The Gospel is Offensive, Don’t let anything else offend and keep unbelievers from Christ!
“. . . we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles [the nations] who are turning to God” Acts 15:19 (NIV)
J. Hudson Taylor founded one of the largest and most important mission agencies in history. He also demonstrated it is possible to rest in the Lord, worry less, and experience much fruit in ministry. In every sense of the word, Hudson Taylor is a missionary hero.
As impressive as the achievements listed above are, perhaps the most important contribution Taylor made to the missionary enterprise resulted from his his refusal to be content with the way others had always done things. He pushed the gospel into new areas and developed new ways to evangelize.
1. He was willing to eliminate anything that hindered the lost from hearing the gospel
Early protestant missionaries believed part of their responsibility was to promote Western Civilization as well as the gospel. This is one of the reasons they maintained strict European lifestyles and dress. Taylor was concerned that these traditional practices actually distracted from genuine faith. It made Christianity a foreign religion, hard to understand, and also maximized the difference between the Chinese and Christians.
Taylor decided to adopt Chinese dress and appearance. He shaved his head, dyed his pony-tail, and wore traditional Chinese wardrobe. He once wrote his mother that if she came to China she would not even recognize him if they passed on the street.
This decision was quite unpopular. His co-workers felt he had abandoned the key components of the faith by accommodating to a pagan culture. Taylor was resolute. He knew that the gospel could not be trapped inside one cultural expression and he knew that seeing Chinese men and women coming to Christ was worth the risk.
The Gospel both transcends culture and can be at home in any culture. It is true that some elements of a culture are sinful and problematic, but just because the enemy can use culture for his purposes does not mean that he always does so. Contemporary missionaries would do well to consider Taylor’s example and unchain the gospel from unnecessary cultural trappings.
2. He refused to allow safety and security to determine his missionary vision
When he arrived in China, Hudson Taylor saw that most protestant missionaries lived on the coasts in compound. There were probably good reasons for this strategy, however he was convinced the gospel needed to get to all of China. He was not content to minster to those in a small area or an areas occupied by other missionaries. He became an advocate for taking the gospel to those in China’s inland.
The Great Commission is a mandate to take the gospel to all peoples. We dare not be content with how well we have done, or be consumed by how difficult we have it here. There are many more who must hear. I have written about this in another place (click here – The Mandate and here – Waffles, Pancakes, & the World)
Statistics tell us that 1/3 of the world’s population claim to be Christian. Now, before arguing over definitions, just go with me for a minute. This statistic means that, if each Christian tells 2 other people about Christ, it is possible, with very little effort, for the whole world to hear the gospel. The problem however, is that most of us live on top of each other. To reach the nations, we must follow Hudson Taylor’s lead and head to the inlands. The harder places.
How about you, are you willing to be like Hudson Taylor?
What risks are you willing to take in order to reach the nations?