William Carey: The Father of Modern Mission Work

I’m taking a break from my blog about Ecclesiastes due to limited time to spend preparing my blog. I want that blog series to be well thought out and full of substance. I thought I’d share my writing about William Carey that I wrote for my Global University class Church History. He has an amazing life story and a powerful faith. Enjoy! :

Throughout Church history, there have been many notable figures that have set their mark in the legacy of the church. One of the most influential people in Church history is William Carey. Known as “the father of modern missions”, Carey set the standard for Christian missionaries all over the world. Despite unfavorable conditions, opposition, and other obstacles Carey succeeded in being of the best Christian missionaries of all time.

William Carey was a most unexpected candidate to be a major figure in Church history. Carey was born in 1761 in England and made a living by mending and making shoes. Before he was even twenty years old, William Carey learned many languages, both ancient and modern, in order to read accounts of non-Christian lands. God placed a deep burden in Carey’s heart over these lands that had not yet heard the Gospel and felt that something must be done in order for the newly discovered lands to hear the message of Jesus. During the time that William Carey felt called to preach, Europe was full Liberal and Darwinian thinking. The Baptist denomination was strong in their theology at that time. Baptists sought to win the lost for Christ and found nothing more important than bringing the lost to Christ. The Baptists in England had been praying for revival since 1784, but Carey was not the person they were expecting to bring the stirring for the revival they had been praying for. Carey concluded that God was not going to just miraculously bring salvation to the lost souls of the world. He stated that it is the Christian’s responsibility to use ever way possible to reach out the lost in the world. Carey felt that “Christians are exhorted to be imitators of God…and to exert a meliorating and transforming influence upon each other and upon the world” (Carey 26, 1887). Thought his thinking very much enforced the Baptist passion for winning the lost for Christ, he was rebuked as being an enthusiast and was told that God will win the lost with or without the aid of the Christian.

In response to the opposition of the church, Carey gathered eleven of his friends and laid the grounds for the Baptist Missionary Society. He also did not back down in his claim to go and reach out to the lost. William Carey himself volunteered to be the first Christian missionary from the Baptist Missionary Society. During this time, Carey published An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (Belcher 55, 1853). Carey combated the claim that God will win the lost without the aid of Christians by claiming that the Christian must take responsibility in fulfilling the commission of Jesus Christ. His motto for his mission work was, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things from God.” Full of zeal for the Lord, William Carey set out to start mission work in Calcutta, India in 1793.

Upon arriving in India, Carey quickly ran into obstacles that initially hindered his mission work in Calcutta. One of the first obstacles that he ran into was that of physical illness. His entire family suffered from an inadequate diet. Various diseases also plagued the family, including his wife’s mental health. Along with the illness, the culture of India was much harder than Carey had expected. India had a strong Hindu faith as well as a caste system that prevented the Indians from accepting the Christian Gospel.  Another obstacle that came against Carey’s mission work came from the British East India Company. The company sought ways to hinder William Carey’s mission work because they were afraid that his work might actually hurt the finances of the company. After many years of frustration, William Carey decided that he must move elsewhere in India in order for his mission work to ever gain roots in the country of India. With this in mind, he moved to Serampore, India where he found much greater results in his mission work. This area of India was controlled by Denmark, so the British could no longer limit his work. William Carey decided to present the Gospel without preaching against the Islam or Hinduism in the land as he did in Calcutta. This proved to be a much more effective way of presenting the Gospel, resulting in the first converts in Carey’s ministry. Carey also proved to be extremely gifted in linguistics, translating the Bible into around forty Indian languages!

There were several characteristics that indentified the ministry to William Carey, one of which was education. Carey believed strongly that every person should be properly educated. In fact, he built the first Christian College in the East! (Smith 252, 2004) Another distinguishing characteristic of his ministry was that of medical work. India did not have adequate medical knowledge readily available throughout India, so Carey sought to improve that area through his missionary work. Improving the agricultural methods of India was another marker of his ministry. Many methods used at the time were ancient and outdated. Carey sought to introduce new methods to the Indian culture in an effort to bring a more effective agricultural system to India. Political action was yet another area that Carey’s ministry specialized in. Carey made a point to involve himself actively in the affairs of the politics in India. A few examples of his activeness in this area is his fight to prevent the parents of Indian children from throwing their children into the Ganges River as religious sacrifices and his efforts to stop the men from burning widows on the funeral pyres. William Carey faced various types of opposition in his ministry, but that never stopped this man from relentlessly evangelizing the country of India and pouring his life into the people of the land.

When looking at the life of William Carey, there are many methods of missionary work that can be observed. One method was preaching against the religions of that culture. Carey saw very little result in his ministry through this method, and modern day ministries can expect the same thing. That is not to say that the Christian should accept the religions of other cultures as true, but to directly attack the religions without first establishing a base for the Gospel and a rapport with the people will result in little success. Translating the Word of God into the foreign language of the people was another method that William Carey used in his ministry. This certainly is an applicable method to practice in today’s mission work. There are numerous people in the world that are in need of a copy of God’s Word. Unfortunately, some do not have the Bible in their own language. By translating the Bible into foreign languages, the Gospel can be communicated to a much larger degree! A third method Carey used in his ministry was meeting the needs of the people. He provided education, medical, and agricultural support to India. Christian missionaries today would be wise to follow Carey’s example by sharing the love of Christ by ministering to the needs of the people. The last method that will be discussed in this paper is that of becoming involved with the local government and politics. I believe that there is much value in this method, but must be approached with caution. When exercised right, there can be amazing results to better the government as seen in the life of William Carey. However, rash involvement can lead to tension and possible damage.

So as you can see, William Carey was key in pioneering foreign missions for the Christian Church. Even though he was only a shoemaker, God used him in a powerful way to set the grounds for foreign missions. The Christian Church has much to be thankful for in the life of William Carey and can draw much to be applied to missions today. William Carey truly earned the name, “the father of modern missions.”


About Joey Coons

21 years old! God is the absolute center of my life. I love Jesus and I am passionate about my relationship with God. I am going to school for ministry at Global University. I feel God is calling me to minister to the youth of this generation, but I am willing to go wherever God calls me. My Bible is the source for everything. I have learned a lot lately about waiting on God and how hard it really is. But it ALWAYS the way to go. Listen for God's voice and obey Him. I am in an a band, Turnaround, and I love it. I am so excited to see what God does with us and I hope to uplift Christ with our music to everyone who hears us. God has surrounded me with amazing people in my life. You could probably say I have an obsession with music. I have the absolute weirdest taste in music. I listen to Christian music because I want to reflect God in all that I do in life. I love almost any genre of music. Except country, you can keep that junk... I am extremely goofy, and I mean VERY goofy I normally don't shut up if you start talking to me, I'm a talker Even though I never thought of myself as a reader, I actually love to read. My main purpose for this blog is to communicate God's truth and encourage anyone who reads my posts. I pray that God will use my words that I write to speak HIs truth into the lives of others and encourage others to follow Jesus Christ. View all posts by Joey Coons

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