by Jessica Scott #NoPlaceLeftOKC Church Planting Resident
Hudson Taylor has long been an inspiration to many, although the impact he would have went unnoticed by his contemporaries. The extreme faith which he exercised, his fervent prayer life, and his innovative approach to cross-cultural work laid the foundation for much of the work to come within the world of missions. Nevertheless, this missionary’s story reveals the humbling truth that God alone accomplishes His mission, and He does so through weak vessels.
The Life of Hudson Taylor
Hudson Taylor was born in England in 1832. His faith journey finds its beginning in the passionate, persistent prayers of his loving mother. With her prayers reaching up to Heaven, the young lad was eventually dismantled as he came to understand the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work; Jesus has finished all the work and Taylor realized all he had to do was “to fall upon [his] knees and accepting this Saviour and His salvation to praise Him for evermore.” (18) Shortly after his conversion, the Lord developed within Hudson Taylor a deep thirst for God, and it was from this longing that he turned over his everything to the service of the Almighty. Upon reaching the end of himself, the Father made clear His direct command of His new servant: go to China and reach those millions who are perishing.
Upon reaching the end of himself, the Father made clear His direct command of His new servant: go to China and reach those millions who are perishing.
His initial steps of obedience were practical: undergoing medical studies under Dr. Robert Hardey; depriving himself of any unnecessary comforts to prepare himself for the struggles he would face; and serving the “Drainside” people and taking up residency among them. It was the year of 1853 when Hudson Taylor sailed to China for the first time, in partnership with the Chinese Evangelization Society. He arrived in Shanghai the following year, welcomed by a host of struggles that alluded to the continuous perils he would face throughout the remainder of his life. War, bitter cold, the suffering of the multitudes, and financial distress oppressed Taylor from the very beginning. Nevertheless, he did not hesitate to start the work he was sent to do, engaging in ten evangelistic journeys in his first two years in China. He was consumed by the “must” of Christ: “I must work the works of him that sent me.” (61)
In response to practical issues being faced, Hudson Taylor took perhaps the single most revolutionary act within the mission movement. To remove any distraction from the Chinese people coming to the Savior, Taylor determined to “identify himself wholly with the people to whom his life was given” (65) by adopting the Chinese dress. As a result, the people became open to him in an undeniably new way, and the Lord blessed the work of his hands.
In the year of 1858, Hudson Taylor married Maria Dyer, who enthusiastically joined her husband in the work for which God had set him apart. There was much joy in their ministry as they saw nationals coming to Christ for the first time and they saw the Lord provide miraculously for their every need as an answer to their complete dependence upon Him. Yet, still, trials abounded, from years in London learning in solitude the intimacy of God to the death of their sweet daughter Gracie after a long journey at sea to growing suspicion of missionaries from the Chinese people. Amid the battles, Hudson Taylor learned the source of his strength, the great secret to his success: abide in Christ and He will satisfy the soul. Upon this new-found knowledge, Hudson Taylor persevered through every trial with joy and peace.
Amid the battles, Hudson Taylor learned the source of his strength, the great secret to his success: abide in Christ and He will satisfy the soul. Upon this new-found knowledge, Hudson Taylor persevered through every trial with joy and peace.
One such trial was the death of his dear wife in 1870; however, two years later the Lord sent new blessings through commissioning him again to China, through the newly established China Inland Mission London Council, with his new wife, Miss Faulding, by his side. During a time of paralysis, Taylor was challenged to pray for God to send workers to China, and the Lord was faithful to answer His servant. As people were sent from all over the world, God’s mission finally spread to the inland portion of China. Hudson Taylor began to see his heart’s desire come to fruition, and the work continued even after the death of this legend in 1903. China Inland Mission, founded by this faithful worker of God, proceeded to grow exponentially, maintaining the faith-filled standards set by Hudson Taylor.
