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 V
THE MISSION AND THE CHURCH

Introductory. It was a perfectly natural desire on the part of the missionaries who went out to the Orient more than a century ago, and for those who followed them, to build up Christian churches as a permanent expression of their message and as the visible organ and instrument of its transmission. The Church seemed to them an essential feature of the entire Christian program. Their own spiritual lives had been nurtured by it, the vital content of their faith had been transmitted by it and they could hardly conceive of Christianity dissociated from it. The Church, furthermore, had sent them out to win new peoples to its faith, and they took it as a matter of course that some corporate body must be formed to become the visible incarnation in these eastern lands of the principles of Christian life and truth which they were imparting.

Every student of history will recognize at once how difficult was the task which confronted those pioneer missionaries who undertook to build up, under new conditions of racial culture and customs of life and thought, the church structure which was to preserve, embody and transmit in each one of these countries the truths that they were endeavoring to plant in the hearts of their converts. It need not surprise us that the Church which they builded leaves much to be desired. It should be reckoned to their credit that they contributed as much as they did that has permanent value and real significance. There has been a slow cumulative power revealed through the process of the years, and the Church in missionary lands, in spite of the weaknesses which we regret in it, has proved to be an important spiritual force. It is now carrying on--in some places without any help from missionaries--the lines of work which the missionaries began, and new lines of

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