William Carey -- Father of Modern Missions
William Carey, a Baptist preacher, is considered to be the Father of Modern Mission. Carey believed absolutely that the Word of God was to be taken to all nations, devoted his own life to this endeavor, and challenged other believers to engage in this sacred work. In terms of sheer numbers of converts, Carey's accomplishments would be considered small, particularly when measured against the standards in place today. William Carey demonstrated that one man's vision be the catalyst for a movement that will serve God and others in s manner that adheres to the great commission. When Carey first made his ideas about carrying the Word to people around the world, he was told by his ministering peers to sit down and give up the unrealistic and non-mandated idea. But Carey's vision stood fast on the foundation of his spiritual beliefs and discipline. With the help of other motivated and like-minded men, he was able to carry his personal vision for missionary work forward, and in so doing, became known as the Father of Modern Missions. This discussion addresses the linkage between the Moravian influence and missionary work, Carey's experiences in Britain and India, as well as a brief articulation of modern missionary work as derived from Carey's lifelong efforts.
A person who gives himself wholly to mission work experiences a personal, internal drive that must carry them through the difficult period of early learning and an enduring, essential discipleship. Carey's life was both arduous and rewarding, filled with both defeat and victory[footnoteRef:1]. He was sustained in his mission work by other similarly dedicated individuals who took mission work seriously, throwing themselves into the work, and yet, and allowing God to lead the way[footnoteRef:2]. Their stories add color and richness to Carey's narrative, and provide the fascinating framework for the beginning of mission work in an environment that did not hold it to be a necessary duty of Christians. [1: Carey, S. Pearce - William Carey "The Father of Modern Missions," edited by Peter Masters, Wakeman Trust, London.] [2: Carpenter, John, (2002) New England Puritans: The grandparents of modern Protestant missions. Fides et Historia, 30(4), 529.]
Carey was apprenticed as a cobbler at the age of 14, and began to learn this early occupation in the village of Piddington, Northamptonshire. He learned from Clarke Nichols, his master in the trade and a churchman like himself, but Carey was exposed to other religious views during this time, as well. A young apprentice named John Warr was Dissenter who would eventually influence Carey to leave the Church of England to help establish a small Congregational church in a nearby village of Hackleton. With the death of Nichols in 1779, Carey began working as a cobbler for another local shoemaker named Thomas Old. Two years later, Carey married Old's sister-in-law, a woman named Dorothy Plackett. When the shoemaker Old died, Carey was positioned to take over the business, thus catapulting his status from humble cobbler to shoemaker and a respected position in the community. Though largely self-educated, Carey had became an accomplished polyglot who moved comfortably with other educated men of his time, Carey was sought by leaders in the church to preach to their congregations.
In 1795, Carey became a local teacher in a village school and was appointed to be a pastor in the Baptist church. A few years before Carey assumed these duties, he and other Baptists of the time were influenced by a pamphlet entitled The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, which was written by Andrew Fuller, a friend of Carey's.[footnoteRef:3] The thesis of the pamphlet was a popular Calvinist belief that not all men would be held responsible for believing in the Gospel. By 1786, Carey was situated in the Baptist church sufficiently well to bring up this issue about the Christian duty of spreading the Gospel. He was soundly dismissed by John Collett Ryland, who reportedly said, "Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine." [3: William, C. "An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, in which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings, and the Practicability of Further Undertakings, are Considered" (Leicester, England, 1792;...
