The Shorter Writings of William Booth
Edited By Andrew M Eason and Roger J. Green
Chapter 5. Missions and Missionaries
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Missions and Missionaries
Expansion overseas became a leading objective of the western church from the late 18th century to the early 20th century. In addition to promoting the cause of foreign missionary work on the home-front, most denominations planted roots in various regions of the non-Christian world. At the forefront of these efforts were British churches, which supplied more Protestant missionaries to the field than either continental Europe or the United States. Anglican, Baptist, Congregationalist and Methodist missionary societies—along with many newer evangelical organizations like the China Inland Mission and the Salvation Army—were collectively sponsoring over 4,000 British missionaries in foreign lands by the late 1880s.1 These impressive numbers continued to climb in the 1890s, aided by record levels of missionary fundraising and recruitment. Such support, especially among women, remained strong through 1914, reflecting the prominence of overseas missions in Victorian and Edwardian religious culture. Promoted widely in exhibitions, lantern shows, periodicals, textbooks and biographies, missionary work held out the hope that the entire world could be won for Jesus Christ.2
Despite this profound optimism, some began to wonder if the churches were up to the challenge that lay before them. In certain Christian circles there was a mounting conviction that missionaries were not taking full advantage of the unprecedented evangelistic opportunities in the global south and east. It was pointed out, for instance, that conversions were not keeping pace with the increasing population...
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