The history of church missions goes back to the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts. In America, we can trace the vision for missions all the way back to Columbus and then to the first permanent settlers in Virginia in 1607 and Plymouth in 1620.
Later in our history, in 1801, Samuel Mills, Jr. was converted in a revival meeting. While studying at Williams College in western Massachusetts, he became impassioned with foreign missions.
One hot August day in 1806, he and four friends decided to meet for prayer in a field near the college campus. As they prayed, God laid on their hearts a passion to reach people around the world for Christ.
This "Haystack Prayer Meeting" was the beginning of a foreign mission movement in America. From this initial gathering, they began a missionary group called the Society of the Brethren. The first American foreign missions society was formed in 1810. By 1821, the society had already sent out 81 missionaries. That tiny effort, multiplied over the years, has helped America become by far the primary missionary sending country in the world today.
In our day, missions outreach from America to around the world has reached enormous proportions. On the mission field today helping to fulfill the Great Commission are thousands of churches and hundreds of missions agencies and para-church ministries, such as Campus Crusade for Christ, which now has more than 25,000 full-time staff and 553,000 trained volunteer staff in 196 countries in areas representing 99.6 percent of the world's population. A recent phenomenon, clear evidence of the enabling of the Holy Spirit, is the way formerly isolated denominations are working together to complete the Great Commission, even sharing evangelistic materials, such as the JESUS film.
By 1830, America was widely considered a beacon of moral integrity. The French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States and chronicled the depth of faith that made the American republic the most remarkable experiment in the history of human government. "In the United States the sovereign authority is religious," he said in one memorable passage. "There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and... its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth."
Yours for fulfilling the Great Commission each year until our Lord returns,
The late Dr. Bill Bright was Founder and President/Chairman Emeritus of Campus Crusade for Christ, an organization which began as a campus ministry in 1951 and now has more than 27,000 full-time staff and up to 500,000 trained volunteer staff in 196 countries in areas representing 99.6 percent of the world's population. In the past 50 years, Campus Crusade for Christ has seen approximately 6 billion exposures to the gospel worldwide. The film, "JESUS," which Bright conceived and funded through Campus Crusade for Christ, is the most widely translated and viewed film of any type ever produced. Since its use began in 1980, the film has been translated into 839 languages and viewed or listened to by over 5.7 billion people in 228 countries. Dr. Bright was also the author of more than fifty books. Visit campuscrusade.com for more details
Copyright (c) 2003, Bill Bright. All rights reserved. However, readers may copy and distribute this message as desired, without restrictions in number, as long as the content is not altered. Forwarding this e-mail to friends is encouraged. For many evangelistic and spiritual growth materials, visit the Campus Crusade for Christ Web site at ccci.org. See campuscrusade.com for Bill Bright's own materials.