SHANGHAI – On this day 166 years ago, a man sent from God set foot in China for the first time. It would change his life. More importantly, it would change the life of the Chinese people for more than a century and a half until this present day in 2020.That man was James Hudson Taylor.
He was not, as some have supposed, the first Christian missionary to China. However, it could be said that he became the father of Christian missions in China as there were few, if any, whose passion burned as brightly and intensely as it did within Hudson Taylor’s heart.
His passion for China began even before he was born. His parents, devout Methodists living in Liverpool, England, had developed a concern for the Chinese people. Foreseeing that they would never be able to go to China, they asked the Lord to “Grant that he (Hudson) may work for you in China.”
When he arrived in China and met the dozen or so Christian missionaries already living there, he was appalled. Instead of disciplining themselves to disciple Chinese men and women in the Christian faith, they had become comfortable working with diplomats as translators.
“China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women … The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, [and] souls first and foremost in everything and at every time—even life itself must be secondary.”
The 21-year-old Taylor had earned a medical degree from the Royal Academy of Surgeons in Great Britain, which provided him with a means of sharing the Gospel with the sick and ailing. Still, he was determined not to let that occupation keep him from his primary objective.
“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.”
Initially traveling under the auspices of the Chinese Evangelization Society, Taylor was informed in 1857 that the society no longer had the funds to support him. This would have been devastating for some. For Taylor, it only strengthened his resolve in Who had really sent him to China. History records that he chose to become an “independent” missionary. Actually, he became a missionary utterly dependent upon the Lord to provide his needs, just as George Muller had before him.
He also astutely recognized that reaching the Chinese was often difficult for Western missionaries who maintained their occidental customs and clothing.
Taylor shocked other missionaries by choosing to wear traditional Chinese garb and to style his hair as Oriental men did. He recognized the need to become all things to all men that he might, by all means, win some as Paul had in centuries past (See 1 Corinthians 9:22) and as Dr. K.P. Yohannan shared The Revolution in World Missions more than a century later.
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese people have come to know Jesus Christ as their personal savior as a result of the combination of Hudson Taylor’s relentless commitment to obeying the Great Commission, his fervency for winning the lost, and his founding of China Inland Mission.
When you pray for Chinese Christians who, today, are suffering severe persecution, ask the Lord to grant them the same commitment and courage that James Hudson Taylor had when he labored against all odds in China.
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