Christian Role Models: William Carey

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Just this week the local church I serve has been sharing quotes from Missionaries on its public Facebook page, in order to be an encouragement to obey The Great Commission. The first of these quotes was taken from William Carey, who is often referred to as the “Father of Modern Missions.” Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to the folks in my local church and our readers here to introduce us all to the man behind the quote, “I’m not afraid of failure, I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”

William Carey was an Englishman who lived in the latter half of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. He was raised by his parents in a little known village in the middle of England named Paulerpury where he was eventually apprenticed to a local tradesman in a cobbler’s shop. It was during this time that he was converted to the Christian faith.1It was this trade by which he was able to support himself and his family in a rather poor fashion for the early portion of his adult life.

Following his conversion, Carey proceeded to teach himself Koine Greek in order to better study the Bible. However, his linguistic endeavors did not cease with Greek but he also pursued Hebrew and Latin. These activities in and of themselves are noteworthy, but Carey was not content to learn for the sake of learning and was eventually a preacher with the group then known as Particular Baptists.2 It was in this context that Carey earned the title ‘the Father of Protestant Missions” for although there had been others who had engaged in missions previously, it was Carey’s founding of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792 which set the stage for the formation of similar societies after him.3 Shortly after the establishment of this missionary society, Carey himself departed for India to engage in cross-cultural missionary ministry.4

Carey remained in India for forty-one years without furlough and at the end of his life had but seven hundred conversions attributed to his ministry, out of the millions who made India their home. However, the lasting legacy of William Carey is not merely found in the number of conversions to Christ attributed to his missionary work. No, it is the faithful work of Bible translation into the languages of the indigenous peoples, the founding of a college which even today offers Christian education to India’s Believers, and the social reforms for the human treatment of infants, widows and the lower castes.5

But perhaps the two greatest contributions Carey made by way of his ministry are his Enquiry in the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens 6 and the influence he had as an example to others within the nineteenth century to take up the work to bring the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8); a work which is still being pursued to this day.

 

  1. “William Carey; Father of Modern Protestant Missions,” Christian History, August 08, 2008, accessed July 16, 2015, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/missionaries/carey.html.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Paul Pierson, “A History of Transformation,” in Perspectives On the World Christian Movement, 4th ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 282.
  4. Ibid.
  5. “William Carey; Father of Modern Protestant Missions,” Christian History, August 08, 2008, accessed July 16, 2015, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/missionaries/carey.html.
  6. William Carey, “An Enquiry: Into the Obligation of Christians to Use means for the Conversion of the Heathens,” in Perspectives On the World Christian Movement, 4th ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 312.
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  • johntjeff

    FYI: Rob Bradshaw, “William Carey’s Enquiry on-line” (6 MAY 2016), on Missiology blog at http://missiology.org.uk/blog/william-careys-enquiry-online/#.VywdK_krKt8 [accessed 6 MAY 2016].

    “William Carey’s Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians… is probably one of the most influential documents in the history of missions. Among other things it led to the founding of the Baptist Missionary Society in the United Kingdom. This is a facsimile of the original which was published in Leicester 1792.”

    “William Carey [1761-1834], An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means For the Conversion of the Heathens in Which the State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings, and the Practicability of Further Undertakings, are Considered. Leicester: Ann Ireland, 1792. Hbk. pp.87.”

    The link to the PDF file for viewing and downloading is to http://missiology.org.uk/pdf/e-books/carey/careys-enquiry.pdf [accessed 6 MAY 2016].