Reflections on Adoniram Judson’s 200th Anniversary

“I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of the world; yet, when Christ calls me home, I shall go with gladness.” – Adoniram Judson

This past Saturday passed with many of us spending time with family or doing household errands. Most of us missed the fact that Saturday June 13 was the 200th anniversary of Adoniram and Ann Judson’s arrival in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar).

This man was one of the founders of North America’s missions movement and has inspired millions to look beyond their own circumstance and seek ways to share the love of Christ across cultures and great of distances. His optimism in face of great challenges has always been an encouragement to me. Especially the quote,

“The prospects are bright as the promises of God.”

I attended Judson University and so there was a fair bit of prominence given to Judson’s missionary work. I remember watching the film of his life and being struck by the huge challenges he faced.

Now that 200 years have passed since Judson began his missionary service on the field, I think it is worth a question: “How has this great missionary endeavor faired over the past 200 years?”

What is incredible to me as I look at the data and maps showing the growth of Christianity is how many across the whole globe have heard the Good News and responded. See these maps based on Operation World data showing the difference between the status of Christianity in 1900 and in 2025.

Operation World Data showing the status of Christianity in 1900

Operation World data showing projected status of Christianity in 2025

It is appropriate to look at these two maps and be amazed at how God has moved among the peoples of the world. We should stop every time we are faced with this information and praise our Lord for what He is doing as He reclaims His world and brings in His Kingdom.

But what about the challenges that Judson faced? Have they really changed that much? Well, some have decreased significantly. It took him a significant amount of time to get from the US to Burma. Today that is no more than 48 hours at most. Judson suffered significantly from death in his family as a result of the difficult conditions on the mission field. Today that is much less of an issue, even though sickness still can be a great challenge for many in missionary service. Judson had few language learning tools and no Bible resources translated into the languages of the Burmese people. Today there are many ways to learn languages and the number of resources available in a variety of languages is growing all the time.

On the other side, the challenges of reaching Burma are just as real today as they were at that time. This country is just now coming out of years of isolation and Operation World puts its Christian population at only 8.9%. In the larger missions movement, the same challenges of being culturally relevant, incarnationally engaged and partnering with local believers exist today. In Judson’s day the global might of the British empire defined much of how Christianity was viewed. Over the past 50 years it has been North America’s influence that has defined many people’s perceptions.

Today, many of the challenges that Judson faced would be much easier for a Filipino, Chinese or Kenyan missionary to relate to. They are the Judson’s of today. With every wave of people that God sends out into His world, there are initial challenges and then challenges that always stay the same. Just because the logistics get easier doesn’t mean that the task is really any easier from God’s perspective.

Let’s keep Judson’s pioneering spirit and sacrifice in our minds. Even as we thank God that we do not have some of the challenges he faced, let’s remember that our professional missionary enterprise doesn’t solve the greatest challenges of cross-cultural missions!

 

 

Listening to Who God Brings Your Way

There are many disciplines related to listening. That is something that our team at GMI is always processing as listening is such an important part of what we do. Listening is so multifaceted because it is an exercise focused on the needs and opportunities in the lives of others.

One area of discipline for us in listening is to those who God brings. We like to listen to people we choose, but many times God has the most to say through people we would never have asked or paid attention to.

Think of the word of wisdom that comes from your child, the idea that arises from someone in another department or the insight that comes to you from a news article. Those might not be the sources you expect to learn from, but God can use those voices in powerful ways.

Throughout the Bible people were constantly being surprised by the sources God used to provide insight. Think of Moses and the burning bush, Balaam and the donkey, Elijah and the wind, and finally Israel and a tiny baby boy born in Bethlehem.

In the first few months of 2013 GMI will be challenging our partners and friends in the global mission community to do some listening about the effectiveness of their Websites in engaging with potential missionaries. We are launching our 2013 Agency Web Review to help Great Commission organizations listen to potential missionaries and hear what they have to say. We hope that as these organizations listen to those who are being called into missionary service, that they will be able to make Spirit-led decisions about how to best engage them online.

So many times Web strategy is driven by the latest technology, the blogs of Internet gurus or the internal politics of an organization. Wouldn’t it be better to be driven by listening to those we strive to serve.

If you are an agency serving missionaries, I challenge you to connect with us and take this opportunity to listen to those who are engaging with you through your site. I also pray that God will show each person reading this blog the people in your life He wants you to be listening to today.