“China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women.… The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, and souls first and foremost in everything and at every time—even life itself must be secondary.”
Hudson Taylor left the comfort of home in England as a gaunt and wild-eyed 21-year-old missionary in 1853. He was headed for China, where at the time, only a few dozen missionaries were working among hundreds of millions of people.
When Taylor came to know Jesus as a teenager, he later described the encounter he had with God as a moment of “unspeakable awe and unspeakable joy.” Shortly after, he discovered a book about China and spent the next several years throwing himself into furious preparation in order to become a missionary: training in medicine, learning Mandarin, and deeply studying the Bible.
In a letter to his mother before he left, he wrote, “Oh mother, I cannot tell you, I cannot describe how I long to be a missionary; to carry the Glad Tidings to poor, perishing sinners; to spend and be spent for Him who died for me! Think Mother, of 12 million souls in China every year passing without God and without hope into eternity...Oh let us look with compassion on this multitude! I feel as if I could not live if something is not done for China.”
When Taylor arrived in Shanghai, he discovered that the current missionaries were primarily on the coast caught up in engagements with English businessmen and diplomats. They were not effectively reaching people with the gospel. So he decided to leave his sending mission agency and head to inland China as an independent missionary.
In the first eight years, Taylor had planted one church in the inland Chinese city of Ningpo which grew to 21 people. But a serious illness forced him to return to England to recover.
While stateside, Taylor attended a large church service and was distraught at how few people were burdened for the nations. Afterward he wrote, “Can all the Christians in England sit still with folded arms while these multitudes in China are perishing—perishing for lack of knowledge—for lack of that knowledge which England possesses so richly?”
Weeks later he was walking on the beach on the southern coast of England, praying for a vision to recruit and send missionaries to China, and there Taylor said “The Lord conquered my unbelief.” In that moment, God gave him a vision that led to the creation of one the world’s most influential missionary movements, the China Inland Mission.
He made plans to recruit 24 missionaries: two for each of the 11 unreached inland provinces and two for Mongolia, which would increase the number of China missionaries by 25 percent.
Taylor had a radical dependence upon God that fueled every area of his ministry. His love for the Bible and total surrender to the commands of Jesus it contained were what propelled him daily to engage the mission of reaching lost souls and rendering hundreds around him to do the same.
“Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.”
By 1876, the CIM had 52 missionaries. In 1881, an additional 76 were sent and by 1886, 102 more. When Taylor passed away in 1905, there were 825 missionaries living in all eighteen provinces of China, with 300 missionary stations, and 25,000 Christian converts.
It has recently been predicted by missiologists that by the year 2025, despite the immense opposition of Communism over seventy years, China will surpass 160 million Protestant Christians, which would make it the “world’s most Christian nation.”
Reflecting on his life when he was advanced in years, Taylor wrote, “If I had a thousand pounds China should have it-- if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?”