Lessons from the life of Hudson Taylor
Life, power, and holiness of His people come from abiding in the Lord Jesus
The most vital truth that children of God must grasp is that the life, power, and holiness of His people come not from striving with human effort, but from abiding in the Lord Jesus. Hudson Taylor’s life and ministry were remarkably transformed upon grasping this wonderful reality. He became identified as a man of peace and joy despite the abounding hardships that plagued him. The missionary understood what all must face: looking at “the littleness of our love, the barrenness of our service and the small progress we make toward perfection” makes it all the sweeter when one realizes “the fulness of Christ” – the One Who accomplishes His work, and provides “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (49) The Father’s work is completed not because His workers are so great, but because He is unimaginably mighty and works through His frail servants to accomplish all He has set out to do.
Full dependence upon God expressed through fervent prayer
Throughout the entirety of his service, this missionary never once asked another person for money; he simply lifted his needs up to God, trusting that He hears and answers in His provision. According to Taylor, if God has promised that those who seek the Kingdom of God will receive anything they ask for in the Name of Jesus, then His promise is sufficient. (100) Therefore, “the secret of faith that is ready for emergencies is the quiet, practical dependence upon God day by day which makes Him real to the believing heart.” (100) In other words, as people depend upon God for small daily needs, such as money or food, the reality of God and His power are manifested to them, and they are equipped to face greater crises with unshaking faith. God’s mission to the nations is accomplished through His chosen people when they depend upon Him in every detail.
God’s people must imitate the urgency exuded by Hudson Taylor
Some time after an ex-Buddhist friend committed to follow Jesus, the man questioned his friend as to why he had waited so long to bring the Truth to his people if they had had it in their country for centuries. Pierced to the heart, Hudson Taylor grew profoundly in an earnestness to draw to Christ those who remain to be reached. (95) Passion characterized his work; he devoted himself wholeheartedly to bringing the Kingdom of God to the people of inland China. The same must be true of any disciple of Christ. The work which remains is immense, the consequences are eternal, and the time is fleeting. We must not be satisfied until people from every people group of the world have been redeemed into the family of God. Praise be to God; this mission can be pursued with confidence because His devotion to completing this task is unshaking and His power to do so is more than enough.
Adaptation for the sake of removing distractions and furthering the work of the Kingdom
Taylor exemplified this most notably in his commitment to adopt the Chinese dress and hair style. Although this action was deemed bizarre, even appalling, by fellow Europeans, doing so broke the image of a foreigner bringing a foreign message and demonstrated that this good news is for all people. The Chinese people began to welcome him into their homes and view him as a teacher. Today, conversation about cultural relativism is common; people have become more accepting of the concept.
Believers must remember that the purpose is to remove the human messengers as possible stumbling blocks and invite the hearers to receive the pure Gospel Truth. Successfully practicing this kind of adaptation necessitates great humility, recognizing that the traditional ways of one’s culture are not the only ways and may not even be the best ways. If there is anything that can be done to relate to the people in a biblically-sound fashion to communicate the message of Jesus clearly, those steps must be taken.
Christianity in China owes much of its roots to the faithful obedience of Hudson Taylor. God Almighty used a feeble, broken man to initiate, inspire, and lead the groundbreaking work in China which would proceed to grow even to this day. By abiding in Christ, depending upon God through faithful prayer, understanding the urgency of the mission, and seeking to reach the Chinese people in an effective way, the Lord blessed the work of this missionary and made him to be a lasting example to all who would follow him. As God’s people continue in the same work across the globe in a world that is constantly changing and in the face of a multitude of obstacles, assured confidence is found in the never-changing, faithful God Who empowers His people for His work. The God Who sanctioned His work magnificently through Hudson Taylor is the same God Who strengthens His followers today. With eyes fixed on Christ, God will continue to use His people in mighty ways for His glory among all peoples.
With eyes fixed on Christ, God will continue to use His people in mighty ways for His glory among all peoples.
Jessica Scott is a master's student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. While working full time, Jessica is practicing her studies in real time through the #NoPlaceLeftOKC church planting residency and leading a high school girls small group. Occasionally her conversational mandarin makes ordering a hot pot a little easier.