Re-Thinking Missions: A Laymen's Inquiry after One Hundred Years

By William Ernest Hocking; Laymen's Foreign Missions Inquiry. Commission of Appraisal | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE SCOPE OF THE WORK OF MISSIONS

THERE is something about religion which has led it everywhere to branch out into charitable activities, and frequently into education. Worship, the world over, is associated with giving of alms, as if it were felt incomplete without active charity; and as religion develops, this impulse creates its institutions of mercy and of aid. This has been in a striking degree the experience of Protestant missions in the East. The observer is likely to draw a contrast between the "religious" and the "philanthropic" activities of the mission: the former centering about the church and its services of preaching and prayer, the latter centering about school or hospital or social center, and undertaking simply to do good in the spirit of Christ.

This line of division, useful for descriptive purposes, evidently tells but a partial truth. The aim of missions is single: it has to do with the religious life of mankind. When the mission engages in philanthropic activity, it does so, as Jesus did, because it sees this as an integral part of its religious work. Whatever the variety of things the mission may legitimately undertake (and for this variety we may adopt the word "scope"), it is simply the variety which its spiritual purpose prescribes or permits. It is this scope which we have now to consider.


1. How Far Can Missions Engage in Humanitarian Work?

When the modern missionary movement came to birth at the end of the eighteenth century its objectives were clear and definite. It was an outflow of the widespread religious awakening which came to Europe and America near the middle of that century. This movement, commonly called the "Evangeli

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