Monday, June 18, 2012

William Carey - The Father of Modern Missions

William Carey once said, “Expect great things; attempt great things”.[1] And attempt great things he did! Carey was born August 17, 1761 in Paulerpury, England and went home to be with the Lord June 9, 1834. Carey enthusiastically embraced the Christian faith even going so far as to teach himself New Testament Greek.[2] Later, as a teacher, Carey was intrigued by the stories of Captain Cook’s discoveries in the Pacific and it was in these stories that he became convicted of the obligation of the church to preach the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world.[3]

Among his contributions to global missions was Carey having founded the Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel amongst the Heathen (later shortened to Baptist Missionary Society) setting the missionary example that other denominations would follow.[4] It was Carey’s perseverance throughout his life and ministry that many historians, including González, give credence to him being referred to as “the father of modern missions”. In his An Inquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens published in 1792, Carey made rather extensive use of statistical data and plain language to argue his case for the church of his day being engaged in missions.[5] Carey was informed, well organized, and tenacious in his approach.

The founding of a missionary society in his day is important and it being an example to others is certainly noteworthy but Carey’s persistence is something we should take note of in our day and age. We know that with God all things are possible yet too often the largest thing our churches dream of is a larger building. Another contribution I have in mind is Carey’s willingness to go. After creating the Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel amongst the Heathen, Carey was unable to find someone to send as a missionary. He packed his bags and family and went to India himself![6] There Carey’s perseverance is again displayed as he endures great personal hardships and losses.

A strong argument can be made that his Bible translations were his greatest contribution of the founding of the society that would become a model for others to follow might be it but if Carey had not been willing to answer God’s call, the society would not have had the credibility it did nor would the translations likely have been completed. Carey took to heart Matthew 16:15 to go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature: perseverance and the willingness to God where God leads.



[1] Galli, Mark and Olsen, Ted. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. (Nashville, TN: Brodman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 245.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Eckman, James P. Exploring Church History. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 78.

[4] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity Vol 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1985), 306.

[5] Winter, Ralph D., and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (4th ed.). (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1981, 1992, 1999, 2009), 312-18.

[6] Ibid, 309-310.

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