Throughout my life, I have been greatly encouraged by hearing the stories of missionary heroes who sacrificed their lives to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Men and women like Adoniram and Ann Judson, Lottie Moon, and William Carey have encouraged me in my walk with Jesus and have challenged me to live a life that seeks to fulfill the Great Commission. While these and so many others have served as an inspiration for me, as I have studied Church History, I have noticed a trend. Most, if not all, of my missionary heroes lived and served within the past 200 years.
Now there is certainly a reason for this. William Carey is known as the father of modern missions, and his efforts as both a missionary and a mobilizer led to the greatest period of missionary effort that the church has ever seen. But Carey did not exist in a vacuum, and his vision for taking the Gospel to the nations didn’t pop up out of nowhere. The legacy of Protestant missions extends back over 200 years to the very beginning of the Protestant Reformation. While missions isn’t the first thing that jumps to people’s minds when they think of the reformers, I think a couple of stories about two groups of missionaries in the Sixteenth Century can help us understand the missional aspect of the Reformation.