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William Carey: Father of Modern Missions

A Mission-less Society

You might find it hard to believe that in the late 18th century the majority of Protestant churches had very little interest in international missionary outreaches. They believed that Jesus’ Great Commission to go out to all the nations was only for the generation of the apostles.

Silly right? Well, this kind of thinking was commonplace in that day.

Going against the grain, a newly ordained minister by the name of William Carey urged his fellow Baptist ministers in England to form a missionary society. He received little interest in response. In fact, at one of these Baptist meetings, Carey was abruptly interrupted by an older minister, who said, “You man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me!”

Such an attitude is incomprehensible today. The reason for this is largely due to the persistent efforts of William Carey. He never gave up.

Missions: A Christian obligation

In 1792 Carey wrote his “Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.” He argued that the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ applied to all Christians of all times. He rebuked any Christian that would ignore this: “Multitudes sit at ease and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry.”

Shortly thereafter, a missionary society was born, and at its inaugural meeting, Carey preached what has become known as his “Deathless Sermon”, based largely on Isaiah 54:2-3. The sermon climaxed with a call, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!”

Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!”

This phrase became a kind of motto for William Carey’s subsequent ministry, which included  translating the Bible in over 30 languages and serving in India, on mission for the gospel, for the rest of his life.

Carey’s greatest legacy is that he inspired of a worldwide missionary movement that influenced many after him, including Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, and countless others.