with introduction, London: Carey Kingsgate Press, p. 11. 1961]
Three years after this significant meeting of ministers, Carey was appointed to a full-time position as pastor of Harvey Lane Baptist Church in Leicester, England. Carey's religious thinking continued to be influenced by his interest in eschatology, which contributed to his determination to carry the Gospel to all people. In 1792, Carey released what was to become a watershed document for the Church and for Carey's future. The short book five-part book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, was an historical accounting of missionary activity, that provided relevant statistics, functioned as a theological justification for missionary activity, and served to answer the popular objections to missionary work. The fifth and final part of the book was a call to action directed at the Baptists to form a missionary society -- complete with practical ideas about funding support. The foundational ideas for Carey's missionary objectives were that there is, in fact, a Christian obligation to spread the Gospel throughout the world, that it was incumbent on missionaries to be good stewards of resources made available to them, and that all mission work should be based on accurate information. Some time after the publication of this book, Carey preached a sermon based on Isaiah 54:2-3 and forever associated this epigram with his legacy: "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." [footnoteRef:4] [4: Miller, Paul. "An Assessment of Cooperative Evangelical Catholic Work," Transformation, 23/4 October 2006]
The Christian group known as the Moravians was small in absolute numbers but large in terms of influence on missionary work and modern Christianity. Evidence of the Moravian influence can be seen in the work of both William Carey and John Wesley. In fact, many Moravian ideas and innovations, often associated with their concerted missionary work, are evident today.
The Moravians established settlements during the 18th century throughout England during the Evangelical Revival.[footnoteRef:5] Their settlement congregations could be found at Fulneck in Yorkshire, at Fairfield near Manchester, and at Ockbrook in Derbyshire.[footnoteRef:6] The geographical relationship between the Moravians and Carey is evident as settlements were established in towns near Carey's residence, such as Towester, and Nottingham by 1741 and Northampton by 1769. [footnoteRef:7]In 1792, Carey made the first written mention of the Moravians, in which he asserted that the command to preach to everyone around the world was still a valid claim that could only be excused if it was impossible to achieve.[footnoteRef:8] Carey claimed that it was not impossible, citing the missionaries who have surmounted other difficulties "generally thought to be insuperable."[footnoteRef:9] Carey added punch to his argument with this rhetorical question: "Have not the missionaries of the Unitas Fratrum or Moravian Brethren, encountered the scorching heat of Abyssinia, and the frozen climes of Greenland, and Labrador, their difficult languages, and savage manners."[footnoteRef:10] The clincher to this argument was that Carey emphasized that English traders had already shown that it is possible to travel the globe -- to get around in the world.[footnoteRef:11] Moreover, some experts propose that Carey first thought of the idea of establishing a mission society because[footnoteRef:12]e he read the Moravian's missions magazine.[footnoteRef:13] [5: Schattschneider, 1998.] [6: Ibid.] [7: Ibid.] [8: Ibid.] [9: Ibid.] [10: Ibid.] [11: Ibid.] [12: Ibid.] [13: Mulholland, 1999, p. 221.]
A group of believers who were originally followers of Jan Hus, a 15th century pre-reformer who was known as the Church Reformer, established the Moravian Church in Bohemia in 1457.[footnoteRef:14] Jan Hus is often regarded as the first Protestant as he challenged the authority of the Vatican and the Pope with his belief that the Scriptures were the highest authority.[footnoteRef:15] Jan Has rejected the idea of living according to a set of doctrines established by the Catholic Church.[footnoteRef:16] Rather, he emphasized living a life of simplicity and worship in obedience to Jesus Christ. For his heretical beliefs, he was burned at the stake in 1415.[footnoteRef:17] [14: Ibid.] [15: Ibid.] [16: Ibid.] [17: Ibid.]
Following the death of Hus, 42 years later, a village community was established according to the example provided by the early Christian church. Ibid.[footnoteRef:18] The ideals upon which this community was established included living in harmony and brotherly love, with a ministerial order modeled after the understandings of the community members with regard to the early Christian church.[footnoteRef:19] The village community rejected the priesthood and the Papacy, essentially establishing a strongly ecumenical Protestant Episcopal Church.[footnoteRef:20] [18: Ibid.] [19: Ibid.] [20: Ibid.]
The members of the Moravian Church in Central Europe were persecuted for nearly 200 years,…
" It caused missionaries to deal with peoples of other cultures and even Christian traditions -- including the Orthodox -- as inferior. God's mission was understood to have depended upon human efforts, and this is why we came to hold unrealistic universalistic assumptions. Christians became so optimistic that they believed to be able to correct all the ills of the world." (Vassiliadis, 2010) Missiology has been undergoing changes in recent years