Who Is Sufficient for These Things?
Recruitment Strategies of the China Inland Mission
Since the time of the apostles until this day, the church’s Lord has charged us with a task—a great commission—to make disciples of all nations. Throughout the intervening centuries and millennia since this charge was made, the church has approached this endeavor with varying levels of effectiveness. Though the problem of the still-incomplete assignment could be attributed to many factors, such as lack of funds, or the babel of languages to be learned, or violent rejection and suppression of the Gospel in many lands, the chief challenge has always been mobilizing those who already call upon the name of Jesus to go to those who do not.
Jesus himself foresaw this main obstacle, and warned his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers few.” (Matthew 9:37) The nations are filled with harassed and helpless people, sheep without a shepherd, but rather than being moved by compassion, as Christ was, so much of the church lacks any sense of urgency around proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Hudson Taylor, a man deeply moved for the lost, was no stranger to the phenomena of apathy among his fellow believers. At a conference for the Student Volunteer Movement, he pled with his audience on behalf of Jesus,
We have not today a missionary worker, ordained or lay—a missionary or a missionary’s wife, or an unmarried missionary, male or female, reckoning them all together—for every five hundred towns and villages of northern and western China. My brethren, does this look like obeying our great Master’s command? …Christ has need of you, dear brothers. Christ has need of you, dear sisters. To many of you here, it may be His call, His claim, His duty will require you to work at home, and it is very blessed to work at home if He wants you to. But there are many others, I am quite sure, who, if they are abiding in Christ, will not abide in the United States. The Lord has need of lights in the darkness. And oh, how great the darkness is!Moorhead, Max Wood. The Student Missionary Enterprise: Addresses and Discussions of the Second International Convention of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, Held at Detroit, Mich., Feb. 28 to Mar. 4, 1894. Boston: T.O. Metcalf, 1894. pg. 46-47
Hudson Taylor’s keen sense of the peril of the unreached in China caused him to earnestly beg his listeners to “obey our great Master’s command.” However, he recognized that it was possible some there were not called to leave the “home front” for the “front lines.” It was not through emotional manipulation or laying indiscriminate guilt at the door of those present at these various conferences that Hudson Taylor’s organization, the China Inland Mission, grew in number. Instead, the China Inland Mission heeded Jesus’ solution to the lack of personnel in the harvest fields of the world: “…therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) CIM prayed sincerely and intensely for workers modeled after the Apostle Paul: commissioned by God, men of sincerity, speaking in Christ, and spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
When CIM was founded in 1865, their initial goal was to recruit two disciple-makers for each of the eleven interior province of China, as well as two for Mongolia. From this humble ambition—which, when realized, increased the number of Christian workers in inland China by 25%—the number of laborers grew, both Chinese and foreign. By 1912, over a thousand workers labored in the interior of China. Today, there are over 70 million Chinese believers, in no small part because of the prayers and obedience of that faithful few in 1865.
This is an excerpt from a chapter I authored in the book “The Ultimate Conquest.” You can purchase the entire work by FAI staff on Amazon.
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