missiology" with schools, colleges and seminaries dedicated to this topic. We have just included some of the history that stands out to us in the hope that you will devote much more time and effort to learning about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8), its history, and the fact that it is an unfinished task.

This great open door for modern missions was characterized by several major factors: Revivals; Bible translation and publication; Courageous missionary pioneers and their stories; Unprecedented opportunities; and the Formation of effective missionary organizations.

1 - Powerful Revivals and the emphasis on the Holy Spirit

The "First Great Awakening" started in 1727. It was known as "The Golden Summer" in the Moravian Church in Germany. Count Nikolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf led this renewal of dependence on the Holy Spirit and love for one another. Their thinking was influenced by Pietism, which had been changing the lives of Lutherans for some 50 years. The Moravians were responsible for the first large-scale Protestant missions effort. Hundreds of missionaries were sent out to various fields of service around the world. In the American colonies the revival was spread in 1734 by the Reformed theologian Jonathan Edwards. He was assisted by George Whitefield in 1737, who came from England to preach. John Wesley also came to America during this time and was greatly influenced by the Moravians.

The Methodist movement started in the Church of England by the ministry of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield in the 1730's. It was a further reformation of the Anglican beliefs, emphasizing justification by faith alone and personal holiness produced by the work of the Holy Spirit. The radical message and revival that it produced caused the eventual break from the mother church and the formation of the Methodists and other similar denominations. The movement spread like wildfire throughout the British Empire, the United States and beyond.

The "Second Great Awakening" from 1790 to 1840 (approx.) - Started about the time that William Carey, "The Father of Modern Missions," wrote a missions manifesto and went to Calcutta as a missionary. In the U.S. Methodist Circuit Riders, Baptist and Presbyterian Camp Meetings, and Revival meetings like those conducted by Charles Finney all stimulated a renewed commitment to the Lord, openness to control by the Holy Spirit, and great interest in missionary work. In the second half of that century the most famous preachers were C.H. Spurgeon in England and D.L. Moody in the U.S.

The Salvation Army was begun in London in 1865 by William Booth, who had a Methodist background. Its mission field was the "down and out" element of society. It took on a military structure over which Booth was the "General." It ministered by providing soup, soap, and salvation. It spread rapidly throughout the world.

In 1906 the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles was an extended period of time (until 1915) that was led by William J. Seymour, an African American preacher, and was characterized by dramatic, and what many considered unorthodox, behaviors, such as speaking in tongues and miraculous healings. Again, the emphasis was on the work of the Holy Spirit, and was therefore called the "Pentecostal Movement." Out of this fervency the Foursquare Church and the Assemblies of God Denomination emerged. These groups became great examples of missionary zeal, and are responsible for a high percentage of successful missionary outreach that continues to this time.

In the 1960's the so-called "Charismatic Movement" brought many of these same elements into mainline churches with mixed results, re-energizing some members, but upsetting others.

Many great evangelists have fanned the flames of revival, both here in the United States, and in key places throughout the world. Fiery preachers like R.A. Torrey and Billy Sunday have drawn huge crowds to tent meetings, auditoriums and stadiums. In our own generation we have been blessed with the Billy Graham Crusades and Greg Laurie's Harvest Crusades. In the '90's a men's movement called "Promise Keepers" was able to attract more than a million men to the Washington Mall to pray for revival.

Another great revival was a later development called "The Jesus People Movement." This outreach to the "hippies" of the 1970's and other people who were disenchanted by the traditional church, was exemplified by Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California. Under Pastor Chuck Smith, who just recently went to be with the Lord, It became a gigantic church with a new excited young Christian culture. It also gave rise to a new music "Contemporary Christian" genre. Though claiming not to be a denomination, there are now many hundreds of Calvary Chapels around the world. They are known for their strong salvation message and systematic teaching of the Bible. Their missionary method is to start new Calvary Chapel outposts everywhere.

In our own generation we have been blessed with the Billy Graham Crusades and Greg Laurie's Harvest Crusades. In the '90's a men's movement called "Promise Keepers" was able to attract more than a million men to the Washington Mall to pray for revival.

Today we have the earnest hope of one more great revival to reach this generation of young people with the Gospel. Too many of them do not know what the Bible teaches. They don't know what they need to do in order to have a right relationship with Christ. In what he characterized as his last message to the world, Billy Graham, who has spoken to more people about Christ than any other person in history, and who is now 95 years old, just delivered a world-wide message calling on people everywhere to renewed hope, based on the Cross - the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

Next: Revelation 3:9 - Continued 6


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