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Missionary Stories

All the Missionary Movements & How They Changed the World


Written by Madeline Peña

While Christians missions have been happening since Jesus gave the Great Commission, there are highlighted mission movements that have caused such an impact that they are worth mentioning. While mission movements are only movements because vast amounts of people are apart of them, there typically is a leader or head of missionary movements. This is why we have sectioned the missionary movements by a single person. However, these single people are just a representation of entire societies, governmental structures, or cultures shifting to the following of Jesus Christ.

What is a missionary movement? A missionary movement in a Christian context is the furthering of the Gospel, in which many non-believers become followers of Christ through outgoing missionaries.

Although the impact of souls saved by these missionaries are innumerable, we can take a look at their work and discover that their impact in furthering the Gospel was globally profound.

The Apostle Paul

Paul, an apostle, and disciple of Christ, was one of the first and most impactful missionaries of the Christian faith. Even though he was persecuted and martyred, Paul covered over 10,000 miles in order to further the Christian faith. His missionary journies can be sectioned into three journies, and one last unplanned missionary journey.

Paul is considered to start the first missionary movement on the list, because, without Paul’s obedience to the Great Commission, we would not have Christianity today. He is the one who spread the Gospel in a marvelous way. However, he did not take the Gospel to the “ends of the earth” as Jesus required, so many other missionary movements took place after Paul.

Yet, Paul is arguably one of the most successful missionaries. He spread the Gospel not only to Rome (the most major influence in all of Paul’s time), but he also went to Greece, Turkey, and Syria. These nations held great power during Paul’s lifetime, making his mission very influential to world governments and societies.

How Did Paul’s Work Start a Missionary Movement?

Paul preached the Gospel to spread the Gospel, and he was successful. Not only did he make disciples of Jesus, but he also built up the body of the churches in the cities that he did missions in. The benefits of empowering the local church are innumerable and exponential in the spread of the Gospel. Paul’s missions work sparked a movement in missions, because those who were unbelievers, became believers, and therefore the new converts sent out the Gospel as well. It was a domino effect concerning the Gospel that changed Christianity forever, as we know it.

The disciples and colleagues of Paul were also missionaries. Paul lead missions movement with other missionaries and with the combined efforts, these missionaries catapulted Christianity into the major powers of the world.

The Apostle Thomas

This apostle was one of Paul’s mission colleagues and brothers in Christ. Thomas did something different than Paul, however. He went to India. Even today in India, almost all 1.7 billion know who Thomas is because he had such a large impact on the nation.

Even in the 1400s when the Portuguese found India, they were shocked to find strong Christians towns and communities throughout India. This can be attributed to the work of God through the missionary Thomas. According to Aleteia.org, “St. Thomas had preached to the Hindus and the Jews of southern India and had won thousands of converts. For the St. Thomas Christians, there is still no doubt that theirs is an unbroken tradition going back to their patron’s arrival in 52 AD.”

How Did Thomas’ Work Start a Missionary Movement?

From Thomas’s many converts and his own missionary work, many Indian people started to become missionaries to their own families. At this time in India, there were many unreached people groups. Using Indian people to bring the Gospel around the nation is how Thomas’s work started a missionary work.

Yet, Thomas’s work spread elsewhere. From Aleteia.org, it is stated that “There has been a revival of interest in St. Thomas’s path through the Middle East, with the continuing plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq.” This is a massive impact that Thomas left in our world for the mission movement of the Gospel.

Pope Gregory the Great

Gregory the Great lived in Rome from 540-604ad. His is the name attached to the great Gregorian mission movement. This movement was largely inspired by Gregory’s heart for the Anglo-Saxon people, and the result was Christianity becoming well established in Southern Britain.

Pope Gregory used the tactic of going through the ruling force of England. This happened to be King Ethelbert of Kent who married a Christian princess. Pope Gregory sent one of his best men to evangelize the new rulers.

How Did Pope Gregory’s Work Start a Missionary Movement?

The nation of England was largely Pagan before Pope Gregory started the missions movement. Once England, along with the rest of Europe became Christian, much of the Gospel spread.

Not only did this mission movement affect the nation in which it intended, but it also affected another mission called the Hibereno-Scottish missionary movement in central Europe. The Gregorian missions movement shows us today that few Gospel workers can cause many to come to Christ, because later on in history, Europe became a mission sending continent.

William Carey

William Carey will forever be known for his vast impact in missions. He was a forerunner of his time. “In 1792 he organized a missionary society, and at its inaugural meeting preached a sermon with the call, ‘Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!'” (ChristianityToday.com). If there is anything that William Carey did, it was attempting great things for God. He brought his family on a ship to India to change the nation for Jesus.

How Did William Carey’s Work Start a Missionary Movement?

William Cary successfully brought the Gospel to India. He changed societal structures and norms that included culturally appropriate things such as infanticide, widow burnings, and assisted suicide.

But he also did something else considered very tremendous which in turn started a mission movement; William Carey was willing to lay down all that he had to go into the unknown. This sparked the passion of many from his own nation, England, to take the Gospel around the world.

Ralph D. Winter

Ralph D. Winter was recognized by Time magazine as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America”. This was no surprise, especially after his speech at the Congress event hosted by Billy Grahm, which spurred missions on. Not only did Winter cause many cross-cultural missionaries to come out of his time and country, but he also called other nations to send missionaries out into the world as well.

Ralph D. Winter is “the founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission (USCWM), William Carey International University, and the International Society for Frontier Missiology” (Ralph D. Winter). The foundations were all instrumental in sending out U.S citizens as missionaries.

How Did Ralph D. Winter’s Work Start a Missionary Movement?

Winter brought light to major topics that the Church needed to know in order to make an impactful missionary movement. Winter taught of unreached people groups, how to create mission agency structures, using career and missions together, increased knowledge of cultural differences, and much more.

This awareness and new insight caused the American Church to become a better and stronger force in global missions. He shaped the idea of missions, and today, much of our modern idea of taking the Gospel into the world has been influenced by the thoughts and ideas of Ralph D. Winter.

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